FITASC World Champion David Radulovich
David Radulovich is clearly at the top of his game. The 25-year-old from Ohio has won top honors in both sporting clays and FITASC. In August, 2018, he was inducted into the Ohio Sporting Clays Association Hall of Fame.
His list of honors and awards is long, including: 2017 World FITASC Champion; 2017 & 2018 World Cup Champion; PSCA Tour Champion at multiple events; 12-time World Junior Champion in Sporting, FITASC and Compak; and 15-time Team USA member. You can read his full résumé on his website: www.dradulovich.com.
David began shooting sporting clays when he was eight years old and was the youngest shooter to achieve Master Class ranking at the age of 12. Today, he continues to shoot at the top level internationally in both the sporting clays and FITASC world. He provides professional instruction and coaching and sets targets at major competitions. David is utilizing his degree in Marketing from Case Western Reserve University as a consultant on marketing and branding in the shooting sports.
Recently, Shotgun Sports had an opportunity to talk with David about his career, what has enabled him to succeed and how the average shooter can improve his/her game.
When David was young, he participated in competitive archery and would also shoot guns in the backyard with his father. His dad enjoyed shooting trap and skeet with friends, and David would tag along. At that young age, he became obsessed with clay targets. He would walk around and try to find whole clay targets on the ground and collect different colored shells. But, he was always too young to try shooting.
When he was about eight years old, they went on a family vacation to Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania to go skiing. However, when they were unable to ski, they decided to go to the Nemacolin Shooting Academy and shoot sporting clays instead.
“We went to the Shooting Academy and my dad and mom were shooting," said David. "I was incessantly bugging my dad to let me try, and he gave in. I worked with our trapper, Larry Orawiec, for the day and I shot ten shots and hit eight of them. I thought it was actually the coolest thing I ever did in my life.”
Soon afterwards, David and his father shot in the Ohio State Sporting Clays Championship at Hill ’N Dale Club in Medina, Ohio. David’s father bought him a gun, and the 8-year-old ended up breaking 86/200 in the event. He was hooked.
“I just loved it. The people were so nice. I was only 8 years old, and I had all these adults come up and talk to me. I actually still have the original magazine with the article about that shoot. The guys on our squad were awesome,” David added.
As a youngster, David also attended a Sporting Clays Super Camp held by the NSCA in Texas. David was the only junior shooter at the camp and about 50 years younger than the other participants.
At the camp, he met Tony Monzingo, the Director of the NSCA at that time. Prior to joining the NSCA, Monzingo had coached a youth shooting team in Alaska. Seeing David’s enthusiasm and how the camp helped him, Monzingo and David’s father, Brian Radulovich, had discussions about holding a youth sporting clays shooting camp.
As a result of those discussions, Champs Camp was born. At the age of 12, David was one of the students in the first Champs Camp. When he was only 15, David became one of the instructors at the camp. He still continues as an instructor in this venture with Monzingo. The camp has trained hundreds of junior shooters.
“Out of it, we have had great success. There have been times when the whole team USA Junior Shooting Team was all Champs Camps shooters. We’ve had 200, some eventually became All-Americans. I really enjoy it because you develop a close connection with these kids,” David said.
Training to Succeed
Many of the shooters David met at Hill ’N Dale Club and at Nemacolin became close friends, and he still shoots with many of them. They also helped to shape his early training. “Larry Orawiec, the trapper who worked at Nemacolin, became my first coach. Now he is a family friend. We would go back to Nemacolin, and he would teach me as much as he could. Nemacolin, the club, were very helpful in having me start my career because they would let me practice for free or they would give me free instruction,” he said.
In addition, Hill ’N Dale Club, his home club, helped launch his shooting career. They provided him with a field where he could set up traps to practice. Over the years, David became friends with several outstanding shooters who coached and encouraged him. One of these shooters was Anthony Matarese, Jr. of M&M Hunting & Sporting Clays in New Jersey.
“I was shooting the Seafood Blast at M&M when I was 9 years old and I shot 46 out of 50 on a prelim. Anthony got the word out he was trying to find me and did not know who I was. I thought I was in trouble, and I did not know who they were at the time. Anthony found me and closed down their warm-up 5-Stand to give me some lessons,” David explained.
Since Anthony was getting ready to go off to college, he was unable to coach David but recommended he contact Wendell Cherry. At that point, Cherry of Tennessee became David’s coach and teacher.
For David, training involved much more than just going out and shooting a round of sporting clays.
“In my lessons with Wendell, I would work on one thing. I would literally go to one spot, take a five-gallon bucket of shells with me and shoot so much I would empty the trap — shooting from one spot, over and over. Shoot a single, one target, over and over again until I emptied the trap. Then, move to another spot where I could do the same thing and empty that trap. While I was there, they would fill the first trap, and I would go back and do the same thing,” he explained.
“They have all these cheeky little sayings, but I like that one that goes: You don’t practice until you can get it right, you practice until you can’t get it wrong.”
That saying became David’s motto as a junior shooter. He learned to train by shooting one target at a time, “because if you try to learn 50 different things you are going to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. The best way to practice is to find a place where you really only need about three traps. You can stand there all day and work on your technique or your move or your mount or your insertion or your connection to the target or even your eye work. Work on looking at a target and keeping your eye on it. You just do that over and over again,” he said.
The training regimen he learned at a young age has enabled him to become both a world class shooter and coach. He believes learning to practice is an important part of the process to become a better shooter.
“When I am working with my students, I am trying to come up with a training routine and long-term projection for them. I always tell them one of the hardest things to learn is how to practice. A lot of people think practicing is going out with their friends and shooting a round of 100 and keeping score. Then being done and going out to get lunch or dinner and a beer. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s like going out and just playing a round of golf with a friend, and I love doing that,” he explained.
