Ear Gear: On or Off?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,

Lanny Bassham mentions how the mental program forces your conscious mind to pay attention to the mental program, thereby allowing your subconscious to shoot for you. In that case, couldn’t I listen to music during tournaments? Wouldn’t music allow me to concentrate on the music, while allowing me to shoot subconsciously? If so, I am allowed to have earphones/ear-buds during tournaments?


USA Archery expressly forbids the use of “electronic devices” on the shooting line, so the answer is “no” there at least. A lot of people have, though, used headphones/ear buds as the universal sign saying “Don’t Bother Me” between ends to avoid getting into distracting conversations.earbuds-blue

I think the research is still out though on the use of music while shooting. And, time and technology march on—only recently have wireless ear buds become available. Prior to this, all such devices involved bulky headphone ear shells which create a balance distraction and/or cables which create another distraction.

All of that aside, we do not want “mindlessness” while shooting, otherwise we could just practice blanking out minds.

For archery, I distinguish “attention” as being a primarily conscious function and “awareness” as being a primarily unconscious/subconscious function. We want to focus our awareness on a bubble including us and our equipment stretching to the target, but including very little of the surroundings (that we do not want). We also want to pay attention to trouble spots in our shot and give minute corrections/exhortations (“strong bow arm”). Otherwise we want to make sure that our conscious minds do not get overly involved with our shots as the unconscious can do so much better of a job. The conscious part of ourselves serves as a mute observer who only offers mild encouragement at certain moments at most.

When I am shooting I can select and nock an arrow with no conscious thoughts at all … and I can feel an impression of my conscious self just watching, although this may be an illusion; I can’t tell for sure. The key point is you want to be in a heightened state of awareness focused on a small volume in space, paying attention to business. How does background music help with that?

Think about this this way: You are Captain Kirk. You are sitting on the Bridge in your chair while the Crew of the Enterprise is all over the ship doing all of the tasks needed to keep the ship on mission. The Bridge Crew (the conscious mind) has readings that tell them what is happening to the ship anywhere and everywhere, but not in infinite detail. The bridge crew scurries around monitoring what is going on, but the Decision Maker (Kirk) is not asked to make a decision during normal operations. The Captain is needed when things change (such as in archery when a wind comes up and must be compensated for). These decisions are best made when there is time and relative calm (no Klingon attacks, etc.—which for archers means “between shots”). The worst case scenario is when the Captain is needed and he is distracted or even asleep. He has to be brought to full attention and briefed in order to make a decision, which may take too much time, which is why the Captain (or whoever else “has the Bridge”) needs to be in the chair when mission critical events are taking place (shooting). Hence, attentiveness, not mindlessness is needed.

Does this make sense?

(And, yes, this is what Lanny means.)

1 Comment

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

One response to “Ear Gear: On or Off?

  1. Interesting post and something I might pick up on my site. I feel its important for archers to learn to “zone” out the noise around them. I’ve shot with some field archers who must have complete silence and others that hate silence and prefer backgound chit chat. I feel this might indeed warrent an article. Thanks for posting and idea.


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