Gathering opinion suggests that to get to the top, you now have to indulge your shooting as more or less a job-of-work. Fine if you have the time, fine if you have got the backing to do so, but what about the rest of us? Is there a way through?
Let's revisit Harry
In Cleveland, Auckland, North Island, New Zealand, it is a Tuesday in late December. It’s one o’clock in the afternoon, the temperature is 24 degrees and the weather set sunny and fair. It is half way through a working day for Harry and already, he’s been on a horse for several hours.
The polo pony is the tool of Harry’s trade and horses are therefore at the forefront of Harry’s mind.
And that is an always, all of the time, without a break:
All Time = Polo Time = Working Time = All Time = Polo Time = Working Time, etc., etc., … ad infinitum.
This is what it takes for Harry to get to the top in professional polo.
Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours-at-practise-to-excellence rule
In All About Harry Part 1, we looked at Harry and his journey toward polo success; we considered the time and commitment involved to get there.
Using Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hours-at-practise-to-excellence rule as a reference, we explored the role of aptitude, the necessity of effort, and, importantly, framed one single, simple fact: it all takes a whole bunch of time.
Ambition and the glass ceiling
In order to sustain the time necessary in a route to the top in shooting, it follows that there must be access to professional-level opportunity. We may define that as a stand out requirement in order to achieve excellence as a goal – a form of effort-focused totality that can only come from a full-on commitment. The point is, without it, without that opportunity, ambition comes up against a glass ceiling.
It can be exasperating, embittering even, to see the progress of evident talent get so far up the shooting ladder only to be frustrated by lack of means.
It is a problem in shooting, where there is a genuine professional-base to the sport - that is, a means of maintaining a presence within it by earning enough directly from it - is never likely to be a reality.
Clay shooting and professionalism
In recent years, we have seen the emergence of a form of ‘professionalism’ in clay shooting; those who are able, in whatever way, to pursue excellence as essentially a job role. Unfortunately, this position is impossible to sustain through earnings from shooting alone, despite the talent of the individual and however much success is in fact borne out.
It is perhaps only in this modern era, where we see trust fund backing drip feed and lubricate full time the careers of a fortunate few in clay shooting. The formula, nonetheless, appears straight forward enough:
Opportunity + Practise (x 10,000 hours) = Success!
Game shooting and privilege
In game shooting, the concept of disassociated wealth funding the pursuit of excellence is hardly new. For a long time it has been the affluence of a privileged and leisure-rich social class that has ably underwritten top-end performance.
Exceptional game shots — the very best of the best — tend toward those who may confidently list wealth as a qualification, and that is a nailed-to-the-door statement of fact!
Clay shooting - a full time occupation
There is a gathering belief in the sport that at the very top of clay shooting, with competition so intense and the standard of shooting necessary to succeed so remarkably high, that only those able to indulge their shooting as an virtual occupation have any credible chance of breaking through.
Of course there is another way of looking at this. Having a personal goal to truly compete, then you must also find a way to pursue your shooting full time.
Higher shooting standards
Without question the standards of shooting performance are higher now than ever. Scores and performances once considered well above the average a generation ago, are now considered quite ordinary. The modern day glitterati of shooting sports may rest on their collective laurels - secure in the knowledge that they are the best performing generation ever to pick up and point a shotgun.
Is there hope for individuals who show potential?
Those that have reached the pinnacle of their shooting require no help. Those that have broken through and are up and coming will already, somehow, have found a way to square away the ‘cost-to-get-there’ conundrum. The glitterati of the sport, we may be sure, are well able to look after themselves.
What of the rest? Those who might be good enough? Those offering aptitude aplenty, but unlikely ever to bear the time, cost or life-style sacrifices necessary to open the door. Is there another way?
Well, there could be. A way that looks to ‘Top-and-Tail the 10,000’. One that will ask the most critical two-word question ever posed when it comes to progressing shooting. And you will even be introduced to a little shot-gunning Zen for good measure!
Don’t misunderstand me — the road up will forever be a tough one. This is, and will forever remain, irreducible. There is also absolutely no guarantee it will open any door marked ‘Super Star’. But if you have some potential, can bring some discipline and an open mind, it is an approach that might well offer you a next step.
In the third and final part of this ‘Harry’ series, we look specifically at taking your shooting from where you are now to where you really can be.
“The Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu
Enjoyed this article and want to know more?
Why not contact us at Glenzier Sporting. Mike Smith has run the Whithorn shooting ground for 20 years and offers teaching lessons and gun fitting.