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  • Go with a plan!

    Sometimes I find that I go out with the best of intentions, but for some reason as soon as I get to the training ground I forget all about process. I am never sure why this happens - maybe I just get caught up in the excitement of being there. I go with the intention of doing one thing and come away having done something else! If I am not the keen on going in the first place, I find that I am more easily distracted!

    Personally, I frequently like to train on my own, particularly if I am working on process. I find other people often provide a distraction. If it is just me in practice, there is no one else to blame! If you don't follow your process and practice like you are going to compete, you are not going to get the most out of your training sessions.

    One of the big things that helped me when I was learning technique was a piece of kit called an "audio trap release". This device allowed me to shoot skeet targets on my own - I didn't need to have someone else to press the button to release the targets. It is a controller with a microphone that releases the targets when I shout "pull". Simple, but it meant that I could practice on my own, for as long as I wanted and practice the targets that I wanted to - I didn't have to feel guilty or embarrassed for practicing the same targets over and over again. It helped me to concentrate on the things that needed the most work and iron out any flaws.

    The ground that I used for practice at the time didn't have one of these devices, so (with their agreement) I bought my own and used it on one of their skeet ranges. Sounds like an odd approach, but it was great news for them as the number of targets that I used to shoot there went up dramatically. I know other shooters that have done exactly the same at other grounds.

  • Taking a break

    In 2017, I got to June and realised that I had trained, on average, every other day for more than 6 months! Without a break!

    At the time, I was keeping comprehensive records of both my competition scores and practice scores. Everything counted. I had charts on the walls in my office to remind me of progress.

    But the end result was that I felt like I could not get away from it. It started to take the fun out of the sport - the pressure was always on. Eventually, something had to give and I took all the charts down. I took a break from shooting. At the time, I didn't know how long for. I just knew I didn't want to go back to shooting until I was ready. In the end, it was only a 10 day break. The result was I came back fresh and much more motivated than before.

  • Knowing what to practice

    When I first started competition shooting, I used to avoid shooting competitions in windy conditions. I found it affected my scores (negatively) and did nothing for my confidence. However, I realised that with selection shoots that the weather will be what it will be, so I had better learn how to shoot in variety of conditions - you never can tell what the weather is going to be like on the day of the selection shoot. One day I turned up for a competition and it was windy. Rather than not shoot and go home, I decided that I would shoot it as "practice" i.e. my scores would not be registered and count to my averages. The end result? I shot really well (there was no pressure on my after all!), I put in a really good score (even though it didn't count!) and I enjoyed myself much more that usual. That's when I realised that the issue of shooting in windy conditions was more mental than anything else. It did my confidence the world of good and I never worried about shooting in the wind after that day.

  • The key to getting the most out of our practice time is to make it "purposeful". You'll find some people will say that it is just about putting in as many hours as you can. But it is important to make sure that you are practicing the right things - there is no point in practice poor technique as you are only going to have to undo this at a later stage. For me, determining what to practice relies very heavily on record keeping.

    How do I know what to practice?

    Here's a habit that seems to help me. You will see on the performance diary sheets that there is a section at the bottom of the sheet that is called "Summary/Plan/Changes". When I fill this sheet in, I have a habit of taking the information from this section and writing it onto a 6x4 card. I then slip this card into the pocket in my skeet vest. It doesn't matter if it is a few days before I go out and train again, because when I do, I will find the notes of what I need to do already in my pocket!

  • Avoid just shooting rounds

    The social aspect is an important part of any sport. However, it can sometimes be too easy for the social aspect of the sport to overshadow the more serious aspect of purposeful practice. If you are only interested in the social aspect of your sport, then you probably won't be too worried. Mind you, if you are only interested in the social aspect, you probably won't be reading this site either. However, if you are serious about improving your game, then you'll need to control the social aspect of your game. There is a time and place for everything and if you want to improve at your sport you are going to need to find time for some "purposeful practice" as well as the social side of the game.

