It's a mind game

By Dawn Grant may/june, 2021

Yes, it is highly likely my last article, "It's 100% Mental", ruffled the feathers of many shooting instructors.

Yes, it is highly likely my last article, "It's 100% Mental" (ClayShootingUSA, March/April 2021, pp. 72-76), ruffled the feathers of many shooting instructors. An activity I have become quite familiar with over the last 12 years of my work as a mental trainer helping clay shooters with their mind game. But having facts related to the mind, cellular activity, synopsis pathways, neurotransmitters, pre-motor cortex, basal ganglia, and procedural memory, makes the argument of whether "it's 100% mental" a moot point.

Now that I have proven that even your mechanics are mental...

I am going to help you to see how and why It's A Mind Game.

Let's walk through the journey of a common clay target shooter's life. An enthusiast of the outdoors who has hunted for many years of his life, or who has enjoyed outdoor competitive sports... stumbles upon the sport of clay target shooting. He has a great day with a friend shooting his shotgun at various flying orange saucers soaring through the air. He is intrigued by the strategically set targets at the many stations which meander through a beautiful winding path among the peaceful, gorgeous outdoors. At the end of the day, he has a natural high from spending hours shooting a gun and blowing things up.

He is immediately hooked.

The adventure begins. He buts a starter shotgun and gets his ammo from Walmart. The more often her goes to the club, the more he sees that the regulars have shooting vests, colorful shooting glasses, fancy custom molded ear protection, their own transported gold cart, better guns, and better ammo. He invests in the better!

He works up his courage to go to his first competition, but has so much anxiety that he can't sleep, and it doesn't help that the bed is hard and the pillow is flat. As he arrives at the event he doesn't know where to register, and doesn't know where he is shooting. As the anxiety grows, he then realizes he forgot his special colored shooting glasses. In spite of the obstacles, he stumbles through the day, but his scores reflect his difficulties.

No worries, he's got that competitive nature that can't be denied, so he continues to go to competitions. With each return he is more comfortable and more aware of handling the important technicalities of packing all his shooting equipment and having a good bed, a good pillow, breakfast, lunch, snacks, and water.

Oh, the beautiful life of the competitive shotgun shooter. great friendly people that are like an extended family, gorgeous locations- all with fun and unique target presentations set by masterminds who enjoy messing with your head.

By now, all the upgrades have happened, including the heated and air conditioned enclosed cab Polaris. If he's lucky, each week is filled with instruction from a pro, the emptying of several flats of ammo, and the breaking of hundreds of targets.

He doesn't tell his wife the cost of the new gun (or that he even bought another one), or the hundreds to thousands of dollars he spends in a month.

Most shooters I have worked with would prefer not to tally up the cost of this sport that they love. But we can safely assume that anyone going to regular competitions, practicing a decent amount, getting instruction from a pro, and owning good equipment is spending tens of thousands of dollars a year. We can also safely assume they have a competitive spirit that they can't deny... which means they want to win (or at least feel they have done their best), will keep trying to get better, and will not give up!

But check this out, in spite of that inner drive, determination, commitment, and love of the sport, many will end up considering quitting, contemplating leaving in the middle of an event, and even hating it. This happens because they get frustrated with their inability to perform as well as they practice, their inability to break as many targets as they believe they should be able to, and/or their inability to be or stay focused. Instead, they are angry, regretful, worried, trying too hard, trying to duplicate good shots, distracted, over-analyzing, thinking about previous bad shots, thinking about their score, thinking about work, thinking about previous conversations or arguments, thinking about loved ones, and even thinking what's for dinner- which is probably going to be steak.

Guess what happens when their mind goes off in all these different directions? They lose their all too important focus on the targets, and their scores reflect it. All their skills go out the window. Suddenly it doesn't even matter that they have the best vest, the best gun, the best ammo, the best glasses, the best ear protection, the best chokes, the best side by side, or even the best instruction from the best pro.

Let me be very clear, there is unquestionable, undeniable value in taking this sport seriously and investing in all the tools, and instruction that will help you to experience your best performance. Magnificent minds have invented and created for you great equipment, and great programs. Absolutely find and buy the best of everything for you and your game, within your budget! Get the better gun, better ammo, betting shooting glasses, better ear protection, better vest... and maybe even better chokes. But from this moment forward, know that your better mind is just as important.

Your Mind Game consists of your mindset, thoughts, beliefs, expectations, and your level of skill at being calm, present and focused. And I don't just mean "focused" with your eyes, I also mean focused with your mind. Having good focus with your mind means you are no longer distracted by the wanderings of your conscious mind. Having a good mind game means that when you are shooting you no longer: get angry/regretful/worries/distracted, over-analyze/think about previous bas shots/think about previous bad shots/think about your score/think about your work/think about previous conversations or arguments/think about loved ones/think about what's for dinner (even though the steak is going to be delicious). You no longer try too hard or try to duplicate good shots. Instead, you will be calm, present, engaged, focused, and genuinely give each target your undivided attention.

It's A Mind Game because your mental state will always trump your mechanics, expensive hun, best ammo, fancy chokes, custom fitted ear protection, and stylish prescription shooting glasses. You can be the best of the best competitive shooters, with world titles and your name in the Hall of Fame, but if your mind is in the gutter, so are your scores. No exception.

Several years ago, I was working with a notable PGA tour pro who said to me, "Every golfers who has earned their card to be on the PGA tour has undeniable great mechanics. Some have mechanics so good that their scores may have them dancing around the top 20 or top 10. But unless they also have a great mind game, they won't stay there. They will fall apart on the final round or holes, miss the easy shots, or win once but never again. It is only those with a strong mind game combined with their awesome mechanics who will perform consistently at the top of their game and the scoreboard."

Take a look in the mirror and see how much of what I have explained applies to you. And know, if you keep doing the same think you are going to keep getting the same results. Isn't it time you take your mind game more seriously? Isn't it time you perform as well as you practice ,get your money's worth out of your efforts, feel like you've done your best, and actually have fun doing the sport that you love? If so, then let the mental training begin.

Dawn Grant has had a private practice as a mental trainer and hypnotist since 2001, where her main clientele has been weekend warriors, elite competitive athletes, and Olympic hopefuls, who live all over the world. Many hold credentials in PGA tour, LPGA, tour, IJGA, USA Shooting, ISSF, PSCA, USA Sporting Clays Team, WBA, Ironman, and NCAA. Her work has contributed to multiple World Champion titles and Hall of Fame honors. Most notably, she assisted Vijay Singh in winning the 2008 FedEx Cup Championship. Her Clay Shooter's Mind Game Mastery online course, clay shooter's hypnosis audio, custom hypnosis audios, and private session have helped several thousand clay shooters all over the world to have consistent focus and peak performance. Dawn is the owner of Amelia Shotgun Sports in Yulee, Florida where she offers lectures, clinics and workshops at her Mind Training School. She is also the author of 7 Strokes In 7 Days: Quick And Easy Break-Through Mental Training That Will Revolutionize Your Gold Game And Life, and the inventor of She travels to major NSCA events and offers her clinics at clubs across the country.

You can learn more about Dawn, and her online and live training programs at

Check out her shotgun club at

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