Constantly Surprising Myself

As you may have seen from my Twitter and Facebook accounts earlier, today I attended my second coaching session as part of the Regional Shotgun School element of the Talent Pathway programme. This week the location of our training was changed; about half of us had said we would prefer to go to Nuthampstead – purely for the fact that it is closer for us to get to. As a result, I managed a decent six and a half hours sleep this time after the late shift on Friday as opposed to the four and a half I got when we had to drive to Doveridge! And given that I was driving this weekend, that was definitely a huge benefit.

I enlisted my brother (photographer extraordinaire!) to travel with me today, and we roadtripped the two hour journey this morning after stopping to carb up at McDonalds – both of us had felt under the weather due to long days and lack of sleep, so a naughty but evidently energy-boosting treat made us feel miles better! Once back on the road, he took charge of the music; throwback roadtrip, I’ve decided to call it.

The satnav had no choice but to take us down a series of country roads to get to the shooting ground; at least twice I went wrong, the first time because the lady inside the satnav wasn’t clear, the second because I wasn’t concentrating on which left turn I should take. After just two hours (and a fair few laughs driving ‘into the middle of nowhere’, as my brother repeatedly expressed a worry of the further we got from ‘civilisation’), we arrived at the place where this whole journey began six months ago.

I was pleasantly surprised to see another woman I know in the clubhouse. We had first met at the Femmes Fatale Cup last April, then again at the Talent Identification Day in October – but as we hadn’t exchanged surnames we hadn’t been able to link up on social media, so I didn’t know if she had been selected for the programme. I had hoped she would, and I was so pleased when I saw she was there to train for Olympic Trap.

We separated into our disciplines and made our way out to the ranges. As there were fewer of us this week with the others being at Doveridge, we were divided into even smaller groups (a two and a three) for closer coaching. We each shot stands 1, 2 and 6 (single high house, pair) as a warm up, and I was absolutely shocked that I hit every single target.

I think I shocked the coach too; when we set off on the next circuit to practice other stands, he asked me where all this progress had come from in such a short space of time (in a good way, of course!). The answer? Each week since the last session I have been out on the skeet range shooting 100 NSSA targets. Although these are slower, practising any skeet targets whilst training myself to shoot gun down is a help, as was evidenced today! And because the traps on the local range also have a delay switch, they were still super useful for training purposes. Two weeks is a long time to go without any practise, and while I’m still learning and perfecting my technique, anything helps.

One thing I did notice from today was how much smoother my speed control is. On the targets I was hitting, I had a better percentage than yesterday on the slower NSSA clays – I think because I am better at ‘snapshooting’ than I am at long crossing targets (as I always was in Sporting), so the faster speed on the Olympic clays better suits my shooting style. Probably because I overthink it if I am waiting too long, whereas quicker targets are more instinctive.

My brother managed to capture some amazing photos too, doing his whole ‘professional photography’ angles by even capturing a fantastic image by laying on the ground. Now my official sports photographer! (Take a look at my Instagram, Facebook page or his social media to see a variety of his stuff). He was very glad my husband told him to take a coat though, as even though the sun was shining for the whole day, the wind was bitterly cold and strong. Very thankful that my husband also bought me a couple of long-sleeved base layers, as I hate shooting in coats or jackets but it was far too cold for a t-shirt!

I had a conversation with one of the Nuthampstead instructors before we left, and I realised just how good this whole process has been for me. In my last couple of years of shooting Sporting, I was putting myself under far too much pressure. I had expectations that I simply wasn’t achieving, I couldn’t equal my previous high scores, and it was bringing me down. I hadn’t been enjoying my sport, and it had been showing; I was frustrated and low about the whole thing. But talking to this man today, I was saying about my recent experience with Olympic Skeet with a huge smile on my face, and when I told him I was having fun, enjoying learning something new and had come in with no expectations of where I should be by a certain point or measuring myself against others in the programme. I am taking a far more relaxed approach to my training, and it is doing the world of good.

I am genuinely enjoying my sport again, and am able to challenge myself in ways I never would have before. I’m so excited to continue this journey, and if I make as much progress as I have in the last two weeks, I may even be competing a lot sooner than I expected! Fingers crossed and watch this space!

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