Mental Program Foundations: Attention

I am currently writing an article about how to create a mental program for shooting arrows. Everyone tells you that you need one but nobody tells you how to do it. One of the aspects needed is:
2. The archer’s mind must attend to things that result in consistent, accurate shots and not attend to things that have no or negative affects. Including unnecessary items on the list of things to attend to or leaving off important things increases error.

You will note that this is #2 on my list of the things needed, but don’t expect the full list here.

I was reading a blog post in which the following appeared “What we pay attention to is largely determined by our expectations of what should be present,” said Christopher Chabris, a cognitive psychologist and co-author of The Invisible Gorilla.

Relative size is just one of many pieces of information that contribute to our expectations. Without expecting something, we’re unlikely to pay attention to it, he says, and ‘when we are not paying attention to something, we are surprisingly likely to not see it.

Sometimes called ‘inattentional blindness,’ this phenomenon helps explain how dozens of people could walk by a tree festooned with cash—even looking directly at it—without seeing the money. This was the unexpected result when a woman set out to make a video of people’s responses to finding free money, a scenario that a psychologist later successfully recreated.

Inattentional blindness is something archers want to cultivate. Noticing the perfume or bad breath of an archer next to you can in no way help you shoot good shots. Wondering what that delightful aroma from a food cart portends for lunch possibilities is the same.

There is a story I heard, which is probably apocryphal as my attempts to confirm it went unanswered, but the story goes that at the Olympic Games (Barcelona), the archery field had a freeway nearby. During one session there was a horrific crash on the freeway, with emergency vehicles, etc. After the session one of the Spanish team members asked a fellow teammate what he thought of the crash. The teammate asked “What crash?” Guess who won the gold medal? (Yep.)

True or not, the story emphasizes the need to block out superfluous calls on our attention system, a system designed for interruptions!



Filed under For All Coaches

10 responses to “Mental Program Foundations: Attention

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    Most interesting, Steve.
    Let me relay a true story to you from years gone by. When I first moved to Columbus, Ohio in 1974, the only place to shoot indoors was in the basement of a bowling alley (Olentangy Lanes, since burnt down). To make matters worse, there was, on the other side of a wall, an indoor, NRA small bore rifle range!! It just so happened that their “shooting nights” were the same nights as our archery league nights. At that time, I would shoot one league with my “Sweeney Compound” and release aid, and the other league with my Golden Eagle recurved bow, with a clicker, and fingers on the string.
    Can you imagine trying to “hear” the clicker going off when there are bowling balls bouncing around above you, and .22 rimfire rifles being shot on the other side of the wall??
    It quickly got to the point where I wasn’t really hearing the clicker go off as much as I was “feeling” it go off. I shot several 300’s with my fingers and recurved bow over the course of 2 or 3 leagues as well as shooing 300’s with my “Sweeney Compound” and home-made rope spike release aid.
    When under that kind of noise back-ground, you learn to shut it out and do your shot sequence, or you shoot terrible and make excuses about the noise which you cannot do anything about.
    Basically, you “suck it up buttercup” and choose not to let that interfere with your shot, shot process, or consciousness. What rifles shots? What banging and bouncing of bowling balls? What settling of the dust when the bowling balls bounced on the floor (ceiling) above you and the noise of the bowling balls on the ball returns? hahaha.


    • Yeah, I shot at a rifle range for a time, but the “room next door” was for high powered rifles. Never quite got used to that (startle response).

      On Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 9:14 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  2. Coach Krish Rama

    Interestingly, as a coach, I am aware of all ‘things’, to a point that the mere sound of the arrow hitting the target, tells me all I need to know about the way my students form was being applied.
    The coaches mind functions on a different plane of awareness and as such, we have an almost superhuman ability to control and shut down those sets of senses that intefer with our priority.
    How to convey this way of thinking or not thinking, is virtually impossible. We can teach physical and physiological until the cows come home but that psychological area is not so easy.
    11 plus senses to control and vanquish and shutting down the brain so as to be ‘in the moment’, are just some things to take into consideration.
    “Close your eyes”, I say. “Draw to anchor”, I say. “Pause and listen to the wind, listen to the blood in your veins, picture only the target”, I say.
    Works for some but not for others. There is a Zen, Ying and Yang as well as Tai Chi and more to the shot.
    To quote Sun Tzu (The Art of War).
    ‘Permutations in battle arise from nothing more than the ordinary and extraordinary. But the ordinary and extraordinary combine in more ways than can ever be known. Each brings on the other, like a circle without end’.
    “Assemble the military force, then throw them into jeopardy; this is the job of the General”.
    I like this last one, as it reminds me of so many fine archers who lack that mental area.


  3. starground

    Great read, Steve! Looking forward to all the steps of the mental program! Will it be published here or in AFM? Maybe of interest; yesterday
    I stumbled on this site whilst strolling the internet:
    It certainly makes you think and would be useful for any coach… 🙂


    • I am working on a book (a yuge, massive book) on the mental side of archery, but I am publishing pieces in AFm as I go. The blog is really only good for shorter pieces and, well, I don’t make any money off if it and this is ‘Merica, where everybody works or we don’t eat! ;o)

      On Wed, Oct 11, 2017 at 12:49 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • starground

        Looking forward to the book (Santa, are you listening?), as the mental side needs working on… I would love to be able to “zone out” every time I raise the bow and shoot in a meditative state.


      • This can be done, rather easily, but I will argue that it doesn’t result in good scores. It seems that to get good scores you must bring your “A game”, a certain intensity of being present. Attention needs to be high and focused on what you are doing and that is quite far from being zoned out.

        On Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 10:42 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  4. starground

    And specifically on “attention”:

    Reading this, as an archer, makes me wonder how it applies to the shot cycle, TP and aiming etc



    • That was the point of my post. The foundation of a shooting mental program is controlling one’s attention. This is structured through the shot sequence as what we attend to must be attended to in the present moment. (“Set it and forget it” works for about a nine second time span, enough to get a shot off.)

      So, learning more and more about controlling one’s attention is a good thing for coaches to do. (We know a lot but not enough.)

      On Thu, Oct 12, 2017 at 4:25 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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