Revelations of the Scorecard
– Scorecard analysis for sporting clays competitors (Previously published in ClayShooting USA)
I drove over to Tampa Bay Sporting Clays to talk to the owner, Mike Mezrah. I worked on my “sales pitch” for most of the journey, trying to refine my delivery. After all, my quest for scorecards was a bit unusual, but I had a very altruistic purpose. I would be writing an article that would ultimately benefit shooters. Right? Before long, I found myself in front of Mike delivering my well-rehearsed appeal. He rolled his eyes. Clearly, I was over-rehearsed. After Mike made me promise to conceal all names to protect the inaccurate, and I assured him that the cards would stay in the clubhouse, he acquiesced and handed over the entire stack of scorecards from the club’s most recent tournament. Like Indiana Jones in search of the Lost Ark, I dug into the thick pile of scorecards with a vengeance. What I found was fascinating.
For each shooter’s card I analyzed, I first looked for any patterns I could see on specific stations and then looked for a broader pattern across all stations in the round. First, let’s look at some interesting performances at individual stations.
Never touched that target! (Shooter A)
(Missed the same target on every pair)
This shooter was never able to break the second target at Station Red #3. Getting snookered by a target can be frustrating. If you are a novice shooter who hasn’t been to many bigger shoots or big blasts, you might encounter a target presentation that you are completely unfamiliar with and unprepared for. For example, a novice shooter attempting to engage a fast-moving chandelle target at a distance of 45 yards is likely to miss behind if he misses anywhere simply because it’s a target he may have seen at his home course. There are some very talented target setters in our sport that can make a target appear to be moving quite differently from its actual trajectory. Traveling to some of the bigger tournaments to gain exposure and experience on world-class targets will broaden your target “database” and help you avoid getting snookered.
(Missed targets at the beginning of a station, but brought it together at the end….)
This shooter seemed to put it together by the end of the station, but clearly didn’t have a good plan from the start. Before it’s your turn to shoot, study the targets. With an outstretched arm, simulate the movement of your eyes and gun to the targets you are about the engage. Make sure you know where your eyes and gun will go (your visual pick-up-points and hold points) throughout the engagement of each target pair. Rehearsals, in advance of dropping two shells into your gun, will help you develop and test your plan before accumulating zeros on the scorecard. I got this! Oops, dropped one! (Shooter C)
How many times have you, or one of your squad mates, been well on your way to running a station when, oops! you drop a target? We talk a lot about how to exclude our conscious mind from our shot execution, but there is one element of each execution that must be intentional: intensity of focus. After you break your first and second pair at a station, it is easy to get lulled into a comfort zone and relax your focus. Before you know it, you’ve dropped a target because you failed to focus as intensely on the third or fourth pair as you did on the first and second. In the case of Shooter C, it looks like he also got a bit flustered after missing the second target on the third pair, which caused him to unravel on the last pair. Always give yourself a mental cue. Tell yourself to “see the target”, “focus” or “see the beak” just before you call for each pair. This can help you avoid lapses in visual intensity that cause you to drop a target here and there. There could, of course, have been other reasons for Shooter C’s performance on this station. Perhaps he failed to commit to the hold points, breakpoints and visual pick-up points that he so carefully identified during his pre-shot planning. Once you’ve shot your first pair, any adjustment of stance, hold points or visual pick-up points should be intentional, not random. If a rabbit takes a sudden hop or a target is lifted by a sudden gust of wind, you just have to chock this up to bad luck and forget about it.
(Broke the first pair but couldn’t put two together for the next two or three pairs)
This shooter tends to “wing it” and doesn’t have a thorough pre-shot planning process, and his scorecard reflects it. I can always tell a shooter who enters the stand without a plan because his hold points and break points are random and inconsistent. Shooter D most likely didn’t have a plan when he stepped into the station on Blue #3 or, if he did, he lacked the discipline to stick with it. The shooter shot his first pair instinctively but didn’t know how to repeat the broken pair because he couldn’t replicate his hold points and visual pick-up points. By the last pair, he was likely looking for a specific lead and wondering why the second target wasn’t breaking.
After uncovering these golden nuggets from these scorecards, I then went back through them a second time, but from a different perspective. I looked for trends or pockets of higher or lower performance as the shooter progressed through the course from station to station. Here is what I found.
(A pocket of lower performance after hitting a tough station)
This shooter’s card shows a bit of weakness in the mental game. He started off strong on station Blue 1. Then he shot Station Blue 2, which was a brutal station by any standard. Even the HOA couldn’t exceed 50% on this station. Immediately after that station, however, this shooter fell apart, and it took him another 2 stations to get back into the groove. On the next station, Blue 3, he missed both targets of the first pair but then broke the next two pairs. He was certainly capable of running this station, but I suspect he got so flustered after the previous station he either failed to conduct his pre-shot planning at Station 3 or his confidence was blown. On station Blue 4, he continues to perform erratically. Not until station Blue 5, does he regain his composure. There is no doubt that Station Blue 2 was tough, but this shooter failed to apply some basic mental-game strategies to put him back in the proper positive mental attitude for the next station. As a result, he missed targets that were certainly within his capability to break.
(More misses at the end of the round than in the beginning)
There are two areas of competency that determine a shooter’s ability to perform at a high level throughout an entire 100-target tournament: technical ability and mental toughness. In the case of this shooter, he seemed to lack endurance and lose mental focus as the tournament wore on. Shooter A only missed 9 targets (37% of his misses) in the first half of the competition, but went on to miss 15 targets (63%) in the last half on a course where the misses among competitors was fairly evenly distributed with only a slightly heavier miss percentage on the second half of the course.
(More misses in the beginning of the round than at the end.)
Shooter F, one of the top master class finishers, missed 7 in the first half and 4 in the second half of the tournament. Despite encountering slightly tougher targets in the second half of the course, Shooter F seemed to gain focus and momentum as the tournament wore on. Conversely, and while he shot a very strong score on a tough course, I wonder if Shooter F was sufficiently warmed up before shooting the first station. Would an improved warm-up routine have helped his performance in the first half?
It seems a shame to hand in a scorecard without first capturing the potential treasure trove of undiscovered information for which you so handsomely paid. A most glorious sight would be that of competitors everywhere whipping out their smart phones and taking a snap shot of their scorecards at the end of each round. Give it a try. You just might avoid some of those misses the next time around.