    What can you do to make your practice more purposeful?

  • Structure your training sessions

    I tend to do something like this:

    • I like to start with something easy. This helps me settle in and builds a bit of confidence. This opening part of the training session helps to set the tone for the rest of the day. This might take around 10-20 mins.
    • Work on the "hard stuff" - this is what you came here to practice. Keep your focus on the learning process - what went right and why? what went wrong and why? If you get stuck in a rut, move on and come back to it. This part of the training could be an hour or two. If it is longer than 45mins, I tend to take a take (possibly get a coffee) and come back to it. Pace yourself. Whatever you do, make sure that you are following your process.
    • Finish with some easier stuff. This is the imprint that you are going to take away from the session, so make sure that it is a good one! Ideally, this is no longer than 10-20 mins. Ideally, see if you can mix in some of that "harder stuff" you did in the middle section. But make sure that you aren't too tired by the time that you get to this part of the session. You don't want to unpick all the good work because now you are too tired. Then you will go home with the sort of wrong imprint!
  • Buddy up

    If you can find someone to train with who is at a similar level to you AND has a similar mindset to training as you, you will find it pays dividends. Just like practicing with the wrong players can be a distraction from purposeful practice, careful selection of a training buddy can have the opposite (and very positive) effect on your training performance. It is much easier to empathise with someone when they are going through all the same pains as you. The world doesn't feel like such a lonely place after all!

    Personally, I have found that like-minded players tend to club together - both good and bad. It is one of the upsides of being selected to play on a team - it often brings like-minded players together. Just make sure that you pick your training buddy well!

  • Practice under pressure

    If you want to be able to perform under pressure, you are going to need to practice how to do it. I covered this under the section on pressure and although it can be difficult replicate the pressure we find in competition, there are some things that might help.

  • Training plan

    You need to understand WHAT you need to practice, WHERE you need to practice and WHEN you need to practice.

    As well as weather conditions, you also need to make sure that you can shoot against a variety of different backgrounds and target colours etc. Again, good record keeping will help you identify shooting conditions where they can cause you problems. You need to make sure that you plan to learn how to shoot in all weathers and all conditions.

  • Don't over train

    Give yourself a break - literally! If you can plan your holidays around major competitions, so much the better. This is where a wall planner is invaluable. I set mine up at the start of each year before my wife starts thinking about booking holidays!

    It is all too easy to overdo it and there are plenty of burnt out skeet shooters around. Don't become one of them!

    Take a break. And remember, you forget bad habits quicker than good habits. The end result is that your overall performance will often improve after a self imposed break.

  • Never go home on a miss!

    I don't have many golden rules, but this is one of them!

    I never want to finish a training session on a miss. I think the same goes for coaching too. You want to go home feeling upbeat making sure that the last "imprint" in your brain is a positive one. A challenging training session where you concentrate on your weak spots can eat away at your confidence, so why not finish off with a few "less challenging" targets? I have often walked away with spare cartridges in my pocket, but knowing that I am walking away on a high. You need to know when to stop!

  • Practicing until you self destruct!

    Sometimes, I see people (including myself!) keep on training until tiredness kicks in and their performance drops. This is known as "training until you self destruct"! And yes, I have done this more than once! It is counter-productive and just imprints the wrong image in the brain.

    This situation can arise where you think you have a particular issue that you want to work on. In reality, the error might have just been a poor target or a poorly bouncing ball. However, people will keep on practicing the target until they miss it - then it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. They end up generating a problem where there isn't one!

    But be aware the opposite can also be true! I have had sessions where I felt like I couldn't miss. I was hitting everything and it felt effortless. But I kept ongoing and eventually - guess what? - I started missing. I couldn't work out why and although I only missed one or two, I went home with a negative imprint rather than a positive one! Duh! It is all about knowing when to quit!

  • 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 Further Info pages.