The second competition of the season came after a short break – at the beginning of June, when one can expect nice late 20s temperatures, right? Wrong! The forecast was bleak (max of 18, morning showers) and the reality beat it by miles (I don’t believe it ever went over 14, and those showers were scattered throughout the day, and the only good part was that those showers were more like clouds shaking above us.

We met the whole team at Toronto International Trap & Skeet Club (yes, you can figure it was founded and named by young males… all you need is to read the big acronym written … where else could have been more prominent?… on the chimney… in huge letters!) – everyone well dressed and the only specks of gold visible on the hats.

We managed to confuse a few nice gentlemen at the office, luckily for us, they were patient enough to squad our 7 member teams exactly as we planned, no more mishaps this time. By the end of the season, I believe we will get the squading done in less than the usual half an hour it takes now. By the time we have paid everything – it was already time to get on the line and so we did.

The singles – no big surprises. Everyone worked hard, and considering the ‘wonderful’ conditions – everyone did very well. Techniques are being fine-tuned, competition mode is being embraced by everyone; the coach is happy – athletes (hopefully) are happy as well.

The day progressed, and although we were a handful of people (11 squads) – we somehow managed to start the handicap pretty late. Well, it’s actually normal – when you compare our home club to any other club, it’s like Gulliver with the Lilliputians. And if you start doing the math – 11 squads on 2 banks (4 traps) will go well over 3 hours… start around 10 am and you’ll find yourself contemplating the handicap around 2 PM.

This would have been fine and dandy… if the light hadn’t changed suddenly. A very strange one, which made the targets a very muddy gray instead of the beautiful orange they are. Add to this an amazing coldness, and a light breeze and you have the ‘perfect mix’ for such an event. So you prepare yourself, tell yourself all the right things and then call for your target; the target comes out of the trap house, you follow it with your eyes (always with your eyes!) and then… suddenly… where is the target?! it should have been there… but it’s not… and for a few moments, you are wondering, then if you are lucky enough you’ll find it (far, far away) in the sky. In those cases when you aren’t that lucky you take a guess (more or less educated, depending on experience) and shoot in a region where the target should have been. Well – anybody can figure out what such a context can do to your scores. The trick in a case like this (where you have absolutely NO control over the conditions) is to keep it light, and remember you are in for fun. Of course, there would be the special cases when young eyes have no trouble following the target on the gray sky… and those young minds & eyes owners should be grateful for the gift they have been given 🙂 The rest of us – we split in 2: the ones who get upset, and the ones who’ll keep laughing. Luckily for me, nature gave me a sunny disposition so I could keep laughing the whole 4 sub-events. Why? Because while I was missing targets one after another I knew there wasn’t anything in the whole world I could do differently; I was trying my best and that made me happy. That and the odd flying ‘saucer’ I would get every now and then.

And then – the final event, the one I love the most: doubles. Luckily for us – the light changed back to normal, the breeze stopped and somehow the air warmed up as well. We were on the second squad and had the opportunity to watch the master (Paul Shaw) smoking targets on the first squad, right before us. It’s always a pleasure to watch Paul in doubles (it’s a pleasure to watch him in any type of events): he has a very calm way of being and his call is a very the-whole-world-can-be-mine-and-I-have-no-worries ‘Phaaa’. On that first trap, the targets were funny (to say the least), but you can’t do much about them. If you correct one issue, you’ll end up with another. So we simply did what the coach taught us all: we looked for our first target, smoked it, then looked for our second one, and smoked that one too.

So what have we learned from this trip to T.I.T.S.?

First of all – a successful day is measured not by scores, but by accomplishments. And this is how we need to set out goals: towards technique, not towards scores. Like Paul puts it so boldly in the last number (June) of Trap&Field magazine: setting goals in measuring scores is like trying to lose weight by stepping on the scale daily. Diets don’t work; you should not aim to lose 10 lbs but to move towards a more nutritious, more balanced, healthier diet. If you try to break scores, you’ll become tight-up and targets will elude you forever. If you have the proper technique, the proper swing, a fitted gun, and a sunny disposition (as in relaxed) – scores will automatically follow. And sooner than you think!

Second – when it happens to miss targets: slow down. Going faster and faster will just ensure you miss more and more and become frustrated. The opposite is always true: breathe, relax, and wait to see the target. I know I say this a lot – but breathing is, actually, paramount. And if you would take the time to analyze you’ll also realize that most of the time when you go fast you probably hold your breath as well. Breathing is probably the simplest way to ‘fix’ most things.

Third – in conditions less than perfect (wouldn’t be that much fun to have perfect conditions at all times, would it?!) all you can do is enjoy. The more you enjoy, the more fun you’ll have; the more fun you’ll have, well – when you have fun any lesson will be easier to learn.

And last, but not least – get on the line prepared. With all the excitement of the day (and all the buzzing from William) I stepped on the line for doubles and I followed my routine: Squad ready? Marker ready? Let’s see a pair! all the time something was strange, but I couldn’t put my finger on what exactly was the ‘thing’. Well – I mounted my gun, I called for my pair and, like Chloe said ‘boom’… literarily. Not much to do when you still have a second target to blast… so ‘boom’ the second one. Then – ‘BOOM’… Phil’s first shell. The second one – I couldn’t hear much anyhow 🙂 By the time it was again my turn I managed to plug my ears properly. Lesson learned 🙂 And sorry, Chloe, for rushing when it was your turn… usually Chloe is on my right, so I am not accustomed to waiting for a female voice before my turn but after… Anyway, being the nice sport that she is, Chloe wouldn’t be bothered by such a nuisance.

So – another day, another success!

Thank you all again for the sportsmanship you displayed and for the focus and energy you managed to gather and share! I know some of you might be hard on yourself expecting higher scores, but trust me – you should not be. What you should be is proud of yourself: you kept remembering the lessons your coach taught, and you kept listening to his advice during the competition. You delivered your best in the conditions and that’s all it counts at the end of the day.

Remember: relax, enjoy, and have fun!

Looking forward to many days filled with your smiles and laughter!

P.S. These Jones Soda messages seem to be an integral part of the LTS outings… I am going to buy some; maybe I’ll finally find a name for my gun 🙂

P.P.S. To Chloe: beware you are now being used as the ‘example’ in our household. E.g. William doesn’t really care for ham sandwiches (he doesn’t really care for meat that much yet) so last night after I put one in front of him and I got the usual ‘I don’t like this, mama’. Exasperated, I exclaimed: ‘I’ll tell you a secret! This is Chloe’s favourite!’… ‘Mmmm… it’s really yummy, mommy!’


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