Back to school

Following on from his coaching day at the Fennes Shooting Ground in Essex with the Helena Romanes School Clay Shooting team, Ben Husthwaite visited the classroom to offer some support to the team ahead of their first entry in the Schools Challenge.  The school, whose clay shooting club is organised and driven by teacher Neal Wilcox, has been running for less than a year.

When the club was started, some of the children had never picked up a gun and others had only shot a handful of times. In this relatively short time frame the team has come on in leaps and bounds, to the point that they are now ready to take 10 of the pupils along to the Schools Challenge at Oxford Gun Company in March. This progression shows the dedication that the pupils and their teacher have put into the sport and club.  The School has been training once a month at the Fennes Shooting Ground in Braintree, Essex.

Teacher Neal Wilcox says “the shooting club has allowed many of the pupils to gain more self belief and grow in confidence. It has helped them to realise exactly what they might me capable of” and also that “it has made school exciting for them!”  Going forward, the club is aiming to organise some friendly interschool competitions with local schools and also to have some of the more competitive pupils competing in CPSA registered events.

The development and success of the team has been driven by Neal from the beginning, but Neal is quick to point out that great thanks has to be given to members of the shooting community who have also helped to get the team up and running. The support that they have shown to the team has been tremendous, both Gamebore and Hull have donated cartridges and one very generous individual donated a 20 bore gun to be used for the younger team members. The coaches like Terry Humber and Neal Wilcox, who have been present for the monthly training sessions since the club began, have given up their time free of charge.

Since his half day coaching session with members of the team towards the end of last year, Ben has been keen to keep in touch and to help as much as possible.  With their first competition only round the corner, Neal arranged for Ben to join them for an after school session to help with the sports psychology aspect of shooting and to answer any questions the pupils may have about competing.

The afternoon was run as an informal question and answer session allowing Ben to interact with the pupils on a more personal level.  It kicked off with pupils wanting to find out more about Ben’s achievements since his career began and then moving on to talk about cartridges, gun choice, gun fit and the all important mental attitude.  Keen to help the team and the youth of the sport progress, Ben and the pupils discussed topics not just relating to shooting, but also encompassing how they approach their other sports and hobbies as well as in relation to their school work, and even touched on superstitions such as lucky items of clothing!

When it came to discussing the competitions, Ben covered what he believes to be the key to his success and how he prepares himself for each competition.
Mental coaching and conditioning is a topic that Ben feels very strongly about, every pupil that comes to Ben for a lesson will be coached not just on their technique, but also their mental conditioning (sometimes without realising it).  This can be something as simple, yet effective, as Ben’s pre-shot routine used both in training and competitions – it being vital to train and compete at the same mental level.  Following on from this session I was able to interview Ben about some tips which he feels are key to competing successfully.

Two of the first things a competitive shooter needs to master are: learning to not dwell on a lost target (or a surprising hit of a target) – once a target is shot it is irrelevant, each shot must be in its own time frame or it is not receiving the shooters full attention; and losing in a competition (be it a registered event or just for who buys the teas).  Only then can you begin to correct the mistakes in a constructive frame of mind.

Keep notes after every shooting session, be it training or a competition.  Make notes on where clays were dropped within the sequence, how many were shot, angle and colour of the target, background, weather and anything else that may factor in the shooting performance.  It is surprising how a pattern begins to emerge!

A pre-shot routine before each shot is key to telling the mind it’s time to perform, be it training or competition:

  • Mentally run through the shot before taking the stand.
  • Never go into a competition with a score in mind.
  • Don’t shoot a 200 bird comp, shoot 200 single targets, counting hits and misses takes up 20% of brain power and detracts from performance.
  • Believe in yourself, if there is a lack of self belief, them work on some mental exercises.

Remember, no target is unbreakable.

The biggest part for Ben is to follow this process with each shot. That way, by a process of elimination, scores will increase, even on the most technical tracks.


Posted in Coaching, Features

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