What is All This Visualization Stuff About?

I was reading a golf instruction piece yesterday (Surprise, surprise!) and one “tip” regarding how to improve ones “game” was to embrace visualization. The author wrote:

“One of the greatest helps to a pupil making a swing change is having a clear mental image of what they are trying to achieve.
“As a junior, I spent hours with my eyes closed, visualizing the movements I wanted to achieve. Even as a coach now, I often close my eyes when analyzing a swing and try to put myself in the body of my pupil to feel what they are feeling.
“Lesson – close your eyes for a few minutes or seconds. Get a clear image of what you are trying to do. When (and only when) you can see it, stand up and rehearse the motion.”

So, what is all this visualization stuff about?

Let me keep this as simple as I can and provide you with a rationale … that I cannot prove as no one can at this point, but I have been studying this intensely for the past few years and feel this has some merit.

The purpose of the visualization process in sports is to provide a set of instructions to your unconscious mind.

It is the unconscious part of your mind that is in control of your voluntary physical actions. You do not need to think consciously about any physical action that you have learned (tying your shoes, riding a bike, driving a car, etc.). Doing this is a path to “choking.” Athletes who choke often allow their anticipations lead them to taking conscious control of their actions, taking control away from the mental processes that actually could make what we want to happen happen. (Gag, gasp, choke. It is painful to watch this happen.)

“The purpose of the visualization process in sports is
to provide a set of instructions to your unconscious mind

You may have learned that whenever we engage in repetitive tasks, the chances of success are increased substantially if we have just done that task and are repeating it rather than if we are doing it for the first time. We also may know that our subconscious mind lives in a world apart that we create for it in our mental space (a playground for the imagination, as it were).

If we have just done something, e.g. shoot a free throw, it is easier to repeat that effort than to do it for the first time, especially if it was successful, because that effort forms a perfect set of instructions for the second effort. I call these “do overs” as no change in plan is needed. If a correction needs to be made, the instructions are: just like before but with a little more … less … whatever.

In archery, the spot for any such visualization is just before the bow is raised. This is because of several limitations on our memories that I won’t go into now.

Try this! Just before you shoot, you imagine as accurately as you can a perfect shot into target center. Include all of the sights , sounds, everything. Then shoot immediately.

Anybody who tells you that “this will work” is someone from whom you should turn and walk away rapidly, possibly also clutching on to your wallet. No mental exercise has been “proven” beyond a shadow of a doubt to work as advertised. These are all things to try and evaluate yourself (or your student’s selves). This is one of those things I place a high probability of improving an accomplished archer’s game. It will not, however, turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.


Filed under For All Coaches

6 responses to “What is All This Visualization Stuff About?

