Ask Bob: Perfecting practice in the shooting sports – Quality vs Quantity

I recently received an email from Tom, a trap shooter, with the following question:
Tom asks: During handicap I dropped 7 targets out of 50!  I had not dropped that many targets during any of my practice rounds.  I was devastated! Angry, frustrated and frankly confused.  I had been practicing well, lots of targets in the previous ten days, maybe 700 targets in total. Where was my head?
In the video below, I’ve broken down my answer to Tom’s question into two areas:
1) Practicing in the Zone, and,
2) Practicing specific drills and shots.

Here is the written version of my answer to Tom.

Bob responds: Great question Tom.   A lot of things could have happened to throw you off your game, from the shooters you were shooting with to a letdown in energy from what you had, or didn’t have, for breakfast or lunch–or simply exhaustion from the heat. I have a checklist process that usually (but not always) can come up with answer.   I’ll start with what “may” have been a contributor–practice.

Ensure that you are practicing in the Zone.  More targets in practice may not be better. I had one client increase his practice targets by about 200 each Saturday just because he had access to a range that day (and drove a long way to get there).  And his competition scores went down!   When he described how he practiced, it was clear he was doing quantity over quality.  So in practice you might do two things:  Wire up your Zone with the kind of adrenaline you might expect in a bar brawl (really!).  And then step into the post with that kind of adrenaline, and do it for every practice post.  Most people confuse calm as being adrenaline-free.  Rather, calm should be like a boat hitting its plane where adrenaline is wired to win (but consistent.)  With this type of quality practice, you can probably cut back on the number of targets you shoot and shoot quality over quantity.

Second, see if you can practice specific drills and shots on specific posts.  For most trap and skeet shooters, this is the hardest thing to do, as typically practice is done in groups and usually with rounds.  (It is a social thing.) I have a skeet shooter who has improved his game in three years to the point that he has now drawn a crowd every time he practices as they want to see what he has done different.  They won’t join him in practice because they want to practice shooting rounds, but they’ll watch and look for some silver bullet.  Aside from learning the Zone and being in it all the time, he practices the weaknesses in his game in practice (specific stations) and, as a result, his whole game improves.

Try practicing like this and see the difference it makes in competition.

And please give me your feedback!

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