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!


Ask Bob: How to build Zone concentration in the shooting sports

I frequently get questions from readers of my book, blog and monthly articles in Trap & Field and other magazines. Shooters are stymied by some component of their game and turn to me, aka ASK BOB, the “Ann Landers” of the shooting sports.
This month I received a question from Frank:
I have a lot of concentration problems but I feel like I may have changed my mount in the last week or so and I can’t seem to get back to where I was.  What should I do?
In the video below, I’ve broken down the answer into two areas:
1) How to prevent concentration losses generally, and,
2) The need to get new techniques working subconsciously before you step up to compete.

I’ve also provided this training tip in written format below:

Stopping Zone drift 

The solution may be twofold. First concentration problems may or may not be related to your new mount.  Sometimes shooters have what I call Zone drift where they lose the Zone incrementally from post to post, station to station. A good way to cure this is to visualize yourself smoking the target before you step into the post or station, every time. It will take about two seconds. Make sure you supercharge the visualization with the good feel of adrenaline as adrenaline is an alertness booster.

Stop thinking and get subconscious

Second, the lack of concentration may be caused by your new gun mount, as any new technique requires thinking.  And thinking leads to a struggle with focus as concentrating on the new technique takes you away from concentrating on the target.  All of your technique needs to be routine and subconsciously driven.  The solution here is to practice your new gun mount repeatedly at home and on the range until it feels smooth and non-thinking. You can have a friend or coach watch and give you feedback just to be sure. Once it feels fantastic and totally routine, without any thinking, you can take it into a competition and test it out.

So, Frank, apply a quick visualization technique as one solution to building concentration and ensure all new techniques are well-practiced before you take them to a competition. Both should do the trick to turn your game around.

Do you have  a high performance training question for Bob to help you in your shooting sport?

Please fill out the contact form below to have an opportunity to have Bob answer your question.

Tip of the week:  Take the SportExcel challenge for competition preparation


Take the SportExcel Challenge.pngI want to give you a challenge over the course of your next two competitions.  For those of you heading to college in science programs, the exercise will be good preparation.  For those of you in other disciplines or who have day jobs, it will be a good problem-solving exercise.   And although this article is written for shotgun competitors, other types of athletes can simply change the wording to suit their own discipline.

The challenge is to do your competition preparation in two different ways and compare them.  The first way is the way I’ve seen many athletes prepare.  The second, as you might be guessing, is the type of preparation I teach my athletes to do.  Good luck!

Your Competition, Exhibit A: 

In competition A, I want you to chat with your colleagues and coaches, right up to the moment you step onto the range.  Maybe you are doing this already, but it is a very simple strategy that will get you performing and shooting in a normal manner.

As you chat, yoCoach and junior shooteru can do your normal readiness program of putting together your gun and putting on your vest or other apparel and organizing your shells into the correct pouches.

You can discuss strategy with your colleagues and coaches and perhaps even change-up a few technical things so as to incorporate some last-minute ideas of your coach that involve excellence in performance.   Humor may be used at this point to lighten things up and talking to opponents can be tried as well, as they may be using different strategies and might let some ideas or secrets slip.

Coaches are permitted to give you all the advice you need, right up to the moment of competition, and can even help you adjust your posture or physiology if you like, as once you are on the range you are on your own.

Group shotWatching your opponents warm up or watching them competing ahead of your start time may also be attempted in order to see and copy what they are doing, as there is nothing in the rules that says that copying in competition is wrong.

FiEmotionsnally,  mom or dad can be close at hand to give you the “rah, rah” cheer from the bleachers.  If they appear a bit nervous to you, all the better, because “they say” that nervousness is a normal part of competition.  Keep this approach going right up to the start of your match and get ready to perform.  Then start your match and hope for the best. After this competition, take notes so you can compare this competition with the one you will be doing in the next phase.


Your Competition, Exhibit B:  

In competition B of this challenge, I want you to talk to your coach before you get to the range and tell him or her three things:pixabay_rest-413103_1280.jpg

1) Please don’t talk to me before the match,

2) Please don’t give me any new techniques or strategies before the match, and,

3) Please sit on your hands during the match, but stay in the Zone.

Then, at the match, I want you to get to the range an hour or more before the competition and get your gear together.  30 minutes before shooting, find an isolated place where you can get away from others, including your coach, teammates, opponents, parents, siblings, sponsors or officials.

Put ear buds in your ears to clearly indicate to others that you are being antisocial and that they should buzz off.  If someone comes up to you, do what you have to do to discourage them from talking and apologize afterward if necessary.

