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Ask the Instructor: Pre-shot Routine

Question:

I have invested in lessons this year and attended some big tournaments. I did OK, but have made some observations about my shooting. On the smaller local tournaments, where the targets are not as difficult, I find my mind wandering off and occasionally thinking negative thoughts as I am preparing to call for the targets. This causes me to miss targets that I shouldn’t. I can usually regain my composure on the next pair but the damage is done. I have heard that you need to clear your mind before calling for the target but I can’t seem to do that consistently. Can you help?

Answer:

In short, there are three basic elements of a pre-shot routine that are common among virtually all top athlete’s in a self-timed sport: 1) deep breathing combined with physical relaxation, 2) visualization or mental rehearsal, 3) a trigger thought or cue.

Deep breathing helps load the body with oxygen, lower the heart rate and facilitates the type of brain-wave activity that optimizes eye-hand coordination. Visualization is a form of rehearsal. Effective visualization is like an “out-of-body experience”. It is a day-dream state between sleep and consciousness in which you are visualizing your execution. Lastly, there is the trigger or cue. This is probably the most individualized of the three elements of an athlete’s pre-shot routine. I encourage my competitors to adopt a pre-shot trigger that reminds them of the visual connection they will achieve with the target just prior to and through the breakpoint.

An example of a visual cue might be reminding yourself of the focal points of the targets, where you will apply acute visual focus just prior to executing the shot. “See the dome”, “see the rings” or “leading edge” are examples of a visual cue that a shooter might mutter just prior to calling for the target.

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