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Ask The Instructor: Focus

Updated: Aug 31, 2023

Question: “I was shooting a tournament recently and became fatigued (mentally, not physically) and lost focus on the last three stations. How can I train to avoid this meltdown in the future?”

Answer: You are not alone. I recently saw a Facebook video in which Zach Kienbaum, the 2018 and 2019 NSCA National Champion who broke 290 targets out of 300 in the main event this year, was asked why he missed 10 targets. His reply? “I didn’t look at some of them.” I recall another interview of Anthony Matarese Jr. after he won the World English where he attributed his misses to a lack of focus. If it’s easy for these world-class shots to forget to focus on a small fraction of the targets they engage, is it any wonder that you do?

One of the most difficult things for a competitor to do is maintain intensity of focus over a 100-target sporting clays course. So what’s the secret to maintaining your intensity of focus to perform at a high level and win competitions? It’s simpler to say than it is to accomplish. First, there is no substitute for practice or time behind the gun. This includes breaking lots of targets in disciplined, goal-oriented practice, but it also includes the widest possible variety of targets and variations in terrain. Second, compete a lot. While practice on a wide variety of targets is essential, it is difficult to replicate the pressure and conditions of competition in practice. Third, you need a rock-solid pre-shot routine. The pre-shot routine is the mental and physical process a shooter undergoes when he or she is in the shooting stand and preparing to call for the next target or pair. As I have written about extensively, a solid pre-shot routine consists of three critical elements: visualization or “out of body rehearsal,” deep breathing to oxygenate the body and regulate brain wave activity, and a visual cue. The visual cue is the all-important reminder to yourself of what part of the target you will focus on when executing the shot.

Don Currie is NSCA’s Chief Instructor, an Orvis Wingshooting School instructor, and Master Class competitor. To get free shooting tips and videos, sign up for his monthly newsletter. You can also see more tips from Currie at

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