Must See/Hear TV … for Archery Coaches?

As many of you know I have been working on a project for quite a few years now to create a sourcebook for the mental side of archery, for coaches and archers to consult. Lately the task is starting to feel like the task Sisyphus was condemned to or at least like Hercules being tasked to clean up King Augeas’ stables. The problem is as soon as I start to feel as if I have a hand on a topic, additional information pops up that I need to wade into.

I have felt, just as an intuition mind you, that the mind-body problem is a dead end, that the mind does not exist separate from the body and the body can’t exist without the mind (plus they are intimately knitted together.. There is a fascinating new TV series that explores what we are learning about our brains and minds which is reinforcing this idea. The six-part series is The Brain with David Eagleman on PBS stations and it is available as videos on demand. David Eagleman is a British neuroscientist.

The episodes I have seen are very watchable and should be of interest to any coach desiring to know what is behind the functioning of our brains. The first episode I saw was “Who Is In Control?” which addresses the various minds (conscious, unconscious, etc.) and it probably isn’t a spoiler to share that our conscious minds spend more effort creating an illusion of control than in actual control.

As another teaser, did you know that purehy rational decision making doesn’t really exist. Our emotions are necessary to make decisions. (They show a patient who has a disconnect there and can only make decisions using her rational powers and trying to pick a can of soup brings her to her knees as she is overwhelmed and frozen by information (not by the information per se but putting a value on it—“Is ‘low calorie’ more important than ‘low salt’ when buying canned soup?” is a rational decision few of us are equipped to make).

As with most BBC productions, it has aired in England and Australia already, so y’all are ahead of us here in the USA.

Bottom Line The Brain with David Eagleman is highly recommended to coaches interested in the inner workings of athlete’s minds/brains.

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Must See/Hear TV … for Archery Coaches?

  1. Sarah T., Kewdin, MI

    What you said up above reminded me of an article I read awhile back.
    http://www.runnersworld.com/newswire/how-not-to-be-a-head-case-at-your-big-city-race
    I always find it interesting to read articles written in regards to other sports, because they give, often, a different perspective on issues common in archery. (I also enjoy distance running, so there’s that, too).
    Anyway, this particular article alludes to the mind-body connection in a way I have seldom read/heard. It says that an athlete will need a different mental management strategy for the pre-event-start waiting period, the first hour (or so) of the event, the long middle period, and the tired-out final stretch.
    Since the mental and physical endurance needed to run a marathon or half-marathon shares common ground with the endurance needed to complete, say, a half-FITA stretched out over a whole day, or a double FITA stretched out over four days, I think this article makes some useful points.

    • I agree completely regarding other sports being a field worth plowing (a little farmer humor there ;o).

      The general strategy for archers has been to try to create a situation in which the first arrow of a long competition day is shot exactly as the last arrow, though fitness and mental discipline. The general trend in international archery competitions has reinforced this strategy through format changes. where the FITA Executive Round (144 arrows, often in a single day) has been dumped in favor of a 72 arrow ranking arrow (only to determine placements) followed by head-to-head shoot-offs in three arrow ends. The FITA Round was also at four different distances which generally required two different strategies (one that emphasized aiming and the other rhythm).

      I do not know if anyone has tried such a strategy as you describe, but certainly it should be looked at and some attempts to implement it made.

    • After reading the article, I see one big difference. In an attempt to get the lowest time in a long race, you are trying to create a situation in which when you reach the finish line, you have no energy left to run. If you did, why did you not use that energy to run faster? In an archery tournament, far less energy is required (more strength, though) and there is rest for the archery muscles walking to the targets and back. The goal is to get to the “finish line” of a tournament on the same energy keel as you started it as consistency is much more valuable than speed or anything else. (And there may be shoot-offs and …)

      Even so, there are phases in a tournament: the first arrow and the jitters associated with it, long strings of good shots followed by a poor shot, followed by a recovery period, and finishing strongly. Much to think about here. Thanks for the link! Steve

