But, before I do, if you aren't up to speed on how your mind will either make or break your game, I suggest you read "It's A Mind Game" (ClayShootingUSA, May/June 2021, pp. 60-62).
As a refresher, my definition of the Mind Game is much more thorough and comprehensive than many other mental training expert and sport psychologists' interpretations. I firmly believe, and have witnessed for over 20 years, that the lack of a good mind game is the most obvious and relevant cause of poor performance.
You can be one of the best shotgun shooters in the world, breaking 100 straight one moment but losing it all the next... due to your mind. This didn't happen because you suddenly, spontaneously drew a blank on how to break targets. And your body didn't just forget your well-trained, muscle-memory mechanics.
You got: frustrated, angry, regretful, worries, or even overly excited about the "win-what-ifs."
You then started: trying too hard, attempting to duplicate good shots, getting distracted, over-analyzing, thinking about previous bad shots, thinking about your score, thinking about work, thinking about previous conversations or arguments, thinking about loved ones, or even thinking about what's for dinner.
Do you think frustration, anger, regret, worry, over-excitement, trying too hard, attempting to duplicate good shots, being distracted, over-analyzing, thinking about previous bad shots, thinking about your score, etc. NEVER happen to top shooters? Or maybe you think they ONLY happen to top shooters? If you think either of these statements is correct... you are wrong.
As the saying goes "we all put our pants on one leg at a time." If you find yourself putting a top shooter on a pedestal and thinking they are perfect or much different than you... this is your chance to realize they are human too. There are many paths to becoming an elite athlete and many different personality traits and talents that help a person to get there. But none of which release them from being "human." Among the many factors that contribute to consistent, peak performance, an elite athlete can have different levels of emotional and mental maturity, as well as different levels of mechanical inclination. Don't assume that because they are a top shooter, they have all the answers, have a perfect life, or have a perfect mind... it is humanly impossible and unrealistic. I suggest you respect them, their effort, and their skills while knowing they can only "know" so much, especially about the mind game. As PGA Tour pro Notah Begay once said to me "All pro golfers on the PGA Tour have great mechanics, that's a given. But they don't all have a great mind game. Only the ones who stay on tour and can consistently perform in the top ten have a great mental game. All others will either never rise to the top, will rise briefly, or won't keep their card."
Stop and think about that.
Top athletes need a good mind game for consistent, peak performance. And so do you! It doesn't matter if it is day one, day 20 day 300 or day 874 or your clay shooting life! All humans will perform poorly at anything and everything that is important to them if they have a poor mindset. All humans will perform better at anything and everything that is important to them if they have a better mindset. All elite athletes will have consistent, peak performance when they have a great mind game on top of their great mechanics.
As a new shooter you will absolutely, without a doubt, have aspects of frustration, anger, regret, worry, over-excitement, trying too hard, attempting to duplicate good shots, being distracted, over-analyzing, thinking about previous bad shots, and thinking about your score! And know this... because confidence is the number one tool to swipe out such faux pas, you will likely have even more of these than the top shooter who is giving you instruction and telling you "you don't need to work on the mental game just yet."
As a newbie to shotgun sports, on top of needing to learn mechanics, you absolutely are missing targets due to your mind. No matter the years of experience, age, cost of gun, or level of instruction; all shooters wanting consistent, peak performance need to be calm, present, engaged, focused, and genuinely give each target their undivided attention. The only way to learn this, and be this, is to work on your mental game... now. Not some random time in the future when your mechanics are suddenly "where they need to be." Whatever that means.
There are many top instructors who recognize the value of a true mental game, and who see their students struggling with their mindset, thoughts, beliefs, and expectations... so they refer them to me. Meanwhile, there are other top instructors who don't fully understand the mind game, or at least the type of mind game that I teach, and they will tell their students to hold off on mental training because "it's too much to think about or try to do when you are learning new mechanics." I can't speak for the process or content of other mental trainers. But I can tell you that my mental training is for all people, at all levels.
Being able to be your best in your performance as a human is what I'm an expert at, and what I've trained thousands of people to do. I can teach you peak performance skills that you practice in all aspects of your life. You gain mastery of such mental skills by repetition and familiarity. You then easily and practically effortlessly apply them to everything that's important to you in your life, including your clay shooting sport.
Getting your mind out of the gutter, will help you as a human in all aspects of your life, including improving your shotgun sport scores.
So WHY would you wait?
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, Web.com 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 MindMastered.com. 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 DawnGrant.com.
Check out her shotgun club at AmeliaShotgunSports.com