Should I Practice Right Before a Tournament?

I got another email from one of my favorite students. (My favorites are the one’s who work hard and ask really good questions. S)

Dear Coach Ruis,
Today during practice, I was scoring extremely well. I had also fixed everything we went through last lesson, so I ended practice after 55 minutes. When I perform really well, is it still necessary to practice 1.5 hours – 2 hours?

Also, I’m attending a tournament on the 18th. Would it therefore be counterproductive to have a practice on the 12th (to hold to the “don’t change anything two weeks before a tournament” logic)?


I have had practice sessions as short as five minutes (after set up), so 55 minutes should not be considered short. The champion golfer Jack Nicklaus said about practice “Achieve, then leave.” You need to have goals for a practice and if you have accomplished those, why would you continue? This, I think, is good advice.

Practice sessions are best when short and intense, but often we have only a little time set aside to practice during any week (which can involve travel to and from a range, etc.). So, if you have set aside 1.5-2 hours of practice time, then you should use it. Practice on one thing, intently and intensely for 10-15 minutes. Take a short rest. Practice on something else … same way. If you get tired, rest. There need to be longer practices to develop strength and stamina but not close to a tournament as that could lead to muscles being sore during a competition.

Regarding that five minute practice, it was the day before the travel day to a state field championship. I drove to my club’s range, set up at the practice butts, and picked the 60 yard target to shoot at. I shot one arrow, an X. I shot another right next to it and a third making a tight group of three arrows in the target. I walked up to the target, observed my rather good group, pulled the arrows and went home. I was prepared physically and mentally. All of my equipment and sight marks had been checked and re-checked. All I needed was some re-assurance that I was ready. I got it and went home.

There is lots to learn here. For example: should you shoot a practice round a few days before the tournament? The recommendation is “no.” If you shoot a good score, what does that tell you? Probably nothing you didn’t already know. If you shoot a bad score? Now you begin to doubt and wonder if you are prepared. Neither of these will help your performance at the tournament. If you tend to shoot a lot of practice rounds, stop doing those the week before an important tournament.

The admonition to not change anything isn’t an admonition to not practice. People show up at major tournaments a day or days before its start to practice on site. You are being encouraged to not change anything without reason. So, if your bow string or its center serving breaks, should you change it? Of course you should. But you must take care to “shoot it in” and check your marks/crawls, etc. Should you entertain a major change in your shot? No! major changes should be carefully planned and undertaken and will take quite a bit of time for you to make the transition from the “old normal” to the “new normal” forms. These are the kinds of changes you do not want to make close to an important tournament.

“Not making any changes two weeks before a tournament” is good advice but ask yourself “If something is really wrong with my shot, should I just ignore that and go to the tournament anyway?” I suggest not. Which is more important “shooting correctly” or “shooting in some tournament?” I argue that shooting correctly is vastly more important. I argue that you might just want to make that change and forgo the tournament. Think about this: tournament pressure raises your intensity and “burns in” what you are doing. If you truly believe that what you are doing now needs to be changed, why would you want to make it harder to change?

I hope this makes sense,



Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

4 responses to “Should I Practice Right Before a Tournament?

  1. Can I just add that a 5-10 minute “practice” to keep muscles toned is worth while but I would agree that doing a full round is probably not a good plan. Great post


    • There is a great deal more that could be said, but I don’t want the posts to get too long. If you want me to expand on a topic let me know.

      Maintaining “shooting fitness” is very important (especially for those with busy lives which is … all of us). Using a Formaster or Shot Trainer 5-10 minutes daily will do this. Perry Ratcliff, of Archer’s Advantage fame, keeps a compound bow with a “air bow” stabilizer leaning against his wall which he can pick up, draw, and fire without additional set up or needing a range.

      Good, point, Rob!

      On Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 3:29 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tom Dorigatt, Level 3 Coach

    Never, I repeat NEVER practice without a plan, and making it a written plan is as important as the practice itself. Have at least ONE goal, write it down and have a plan to go with it. Keep a journal, and if today’s plan is a scoring round with an achievable goal, keep the target, date it, and document it in the journal with the facts of what went “wrong” and what went right. ALWAYS find something positive and don’t reflect on the negatives. “XXX needs work” is way better than writing, “I’m not maintaining my transfer position at full draw.” Keep charts and or graphs so you can chart your progress, too. Graphs are quick to plot and easy to read.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As a Master’s Division or Silver Seniors competitive archer, I usually do not personally practice the very day before a tournament unless I have been traveling and have not practiced in a few days and need to just familiarize myself with surroundings and loosen up. I do reduce my practice intensity a lot that week of the tournament. Yes, I totally agree with Mr. Dorigatt on his points regarding practices. Purposeful planned and documented in the shooting journal after.

    Liked by 1 person

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