Okay, we all know archery is a mental game. We gather a lot of shooting info in our heads but when it comes time to score what do you do to shut it off and let the subconscious take over?
Tony Bergh, President, Archery Shooter Systems
(through the Archery Networking Group on LinkedIn.com)
Nice question. I will think about it some more but let me give you an analogy. Sometimes it is important to focus your vision intently on some task. What you are focused on becomes a large part of your reality as everything else fades away. Sometimes it is necessary to not be focused visually. If someone says there is a deer out that direction, do your eyes flit from bush to tree to find them or would it be more successful to relax the focus of your eyes and wait for some motion to draw your attention. Mentally, being focused unconsciously is like that. You avoid “concentrating” which I claim is a conscious activity and “focus” unconsciously upon the task at hand.
It helps at first if you use a “trigger” to create this state. Golfers do this while putting. They tap their putter on the ground or do a forward press or … or … just before they begin to putt the ball. It can also be something like a phrase of key words to start the process (e.g. Here we go!).
The only way I know of to train yourself to not think consciously while shooting is committing wholeheartedly to “the Rule of Discipline” which says
“If anything—mental or physical, anything at all—
intrudes from a prior step or from outside the shot,
you must let down and start over.
The application here is that in practice and competition if a conscious thought pops up while you are immersed in your shot, you must let down and start over. If you do this religiously, you will train yourself to not have conscious thinking during your shots. It needs to be where it belongs: between your shots.
I assume you know why this needs to be, no? If not: you can consciously think about only one thing at a time, while subconsciously you can think of many things at once. Being only able to think of one thing at a time is no problem through much of the shot sequence because you need to be focused on just what you are doing “now.” The problem lies when you get to “aiming.” When you are aiming you must split your attention so that part of it is on aiming and part of it is on finishing your shot (hopefully something associated with your back tension). If you are thinking consciously at that point your mind will flit back and forth between the target and your back (or its surrogate). Everyone who has tried to do this consciously has reported failure.