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Pre-shot Routine 101

Updated: Aug 16, 2022

Pre-shot Routine 101

As your proficiency with a shotgun increases, the percentage of target presentations within your ability level will increase. Consequently, the mature shooter can attribute a greater percentage of his misses to “easy targets”, that are within his ability level. The cause of misses on “easy targets” is not a technical issue but more likely a lack of concentration, lack of focus, distraction or lack of commitment. All of these causes can be remedied by a solid pre-shot routine and attention to the process rather than performance during the round.

While it is never too early to start thinking about pre-shot routine, most shooters seriously consider adopting one until they come to a point in their progression when the majority of missed targets are well within the shooter’s ability level. I wrote a two part series back in 2012 titled The OPTIMAL Process (see in which I suggest a shot planning process and pre-shot routine for sporting clays shooters. In my experience as a full-time coach I have learned that, as shooting proficiency and expectations evolve, so too does a shooter’s willingness to commit to a pre-shot routine. It takes a great deal of discipline to commit oneself to executing a pre-shot routine for every pair, at every station for 50 consecutive pairs. You shoot to have fun, not to work. I get it. What you have to decide is this: Is it more fun to perform your best or to perform beneath your abilities? At a certain point in your progression as a shooter, you will realize that “fun” means a higher score at the end of the round. This involves commitment to your process, rather than your performance, during the round for each stand and target pair.

If you are not quite ready to apply yourself fully to a process like the OPTIMAL Process, here are some “baby steps” you can take in your effort to ease into a preshot routine and infuse a bit more consistency into your game.

Your pre-shot routine should include:

1) Deep breathing – Take at least two deep breaths. With the last deep breath, exhaling half way (as you are performing 2 below).

2) “Out of body” rehearsal – Some would call this visualization but it is more than that. You should actually feel what it will feel and look like to break the next pair.

3) Visual Cue – Remind yourself of your focal point on each target. This might be the dome, the rings, the leading edge or the black underbelly on an otherwise orange target. It is the point or area of the target to which you will apply acute visual focus just prior to and through shot execution.

4) “PULL”

Note: The deep breathing sequence should occur at the same time as your “out of body” rehearsal and your visual cue should occur just prior to calling “PULL” as you execute your exhale.

Think of your pre-shot routine as a series of computer files you load immediately before calling “pull”. Write them down. “Load” them each time you prepare to call for a pair. Commitment to your pre-shot routine requires that you completely rethink your expectations of your performance during the round. Your expectations should be very high but not as it relates to score. Evaluation of your performance from station to station should be based solely on your level of compliance with the above pre-shot routine. Did I load my files on each and every pair on that station? If the answer is “yes” you have had a successful station. If you missed a target or two on a given station, one of two things occurred. Either a target’s degree of difficulty was outside your technical ability or your pre-shot routine failed. If the issue is technical ability, don’t agonize over it. File it away and commit to learning how to engage that particular presentation after the tournament. If the issue was a lapse in your pre-shot routine, recommit to the process on the next pair and the next station. Your goal during a round should never be broken targets. Instead, it should be pre-shot compliance. If your pre-shot compliance and attention to the process is sufficient, your performance will reflect your effort. — DC —

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