Shooting Clinic Expectations

Today there are a lot of individuals putting on shooting clinics all around the country for trap, skeet and sporting clays. If you talk to shooters who have taken clinics previously, you will find some had a great experience and some had a poor experience. In talking to shooters who had a poor experience, I have found most of the time these shooters did not know what to expect prior to taking the clinic and, therefore, were disappointed with the outcome.

A shooter can get a tremendous amount of value out of taking a clinic as long as he or she understands what to expect, what not to expect, how to rate the success of the clinic and how best to absorb and put into practice what is learned. Before I start describing these clinic attributes, it is important to accept the fact that most clinics are put on by individuals who have obtained name recognition in the clay target shooting sports. Some of these individuals have obtained name recognition through their shooting accolades and championships while others have obtained name recognition through their publications, social media presence and/or their student’s successes. As a result of this, some clinic organizers are extremely well-qualified to provide instruction to other shooters while other clinic organizers are less qualified to provide instruction to other shooters. Shooters looking to invest their time and money in a clinic should evaluate this in deciding which clinic to take.

Here is what an individual should expect when taking a shooting clinic:

All shooters regardless of experience level should expect the clinic organizer to check for eye dominance and gun fit. Since shooting clinics are open to all shooters regardless of skill level, it is quite likely there will be both inexperienced shooters and experienced shooters participating. Therefore, all shooters regardless of experience level should expect the clinic organizer to check for eye dominance and gun fit for all clinic participants. It is not unheard of for a shooter who has been shooting clay targets for many years to be using a gun which does not fit him and not understand how his dominant eye affects his bird-barrel relationship. And, to spend a full day shooting with the wrong eye and an improperly fit gun would be very uncomfortable and will limit the amount of success the shooter will have.

Shooters taking a clinic should expect information (and instruction) to be the method favored by the clinic organizer. Whether the majority of the information provided is from the clinic organizer, or that individual’s support staff, clinic participants should expect this information (and instruction) to be the method favored by the clinic organizer. This means if the clinic organizer prefers a specific lead method, gun mount approach, gun hold height, etc., that is what will be taught in the clinic. Clinic organizers are of the mindset the reason individuals enroll in their clinics is to learn their methods and tactics.

Shooters who take a clinic should expect a considerable amount of range time. Most individuals do not spend eight to ten hours at the range when practicing or training. However, in order to maximize the value of the clinic, clinic organizers usually use the full complement of daylight for a clinic. This means clinic participants will be spending a lot of time on the shooting range with other clinic participants. This range time will be filled with a barrage of information and data which, at times, will feel as if it is information overload. Clinic participants should expect to learn from the clinic organizers and from the other clinic participants.

Shooters who take a clinic should expect to be provided with a tremendous amount of information in a very short period of time. The majority of shooting clinics are one-day clinics so individuals taking these clinics should expect a tremendous amount of information during this day. The question becomes how does an individual absorb and retain so much information provided in such a short period of time.

First and foremost, shooters taking a clinic should bring something to write with and on. Since most clinics involve some degree of classroom or lectures, being able to write down a concept so it can be referred to later or being able to write down a question so it is not forgotten (whereby it can be asked later) is essential.

In addition, many clinic organizers use whiteboards to explain concepts or illustrate ideas. Clinic participants should ask (and be prepared to) take pictures of the whiteboard illustrations before they are erased. Secondly, if the clinic organizer has produced a DVD, it behooves the shooter to obtain it before attending the clinic. To get maximum benefit of the time spent at the clinic, a shooter should watch the DVD prior to attending the clinic. That way, questions on concepts introduced and/or explained on the DVD can be identified ahead of time and asked and answered by the clinic organizer in person. Given that most clinic organizers who produce a DVD use the same teaching methods, examples, concepts and approaches in person as they show on the DVD, being able to watch the DVD after attending the clinic will reinforce the information presented.

Shooters should expect the clinic organizer to provide all participants with a schedule or agenda. This schedule or agenda can be provided either the morning of the clinic (or preferably days before). The advantage of having the schedule or agenda in advance is it will help the clinic participants know what and how much to bring. I encourage all clinic participants to request a schedule or agenda when signing up for the clinic. Most clinic schedules are very tight in that they try to fit in as much as possible with the time allotted.

