Bourjaily: Dial in Your Preshot Routine

I serve as assistant coach for my son's high school trap team which has been practicing for a few weeks now (that's Dave, our head coach, in the picture with one of our shooters). Having watched a lot of kids shoot in the past month, I can tell you when one of our shooters is about to miss before he or she ever calls for the target.

If a kid waits for much more than a second between mounting the gun and calling "pull," chances are he or she will miss. Taking too long and trying to get too ready kills their rhythm and gives negative thoughts time to creep into their heads. Taking too much time is just as bad as not taking enough time.

Your pre-shot routine - how you prepare yourself to call for a target -- has a huge bearing on whether you hit or miss. Setting your feet, loading the gun, closing it, mounting it, focusing your eyes on the right place and thinking positive thoughts the same way every time builds vital consistency.

This holds true even at the highest levels of target shooting. A few years ago I interviewed Lance Bade, who won a bronze medal in trap at the 1996 Olympics. In International trap you have 10 seconds to get ready to shoot and you get two shots at every target. Bade's coaches would time his pre-shot routine and check the times against his scorecard. He told me every time he hit a target with his first barrel he got ready to shoot between something like 7.4 and 8.2 seconds. If the routine took more or less time he either missed or had to use his second shot.

A consistent routine works for our high school shooters, it works for Olympians and it will work for you, too.