Hunter Safety Blog

Focus: Catch It If You Can!

February 17, 2011

At the end of January, I found myself in Swansea, South Carolina for three days of intensive training with the National Sporting Clays Association at Live Oaks Sportsman’s Club. This training prepared Jimmy Mootz, Outreach Coordinator for the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Virginia, and myself to become National Sporting Clays Association Level I Certified Instructors. What a blast! There were nine individuals in the class from three states. Rick Smith and Donny Roth were our instructors. I was impressed with their style and the years of experience they had between them. You could not ask for anything better, it was great training. One of the many things I came away with included the question: How do you teach hand and eye coordination if you are instructing a group of new shooters?

One of the sessions we participated in was titled “Teaching Tool Kit”. Donny showed how to use a tennis ball to demonstrate that keeping your focus on the target increases the success of the student. He explained that if a student is focusing on the end of the barrel they have a high probability of being behind the clay, trying to catch the clay and hoping to hit the clay. Makes perfect sense. What a novel idea to focus on the clay, not the end of the barrel. In Virginia, we not only teach individual students, but groups of students. I have adapted the following exercise to be used for small groups of students.

Material List:
Tennis Balls or brightly colored Koosh Balls.

If you have 10 students, you will need 5 tennis or koosh balls. I use koosh balls that are colored with blaze orange, purple and yellow. Try to use colors that mimic the colors of the clay pigeons. If you wanted to, you can place tennis balls in a muffin tin and spray paint one side with a bright orange after they are dry, turn them over and spray some black on the bottom side. This will get the students used to seeing the colors of the clay pigeons.

  1. Have the student’s line up in two lines.
  2. The students on one line should face the other line, creating a partner across from them about 8 to 10 feet between the two lines.
  3. Have them toss the ball, underhand to their partner. The student has to catch the ball with one hand using either their right or left hand.
  4. Once the student catches the ball, they toss it back to their partner and this continues for as long as it is needed until everyone is successful.

Conducting this activity teaches color recognition, hand to eye coordination and is just plain fun; not only for the students but for the instructors as well. Again, I have to thank Rick Smith and Donny Roth for a well-executed class and all the teaching tips to help bring more shooters into the shooting sports. A job well done!


Check out the National Sporting Clay Associations link below.