When I first started shooting clays I was that guy. I’d miss a few targets and become frustrated. The more frustrated I became, the more targets I’d miss.
I claimed I shot clays because I enjoyed it. But if you watched me you’d never know it. The baggage I brought to the field got in the way of my enjoyment. The lack of enjoyment interfered with my ability to progress and break more targets.
Ralph, who I shot with on a regular basis, was never “that guy.” He was always happy when he was shooting. He loved the game and if he missed, he would laugh, take on an “ah shucks” attitude and move on. He was never fazed by a miss, a series of misses, or even a protracted slump. He saw them as challenges, and he loves a good challenge. How could I become more like Ralph?
At that time I didn’t fully understand what was going on. I thought I’d enjoy the game more if I broke more targets. It’s only through hindsight that I realized regardless of the number of targets I broke, still more could be broken and the cycle would continue.
I had read countless articles and books on shooting clay targets and quite a few of them talked about negative thoughts and how they can interfere with performance. I never found anything that I felt would help me.
Finally, thanks to a recommendation from my instructor, I discovered a book that dives deep into the reasons why we play our game. It states that if we do not attend to the reasons why we play our game, the goal (breaking targets) will suffer.
Now, are you ready for this? The name of the book is: Extraordinary Golf: the Art of the Possible by Fred Shoemaker. No, that’s not a typo, the book is about golf and it’s my favorite sporting clays book.
It doesn’t matter that Fred Shoemaker’s game is golf and ours is sporting clays. We are both doing the same thing: We are playing a game that we love and we have a desire to grow with the game. Fred Shoemaker challenges us to take a new look at our sport and the reasons why we play it.
I’ve taken Shoemaker’s advice to heart and instead of focusing on the goal, I now focus on the reasons why I play.
Whether or not I hit a target is still important to me. But it is no longer the most important thing. Missed targets are just data points used to track progress or to measure the effectiveness of a new technique or piece of equipment. They do not detract from the overall experience.
For the average clay shooter (pros are another story), once the reason why we play the game is decoupled from the goal of the game (breaking targets): The goal will no longer get in the way. We each have our own reasons for playing the game. Win, lose or draw, as long as the reason why you play is being addressed the goal will take care of itself. With this new found attitude I can lose, but I cannot be beaten.
Ken is a technical writer and has spent the majority of his career documenting storage hardware and software products for start-up companies. Although start-ups demand long hours, he always finds time to get to the club and break some clays. Ken is not a shooting instructor and he is not a professional shooter. He’s part of the majority of people who love to shoot clays just for the sheer fun of it.