MESSAGE FROM THE COACH Whitaker -
Many of you may not be aware that Coach Whitaker is a past world (yes, that large blue globe) champion at International Skeet. He and his teammate, Tim Gilbert, also won the world team championship twice. It is hard for many of us to understand what it is like to compete at that level. Coach Whitaker has prepared for you some notes on competing. I’m sure he has drawn on his experiences from competing on the World stage. As we prepare for our last conference shoot and then The State Championships, I feel these notes would be worthy of printing off and keeping in your shooting bag. They would be worth reading in the morning before you compete. - Coach Vasko
From Coach Whitaker:First, let me add my congratulations to so many of you for your collective performance last week at Valley. It’s that time of year when the pieces should begin to fall in place as State looms on the horizon.I am frustrated, however, in observing how some deal with challenges. Another way of saying that is I am frustrated with your frustration. Things are smooth until a target is missed. Any competitive shooter will tell you that the gallery should not be able to gauge a hit/miss from the shooter’s reaction. Exercising self-discipline… you erred… do you not think you are entitled to a miss? Do you think you will never ever miss again? We don’t have to like it, but to think it won’t happen again is unrealistic. And when it does it can’t become a monumental hiccup that induces more. So you drop the next one tool and the next- now the uncertainty of what I am about generates a pirouette and I frantically seek input from an unknown source; you want to ask your neighbor, ‘hey, where was I? ‘or look behind the firing line for a coach’s input. That is the frustration I’m talking about at the top of the page.I want to see some analytical problem solving. What is different about the targets now than when I shot 16s? Is the wind stronger / lighter? Has wind direction changed? Has the wind direction influenced true flight (is there a curl?) Have the light conditions changed, thereby influencing color eye glass selection? Because of wind / influence on target speed/ yardage, should I re-think my ammo selection? Granted, these are issues that demand consideration / action before you get to the line. Am I properly attired before going to the line… it continued to get WARM as the day progressed.On the line, challenged by misses the cause(s) of which is/are not readily apparent, try to change some of the variables you control- hold point, look point, break point- in the sense that I’m going to accelerate shot delivery- or conversely, raise my hold point, thereby minimizing vertical pursuit and decelerating shot delivery. If the wind is at your back, pushing the target down- or keeping them flat- however you choose to describe it, there is a danger of losing the target under my barrel with a high hold. There is also a requirement to counter the combined flat trajectory / gravity pull by delivering a quicker shot than perhaps is my normal pace. What then is the effect on where I hold and where I look?? That is the sort of problem solving effort we want and need to see from you. So, I’m probably shooting over those targets you describe… is that what you are saying? Yep, that’s what I’m saying.Now much of this is wrestled with before you get to the line… which means if you are oblivious to the issues because you were playing Frisbee or football or trying to impress a Marian girl in the parking lot, then you are not concerned with the immediacy of winning State.Do you have a pre-shot routine? Something that gives your psyche something to fully engage so he doesn’t get in trouble by having you think of things beyond your control? You need to develop one if you have not done so .The order and components are immaterial – what works for you, but it should embrace such features as :
- Stance- foot position, width lead foot, nose over toes, lead leg flexed, drive to the target with legs- not arms
- Gun mount- a smooth movement to bring the gun from ‘at rest’ to the correct mounted position, high on the shoulder, shoulders level, head erect,; if not correct, lower gun and re-mount. Gun stock and cheek placement should be precise and easily repeatable. A brief check to ensure beads – mid and front- are stacked- that the barrel is level along my line of sight- then my eyes are cast way beyond the beads and won’t return until I dismount the gun.
- FOCUS (Visual)- Exaggerated eye brow raise- widen your eyes momentarily as you pick a distant object to ensure that your field of vision is cast to ‘infinite’. Determine your look point- with a reason / purpose.
- Breathing- Take a cleansing breath just prior to calling for the target.
- Final positive confirmation to self… “Smash it”, “Crush it”, “Forward edge”- whatever your pre-flight launch.
- Call for the target- launch that beauty with a COMMAND- sharp, clear, assertive; a drawn out, upended pleading call is not uniformly recognized by audio release systems and you will suffer erratic pulls = a distraction to yourself.
- SEE the target- ensure the target has cleared the clutter and your computer is registering the nuances of flight… is it REALLY a straight away, quarter left, low, high, curl, wind pushing down and right… this is our marvelous sensory perception in action and you are in a reaction mode, but you have given the computer the opportunity to process the data… (you’re not moving before you see the target are you???)
- Smooth swing to the target- strive for consistency of movement… minimal gun movement… gun speed equates to target speed as much as possible, Stay in the Gun.
- Smooth follow through- Stay in the gun- gun movement should continue to track the target / piece after shot delivery, regardless of breakage; did I say Stay in the Gun??
- Stay in the Gun