Bourjaily: A Lesson in Focus From the Iowa State Shoot

I mentioned last week our high school trap club was going to the Iowa State High School Trap Shoot and I am certain most of you have been sleepless ever since, wondering how we did. Actually, you probably weren't losing sleep, but I'm going to tell you about it anyway. The state shoot now attracts over 500 boys and girls, some of them from schools that fund trap as a varsity sport, if you can believe that.

We took fifteen boys and three girls and shot extremely well for a team that is in only its second year, is from a supposedly anti-gun university town, and is coached by two non-trapshooters. The squad in this picture shot 446x500 at 16 and 19 yards, good enough for eighth place out of 100 squads and only three targets from a medal. The boy in the dark glasses broke 98x100, earning a place on the All State team.

We also had a Teachable Moment during the shoot. One of the hardest points to get across to kids is how much focus trap requires. The targets are easy enough you can break a lot of them without giving 100% of your attention. But you can't break them all without focusing on every bird.

Here's what happened: you know how when a trap squad is rolling along then someone misses, the next person often misses too? That little break in the rhythm is enough to throw the next shooter. At State it kept happening to the big tall kid in the picture. The boy in front of him would miss, then he would miss. Between the third and fourth rounds I told him: "When someone misses right before you, you have to take an extra second and tell yourself, "I'm going to break this one."

The last round was his best. Afterwards he said: "Mr. B, every time I told myself I was going to break a target, I did. That really worked." He looked surprised, as if I had showed him a magic trick.

Now if he can learn to tell himself "I'm going to break this one," before every target, he'll be on his way to a breakthrough.