Shooters should expect the clinic organizer to provide all participants with guidance on how to practice using the concepts introduced in the clinic. The drills used during a clinic are used to teach a concept or demonstrate an important idea. Since the focus of these drills is to “teach”, they are not the same drills which a shooter would use to perfect, or master, what was taught. Therefore, shooters taking a clinic should expect the clinic staff to provide take-home exercises and training approaches, which a shooter can use to instill what was learned and become proficient.

Here is what an individual should not expect when taking a shooting clinic:

Shooters who take a clinic should not expect all the information and instruction they will be receiving will be from the clinic organizer. Since determining eye dominance and gun fit for each clinic participant could take a significant amount of time, often clinic organizers will bring in others (assistants and helpers) when a clinic has a large number of participants. These assistants and helpers may also be used to work with the clinic participants on shooting drills and instruction. Therefore, shooters who take a clinic should not expect all the information and instruction they will be receiving will be coming from the clinic organizer. I am aware of some clinic organizers who intentionally limit the number of clinic participants so they can do everything themselves. I am also aware of some clinic organizers who do not limit the number of clinic participants and then, once they have the final participant count, will add helpers to maintain a ratio of clinic participants to clinic staff.

Shooters taking a clinic should not expect a significant amount of individual attention. Regardless of which approach is taken by the clinic organizer (small clinic size or large clinic size with helpers), shooters taking a clinic should not expect a significant amount of individual attention. This is not a knock on the clinic organizer and their staff, it is just reality. Shooters should not attend a clinic and expect that same amount of individual attention they would receive during a private lesson. In most clinics there is some individual attention but not a large amount.

Shooters should not expect the clinic organizer to put on a show or exhibition. Many clinic organizers are top-ranked competitive shooters within their shooting discipline and, when they compete, they often turn in high scores and very impressive performances. As most clinic participants are avid competitors, it is enjoyable to watch a top-ranked shooter inkball targets inflight one after another. However, clinic participants should not expect the clinic organizer to put on an exhibition, show or demonstration of their shooting skills. Clinic participants should expect the clinic organizer to provide insights, information and material which will help the participants improve their ability to perform — not use the clinic as a platform to showoff.

Shooters should not expect the clinic organizer to provide “the secret” or “the magic answer”. Clinic participants who attend a clinic looking for the clinic organizer to provide “the secret”, “the magic answer” and/or some clandestine way of applying the fundamentals which will instantly turn someone into a Master or AAA shooter will be severely disappointed. There is no “secret” or “magic answer” to success in clay target shooting, so individuals should not enroll in a clinic hoping that type of information will be shared.

At the conclusion of the clinic, the clinic organizer may ask the participants for feedback. Also, other shooters who know an individual took a clinic may ask for their opinion of the clinic. With deference to the clinic organizer, clinic participants should rate a clinic on the following factors: (1) did the clinic organizer stick to the schedule presented? If too much time was spent with inexperienced participants, then it is highly likely the experienced participants did not get the full benefit as agenda items may have been omitted. And, (2) was there ample time for clinic participants to ask questions regarding the concepts and ideas introduced? If there was not, then the concepts and ideas should not have been presented.

A clinic participant should not judge the “goodness” of a clinic based on his shooting performance during the clinic. For example, the clinic organizer may suggest an individual change something he is physically doing during the clinic. This change may be good but, until the shooter gets used to the change, his performance may go down. As such, the clinic participant may make the suggested change and perform poorly during the clinic. This should not be used as a measuring stick as to how good the clinic was.

Shooting clinics can be a great way to get a tremendous amount of information, assistance, knowledge, guidance and instruction in a condensed and concentrated amount of time. However, in order for a shooter to maximize what they get out of a clinic, they need to understand what to expect and not to expect before enrolling. As long as these expectations are understood, it can be a great experience. SS


Mark H. Taylor has over 40 years of shooting experience. He has won many regional, state, national and international clay target competitions. He is the author of the book Clay Target Shooting – The Mental Game and co-author of the book Break ’em All (see pages 16 and 50). Mark is a NRA Certified Advanced International Shotgun Coach and a High-Performance Shotgun Coach for USA Shooting. He is a Caesar Guerini and Cabela’s (in Thornton, CO) Pro Staff shooter, and teaches monthly beginner shotgun clinics at Colorado Clays in Brighton, CO, and travels nationally and internationally teaching coaching courses and working with world-class athletes. You can email him at coloradotaylor@gmail.com.

Share this post