The Mental Game in Shooting Sports

Jan 19, 2024

Athlete smiling
Much like the game of golf, the mental game in clay target sports significantly influences an athlete’s success.

Many novice athletes experience “beginner’s luck,” and their scores drastically fluctuate during their first months of competition. Being able to identify what went “right” or “wrong” on each shot can empower the athlete to self-correct and improve their scores.

It’s easy to get flustered after missing a target, particularly one you know you could have hit. Oftentimes, the difference between first and second place at a tournament can be just one target. Approaching each tournament and practice with the right level of confidence and a positive attitude can make all the difference. If you happen to miss a target, it is okay. Take a deep breath, reset your mind, and concentrate on your next shot. Displaying frustration, such as throwing your empty hulls to the ground, not only affects your attitude but can also distract your teammates on the field. 

Pro Tip: Treat tournaments as 100 single-target events, not one 100-target event. You can’t re-shoot the targets that have already hit the ground, so direct your focus to the next one.

Many great coaches encourage their athletes to keep a shooting journal. Journaling can greatly improve your mental game in shooting sports and assist you in setting and working towards your goals.

Tennessee SCTP Journal

Keeping up with scores allows you to see if your scores are trending up or down, and identify areas of improvement.

At the beginning of each competition season, athletes should establish a few goals. While not all should be score specific, aiming for milestones like shooting your first 25,50,75 or 100 straight is a great goal to work towards.

Other goals may involve enhancing your foot placement consistency, practicing gun mounts at home five times a week, reading more books, listening to a shooting sports podcast once a week, and more.

Pro Tip: For athletes interested in shooting competitively at the collegiate level, journals are a great item to show the recruiting coaches.

There is a wide variety of clay target shooting related magazines, books, podcasts, and videos available for athletes (and coaches) to expand their knowledge and improve their game. Click here to explore the Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program manager’s picks for excellent resources to increase your scores.

While mastering the mental game in shooting sports is crucial for success, it is only part of the equation. To learn about the other essentials, visit

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