During the 30 minutes before your competition, ramp up your adrenaline and play your competition in your head in a wild and crazy manner where you feel pumped and imagine the targets breaking and imagine yourself on the podium.

During the 30 minutes, look into the distance way past any of your opponents so you don’t see them (although they might think you look a bit intimidating and be bold enough to tell you so).

Constantly moveHank_Garvey_shooting_clays from foot to foot, slightly shifting from side to side as if maintaining your balance on a sailboat.  Last, imagine yourself pulverizing (ink-balling) the targets as you move in this manner.  Now start your match in this crazy adrenalized feeling and know that you are going to win.

After this competition, take notes so you can compare this competition with the previous one.


After taking the SportExcel Challenge with this exercise, compare your notes and discuss the findings with your coaches and parents and teammates, if you wish.  I think the findings will be quite revealing.  I believe you’ll understand why my athletes take the second approach.  Some coaches will disagree with me as they may feel the need to get right into the competitive fray.  My experience says that in clay target sports, in particular, competition is for the athletes and coaches simply need to stay in the Zone for them.  However, this particular coaching thread is the fodder for another blog,

After you do the challenge (if you do it), I encourage you to email me your results to  Have fun!



Sport high performance in the mountains of Spain


Our host, Julian Pena, welcomes Bob to Hotel El Ciervo in Xares, Spain

I just got back from Spain, where I had the opportunity to work with an international skeet-shooting client in the mountains of Galicia.  He had invited me to Spain to conduct a high performance clinic for Spanish shooters and coaches.  To get there, my wife and I wended our way straight up thousands of nail-biting feet to Xares.  For the faint of heart, Julian also has a helicopter pad! Continue reading

The Parent’s Choice: Being a sport spectator or a mentor

Coach and shooterLast night I worked with a particularly dynamic coach, staff and team. A previous clinic had awakened the sleeping giants in the players, as they had been shell-shocked from a negative prior coaching experience.

But last night, after applying my system for only a couple of months, and reinforced by their new coaches’ style of leadership, they were a completely different group of players. They were boisterous but respectful, loud but in the Zone, supportive and leadership-driven, yet humble enough to understand what they still didn’t know.

As were the parents in attendance. Yes, the parents. And they positively beamed.

Parents are a part of the team

I include parents in the clinics, at least the few interested ones, because they need to know what their children are learning and they can also benefit by learning the same tools, an effective process I use in my Skype clinics for parents and their teen athletes.
I know some of you must be saying that this must surely squelch the enjoyment of the kids. Continue reading

Taking time off from your shooting sport—use it or lose it

Bob and HaleyA year ago in mid-summer, my wife went on a cruise with her parents and daughter, while I drove 5,000 miles to several US clinics and saw lots of beautiful scenery.  Mistakenly I called the time between clinics a vacation.

My wife came back refreshed from her cruise and I dove back into work believing I was too. Wrong. In November, even though my business to-do list was a mile long, we booked a cruise and disappeared for two weeks. It was the best thing I’d ever done.

Now that the shooting season is over, most of you are hanging up your guns and taking a badly needed rest, too. There are others (mainly retirees) who head to Florida and other sunshine states for the endless shooting season, but most of you northern shooters are forced into a much-deserved rest by the winter weather. And you need and probably deserve it.

So, why would anyone want to take a rest from their passion as a hobby, competitive outlet or professional dream, especially when they live in Florida or might have had a very successful season?

Continue reading

What is confidence anyway?

Confidence is not a thing, it is a feel. Find that feel and you have everyone telling you that you look confident. 

Bungee Jumping










Terrie writes: Everyone tells me that I have to be more confident in my sport. How do I do that?

Bob – Great question Terrie.  The need to be confident is often the first thing you’ll read in books on the mental game. It seems like pretty sound advice as we do admire the confidence we see in others. But what is confidence anyway? How does one go about being confident? All-Americans and world champions apparently have it, but what is it and how do we get it as well?

First of all, I’m not sure why you’d even want to be confident, as it seems so unstable. Yes, even All-Americans and world champions can lose it after a couple of missed targets. So we may need to adjust our view of confidence. Just how does someone lose confidence? I know how I lose my car keys and my wallet and my spare change down through the car seat. But how is it that something which apparently takes years to build up can be lost in mere fractions of a second?   Confidence is truly a strange concept and a strange way to look at high performance where “now I have it, now I don’t.” I’m not sure I even would want something so fragile. Continue reading