Tactical Pointers

Aiming Art's Shooting Academy

Sonja Benčina

Oct 6, 2023

In 2020, a team of three coaches from our home club got together to come up with a plan of providing a shooting weekend full of quality content to junior shooters who are only just starting out in the sport. What we hoped would be a small group of shooting enthusiasts turned out to be four groups of 10 juniors per year since. Ambitiously named Shooting Academy, the program is in its fourth year with new content being added each season. Read on to see what the kids have been up to so far!

Year 1

Each year, the focus of the first day is to assess the participants. While one group is at the range being observed during practice, the other is in the classroom setting up their shooting positions. As year 1 students are the youngest, special emphasis is given to correct posture in order to prevent any potential injuries. Day 2 continues with basic technique exercises ranging from aiming to triggering. The physical part of the day involves warm-up and stretching routines, which the majority of participants is unfamiliar with and which are then implemented in their range-time preparation. The lectures for our Year 1 students involve journaling and the correct way of using Shooting Notes, while the mental preparation focuses mainly on SOS Exits.

Shooting Academy practice: benchrest. A young athlete with a wooden FWB rifle aiming at the target
Shooting Academy: a group of 5 young shooters is outside doing stretching routines with Živa Dvoršak

Year 2

After a thorough repetition of Year 1 material, the shooting part of the Academy in Year 2 is dubbed “situation practice” – an overview of a variety of pleasant and unpleasant situations that can (and will!) happen on the range, during practice and during competition. These can include anything from having to borrow a friend’s dioptre sight to being on the verge of shooting your personal best score. The mental preparation part follows these situations to analyse and develop our mental responses. Saturday night lecture also focuses the importance of self-talk and how it can help shape our reality. As every shooter must know their equipment, we dedicate time to looking at individual settings and doing basic weapon maintenance.

Shooting Academy students in class writing down their weapon settings in their Shooting Notes
The 2021 Shooting Academy followed strict Covid protocoles.

Year 3

As the participants get older, Shooting Academy topics get harder! In Year 3, the entire weekend on and off the range is dedicated to performance profiling and creating a training plan for the pre-season, the preparation season, and the competition season. The students use the knowledge from Years 1 and 2 to come up with various shooting drills and, with the help of the coaches, prepare their personalised plan for the next few months. Last year, we were really honoured to have Ginny Thrasher join our Saturday night lecture to share her experience planning her season – and was happy to answer all of our other questions!

Shooting Academy students listening to Olympic champion Ginny Thrasher via Zoom

Year 4

This year, we are happy to announce that two of the oldest Shooting Academy participants will graduate and join the coaches! We believe that building a successful and thriving shooting community rests primarily on establishing a strong base – clubs, coaches, and enthusiastic supporting staff. Trying to follow the shooting paths of our athletes, we realised that some show the passion to dedicate more of their lives to shooting and that the next step is logical: let’s encourage them to share their knowledge with the younger generation! They will stay with the Academy, shadowing the coaches and carrying out various independent tasks.

andraz spredaj_mala

The younger part of Year 4 students will go on a different weekend retreat that will include a real-life competition, the preparation for it and its analysis. Aided with Scatt analysis, we will focus on individual areas that need to be improved.

Shooting Academy team building: a group of happy young people pretending to be zoo animals
Friday night team building. Don't ask.

Aiming Art’s Shooting Academy is a work in progress. Each year, we try to adapt our programs to best fit the needs and capabilities of our participants. We always contact the participants’ coaches before and after the shooting weekends to discuss their athletes, share knowledge, and to outline the best courses of action for the season. We love to keep track of the athletes’ progress throughout the season and are proud of the work they are doing in their home clubs. From pics of their new personal best score to national champion titles, we are happy to receive any news and chat with them outside the scope of the Academy. And we see that the children have bonded over the course of the weekends: during competitions, they connect and share experience. This is something we are especially proud of: building a shooting community that grows connected, not limited to the four walls of home ranges. Together, the athletes will be stronger and our beloved sport better.

Shooting Academy 2021: a group of youngsters behind their three coaches
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