Stop Thinking!

Stop Thinking!  (7/12)
By Frank Neumayer


     There’s a time to practice and a time to win! Mixing the two will only bring about doubt, confusion, and a loss of confidence. Here’s what I’m talking about. As I work with students, politely drilling them on the shooting techniques they must incorporate to be successful for every shot every time, often their thought process becomes overwhelmed. Doubt and confusion starts to set-in and it quickly brings any success they’re having to a halt. As soon as I see this happening, and before frustration takes over, I simply say “Stop – let’s redo”. I have them come out of the gun, unload, step back, take a breath, and relax and rethink.


     After a few seconds I have them step-up, reset, get their hold points and get ready to call for the target. Only this time I tell them “Don’t think about it - just do what you know”. Most every time the next shot is a confident well centered break with good follow-through. Here’s the point… we become so driven and focused to be successful that the harder we think about correcting our mistakes the more we fail. It’s a simple fact that our bodies cannot react as fast as our minds can process data. However, once we know, understand, and have practiced repeatedly the correct “process steps” involved, then we’re able to react very quickly, accurately, and without over-thinking, to the task at hand.  


     When we miss a target our mind starts to work overtime to process and analyze every single step we took. However, there’s just not enough time to go through every detail and make the adjustments needed, and then successfully break the target. There’s a time for learning and a time for doing! On the line, during a tournament, is not the time for learning. At that point, everything you need to do should have already be instilled, ingrained, and committed to memory. As you move from post to post, and on every shot you take, all of your actions must come automatically with very little thinking applied. Every action you’ll need to take should be an instant replay from your sub-conscience mind. Once you mount the gun it’s muscle memory.  All you should be thinking about is… “See the target – Break the target”.

     I should clarify things a little here. There’s a big difference between evaluating shooting conditions and over-analyzing your shot process. As I step out on the field there is definitely a thought process going on… as it should be for all of us. At that moment I’m evaluating the conditions I’m facing and the two primary factors that I assess is the lighting and the wind direction. For me, these two factors have accounted for more losses than anything else. When the sky is dark and the targets dull, I know I need to cover them a little more when taking the shot. If the sky is bright and the targets are sharp, I’ll take the shot as I normally do. If there’s a slight wind in my face and the targets are high, I’ll hold a slightly higher gun. If the wind is at my back and the targets are flat, I’ll hold a slightly lower gun. Depending on the existing conditions, I may need to be a little more aggressive than normal, especially in doubles.


     As you head out to the club for a day of shooting, think about what you want to achieve for that day? If you just want to relax and have fun shooting with friends, then make that you purpose. On the other hand, if you seriously want to work on improving your technique, resolving some specific issues, or perfecting your game, then let that be your primary focus. For me, combining the two experiences can be difficult, so I keep them separate - maybe on the same day - but separate. I have a few friends that I shoot serious (quality) practice with. We’ll critically review each others’ techniques, looking for any minor adjustments or refinements that need to be made. Your practice efforts should reflect how you’ll compete, and that includes everything from your shooting technique, to guns, chokes, and loads.  


     There are many key factors involved with a good training regiment, but there are three factors that are critical. These factors are Patience, Discipline, and Persistence. You’ll need to be “patient” and allow yourself enough time to properly work on improving your game. The absolute minimum practice or instruction time should be two hours for any shooter, novice or advanced. I’ve had students want to book a one hour session and then come back in a few days for the other hour. It just doesn’t work! If you’re really serious about learning to shoot, give yourself the time necessary to learn it right, and learn it well, and I’m certain you’ll be a lot more satisfied with the results.

     It takes “discipline” to incorporate any and all of the adjustments and corrections needed to improve your every-shot routine… and it’s tough to break old habits and instill new ones. It takes discipline to properly address and commit to memory, all five elements (foot position/set-up; gun hold; eye hold; lead; and break point) required to be successful on every shot, every time. Again, there’s a time to practice and a time to win! When you’re on the line, all of your actions must rely on automatic, sub-conscience recall, and not on a detailed step-by-step thought process. Hours of hard work and discipline enables a good shooter to display the confidence, focus, and concentration necessary to be a champion.      


     When you’ve worked hard and are consistently breaking targets… that’s when the fun begins! Whether you’re new to the sport or a long-time shooter, you must be persistent at working to improve and perfect your game. They say shooting is 90% mental and 10% equipment. So… as you incorporate patience, discipline, and persistence into your practice routine, your confidence level will definitely increase along with your scores. It’s not arrogance to practice perfection or want to become the best that you can be! Shooting clay targets involves taking into account many every-changing variables, and those who are the most successful are those who have worked the hardest to perfect their game. Allow yourself the time necessary to become successful and always strive to do your best each and every time out. Seriously plan you work and work your plan… and success will follow!    


     If you’d like more information visit my website at or if you have a specific question send me an email at and I’ll do my best to get it answered. 


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