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Ask The Instructor: Mental Process

Question: I’ve been shooting for two years now and progressing well. When I practice, things go well, but in a registered shoot, I just cannot bring it all together for a good score. The boredom gets to me waiting to shoot. Any advice on the mental game of registered shooting?

Answer: At a certain point in your technical development, you will reach a point where very few targets are beyond your ability to break. At this point, the mental process you follow while in the stand, and just prior to calling for the target, has a much greater impact on your score.

Some, who don’t really understand how the conscious mind works, will tell you that you need to “clear your mind” prior to calling for a target. The reality is, our conscious mind is never quiet and must occupy itself with something constantly. As your conscious mind tends to wander, it can fall victim to boredom, fear or other emotions during competition and can contribute to inconsistencies in your performance if not controlled.

A number of years ago, at the peak of my competitive activity, I did some independent research on the pre-shot routine of elite athletes outside our sport. What I found was fascinating. There are three elements common to most pre-shot routines of athletes at the elite level: 1) deep breathing, 2) visualization, and 3) a trigger thought or mental cue (like “focus”). So, as you step into the shooting stand, having conducted your pre-shot planning process, you should visualize the pair you are about to attempt. While you visualize, take at least two deep breaths. Lastly, as you move to your ready position and prepare to call for the target, use a trigger word or thought to remind yourself to focus acutely on the target as you execute the shot.

Concentrating on this pre-shot process at each stand, instead of allowing your mind to wander or worrying about your score, will indeed improve your consistency and performance.

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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