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  • There is no doubt that performing in competitions requires additional skills. These skills, just like any other skills, need to be learnt and practiced. Just because you have the technique to be able to shoot all the targets in practice, don't assume that it is going to be the same in competition.

    I know from my own record keeping that my competition scores are generally one or two points below my practice scores. I keep an eye on this difference as it is generally a good indication of how well I am coping with the pressure of competitions and how well I have prepared. My records show that I have managed to reduce this difference, but I am still a couple of points adrift. Now one or two points doesn't sound like very much, but it is the difference between a 96 and a 98. Enough to put me in a whole new class! And ironically, I have all the technique to be able to put in this sort of score (becuase I do it in practice), but it is me that is standing in the away of putting these scores in during competitions.

    The major issue is the increased pressure of performing in competitions. This pressure is difficult to replicate in practice and there really is no alternative, but to get out there and get some experience.

  • Following your process

    Shooting in competitions takes trusting your process to a whole new level. Hopefully, through practice you will have found that if you stick to your process, then everything works out OK. With the added pressure of competition, you need to have the confidence to to stick to your process. It takes time to do this in practice, but then you need to learn to stick to it in competitions as well. That takes trusting your process to a whole new level. It seems strange that we can develop a process that works for us brilliantly in practice (we spend hours honing it to perfection), but then when it comes to a competition, we go completely off piste and do something completely different!

    Besides the increased pressure, there are a number of distractions when competing that just aren't there in practice. You need to work out a method for dealing with them. For example, you have got to get used to:

    • shooting at different grounds
    • on different size squads
    • deal with trap breakdowns
    • and different weather conditions

    Let's not leave it until the day of the competition, we can work out your strategy for dealing with them beforehand. For example, when competing at a new ground, make sure that you have practiced there in the weeks leading up to the competition. If there is a trap breakdown, open your gun and walk away from the peg while the ground staff fix the problem. When they are ready to restart, restart your process. Don't just stand there and wait while they fix it - this just piles on the pressure and uses up your valuable concentration.

    As you gain more experience of shooting in competitions, your list will grow. It will be particular to you as what distracts one person will not distract another. One of my personal bugbears are other shooters - standing too close to me when it is my turn to shoot, talking loudly in the background distracting other competitors, and (worst of all) talking to me during competitions (e.g. "Why do you think you missed that one?"). Everyone will develop their own way of dealing with these issues, but remember to be polite and don't fall into the trap of distracting yourself while trying to deal with a distraction!

  • Competition Formats

    This really is another one of those factors that needs to be taken into account when competing. But it is often over looked - I know, I have done it myself a couple of times. I have turned up to shoot inter county competitions or selection shoots without knowing the format beforehand. Although it can varying according to sports, the format of competitions can vary at different levels. This too can take some time to get used to so make sure you understand the format of each competition.

    For example, in a "normal" registered skeet competition, you shoot 4 rounds of skeet (each taking about 20 mins) back to back. So to shoot a registered competition, it normally takes around 80 minutes - 4 x 20 minute rounds. However, in the Home Internationals (and the qualifiers), you shoot 4 rounds of skeet often with 60-90 minutes between shooting each round. This means your could be shooting for around 4 hours rather than the usual 80 minutes. You will not be able to maintain your focus continually for 4 hours, so you have to learn how to focus and then re-focus when it is your time to shoot. Since we are shooting for 4 hours, this will also impact when you take food and fluids on board. You need to work out what works for you in these conditions and this can take some practice to get right. Everyone is different.

  • Planning the build up to major competitions

    We are likely to be able to identify half a dozen or so major competitions that we want to take part in each year. Sure, there will be other minor competitions, but some will matter more than others. It will be important that we identify these competitions and plan for them appropriately. We want to make our performance peaks at the right time - little point in shooting well when it doesn't matter and then the wheels falling off when it does!

    • Get a Wall chart and mark up the dates of the major competitions. Make sure that you include holidays too. Work backwards from the competition dates and plan your practice and coaching in the run up to the event.
    • Don't leave either your coaching until the day or week before the comp. Imagine having a coaching session the day before a major comp only to find that you need to make some changes to your technique. Frankly, it is too late - it takes time for the changes to settle into your process and it won't help your confidence.
    • Likewise, don't leave either your practice until the day or week before the comp. Imagine you have a terrible practice session - it won't help your confidence and you might not have time to put it right and go back.
    • Be prepared on the day. If you have critical bits of kit, make sure you have spares. Make sure that you have clothing for all weather conditions. Make sure that you have the right food and drink with you - don't rely on being able to find it at the competition.
    • Watch what you eat and drink the night before. Personally, I steer away from anything unusual or spicy the night before. I know it is boring, but I like to stick to chicken or salmon salad. I avoid red meat. There are plenty of other nights to push the boat out, let's not overdo it the night before a major comp!
    • Get some sleep. There is a lot of research that says that getting the right quantity and quality of sleep makes a major difference to our performance. One of the major factors for me are overnight stays before a competition. I often don't sleep that well when away and will often prefer to travel the morning of the comp and sleep in my own bed. A number of elite athletes will transport their bedding with them when competing just to ensure they get a good night's sleep.

    Here's another subject that is often overlooked - Getting the best out of a referee. What started out as a couple of thoughts has now become a page in it's own right. Click the link above to read more.

  • Updated: 3/9/20

Further information


There are a number of websites online that can provide more detailed information. I have included a list for you to use as a starting point.


You'll find an extensive list of books included on the Further Info pages. They are all readily available on Amazon.


There are some great TED talks available that cover many of the areas discussed on this website. I have included links to many of them on the Futher Info pages.