All of the top golfers, tennis players and athletes have a coach. They can see the benefits of properly structured tuition with someone who fully understands all the technical aspects of their sport. If they do it, why do we mere amateurs so often deem it unnecessary? How do we find a good professional coach who can move our game on?
A good coach needs to communicate ideas, concepts and technicalities effectively. He or she has to be able to explain the same thing in several different ways to a client so that they can grasp what is being said. What is immediately understandable to one person may be completely unintelligible to another. It follows therefore that your coach needs to be articulate and intelligent.
Simply because someone is a top shot does not make them a good coach; they may be, but not necessarily. A good coach needs a thorough understanding of the three main methods of shooting and when to use them. They need to be able to relate to the average shooter, what his problems are and how limited his time and budget are, compared to the semi-professional or fully professional shooter. They must understand gunfit, stance and eye dominance. They need to have expertise of the type of shooting you wish to do. There’s no point in having a game lesson with someone who has only ever shot clays, for example. Your coach should have a broad experience in all aspects of shooting.
“If you needed heart surgery, would you go to a plumber who does a bit of surgery at weekends, or to a full-time consultant surgeon who has trained for 20 years?”
There are many coaches who have undertaken a short course (sometimes only a one-day course) in how to instruct from one of various organisations. They form a good introduction to the most basic levels of instruction – I did the BASC Instructors and then coach’s courses about 18 years ago. I then spent several years learning my craft at the hands of masters like Ken Davies. Our full-time instructors here at Holland & Holland all do more than 1000 hours of one-to-one lessons every year and there is no shooting problem that at least one of us will not have seen over the years.
Professional Shooting Instructors live and breathe shooting at least five days a week – it is total immersion. We discuss the problems we see every day in the staff room and share ideas on how to solve issues. In our spare time we think about what we do. If you needed heart surgery, would you go to a plumber who does a bit of surgery at weekends, or to a full-time consultant surgeon who has trained for 20 years?
As well as the coach, you need a shooting venue with a full array of traps and targets. One that can provide the particular type of target you wish to practise on, or can set it up for you, whether it be a battue, high tower or fast distant rabbit. Visit the ground you intend to have your lessons at and see how it is run. Is it clean and tidy? Do the staff appear helpful and motivated? Have they got the targets you need? Does everything work and is it well maintained? Have they got pattern plate facilities so you can try different choke and cartridge combinations?
Rather than book a course of lessons the first time you see an instructor, have one or two individual lessons first and find a coach you relate to and get on with. If you intend to develop your shooting over the long-term, it is vital that you have confidence in the abilities of your coach. If the first one or two you see do not tick the boxes, try another until you find one you are comfortable with.
Anyone can tell you that you are behind a target. What is more important is why you are behind. Similarly, if you are off the line – why? There are several possible causes for each problem and a good instructor can help you to correct them for yourself. They need to be able to see shot, while watching the posture and overall body movements of the client. Are you stopping the gun, rolling the shoulders, leaning back, not giving enough lead, lifting the head? Have you got eye dominance problems? Is the comb too low? All of these in isolation will cause you to miss. Many shooters have clusters of problems and it is here the professional comes into his own, spotting and correcting them.
Having found your coach, please do listen to them and try to do what is asked. It is very frustrating if a client just says, “But I always do it that way” and is not prepared to change or try new things. You are seeking help to improve and if you just keep doing the same old thing, you will keep getting the same old result and waste your money. Find a professional, pay a proper price and trust him.