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    I personally, can shoot “blank bale” with my eyes closed and shoot a near perfect shot every single time over and over and over again. Put up a target face and let me use my eyes, and it is a different story all together.
    Many years ago, I came up with what I call “Blind Bale” shooting. It is part of “Motivating” my shooting and also a part of developing the feel of the shot, but with a twist: You are shooting with your eyes closed, and you are shooting for score! Rules are simple.
    You draw back your bow, anchor, settle your sight, close your eyes and finish the shot. You don’t punch the shot off as soon as you close your eyes…that doesn’t count. You finish the shot. The game is, “Can you shoot a perfect “25” on a single spot blue face at 20 yards with your eyes closed? Can you shoot a “pefect 100 game”, that is all 20 arrows in the bullseye at 20 yards with your eyes closed?
    I have an intentional tremor, and YES! I can shoot a perfect “25′ with my eyes closed. I don’t do it every time, and neither do any of my students, but it can be done!
    You develop the “correct feel” for the shot if you just follow instructions, don’t punch the shot off and shoot for score (and groups). What this does is to take your eyes (and corrections) out of the matrix. It magnifies the tiny error(s) you are making with your shot process that will quickly show up in your groups. You do NOT touch or adjust the sight during the process.
    I had a student that was missing the X-ring indoors by a small amount, and the bullseye outdoors by a little bit. Always high and right, but just a nudge.
    I had him go to a single spot target at 20 yards and keep score and take photos after every end with arrows in the target and then at the completion of a 20 shot game, take a photo of the target face. His first effort for the first 5 shots was a “19”, all arrows high and right. It wasn’t long and he shot a “25”, but most were a touch high and right. The key here is you do NOT touch the sight during the game. After several sessions where he would shoot a “game” of 100 points BLIND BALE, we had a pattern to follow and he was consistent, but closer to the bullseye, and his “X-ring misses on regular shooting were closer, but still tending to be high and right.
    First, I had him make a template to place on the floor and mark his present foot positioning for his stance.
    I then had him make a SMALL correction by moving his FRONT FOOT (the left foot) about 1/4″ more to an open stance (he is right handed)and to mark that in a different color. Then he shot a few more games BLIND BALE. The shots moved over and still were a touch high (ONE thing at a time, you know, haha). So the next step (pun intended) was to narrow his stance about 1/4”, and mark that on his template. Every time he shot a practice session, he would place the template on the floor in the same position and then position his feet to the NEW setting.
    Well, within a couple of ends, he was shooting “25’s” and started busting up arrows, so I had him go to a 5-spot face to save on arrows. He continued to shoot “24’s and 25’s, and had one or two “99-point games” with his EYES CLOSED! I think his high X-count with his eyes closed was 15 or 15 x’s!
    He later told me that at first he was trying to hard to force the bow still once he closed his eyes and that is why the lower scores. He also told me that once he started to really “finish the shot”, the groups tightened up during BLIND BALE shooting and during practice his X-counts went up to between 59-60 x’s consistently. Last contact with him was that when things go haywire, he does the BLIND BALE technique and NOT the “blank bale” technique.
    He said he came to actually feeling the shot and knowing when something was wrong during the process because he now knew what he was doing.
    This technique is outlined in detail in Chapter 18 of my book “ProActive Archery.”
    I have one student that shot a “perfect “25” on his FIRST attempt at BLIND BALE shooting. He did it while another shooter known for shooting many 60x 300’s was watching this! The “60x” shooter tried this, and only shot an “18” out of 25 on his first attempt at BLIND BALE shooting.
    Shooting for SCORE while BLIND BALE shooting is a ton of fun, and can add points to your “with eyes open” scores and tell you a lot about what you are doing that your eyes are being force to correct for.
    This isn’t a “gimmick” it works…if you have the right attitude and are up to the challenge. You can even win some money from friends if you bet them that you can shoot at least a “23” or better with your eyes closed. You have to explain the rules to them and follow the rules…but they will “bite on it” nearly every time.
    I watched (and lost $20) to Dean Pridgen and the went double or nothing, so ended up losing $40 to him…He shot a 3x-25 the first time, and a 4x-25 (almost a 5-x) the second time because I didn’t think he could do it twice in a row. He had told me that shooting a 25 was so easy he could do it with his eyes closed…He explained the rules, and I bit…and lost!
    Again, “ProActive Archery” Chapter 18.


    • So, have you considered competing this way? (I was acquainted by a certain young lady, who shot better than I did and before she triggered a shot, she would close her eyes! She beat the pants off of me the day we were in the same group at a novelty shoot. You probably know the one, it was in an old rock quarry in central California, near Lodi.)

      On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 1:47 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Tom Dorigatti

        Tell you what, sometimes I think I could score better by doing it this way! You know me personally, and know what I’ve dealt with over the past 17 years with an “intentional tremor”!
        Even with that tremor, I can, still, on occasion shoot a “25” with my eyes closed, and even shoot 22’s and 23’s regularly using the BLIND BALE technique.
        I used to have 5-6 seconds from target acquisition to shot explosion and never miss an X if it happened in that time frame. Now, I’m lucky to get centered up and if I do, I only have about two seconds before the tremor kicks in and shakes me out of the middle…at which point, I lose the back tension transfer, the sight drops out the bottom of the bullseye than things come apart quickly.
        I think a lot of it is indeed “target panic” and worrying so much about shaking and what other people think than just “letting it float and taking the shot.” I don’t do this tremor thing anywhere near as badly with eyes closed, and don’t lose the transfer as fast.
        Go figure.
        I do NOT know how to punch a release, and I certainly do not want to learn how either. I’m a calibrator, not a drive-by shooter, haha.


      • You’re a musician. All you need do is up the tempo!

        On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 4:59 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Tom Dorigatti

        Easier said than done. Trying to settle a shot and execute in 3 seconds or less is exceedingly difficult to do consistently and accurately.


      • Time is relative. (Einstein)

        Possibly a different tempo may change perception. Being wedded to a routine that does not work is futile. (I know, easy for me to say.)

        Of course, all of the old options exist. I rarely shoot with a release anymore as the standards (even my own!) are very high. So I shoot FSL Compound and Longbow, when I shoot, which is not as often now that I am “in the biz.”

        On Wed, May 3, 2017 at 9:53 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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