Jun 26, 2020 | By: Daniel Schindler, Master Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap and Wingshooting Instructor
Her name was Joy…and she was. Age? Joy was what some might call an “old soul.” Wise. Personally, I like the term, “sharp.” And she was, as a tack. When we first shook hands at the Club, her smile assured me we’d been friends for a long time. Old school? Yeah…like that exactly. Her gear? She had all the right stuff. Determination? Enough for us both.
The very first step towards shooting improvement
doesn’t start with change.
It starts with our attitude towards changing.
Shooting skills? Joy had no delusions about where she was in her shooting, a truth she was comfortable with. Maybe not happy mind you, but, even after missing too many targets, she knew there was better inside her. Much better. Of that she was certain. And let me tell you…she was correct. That’s why she made the long trip to River Bend. Hoping.
Socializing concluded, we began where I always do, a short bit of classroom study. As a new shooter, I asked her to very deliberately move her attention away from X’s and O’s over to the basics. I asked her to intentionally shift her attention to her TASKS…building precision into her set-up and swing to make her swing both consistent and dependable. Gun management.
That consistency and dependability would depend on 2 things, 2 obligations…objectives we both shared. First, was her learning to correct her miss, on her own. From an O to an X with 1 shell. Second, on her own, learning how to repeat the X, on purpose. Neither of which would happen if ALL her attention was out yonder on a target downrange from her gun muzzle…where she had no control whatsoever. Those X’s and O’s were simply outcomes. And those outcomes…each and every one…would be decided by what she did, in the box, behind the muzzle, before the trigger pull. Her TASKS.
Why all this talk about “preparation?” After safety of course, the number 1 obligation your Instructor has is to prepare you…the student…to be able to succeed…to continue advancing your improvement AFTER your lesson(s)…at home when you are standing in the shooting box with NO Instructor behind you. After your lesson(s)…standing in the shooting box on your home course…X or O…if you are lost and confused…what was the purpose of your lesson(s) a few days ago?
I emphasize this preparation message with all my students who are earnest about improving their shooting. And why I ask some of them to move their attention away from outcomes (X’s and O’s) and begin to focus intently on their TASKS, target after target…gun management. This is a revelation to many of my students, one that very successfully puts them on the path of real, measurable improvement in their shooting. X. X. X. X. Now. Predictably, with intentional breaks.
Please consider…missing isn’t the problem.
It’s our attitude towards missing that’s the problem.
As a very busy Instructor / Coach, and serious shooter myself, I fully understand and accept the challenges we all face when trigger time commences. Once the shooting began, Joy struggled to overcome old habits, habits that were causing 0X00X0X00. And, like everyone else does, once she moved her attention away from outcomes and over to executing her TASKS correctly, X. X. X. X. X. X. Right on schedule. On purpose.
Joy, being a newer shooter, had fewer habits to overcome. That was in her favor. But that wasn’t the only reason why Joy got traction so early in her first lesson. There were two other reasons for this. First, she very quickly realized that keeping her attention focused tightly on the correct “set-up and swing sequence” simply produced more X’s. Dependably. Second, God bless her, she grasped my message that her “learning” was a process, not an event. Missing targets was to be expected during this process. A miss may not have been a happy outcome, but each one presents an opportunity to learn something important. After a miss, because an expectation wasn’t met, getting frustrated and upset over the miss would only delay the learning process. To her credit, and to her advantage, Joy’s objective after each miss became a) forgive herself, quickly, and b) learn why…what CAUSED the miss. From an O to an X with one shell. On her own. And she did!
If I may, I’ve written 3 books (below) on what to do, before and after stepping into the shooting box. What goes where, when, how and why. Explained are the non-negotiable fundamentals of step-by-step set-up and swing management. To say all these steps are important would be an understatement. Shell after shell…target after target…they are required, not optional. But the value…and the effectiveness of those steps…will be severely diminished by outcome thinking. And why keeping our attention on our basics…our set-up and swing TASKS…ultimately decides our swing and shot outcome.
And too…the small print added to this article for clarification purposes…as the skill ladder is climbed and the good basics learned over time become more and more natural, more instinctive…ultimately allows the shooter’s attention to shift towards breaking the target. Provided, however, the basics have been properly schooled and are instilled.
