Winter training with Rhys Plum

With competitions over and lockdown ongoing, Rhys Plum is getting straight down to work so he can hit the ground running in the spring

The competition season for me has well and truly come to an end. This month, I’ve spent some time looking back at past events, and also forward, to how I can make next year even better. I seem to have totally settled into
my new gun, the Krieghoff that I wrote about a couple of issues ago.

I’ve decided that the off-season will be a good opportunity to deconstruct elements of my game, with the support of my coach, Matt Hance, so that I can enter the 2021 season as a stronger competitor.

I have found that it is important to note down the elements of your game that you don’t want to compromise. For me, this includes my kill points on targets – I need these to be specific, and set to where I see the targets as most vulnerable.

Additionally, I wanted to make sure that I maintain good foundations, as the lack of big competitions could mean that I become sloppy and fall into bad habits.

Of course I will be practising my gun mount, but I will also be trying to make sure that I maintain a good form. Checking that feet are in the right place is basic, but also making sure that my weight distribution is correct to the targets and that this either remains constant throughout the pair, or is purposefully changed in-between shots.

Clay shooting calls for a dynamic and mechanically efficient stance, and this can often be overlooked, as we all become too used to what we have always done.

Rhys was disappointed with his performance at a few shoots in the summer

No more poke and hope

Following a few disappointing performances at a handful of shoots, I’ve spent several weekends working with my coach Matt on consistency. I had started to notice a continuity problem:  I would begin a stand successfully, but would then start dropping targets towards the end.

A session with Matt discovered that the reason behind this was inaccuracies and variables with my kill-points and hold-points. This was particularly evident on going-away and rising teal targets, as I would either hold with the target for too long, or end up doing a “poke and hope” as Matt calls it. 

We have also been looking at my method selection for certain targets and looking at the trends that follow different targets. In some cases, I find my consistency can vary if I select the wrong method.

Rhys is focusing on choosing a precise kill point for each target

This variation was causing me to have a bad connection with the bird, and would completely ruin the shot. To combat this, I have been visiting different grounds in practice, making sure that I kill three pairs in a row before moving to the next stand. After doing my homework over a few weeks, I could see a great improvement. 

As well as focusing on elements of my game that I need to work on over the winter months, I thought it was also important to look back over the highs and lows over this year.

I have taken this season as a learning experience, as all shoots are. I didn’t have any specific goals in 2020 – which I didn’t find helpful. With that in mind, I decided to set some goals for the up and coming competition season. 

With a lot of encouragement from a fellow Junior, I have decided to really put myself out there next year and be sure to enter most of the majors. I personally find that goals are best set in time periods, in order to really motivate you to get going.

I will also set multiple goals that overlap with each other, which encourages a steady progression. My first goal is to maintain an average over 81% in English Sporting, and my second goal is to stay consistent in everything I do. Finally, by the end of next season I would like to podium in at least one of the open events.

Getting the body moving

I have also been working for a few months with Dr Matthew Zanis, from Rooted in Movement, who featured in the magazine last month. Dr Matt is the Movement Therapist for Team USA’s Olympic shooting athletes.

For the first three weeks I have been waking my body up to model movements and reconnect neural pathways with the brain, getting motor neurons into unused muscles.

Matt tailor-made me a training programme that will help me connect and strengthen all the muscles involved in shooting, taking into account any areas that were a weak point for me personally.

Rhys is also working on movement and muscle strength

Although shooting is not the most physically demanding sport, Dr Matt believes that we have neglected this aspect for too long. The programme is delivered over the app ‘Train Heroic’ and includes a session plan and movement demonstration videos.

The process is well thought out and I would seriously recommend those looking to reach the top in their chosen discipline to have a conversation with Dr Zanis.

Not only will a programme improve your movement efficiency, but also give you an extra boost of confidence, in the knowledge that you are doing something that your competitors are not focussing on. Matt can be contacted via his Instagram @rootedinmvmntuk 

After all this preparation, I passionately believe that I’ll be able to hit the beginning of next season at full speed and I hope to see many of you around.

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