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One Student’s Walk – Part II

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

In this 3-part series, Don chronicles a series of sporting clays lessons he gives to one of his students revealing some common shooter errors. In this article, he discusses the importance of committing to your hold points and synchronizing with the target.

(Appeared in the January/February Issue of Clay Shooting USA)

By Don Currie

Download PDF • 757KB

Don Currie coaching Daryl McLain

Daryl McLain and I had agreed to meet at Quail Creek Plantation to resume where we had left off on our last lesson. While the targets at our local club in New Smyrna were excellent for the purpose of working on mechanics, they didn’t change much from week to week. I wanted to watch Daryl tackle a wider variety of presentations as well as more challenging targets.

Our last few lessons went very well. We had successfully transformed Daryl away from a died-in-the-wool pre-mounted shooter. His ability to see the targets was much improved and his performance was definitely on the rise. It had been about six weeks since our last lesson and his third-place finish at the Florida State Championship (C Class). I was curious to see how my friend and student was doing. (Go to to see the previous article in this series).

It’s a commonly held notion that, immediately after a lesson or change in shooting style, a student will always suffer a decline in performance. I don’t necessarily believe this to always be true but have observed a common pattern when a decline does occur. A decline in performance after a lesson or change in technique is almost always a function of two factors:

1) Adapting to a new technique or style correction forces a shooter to shoot consciously…thinking about what he is doing rather than shooting instinctively or subconsciously. This is quite natural and simply means that the student has not yet fully adopted the style change and relegated it to his subconscious. The cure for this is practice and repetition. I recommend indoor mount drills combined with numerous rounds of skeet to solidify most mount-related style changes.

2) A student can sometimes misinterpret, exaggerate or partially implement the technique introduced by a coach during the previous lesson. This is best diagnosed by the coach in subsequent lessons. More than likely in this case, the student has reinforced and practiced the wrong way since the previous lesson, which will require some reprogramming. This is perhaps the best justification I can think of for more frequent lessons. Regular lessons keep shooters on track and correct bad habits before they become too integrated into the shooting style.

Daryl is highly “coach-able”. He is one of those students who is very committed to improving his game and is willing to put in the necessary work to achieve results. While I certainly enjoy one-time introductory-type lessons and introducing new shooters to the sport, I admit that I most enjoy teaching students who establish and strive for personal goals and are committed to continuous improvement. I guess that’s because I can more readily identify with them and see the fruits of my own efforts in their improved performance.

When coaching a student, I typically watch them shoot at about twelve to fifteen pairs over three stations before deciding what we will focus on during the rest of the lesson. This gives me an opportunity to observe any bad habits the student may have picked up since the previous lesson. I typically provide my students with no more than three things to work on during and after each lesson. That usually gives them plenty to work on and doesn’t overwhelm them. I was curious to see how Daryl had progressed. We checked in at the club and drove out to the first station in our golf cart. As I observed Daryl shoot the first three stations, I was impressed. While the targets were fairly basic, his mount and timing looked good. He was seeing the targets very well and most breaks were reasonably hard. He had nearly perfectly interpreted the direction I had given him in our last few lessons, during which we concentrated primarily on mount mechanics and improving target visibility. It was obvious that he had been practicing the indoor mount drills I had given him for homework. Nevertheless, by the time we left the second station, I had identified the three things we were going to work on.

During his mount, I observed the butt of the gun touching his shoulder just slightly before the comb reached his cheek. There was also a noticeable rearward movement of the gun into the shoulder before he discharged the shotgun. I sometimes refer to this as a “three step mount.” Occasionally, I would also see his head drop to the comb after nesting the butt into the shoulder instead of raising the gun the full distance to the cheek. I saw this as a manifestation of his former pre-mounted style and his habit of first mounting the gun to the shoulder instead of the cheek. Daryl had been cured of most of it, but the affliction wasn’t yet in complete remission.

Another thing I observed was a problem with Daryl’s hold points and shot planning. He was indeed moving to a hold point during his pre-shot routine. However, just prior to calling for the target, he would start to drift his barrel back toward the trap. It was barely noticeable, but was unquestionably affecting his move to the target and making him rush to catch it. On selected targets, he also seemed to have his gun barrel out of alignment with the target line and out of sync with the speed of the target.

We moved to a shady spot under a big tree where we practiced mounting to the cheek instead of the shoulder, simulating both left-to-right and right-to-left crossers. Once Daryl understood what this modification felt like, we moved back to the course and on to another station to put this into practice. Daryl adjusted nicely to the change but would need additional reinforcement to commit this to his subconscious. We then revisited the basic principles of shot planning (see “Shot Planning” at under the Tips and Techniques section). We discussed his tendency to drift his barrel back toward the trap. I emphasized the importance of establishing the line and committing to his hold points and break-points.

Once Daryl proved to me over a couple of stations that he understood what he needed to do, I asked him to shoot the next five stations as if he were in a tournament, while faithfully employing the three new adjustments we had made: 1) Commit to your hold points, 2) Mount to the cheek, and 3) synchronize with the target.

As with a number of my students, I found myself occasionally laughing as Daryl employed the new changes and obliterated targets, decisively reducing them to dust. He looked back at me as if to question why I was laughing at him. I asked him, “Do you know how hard you are breaking those targets?” “Well, yeah, I guess”, he replied. “Do you know why?” I asked. After receiving another puzzled look from my student, I asked him how well he was able to see detail on the target. He replied, “Really well.”

I reminded him of the Focus-Movement-Faith principles and just how much the quality of visual Focus depended on sound Movement. Whenever he missed a target, it was always a function of one or more of three issues: flawed visual Focus, a flawed Movement or insufficient Faith. Proper orientation of the barrel to the target line, gun movement that closely mirrors the target speed and a mount that reaches the cheek first, will yield higher levels of visual focus and more X’s on the score card.

With three fairly minor modifications to his nicely developing style and technique, Daryl had a more efficient movement and mount that was in greater sync with the target which enabled him to better see and engage the targets and break them more consistently.

In the next and last article in this series, I will chronicle Daryl’s ongoing progress and his performance at the NSCA Nationals in San Antonio.


Don Currie is a certified NSCA Level III Instructor, Associate of the Institute of Clay Target Instructors, former US Army Infantry School and Ranger School Instructor, Master Class sporting clays competitor and an NSCA National Delegate. He is an instructor at the Orvis Wing Shooting School, is an avid upland bird hunter and is passionate about shooting and outdoor sports. He lives and works in Central Florida with his wife and three children and instructs clay target sports throughout the state of Florida. To learn more about the Focus-Movement-Faith System or the mental game, go to, contact Don HERE or connect with him on Facebook.

© 2010 – Don Currie – All rights reserved.

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