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Tennis Ball Drill Is Inexpensive And Effective

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Photo: CSE Media
Former Olympic skeet shooter Shari LeGate said the garage tennis-ball drill is harder that most people anticipate.

Gas and shotgun shells are both pretty pricey these days, and a lot of shooters have been forced to forego some trips to the gun club or sporting clays course in order to conserve money. Practice drills that don't involve live ammo are likely more popular than they've been in a long time.

Shari LeGate, a former Olympic skeet shooter who'll serve as an analyst during coverage of shotgun events at this summer's Games in Beijing, developed a drill when she was competing that she performed in her garage. It helped keep her gun mount, swing and focus up to world-class standards.

"I shot low-gun (per the rules of international skeet), and the toughest part about my sport was getting a good mount and keeping the barrel on the flight path of the target at all times," she said. "You're not only bringing the gun up, but you're moving toward the target at the same time, and it has to be one fluid movement.

"If the movement is slow and controlled, then most people are okay. But when they try to do it quickly, that's when they get in trouble. This drill helped me with that."

Eye on the Ball

The tennis ball that hung on a rope from the ceiling of LeGate's garage which served as the gauge for when the back of the vehicle was within the margin of the door was the basis for LeGate's drill. She used a felt-tip pen to write random letters and numerals all around it maybe 10 of them.

"I'd spin the ball and push it, then stand back maybe 5 feet and mount to it, and call out (the letter or numeral) I saw on the ball," she said. "It helped me focus because it made me look harder, and it trained me to stay focused on what I was looking at."

She could get in 10 to 15 mounts before the ball slowed down to a point where calling out the markings and keeping the barrel on them was no longer a challenge.

"I could've done a hundred or 200 mounts in front of a mirror, but how boring is that? This not only intrigued me and was interesting, but it was also fun. It gives you the feeling that you're accomplishing something and improving your performance, but it isn't costing you a fortune."

Some Ways to Improvise

If you don't have a hanging tennis ball in your garage or don't have a garage, period you can improvise by stringing up the ball somewhere in your house. A cross beam will work just fine, as will a ceiling fan.

You don't have to use a tennis ball, either. You might opt for something larger at least to begin with.

"You could use something like a tetherball," LeGate said. "For awhile I used one of my dog's balls, which wasn't real big but was bigger than a tennis ball.

"And you want to do every set from a different position, so you get the ball going away from you and coming at you. You'll be amazed at how hard it is when you first start out."

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