I often get asked, what really is sports psychology? Surely you just need to see the target and shoot it?

In simple terms that might be perfectly right, but sadly we don’t live in a perfect world.

The use of sports psychology revolves around the mind – the psyche of the individual. Ultimately in clay shooting this is a body and mind connection.

In this article I am going to help you understand the connection between the two and why it is so important in clay shooting to connect them.

The exercises in this article are designed to heighten your awareness of your body within your shooting – it might sound slightly weird, but have you ever analysed what really happens when you shoot a clay? When you shoot Sporting, Trap or Skeet, what are the extremes of bodily movement?

I watch many shooters use visualisation in terms of seeing a target and imagining it break or try to find the lead picture, but what does that have to do with visualisation and the movement of the body? The answer is none. The sense of the body is an expansion of the sense of touch. It includes the feelings of rough and smooth, soft and hard, hot and cold, wet and dry, but in particular you are trying to recognise the signals and information in remembering your own movement.

When you learn any new skill you need to be fully aware of what your body is doing. Many who shoot do not start off with this in mind. The greatest example is the many different, but wrong stances that people adopt. These aren’t typically a problem until a person reaches higher levels, at that stage the relearning process is so much harder. The key is to understand the efficiency of movement in terms of acquiring the skill.

The following technique is one that is commonly used within different sports and will help you to fully understand your movement within shooting. There are many exercises to do, but this first one is the most common to use within clay shooting.

Have you ever tried to shoot off the other shoulder? I am not actually advocating that you do for real, but I am asking you to try to mount the gun on the opposing shoulder. If you go to the skeet layout and stand on Peg 4, take the gun and do some practice mounts (dry shooting) on the high and low tower. The reason for doing this exercise is to feel what it is like to shoot, to feel the areas of the body that create the movement.

If you use your normal side then the feeling is so much less, because you have already created engrained subconscious movements.

Now take a moment to do some analysis of what you just did, how it felt and if there was anything you could learn from it. You will find that many top coaches and top shots can actually shoot off the opposite shoulder. I actually made the change to shoot from my left shoulder four years ago as I had such a strong left master eye. My experience was extreme, but the lessons I was able to learn were powerful. Today I can shoot off both shoulders and I know the movement of my body.

Looking at the exercise in more detail, you need to repeat shooting off the opposite shoulder and become more aware of such things as gun speed, gun movement, hold and kill points even though you won‘t be shooting for real. If you can understand the feelings then you will become a better shot. Now return your gun to the usual shoulder and have some live shots, but be aware of the feelings that you felt on the other shoulder.

You will become more aware of your movement and as your progress to advanced visualisation exercises you will see the benefit of this.

Contact Phil on 0208 123 5242 or visit his website: www.clayshootingsuccess.co.uk

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