What’s the most important aspect of becoming a good archer? Our answer to this question is: the essence of being a good archer is being able to relax and focus under the tension of the draw. But focus on what? The focus needs to be on what is being done at every moment during a shot. And stray thoughts will keep jumping into your archer’s heads when they are shooting, so how do you help them focus? This is done by teaching them habits of body and habits of mind. And the framework for all of these is called a shot sequence.
What Is a Shot Sequence?
We assume you already know what a shot sequence, also called a shot routine, is but a little review can’t hurt. A shot sequence or shot routine is just a series of steps an archery shot can be broken down into. The exact number of steps in the sequence isn’t important. What is important is that everything done and thought be on the list. We know of someone who thinks four is the correct number of steps for a shot sequence. During Step One, there are all of these things one has to do: step to the shooting line, take a stance, nock an arrow, and more. Clearly this is not just one step. Inside this step are other steps, we might call them sub-steps. The same is true for the nine step shot sequence we recommend to beginners. Our step “Nock an Arrow” includes quite a number of details: with the bow held vertical (#1) and in front of you (#2), fit the nock of an arrow right under the top nock locator (#3) with the index/cock vane pointed away from the bow (#4); listen for the “snap” of the nock (#5) and place the arrow onto the arrow rest (#6) and, just for good measure, if you are using a clicker, slide the arrow under the clicker (#7).
You can see that the claimed number of steps is not at all important, but all of the steps (and sub-steps, and sub-sub-steps) have to include all of the things your archer does when making his/her first shot. Consequently each of your archers may have a different sequence.
Why a Shot Sequence?
There are a number of reasons why a shot sequence will help your archers perform. Here are a few.
It Creates a Common Set of Terms
When you are discussing their shots with your students it would be hard to have any kind of discussion if you are saying things like, “Well, the thingamajig fell off the whoseewhatsis and fouled up your whaddyacallit.” Having names for parts of the shots allows you to discuss your student’s shots in more detail.
It Creates a Framework for Coaching
Too often archers think that archery practice is just getting to the range and shooting arrows. This will work; they will become better archers; but this is also the slowest and hardest way to become a better archer. They basically are asking the bow to teach them how to shoot. There are easier ways; like getting the help of a coach like you. But how are your opinions and recommendations to be formed?
The basis of helping your students to have good archery performances is you want all of the parts of your student’s shot to be equally good. Having them working really hard to have a world class stance when the rest of their shot is kind of “iffy,” is not a recipe for success. Instead of working too much on one aspect, it is better to move on to another part of the shot. The rule is archers work on their weak points until those are as good as the good points in their shot, then they move on to something else. And, since everything that happens during a shot is dependent on what happens before, you recommend they work on things in the order of their sequence. Working really hard on the end of a shot when the beginning is no good is probably wasted work because when they fix the beginning parts it changes what happens at the end.
This provides organization to your form and execution recommendations (do things in the order of the shot sequence) as well as provides a guide as to how much work needs to be done to improve any particular aspect of the shot (until it matches the level of quality of the rest of the shot).
It is the Foundation for Mental Programs
What your archers are thinking is roughly equally important to what they are doing physically while shooting. If while drawing the bow they are thinking about where to put their trophy in their bedroom, or wondering whether their stance is really right, or wondering whether they have enough time to do their homework tonight, they are doomed! To shoot well, their minds must be thinking only about what they are doing right then, as they are shooting.
“A shot sequence combined with the Rule of Discipline
form the core of all mental programs.”
Because of this we ask students learning a shot sequence for the first time to do it rather deliberately, with each step separate from the others, by creating a very short pause between each step. This mode of introduction establishes clear boundaries to each step, so that the actions and thoughts associated with, say, “drawing the string” will be confined to just that step. If they are thinking about “drawing the string” while they are taking their stance it is impossible to focus on getting their stance right.
A shot sequence combined with the Rule of Discipline (If anything from a prior step or from the environment intrudes during your shot, you must let down and start over.) form the core of all mental programs.
A Shot Sequence to Start On
In the AER Basic Instructor training, we provided a model shot sequence. You may want to use this, too. We are providing a free handout on our website http://www.archeryeducationresources.com (under development) for you to print and hand out to your student-archers. Using the sequence terms (follow through, set your hands, etc.) will reinforce their learning. In our recreational curriculum, we ask them to state and demonstrate the steps with a stretch band as an indicator of whether they have learned it or not. This is not a bad drill to perform.
“Learning a shot sequence is even for recreational archers?” you ask. Our philosophy is not to train recreational archers just as we do competitive archers, but to train them so that, if they decide to become competitive archers, they will not have learned anything wrong. A shot sequence is so important to successful archery we teach one to all archers at the intermediate level.
“If you haven’t been using a shot sequence in your own archery: coach teach thyself!”
If you haven’t been using a shot sequence in your own archery: coach teach thyself! We continue to insist that if you want to coach intermediate archers, you need to be an intermediate archer (or above). Experience can’t be learned from books. Intermediate archers need to learn a shot sequence because they need it to perform and you need it to help them perform better.