Picking A Coach

Dear Technoid:

Two questions:

How do you feel about shooting lessons with myriad coaches? Some people I talk to believe that when it comes to coaches, the more the merrier–in other words, each coach will help you to some degree, and it’s always time well spent as long as the coach is a qualified one. Others, however, believe you should stick with the same person all the time, lest you come away confused, with overloaded gray matter oozing out of your ears. Any thoughts??


Dear Kerry,

Multiple coaches or a single coach may well depend on where you are in your shooting development. If you are a newer shooter, consistency is probably the most important thing. A newer shooter should find a single coach that he likes and stick with him, taking one lesson a month- no more- and then practicing what was taught until the next lesson.

I think that an AA or A shooter will benefit from multiple coaches, because your style is pretty set by then and you are just trying to get one or two little things out of each session. Different coaches will emphasize different things and you will have a better chance of picking up the odd golden nugget of information.

For the two summers I coached International Skeet out at the US Olympic Training Center, I was dealing with elite athletes. These were finished shooters who were looking for the slightest edge. I was not about to change anyone’s basic technique. As often as not, I would just sit everyone down in the shade and we would all discuss how we dealt with a particular problem. I wasn’t really “how to” coaching, I was just organizing and channeling thoughts and providing a structure for problem solving and confidence building. Occasionally, you would get someone in a slump and have to go back to basics, but it was really just fine tuning and making it easier for the athlete to do what he already knew how to do.

Now I do a fair amount of sporting clays coaching and have made it a point to try to take one lesson from each coach in the Northeast or each visiting Brit so that I can see what techniques are being used. I am always amazed by the divergence of opinion and lack of consistency one coach to another. This isn’t necessarily bad, but you do have to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff. Just because someone is a championship shooter, does not mean that he can coach. That is for sure.

Coaching is very personal and one that works for you may not work for the next guy. Also, there are many different techniques that can be used to reliably take a target. A good coach has to be able to say exactly the same thing four or five different ways and keep doing so until the light bulb comes on. “Oh, THAT is what you were trying to say!”

When I start a coaching session, I always ask my students what they expect to gain from the hour. They have to be realistic first and tenacious second. I remind them that shooting, like golf, is a muscle memory sport. First you take the lesson, then you practice what your were taught, then you take the next lesson. So many students think that they will go from C to AA after one lesson and that just isn’t what happens, no matter what wonderful new technique the coach comes up with. There is no magic answer.

Best regards,

Bruce Buck
Shotgun Report’s Technoid

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