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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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.

Sport high performance in the mountains of Spain

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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. 

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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

How to get back on track after equipment malfunctions

Sacha asks Bob Palmer, High Performance Trainer for SportExcel the following question:

I find that it is very difficult to recover when the machines or the microphones malfunction.   What are your suggestions?

Bob: Great question Sacha.

Of all the distractions to one’s game, a malfunctioning trap machines is one of the hardest things to overcome as it is so unexpected, erratic and out of your control. You don’t know if it will happen in the next shot or ever again. Continue reading