A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts,
events and outcomes.
It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.
Wade Boggs (MLB)
While I am blessed, privileged to work with ALL my students, Joy was a pleasure because she tirelessly chose to forgo all the negative emotions when expectations weren’t met…instead, persistently putting her faith in the learning process. Patience…followed by more patience…her misses were quickly excused…her frustration dismissed…her X’s celebrated. And rightfully so. Those were not accidental X’s but ones she earned and could repeat. And she did!! This is the Kaizen process of step-by-step improvement, all based on an attitude of staying positive regardless of errors, mishaps, and unmet expectations.
Joy was not only a great student but, to her credit, was a shining example of patience, faith, and determination…making this game a lot more than just X’s and O’s.
With our full support to each one of them…this piece is dedicated to all those entering our sport so they can fulfill every hope and expectation that comes with this great game.
Dan Schindler is one of only 50 worldwide members of the Guild of Shooting Instructors (UK) and is one of the most highly respected Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructors in the US. Dan is an NSCA Level III Instructor (since 1995) and founded the Paragon School of Sporting with one goal in mind. Whether it be for the advanced competitor or providing the basics to the entry-level shooter, Paragon provides the simplest, most practical and most effective Instruction, Coaching and Mental Training for the Sporting Clays, Skeet, Trap & Wingshooting enthusiast. Dan Schindler helps shooters alleviate a lot of their frustration by taking the mystery out of breaking targets, calling their own misses, and make their own corrections. Lessons are fun, enlightening and our clients learn to shoot better in minutes! Dan teaches locally at River Bend Sportsmans Resort in Inman, SC.
Shooters from around the world read Dan's books 2, 3, 4, or more times and refer back to them often. These three EXCELLENT books - Take Your Best Shot, To The Target, and Beyond The Target take the MYSTERY out of missing targets so you can shoot more CONSISTENTLY! Order Books!
Newest Release...Take Your Best Shot (Book I), 3rd Edition isTHE Gold Standard Primer for shooters of ALL skill levels...
Solid, valuable, concise informationthat has helped thousands of shooters shoot more consistently with higher scores. It provides the steps and succinctly lays out the fundamentals required for good shooting. This book is used by recreational and competitive shooters...high school and college shooting teams from around the world.
To The Target (Book II) Builds on the steps outlined in Book I. Emphasises Gun Management skills when the trap fires, creating a consistent, reliable, trustworthy swing.
Beyond the Target (Book III) is for shooters of all levels, filled with valuable information, clay target truths. Entertaining and a culmination of 3+ decades of Dan's life's work as a teacher, competitor, published writer, and much more.
"Take Your Best Shot is the best clay and wingshooting shooting primer on the market that I have ever seen. The brilliance of its simplicity aids in getting across the correct messages for successful shooting for ANY clay/wingshooting shooter, let alone a new shooter. As a master instructor, founder/Head Coach of the Jacksonville University Shooting Team (a national championship program), and JU faculty member, Take Your Best Shot is standard reading for ALL of our varsity shooters. Dan has managed to capture the basics beautifully, and he has placed them in an easy, simple-to-follow, witty presentation. My students love the book and read it time and again. Highly recommend, no matter what your level of shooting experience and expertise."
NSSA Instructor, Level III, DVM These three books are a must-read for all clay target shooters. They are clear, concise, logical instructions on how to shoot clay targets and how to improve your scores. Taking a lesson from Dan would be very advantageous & help hasten the learning process. He has been my instructor for 15 years. With each lesson, I always come away amazed at how much I have learned & how my scores improve.
He also emphasizes how important it is to practice regularly & stay with his advice & recommendations to really learn new skills to improve your scores. He has helped me tremendously & I highly recommend him.
Mark Engen, DVM These three books are a must-read for all clay target shooters. They are clear, concise, logical instructions on how to shoot clay targets and how to improve your scores. Taking a lesson from Dan would be very advantageous & help hasten the learning process. He has been my instructor for 15 years. With each lesson, I always come away amazed at how much I have learned & how my scores improve. He also emphasizes how important it is to practice regularly & stay with his advice & recommendations to really learn new skills to improve your scores. He has helped me tremendously & I highly recommend him.