The importance of using feedback in clay shooting

Georgina Roberts has some advice for anyone who receives help during shooting on how to best use the feedback

Everyone gets feedback, whether you’re an athlete or a coach. It can range from more technical feedback such as gun mount, all the way through to something more conversational, like how to improve clarity when communicating with one another. 

There is a difference in taking feedback and using feedback. Many times I have seen athletes stand and nod aimlessly at a coach who is asking them if they understand what they’re saying, knowing full well that they aren’t taking any of it onboard.

I’ve stood there as that coach and registered that same aimless nod as I’ve asked an athlete if they have implemented previous feedback. I notice it because I’ve been there before – I’m guilty of doing the exact same thing. 

It’s easy to become good at giving the impression that you take the feedback seriously without ever having the intention to enforce it. It’s also possible that you have every intention to put it into practise but forget or lose sight of it amongst everything else that you’re doing.

Good advice is key to helping shooters improve

If you don’t make enough effort to use feedback, or entirely deflect it, you can find yourself at an “OK Plateau” as described by American science writer Joshua Foer. 

This is the point where you simply stop getting better at something despite continuing to do it regularly. Foer states that “The secret to improving at a skill is to retain some degree of conscious control over it whilst practising.”

“It’s not about the amount of hours you practise, it’s about the number of hours your mind is present during the practice.” –  Kobe Bryant 

Often an observant eye can see things the shooter won’t notice

The more you are aware of continuously implementing feedback, the less you go into autopilot. The less you go into autopilot, the more conscious you are during training. The more conscious you are during training, the more profound the improvements. 

To improve at something, or to build a successful and rewarding relationship with a coach, you need to get better at using feedback. Like with anything, you get better at it by practising it. 

Trust is also important when using feedback. If you take on board feedback and your performance improves, it’s more likely that you’ll trust the source and commit to future observations.

It’s important to build a safe environment where you can use implicit accountability, where both athletes and coaches are expected and incentivized to build on feedback. 

Athletes also need to be able to understand the reason for the feedback in order to properly feel its benefits, so understanding which questions to ask a coach can be valuable to make the most of it, but also help develop greater self-awareness.

Questions that athletes can use to gain understanding of the advice they get: 

  • Why do you think that will work?
  • When has this worked before? 
  • Who can I speak to that has faced a similar problem?

It’s imperative to remember that there is a point where there can be ‘too much’, the most impactful information to receive is one ‘positive’ and one ‘delta’ from a session. This delta could be either something we need to work on in the future or potentially something we missed all together. 

We’re lucky that most feedback we can implement immediately. Using feedback right away means athletes can’t ignore it, but also means that coaches can see if their observation was correct. Athletes can listen to a coach and make changes straight away whilst on the range or peg. 

It’s important to take feedback on board, not just listen and agree

By receiving or asking your coach for one ‘delta’ to work on, feedback can become manageable and therefore it’s within reach for us to try it straight away, it’s something that athletes can’t ignore. 

This could be a certain type of target, something in our routine or part of our technique, training creates an environment where we can use feedback and repeat our learning in the same requisite situation until we get it right. 

Coaches can hold shooters accountable to feedback by talking about it openly within squad training scenarios, where other people can hear what it is that you’re working on and support you in doing it.

Building a space where athletes or coaches use feedback as often as they accept it can have an incredibly positive impact on performance.

Questions a coach can use to stimulate the use of feedback: 

  • How did it feel when you tried it? 
  • How many times have you tried it? 
  • When or where will you try it? 

Being open-minded when it comes to feedback means that we can build the confidence to tweak observations from others to suit our own development, rather than completely ignoring comments that we deem as irrelevant.

It also means that we can practise using feedback we receive before we have time to over-analyse or rationalise it away, and therefore we have the ability to produce an entirely different result. 

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