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Why Aren’t There Coaches in the Shooting Sports?

If you look at any sport, other than practical shooting you’ll notice that people work with a single coach for a long period of time. In practical shooting though, folks tend to work their way up the rankings alone, with just dryfire and live fire practice, and the occasional training class from someone who’s a national champion or something.

The trouble here is that when you’re going to learn from someone who doesn’t know you, and might not ever see you again, you’re only getting the day or two of instruction, and then it’s all back on you.

When I was a kid I played a little bit of little league, and I remember our coaches being immensely helpful in making us better players.

Our dryfire was playing catch, or practicing pitches, or even the pickup baseball game in the grassy lot behind the local church.

Then we got actual coaching from our coaches where they’d help us learn how to practice better, make corrections, etc.

Then, the best kids on the team (not me…) would go off to clinics in the summer time where they learned more in depth how to pitch, swing a bat, etc, and these classes WERE taught by people who were like D1 college coaches, or former MLB players, etc. To me, this is the equivalent of taking a shooting class from a big name instructor.

But notice, there’s no equivalent to the coaching model in the practical shooting sports, and in my opinion, is one of the most important parts. Why?

Gear that Doesn’t Suck

Last week I had a GiftCard to blow, and needed a water bottle. I bought one of these, and initially thought it was a little gimmicky, but figured I’d try it out.

I liked a couple things about it: auto seal closure seemed interesting, and I liked that I didn’t have to touch the mouth area with my hand to drink, just grip the bottle and push the button with my index finger, so with dirty-ish hands I don’t have much worry.

However, I didn’t realize the awesomeness of the auto-sealing bottle until Saturday while sitting with my laptop at a tech conference. I reached across the table to grab something, and knocked over the bottle onto my keyboard, and…. nothing happened. Had I been using my regular screw top water bottle, I’d have dumped a whole bottle of water on my laptop, but I didn’t even lose a drop.

I’ll keep using it. I like it. If you need a water bottle, this one doesn’t suck. My only gripe is that the one I bought is the 750ml bottle, and not the 1000ml.

Plug of the Week:

Go check out the Finding Mastery podcast. I just came across it the other day, listened to a handful of episodes, then subscribed and downloaded a bunch of his back catalog. If you’re interested in mastering the shooting sports, I think learning about the mindset of other people who are masters in their fields is important.

Here’s his episode with Anders Ericsson, that I’d highly recommend you listen to.

Just the Tip

Don’t ever, under any circumstance, ever, EVER, finish shooting a stage, pick up your magazines, and put them back on your belt before you stuff them back full. You will forget, and you will not remember until you’re halfway through a stage and you realize you don’t have any more ammo. Resist the urge!


About Lucas

Editor/Head Honcho at Triangle Tactical. Lucas is a life long shooter and outdoorsman, avid concealed carrier and competitive shooter, and a lover of pork fat.


  1. I definitely agree. As a relatively new shooter, I am blind to what I am doing. There are things I might be doing very well and other things that can be improved. Having a coach that could point those sort of things out would be very helpful.

  2. You touched a bit on this, but I think the shooting sports are filled with coaches at the local level. Anyone who shows up to a match their first time gets practically bombarded by people willing to help and give them all the tips and support possible. Obviously some of this isn’t valid, but as you progress to the point where you are wanting better information, you still have people who are where you want to be and are more than willing to give you guidance.

    Personally, I have a guy I shoot with almost every match who is a pretty high level GM. When i’m home doing dry fire, I send him messages asking questions. At matches we are talking about how to look over positions, or which targets to take on the move. All the stuff a good coach will work with you on. Now i’m working with other shooters a bit lower than me trying to help them avoid some of the pitfalls I experienced. The ‘pay it forward’ attitude in our community is strong. If someone says there may be a lack of coaching, I would reply all they need to do is look around. Inevitably there will be someone who is where you want to be who will help you get there.

    My .02

  3. I think the biggest disconnect in shooting sports and training is how and where to find it. The great thing about the shooting community is networking and building friendships happens very quickly. Robert Wyatt touched on the “pay it forward” as well as everyone being very welcoming to new shooters. A new shooter has to get themselves out there and meet and talk with as many people as possible. They will find a wonderful community full of people who are willing to help.

    After starting to shoot competitions it was very easy to get recommendations on who does training and one on one classes. I was able to find a trainer/coach very easy and the cost was minimal compared to the experience and toolbox I was given. He is now more than a trainer but a friend. He is always willing to help coach at matches or when random questions come up.

