We’re at Station 5 on a sporting clay range. The shooter I’m squadded with hasn’t missed one. When he arrives in the shooting box to take the first shot, he sets the gun down, takes a deep breath, and looks at the background of the station. He then picks up the gun, raises it to his shoulder, and calls for the target pair. He completely disintegrates them both. On the next pair, he does the same thing and crushes the targets once again. On his final pair, he smiles, loads, puts the gun up and calls for the pair. His entire routine had changed. You could tell he knew he would hit this pair. He then shoots and misses the pair. Defeated, he throws his shells across the field and stomps back to the cart. What he doesn’t realize, though, is that miss was a totally preventable one. How?
This is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way in every shotgun sport I’ve shot in. No matter what sport you choose – shotgun , rifle, or even football or golf – every exceptional athlete has a set MENTAL PLAN. It is absolutely critical in every sport. The mental plan also carries over to the physical game. My mental game started as many shooters start, being panicked and more hoping to hit a target than knowing I would, making my gun movement jerky and unsure. Day after day, shot after shot, though, I was building my mental game, whether I broke the target or not, and I still am.
In 1 game I’ve shot in particular, Bunker Trap, or International Trap, mental preparation before and during the shot determines if you hit the target or not. Imagine a 110mm target, going from 80 to 110 mph, reaching approximately 75 yards in 3 seconds, and you don’t know which way it’s going. You can’t just swing at a target like that and hope you hit it. A target like that has to be methodically planned out … but how? How can you PLAN to hit that?
The answer is through a process … that you repeat every single time, at every single shot. A mental plan that you trust every time. Bunker, like all shotgun sports, is a game of 1. It’s that 1 target that decides if you win or lose. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first target on a sporting clay range or the last target in the 2020 Summer Olympics, it always will be that 1 target. If you want to be a competitor in any shotgun sport, you need to go into competition with a set plan and the mindset that you will win. This is very tricky for some people … and that’s what a mental process is for. If you can find the right one, and have the willpower to trust in that no matter what hardships come your way, to the point of repeating it so much that you become a machine … it’s been proven time and time again —you WILL be a champion. Take a look at the biggest Olympic champions, such as Kim Rhode and Vincent Hancock. Watch them shoot. They don’t hesitate. They don’t falter. They are both MACHINES … and that’s why they’ve won Olympic medals.
In fact, I’ve been in the process of rebuilding my mental game. The method I’m using is particular method that my “Sensei” Coach Daniel Schindler teaches. When shooting sporting clays, I was shooting 80s, which is alright, but I want to be able to compete with the big dogs in the sport, who shoot 90s and above consistently. That means, I had to completely abandon my old method and build my mental game all over again.
There’s a story my Coach Dan told: There was an amateur golfer being interviewed on television. He was talking about exactly what I had to do; he had to completely rebuild his entire golf game. He had been in the game for a short amount of time, but he was doing really well. So well that he even qualified to become a PGA Professional. That’s exactly when he decided to rebuild his mental game from the bottom up. It sounds crazy, right? Not completely. I, like the golfer here, knew that the mental method I was using wouldn’t get me any closer to my goal. It got me to where I am, but it wouldn’t advance me in my sport. Both the golfer and I knew we couldn’t be competitive where we were, so we had to change up what we were doing. Dan’s mental process helps me hit any bird consistently, unlike what I was doing before. To me, my old method was worth giving up for higher, more consistent scores.
In recollection, the mental game is the most important thing to learn if you want to be competitive in shooting sports, or any other sport for that matter. Once you find that one thing that clicks with you, you need to practice and train that one thing endlessly until you become that machine you see on TV. Once you start competing in any sport you will learn, like our friend above shooting sporting clays, YOU NEED THAT MENTAL MACHINE. It isn’t worth losing a target because of a mistake that could be prevented by a simple, step-by-step plan, in your head and out. I learned that the hard way. Although I’m definitely not a master of the mental game, I now have my foundation under my feet.
Now, back to practice and working on my mental machine.
Makayla Scott is a 15-year-old shotgun enthusiast from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and a brand ambassador for CZ-USA. View all posts by Makayla Scott