  2. Sarah T.

    Yeah, racing has much that is different than an archery tourney. I think that looking at it with what might be considered an “Aristotelian” analysis can help, though; at least, it makes sense based on my own experiences. I haven’t competed since the format change away from the FITA round, but I remember that I had serious nerves during the first few ends. I had to work to keep my concentration sharp during the middle of the day (I think that may be connected to energy level, too. I always feel like I could use a nap midday, haha), and near the end of the day, the sun, wind, crowds, and tension had worn me out. I think if I go into my next competition expecting these emotional and energy-level fluctutations, I will be mentally prepared, and have a plan for handling it.
    Hopefully that makes sense?
    I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if other archer’s energy fluctuations don’t mirror mine. Some people come alive in the evenings, and might feel more jazzed up near the end of the day. Conversely, some folks are “morning people”, so my guess would be each person will need to figure out their own internal energy/emotional curve. 🙂 All of these ideas seem to support your above idea, though- the mind/body are inextricably linked, and it is better to know that and study it, than to try to forcibly separate the two.

    • My energy pattern certainly did, put I was never particularly physically fit, in either a general sense or an archery sense.

      When I was more fit and I managed my fluid and food intake well, I was steadier and finished better. The key to the mainstream strategy is to have a high fitness level and a strong mental program.

      Did you ever use a mental program to deal with first end jitters? There are a few and they did seem to work for me.

      On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:29 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

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    • PS I am one of those “morning people” and while we may be friskier than you lot in the AM, we hit our daily energy low at 3PM, just in time to finish poorly! :o(

      On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:29 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

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  3. Sarah T.

    My coach at the time was a huge fan of Lanny Basham, and had me listen to his whole book-on-tape set. I understood it all, and DID try my best to use it. I was as confused and dismayed as he when I struggled at tourneys, in spite of mental training. I was competing from 1995-1998.
    What I have realized since then, and reaching adulthood, is that the reason for my nerves wasn’t mental. It was completely emotional.
    I come from a family where everyone except me is “Great!” at the usual sports- baseball, basketball, soccer. Sports that require speed, agility, and fast reflexes. I stank at anything like that. Add to it, my mom is a hyper-competitive type who was a child phenom at sports, and I felt driven to prove myself. I discovered archery at summer camp around age 13, and played with it for a couple years; but when I started to compete, pressure started. A few years later, our whole family went through some hard times, and archery became my escape. It was everything to me.
    So I carried that emotional baggage with me to competitions, and at age 16-17, I didn’t have the wisdom of years to recognize it as baggage. It didn’t matter how well I trained my brain, when my emotions were walking a tightrope that keyed-up my fight-or-flight response to the breaking point.
    Now, I know that long story was probably waaay too much personal info for a public blog, but I felt like sharing, in hopes that my experience might help someone else. Or help a coach who has a student that is dedicated, and shows lots of promise, but keeps having “the wheels come off” in competition, as my coach used to put it.

    • If you feel comfortable sharing your story I would love an article for Archery Focus (you can even use a pseudonym if that would make you more comfortable).

      The emotional aspect of archery is much under appreciated. Since it has been a male-dominated sport for a great while, the norm has been quashing your emotions which is a very bad idea.

      We now know you can’t even decide which mayonnaise to buy at the market without an emotional involvement.

      If your story could help even just a few others suffer from your predicament … and I feel there are probably more than a few … it would be most helpful.

      And you know how those massive Archery Focus checks involve life-changing money (uh, not)!

      Let me know (ruis.steve@gmail.com) if you are interested.

      On Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 2:22 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:

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  4. Good, I am glad to see you’re appreciating the point Thomas Aquinas made by refining some 700 years ago what Aristotle said some 2300 years ago. The mind is an aspect of the rational soul which is the form of the Body. The body would not be a living human body without its rational soul. The soul is what gives it form and animates it. It’s good to go back and re-read classic anthropology. Pagans like Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics along with classic Christian thinkers have many insights into the human condition. Sports are much more than physical, they are windows through which we can see spiritual combat: the intellect and will trying to rein in the passions. Cognitive-Behavioral Psychology reworks basic premises laid down by the Stoics.

    • Well, the only thing they got wrong was the existence of souls, well than and a great deal more. :o)

      I minored in philosophy in college and have been studying it and religion since the middle of the last century. Philosophers have been more and more disappointing as, and I quote my Ethics professor, in 4000 years of trying they still haven’t defined the term “is good.”

      That the mind and body are mutually dependent is almost obvious and as archers and coaches I find it puzzling that we ignore the workings of our minds to such a large degree.

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