    I think people are doing themselves a disservice if they don’t seek out quality training whether it be a practical defensive handgun class or competition oriented class. I honestly think a class can be both. Who doesn’t want to be able to shoot faster and remain accurate.

    The individual that did the first match story should really look past round count and realize he is able to practice reloads and movement while having the pressure of the timer. I get that IDPA is a game, but it does give you scenarios which have some applicable application. I have learned so much about how to be better and more confident with a handgun from a year of shooting IDPA/USPSA matches, dry fire practice, live fire practice, and paid training’s.

  4. We have a junior shooters clinic once a month at our range, i see first hand how coaching from a seasoned shooter improves the skills of the kids by pointing out little improvements the kids can make.

    Also Im no super shooter but have won a thing or two at my local range. I do some coaching when i invite people to the range that arent competitors, its one of the reasons people enjoy going with me. They immediately see positive results by taking my advice and its usually simple things like mag directions, grip, etc.

    All that said, i would agree with robert wyatt, paying it forward and just looking around both are great traits our sport have.

  5. Wouldn’t quality feedback be a better outcome at matches? Would it be active coaching during a match or pointers at practice? Are the coaches paid?

    Taking multiple classes and absorbing what works for you could be seen as the coaching. You’d still have to practice to get better. Everyone who wanted to be better at those summer camps always came back improved.

    These are just some small thoughts.

    • I think quality feedback would lead to better quality practice, which would make for better match performance, yes.

      I was thinking of coaching during practice, but I could see a match model as well.

  6. Lucas- I have been coaching a Scholastic Action Shooting Program team (9 years and up, pistol on steel stages) and it has been the most rewarding training I have been a part of- my kids aren’t in it (at least yet). I also teach defensive pistol/shotgun/carbine at multiple skill levels for adults as an “instructor”. I’m a Certified NRA/CMP/USA Shooting Pistol Coach in addition to being an NRA- and SAFTD-certified instructor in multiple disciplines, and a still-IDPA member who shot it constantly for a number of years.

    A few times a month I fill an RSO slot at the nearby range (I guess counting, that is my 4th current job…) because I know the manager and he trusts me; I consider it an honor. Well, one fine day as I was people-watching, I finally went over and asked a young man if I could offer him some help after about the 10th time in fewer minutes, that he self-induced a stoppage in a Glock. I worked his grip around the slide catch and in short, fixed his “must be this used gun”.

    He came by and asked me if I teach. Of course I was low key about it since I was on the range’s time, not mine. But I gave him a card and he contacted me to discuss aspirations of competing. So I said that we should meet up and just talk a little bit informally about what his goals are. After convincing him that I wasn’t trying to jerk him around, and just wanted to set some foundations before we burn up his ammo aimlessly, he met me at a fast food place and we had a good conversation. I guessed him to be about 22 or so, and of limited means. So that conversation came to a screeching halt when I casually said that I think an hour a week would be productive, and I charge $40 hourly for one on one. Clearly $40 (a WEEK) isn’t going to break someone if s/he has the means to compete otherwise. I told him flatly that there was nothing to stop him from going to shoot a match next weekend (except, perhaps, that he couldn’t make a Glock work).

    To me it was another example of common trivialization of training value. Time and again we as trainers see people who for whatever reason are all about training when it legally stands in the way of their rights. But “selling” elective training seems not much different as a coach than as an instructor, unless perhaps the prospect is led to believe s/he will become a ninja warrior. Partly, I believe that the general public has no grasp of what significant expenses in time, travel, experiences, and treasure that very dedicated trainers have given to become teachers. Secondly as my friend TC points out, the Dunning-Kruger effect is alive and well among the American gun-owning public.

    I am no hypocrite and would never lobby that anyone must receive mandatory training to exercise their first amendment rights. Nevertheless, if folks turn over a few stones, they can generally find someone more than capable establishing a coaching relationship. For friends, I could see coaching them for lunch, or something symbolic. But someone who approaches me to glean my many years of experiential and trained skills from a business context can be sure it will not be free. Perhaps a factor of youth, too- everything is free, right? The bottom line to the interaction is that it is- and must be- a transaction (even if symbolic, such as for a meal from a friend). Why? If the student or mentee has no skin in the game, it has been my clear experience that the learning motivation is near-absent.

  7. I’m very fortunate to have a pro shooting partner i practice with once a week very helpful and living in central Florida were the shooting sports are always and plentifull

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