How to improve hand-eye coordination when shooting
Developing your hand-eye coordination allows you to shoot more accurately, and Tom Payne explains a simple way you can improve it
Hand-eye coordination plays a huge factor in almost all sports. In fact, it is probably the sole priority for most, if not all, sports. Obviously there are other factors depending on the sport, such as fitness and size, but let’s put it this way: “If you can’t catch the ball, then you don’t leave the blocks.”
I’m not a believer in calling people ‘a natural’ — whether that be a natural rugby player, a natural cricketer or a natural Shot. What is actually being described is that the person involved has natural hand-eye coordination, allowing them to partake and start to learn the sport. The emphasis being on learning.
A top shot doesn’t suddenly pick up a gun, mount it correctly without fault and with impeccable technique and muzzle control. That is learned, practised and goes hand in hand with the person’s natural hand-eye coordination, which then allows them to excel. It’s no different to rugby, for example. You don’t pick the ball up, have amazing hand-eye coordination and then step out on to the field at Twickenham.
I’m a sportsman, and I have competed at very high levels and internationally in more than one sport, so I speak to everyone from a sportsman’s point of view. My opinions may be disagreed with, but I feel that I’m suitably qualified to put across my views as mentioned above.
The term ‘hand-eye coordination’ (HEC) is commonly used in sport, and especially shooting. Everybody is an individual and everyone’s hand-eye coordination varies from person to person. If one doesn’t struggle with certain physical skills, this doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the road. There are ways of improving motor skills. At the same time, someone with excellent hand-eye coordination can develop those skills further to enhance and better themselves.
When we shoot, our brain receives information from our eyes. Our brain then processes that information and takes it to guide the actions of the hands. That’s what allows us to move the gun and pull the trigger at the right time — we hope. We are simultaneously using cognitive and motor skills to read the flight of a bird and move our gun accurately to the bird. This ability, with correct technique and fieldcraft, is what really makes you a top game shot.
The basic beginning is called hand-eye coordination — the ability to use the eyes and hands simultaneously to complete a task. If we can develop that ability, we can shoot more accurately and consistently.
How do you go about improving your HEC? How do you improve keeping sharp and your body reacting correctly? Many top clay shots use a variety of methods to improve or sharpen up their HEC but they are not the only ones. Many sports individuals and teams will work on certain skill sets. HEC is a personal thing and so it is worked on individually, though in some cases with the help of others.
I have spoken with various Olympic Shots and they have their particular methods, which you can look up. I have my own certain methods that actually, until asked about a couple of years ago, were something I would just do. It was never something I gave much thought to.
Ball sports have always been my thing and I enjoy playing with balls, be they rugby, cricket or polo. Even throwing a tennis ball against a wall, bouncing a ball or playing catch with friends or family helps develop those HEC skills.
Here’s the difference with myself. I’m left-handed. I’m a true lefty; I shoot left-handed and I’m left-eye dominant. I knew the importance of my right arm. My right arm drives the gun and controls the muzzles of the gun. For me to move with control, speed and accuracy with my left arm was not a problem. But I knew that improving my HEC with my right arm would really help me, including building muscle memory and strength.
You can play basic games with a tennis ball, for example, to aid you and to keep you sharp. Pick a wall, any wall. Throw the ball at the wall and basically play catch. Change the distances and the speed at which you throw in order to change the angle and reaction time. Go from one-handed to both hands. Going from close-up to further out is actually good fun and you wouldn’t believe how it can sharpen you up. Focus on your weaker arm — normally the arm that drives the gun.
You can purchase various objects that will really help, too. Rebound nets are quite good fun and enable you to practise on your own. Agility balls are testing — shaped strangely, they can rebound off the wall in any direction but also bounce off the ground in different directions, and sometimes chasing them along the floor can make you look like a bit of
One of the new great HEC toys is a boxing reflex ball. They are good fun, can actually help fitness and also improve accuracy with your hands and speed of reaction.
A healthy body and healthy mind don’t always go hand in hand with game shooting. Let’s just say there is a tendency to overindulge. However, like any sport, health and fitness play a key role. If you are unfit, tired or suffering from fatigue or possibly hungover, your HEC will be affected. This, in turn, will affect your shooting. Healthy diets, keeping well hydrated and staying fit are key aspects. This is obviously easier said than done in what can only be described as a very sociable and fun community.
Everyone is born with HEC and develops it at different levels. Just like children can develop and improve their HEC, so can adults. By doing a few exercises that are good fun and keeping healthy and fit, you will be amazed how much of an effect HEC will have on shooting to the best of your ability.