Each summer, the eyes of the shooting world focus on the American Trapshooting Association’s Grand American World Trapshooting Championships. Held at the World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Illinois, the prestigious event is the largest of its kind and offers opportunities to showcase trapshooting skills in a variety of disciplines.
Federal Ammunition’s Rick Marshall and Mallory Stanton are among the thousands who gear up to compete in the event. Both are forces to be reckoned with. Each has taken top honors at the Grand in the past—and continue to do well.
Whether you’d like to improve your scores in local and regional shoots or drop more birds in the field this fall, a closer look at these champion shooters’ plans of attack for this world championship event can help you put more pellets on target.
Nearly three decades of competitive shooting have taught Marshall much about prepping for his chance on the firing line. “One of the most important things is not putting too much pressure on yourself—either before or during an event,” he begins.
Toward that end, Marshall plans to maintain his normal routine in the run-up to the Grand, which includes competing in state championship shoots in Wisconsin and Iowa within a month of heading for Sparta.
“Some shooters devote weeks or more to preparing themselves for the Grand,” he says. “You can do that, but I think it raises the pressure level too high and could end up costing you. Keeping a normal competition and practice regimen helps avoid stress. I take a week off to spend time with family. Then, right before the Grand, I shoot a couple hundred targets in each discipline to get my mind set.”
Marshall’s pre-shoot prep also includes extra TLC for his shotgun. “I go through my gun to make sure it’s ready for the world championship,” he says. “Most people do the same, but there are so many gunsmiths at the Grand, some folks have their guns worked on at the event.”
Goal-setting is another important part of his strategy for success, and not just for the Grand. “Long- and short-term goals are a tremendous help, because they give you something to work toward,” he says. “I teach private lessons and am a collegiate shooting coach, and always encourage students to set goals.
“The actual goals are different for everybody,” he continues. “New shooters may set a goal of breaking 25 targets straight. More experienced shooters may aim for higher scores, places or improved averages. I personally set a goal of winning a trophy at every competition. It doesn’t always happen, but it gives me something to shoot for.”
At the Grand, Marshall fights pressure by keeping busy and staying positive.
“In between shoots, I’m out and about, seeing old friends and visiting with people,” he says. “This helps me think about something besides the competition.” In contrast, he believes that shooters who return to their hotel rooms to obsess about their performances often foster negative mindsets that can derail the best plan of attack.
“Newer shooters, in particular, tend to get hung up on the negatives, and that hurts them,” he continues. “I try to take something positive away from every round—even if it’s telling myself ‘there’s always tomorrow’ after I have a bad day.”
In the end, Marshall advises fellow shooters to enjoy themselves. “The main thing is to have fun,” he says. “When you’re having a good time, you shoot better. When you’re stressed out, you don’t.”
Stanton is no stranger to competition, either. She’s been a force in trapshooting for more than a decade, and eagerly awaits each year’s Grand American.
“It’s an important event, and everyone wants to do well,” she says. “People tend to shoot their best, so the competition is fierce. But it’s also pretty cool because a lot of great memories are made here.”
Stanton approaches the Grand with a blend of basic training and mental preparation.
“Practice is certainly key,” she says. “Because of my schedule, I haven’t been able to participate in as many tournaments this year as I normally would. I’m devoting time at the range to make up for it, especially with my least-practiced disciplines, like doubles and handicap, to smooth out any issues ahead of time.”
She encourages other shooters to likewise smooth out any wrinkles in their shooting form, though she cautions against focusing too much on any one hiccup in your routine. “It’s great to work on concerns, but there is also a point where you get too hung up on something and end up making it worse,” she says. “Sometimes you just have to take a step back and leave it alone for a while.”
Stanton did squeeze in a few skeet competitions prior to the Grand. “That was helpful, especially since I used the same shotgun as I do for trap—and maintaining the feel for your gun is critical,” she says. “I advise anyone practicing for an event to use the same gun they’ll have at the shoot.”
Like Marshall, Stanton keeps pressure to a minimum during prep and in competition. “It’s hard not to get stressed out by the pressure to do well,” she admits. “In fact, it’s one of the biggest challenges of competing in a tournament like the Grand. But I do my best not to worry about it.”
Focusing on the positive is a never-ending part of her game plan that continues once the competition starts. “Sometimes there are setbacks,” she says. “But you can’t fall apart over a missed shot or bad round. If you mess up one event, like high overall, then maybe you’ll hit the jackpot in other events.”
To help stay positive and shoot her best, Stanton arrives at the Grand physically prepared for the challenges. “Shooters in shape are better able to handle the heat and other challenges of an event like this,” she says.
Health concerns don’t end once the shooting starts. “Competitive shooting is a mental game more than anything,” she notes. “To keep your edge, especially through a marathon event like the Grand, you need to be rested and hydrated. If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be able to take care of business when the targets start flying.”
Stanton echoes Marshall’s advice on keeping shooting fun, no matter the size or level of the event. “You should never dread a competition,” she says. “It’s great to take your shooting seriously. But if you don’t relax and have fun with it, you’ll never truly shoot your best.”