Phil Coley has developed a reputation for providing excellent resources to help with the mental aspects of Clay Shooting – his site www.clayshootingsuccess.co.uk is a wealth of tips and tools to help you as you develop in the sport and need help with concentration and visualisation aspects. He has recently added a number of MasterClass events, to combine his Sport Psychology learning with some general Technique Coaching for Sporting, Trap and Skeet. I was lucky enough to be invited to join an Introductory Masterclass, to see how Phil manages to combine everything into a simple event.
Phil also hosts a Sports Psychology section on our busy forum – come and join the fun, and learn some great tips from Phil and other top shooters.
- Phil Coley delivers the Sports Psychology aspects of the day – he is a sports scientst with extensive experience of coaching clays and in the field – he was also the first sports scientist to look at the psycho-physiological effects of Clay Shooting. Phil is the son of Ian Coley, the GB Olympic Shooting Coach.
- Carl Bloxham delivers theTechnical Coaching aspects of the day. Carl is one of the leading sporting clay shooters in the world, and a regular member of the England team. He is also a successful coach, with The Field magazine describing him as a “top class coach”.
My Masterclass was held at Sporting Targets in Northampton, a fantastic facility in a massive area with every kind of imaginable target. We arrived at the clubhouse for a 10am start and a coffee or tea and to get to know our group for the day. We had 8 people shooting – and were quickly divided into two groups of four for the sessions during the day.
The first item on the agenda was a quick gun-fit session with our technical coach for the day, Carl Bloxham. Gun-fit checks were videoed so that each participant will have a record of comments and adjustments that Carl made. Whilst I don’t think that this is a replacement for a full, detailed session – it does give you quick indication of potential issues, and lets Carl know what issues he may be working with later in the day.
Our respective groups then split up and went out into the shooting ground for sessions. We spent 45 minutes in each session – alternating between the Psychological lessons and Technical lessons.
Psychological Session 1
We had two sessions with Phil, the first focused on ‘getting into the zone’ and using imagery to tackle targets – Phil has a great technique for getting focused on the targets you are about to shoot. We went through some practical techniques – first ‘dry shooting’ at some fairly easy targets to demonstrate exactly how much time you have available. Then he walked through his methodology for attaining peak concentration for the set of targets. Finally we went through the targets, combining both the imagery we had generated and the concentration techniques, throughout the sessions Phil threw in some distractions, simulating no-birds or other issues and challenging you to stay in focus using his techniques. I have since put Phils technique into regular practice during registered shoots and have found it really helpful.
Technical Session 1
We then swapped groups – and spent some time working on technique with Carl Bloxham – he set up the group on a pair of targets that can cause issues. We had a high looping right to left and a quartering rabbit with some real pace on it. each shooter stepped up to shoot a series of these targets with some guidance and coaching from Carl. There was no set amount of targets, so each shooter worked until they were more comfortable with the targets. I’m usually pretty happy with rabbits – but loopers sometimes cause me problems – so Carl spent some time talking about when to take the target, and where to pick up and mount for the target. The advice given made clear sense, and soon everyone in our group was consistently hitting the pair with confidence.
Both groups made their way back to the club house for lunch break – but not before Carl arranged an impromptu session on the pattern plate. This was to answer some questions about cartridges and chokes that came up during the morning technical sessions. Carl soon had the group set up, and demonstrated some patterns from various guns in the groups – with everything from skeet to full chokes and a few different cartridges. Clearly an eye opener for a few of the group (including me) who hadn’t patterned their guns, chokes and cartridges. I’d highly recommend arranging a session at the pattern plate at your local club.
Psychological Session 2
After lunch – we went out into a different part of the SG to begin the afternoon. Our second session with Phil focused on more techniques to improve concentration and performance on the stand. Phil took us through three techniques, a pre-shot routine, some breathing and centering exercises that, whilst small in themselves, combined together to provide a powerful set of techniques. We practiced combining these, and the ideas from earlier in the day whilst shooting some tricky grouse style targets. We spent some time discussing and reflecting on the techniques we’d learnt and how they helped us towards more straights and better scores.
Technical Session 2
Once again – a swap – and we found ourselves working on technique with Carl again – we had a free choice of targets, and the general consensus in our group was that we wanted to work on high tower birds. Sporting Targets is adequately equipped for that and we soon found ourselves shooting some long range, pretty high, incoming targets that dropped to our left. Carl spent some time talking us through the pick up and kill points, and the reasoning behind shooting them there – asking us to think about taking as much difficulty out of a target. The particular target we shot needed a lot of lead but before time, Carl had us shooting the bird consistently. One of our group was a left hander and Carl adjusted the technique on the fly to make sure that everyone found the same level.
End of day
After the final session, the whole group mustered once again in the warmth of the Sporting Targets clubhouse – we had a final drink and a group discussion to answer any final questions and reflect on our day. We finished about 4pm, just in time for a quick browse of the excellent gun shop at Sporting Targets.
The introductory class is, as you would expect, a fairly quick tour through coaching that would be available on the more in depth masterclasses that Phil and the team run, and it was clear to me that we were scratching the surface of the deep training that has been developed. The group sessions may not be for all, although everyone on our day seemed to enjoy themselves and get some great stuff out of the day.
Personally – I have had the chance to put much of what was worked on during the day to some good use, and I’ve seen more scores improve as a result. The day also gave me a chance to assess the way I’d like to work with a coach, and what areas I’d really like to focus on the future. I went along thinking that the Psychology aspects of the day would be of little use to me, but came away firmly believing that better concentration, visualisation and focus would really be of benefit to me.
I’d highly recommend spending some time looking at Phil’s website and checking out his introduction days and masterclasses – I’ve found extra points on my scorecard as a result of some of the common sense techniques shared through the day.