“My version of training on a sporting clays course is to go and shoot a box on every station. Let’s shoot Single A, let’s shoot Single B and run through the course shooting a box at every station. It’s about repetition and it’s about perfection. It’s about the quality of it,” he added.
Importance of a Coach
David has utilized a number of coaches over the years and emphasizes having a coach is vital for training. “Training involves a coach. You need someone there who can guide you and tell you because you can’t watch yourself shoot and you don’t know what you need to change,” he said.
He emphasizes spending money on instruction with a coach is a better investment than buying a new gun or trying different ammunition, especially for new shooters or shooters who are experiencing issues they cannot solve on their own. “I think the most financially responsible thing to do if you are just starting and want to become really good is to find a good coach to shorten the learning curve,” he added.
Lessons for Shooters
In addition to being a world class shooter and shooting instructor, David is also a target setter and has set targets at a number of major shoots.
“It’s really fun to be a shooter, a seasoned coach and a target setter. Because as a target setter, I know how to throw targets that look easy but mechanically shoot hard. So when I set targets, I try to play to that. I try to take the approach of forcing everybody into my mental outlook of the game. I never look at a bad performance as something that makes me mad, I look at it as a learning experience,” he explains.
David has observed shooters on a variety of sporting clays and FITASC courses across the world and said the biggest mistake shooters make is lack of planning.
“My biggest thing is the one thing people don’t do very well is not even mechanical or technical or anything like that — but I call it the strategy of the game. So many people just walk into the stand, look at the targets, load their gun, call pull and shoot. If you shoot a tournament, all the information you need to break a target is there, you just have to know what to look for,” he explained.
Pre-shot planning is a critical component of successful shooting in sporting clays and FITASC. “If you are on a course, and you’re serious and you want to win, instead of talking to your buddies and goofing off between stations, get to the station and do your research. Look at the traps, figure out how far they are and where you see them first. Decide where you want to shoot them, where statistically is the best place to shoot the pair. Read the lines of the target. Make it so that if you close your eyes you could trace the line of the target. If you do that, you will know where there is a bad spot to shoot it and where there is a good spot to shoot it,” he said.
Watching the show pairs at each station can make the difference between walking away with a goose egg or running that station.
“You have two show pairs for a reason. Make them worthwhile. Then, walk in there and execute your plan and do it perfectly. If you make a mistake, don’t just load and shoot again and hope it’s going to be a different result. That’s the definition of insanity. So that’s the biggest thing for me, try to study the game as it is in front of you, so when you shoot, you are prepared,” he added.
Radulovich said shooters should also use the trapper to their advantage. “So, ask the trappers as much as you can before you shoot. There’s a limit on show pairs, there’s not a limit on questions,” he added.
Skeet Field Training for Sporting Clays
David has also done a lot of training on the skeet field for sporting clays.
“When I was a kid, I would do these things called a Go Home Round on the skeet field. It was a big deal for me to go and practice when I was a kid because my dad would have to drive me, get everything ready. We would go to Hill ’N Dale and I would do a Go Home Round which was before I could even start my practice, I had to shoot 25 straight in skeet. If I missed one, I had to go home,” he said.
Shooting a “Go Home Round” on the skeet field forced David to be serious and to practice tournament pressure.
“When I won my first U.S. Open, I was 16 years old. I practiced for three weeks on a skeet field and never went to a sporting clays course. I would work on every angle of target. I would walk back into the trees behind the skeet field and shoot crossing birds and shoot five in a row or ten in a row. That’s good practice,” he added.
Sporting Clays vs. FITASC
Having won world championships in both sporting clays and FITASC, David has had an opportunity to compete on some of the best courses in the world. While he enjoys sporting clays, he says FITASC is his favorite sport.
“The diversity in the game, because we are shooting all these different targets, is just so much more fun. When I shoot sporting clays, I enjoy the shooting of it. It’s a little bit monotonous for me because of the repetition of shooting the same pair over and over again. But, I will say, that is not an excuse for me to say that is easy because a shooter’s ability to do the same thing four times is very hard. That’s why sometimes you see some guys who are really good FITASC shooters, who are not good sporting clays shooters and vice versa. It takes a different skill set for each game,” he said.
David sees FITASC growing in popularity in the United States. However, he feels some shooters are afraid to try the sport, as they believe it is harder than sporting clays.
“People are afraid they are going to get kicked out of the shoot because they wear the wrong shoes or the wrong collared shirt. They are afraid if they blink their eye before they see the target, they will get the whistle blown at them,” he said. FITASC in the United States is a lot less strict about those things than other places in the world.
What the Future Holds
While David wants to continue competing, he believes the competition is becoming more challenging at the Master Class level. More junior shooters are entering the sport, and they have more opportunities to learn the sport today than he did when he was young. Programs like Champs Camp and the Scholastic Clay Target Program are helping young shooters to develop their skills.
While he is continuing to teach junior shooters at Champs Camp, David is also continuing as an instructor and coach for adults. He gives lessons at clubs in Ohio and Florida and books lessons through his website www.dradulovich.com.
He said someday, he’d like to open his own shooting academy and club. Finally, he said he’d like to continue his own education in one aspect of the sport that fascinates him — sports psychology.
“I’d like to go back to school and perhaps get a PhD in sports psychology and teach," said David. "I really enjoy the mental and philosophical aspects of shooting." SS
Maggie Kelch is an avid outdoorswoman who enjoys fishing, camping, hunting and shooting. With a degree in Journalism from Ohio State University, she spent more than 40 years in communications. She has written for numerous local, state and national publications.
Photos provided by David Radulovich