Are You in Control of Your Shot?

I just wrote a piece with the possibly too cute title of “To Get Control Over Your Shot, You Have to Give Up Control, While Remaining in Control.” The point of the piece was all archers go through a phase in which they attempt to force the bow to shoot well. They grip their bows fiercely, they concentrate fiercely, and they distort their bodies trying to look down the arrow shaft to aim better, for example.

All archers need to learn that the idea of physically controlling their bow to get the outcome they desire is a road to poor performances. What is needed is physical control of ourselves, not the bow per se. We are trying to create a situation by which our actions can create a successful shot. The bow cannot draw itself and the arrow cannot select a true path to the target. These are things we must do and must control. What we must forgo is trying to control the outcome of the shot. You have to give up some control of your shot. Striving for complete physical control always interferes with the bow doing what we ask of it.

The attempt to hold the bow in the exact position needed always fails because, as I said in the piece I am working on “The bow and arrow are physical objects, made of quality materials and proper dimensions and organization. They will act the same way under the same conditions . . . if . . . if they are not interfered with. Holding onto the bow through the power stroke and arrow launch is a source of interference, simply because we are incapable to doing something twice in the exact same way, let alone many dozens of times in fairly quick succession.

We need to learn to cradle the bow, not squeeze it, so that when the string is loosed, the bow acts as if it were merely hanging in space by itself. You have to give up some control over the bow (limiting yourself to drawing it, positioning it, and loosing the string) but you have to “remain in control” of your mind.

The main point of the article is that to be consistently accurate you need to shift those attempts at excessive control of the bow over into controlling your mind.

If you allow your subconscious actions with the bow to vary away from your normal shot sequence, aka your “plan to shoot shots,” you will be defeating yourself. Mentally, you have to require your subconscious self to stick to “the plan.” This is why we must be “present” and “aware” consciously while shooting, but not really thinking anything. We are watching, ready to blow the letdown whistle if any deviations to “the plan” are spotted. If you fail to monitor your shots and exert complete mental control over, well, yourself, as soon as you experience any disappointment, your subconscious mind will change the plan to make things “better.” Rather than make up something on the spot, it is more likely to pull something off of the shelf that had been practiced up “before.” If you have ever had an old “bad habit” pop up on you during a competition, now you know where it came from. (They never go away, they are merely sent to the bench.) Any deviation to your current “plan” is highly likely to be counterproductive as it hasn’t been practice or practice recently, not has it been vetted as something that works well for you.

Does this make any sense to you? If it does, does it affect how you teach your students?






Filed under For All Coaches

5 responses to “Are You in Control of Your Shot?

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    Interesting you mention the gyrations people go through to try to “repeat their grip” on the bow instead of just letting the grip happen. I’m not saying to just fill your hand with the bow, but, perhaps this True Story will help, since I involves me quite personally.
    Back in the day, most bows were not “low-wristed” and the grips were not so narrow; in fact they were what was referred to as the “California high-wrist” grip and there was width involved that allowed your hand to fit into the bow grip quite naturally and comfortably…ALMOST!
    I was having problems with very slight left/right misses on the pre-X-ring turquoise NFAA indoor target. I was shooting fingers on the string and a recurve bow and had shot many 298’s and 299’s, but wasn’t getting the 300’s due to these occasional left/rights that were always just out of the 5-ring.
    Come Denise Libby, a top Lady Professional archer that was also left handed. We were preparing to shoot for a league one evening and I was just missing a bit left, then a bit right, then down the middle and then a bit left or right again, occasionally putting a shot into the 4-ring.
    I hung my bow up while others finished their practicing and Denise walks up to me and extends her hand to “shake hands”. Naturally, I accepted this, and when I gripped her hand, it was slippery and a bit “slimy”. I withdrew my hand and immediately said I needed to go to the restroom. She said, “What for”? I said my hand was messy and I wanted to go wash it off. She said, I know it is slimy. I’ll get your arrows and be right back. When she came back, she told me to grab my bow and shoot it. So, I grabbed my Golden Eagle recurve and went to pull it back and my hand slid around on the grip. Not only was my bowhand mucky, but so was the grip on my bow! I remember telling her I couldn’t shoot the bow without it flying out of my hand. She said something like, “Trust me, you can shoot the bow that way. Just let it happen.” So, I did what she said and shot the tightest group in the center of the bullseye that I had shot in quite some time! She told me to just let the bow seek out how IT wants to sit in MY hand and not worry about gyrating the grip all over creation to find a “good spot.” She said that my hand and the bow would find the “sweet spot” if I just let it happen.
    Well, I shot my 1st indoor “300” perfect score in league that night. A couple of weeks later, Denise and I teamed up at a team shoot at the Bow Rack near Oakland, CA and both of us shot perfect “300” scores to win the team event. There wasn’t an X-ring in the target face back then (1973) and there wasn’t a 5-spot face either. All 5 arrows were shot into a single bullseye. I shot probably the tightest 300 that day that I shot. How? Well, frankly I lubed up my bow grip with Vaseline, just like Denise had done at league a few weeks before! I let the bow seek its natural position into MY Hand and way of shooting and never really had to even think about it!
    I no longer grease up the bow grip, but I also don’t gyrate around trying to replicate a sweet spot. I just let the bow nestle itself into my hand and it WILL find a comfortable and repeatable position…IF you “Just Let It Happen” naturally.
    Even today’s super narrow, low wristed grips will seek out a sweet spot on how YOU naturally want to hold the bow. No “death grip”, but nice, cushy, COMFORTABLE and repeatable grip that can be easily replicated over and over and over again.
    How often do you gyrate around trying to “find the grip”? How many other shooters do you see going to great lengths to try to get “it” in just the right spot? I’ve even seen people having tatoos made to match up with a scribed mark on the bow handle so that they can supposedly replicate the grip. You seen them dance around with hand position as they set for the shot and then what happens? You watch them MOVE THE HAND in the bow when they hit anchor…undoing all the settling done after release hook up and as they put tension onto the bow to draw it back. So all the setup is undone when they hit anchor and move their hand anyways!!
    The bow will seek a natural position in your bowhand if you let it happen. Again, I’m not saying take a handful of grip or to give the bow a death grip…but relaxing the bowhand and letting the bow do its thing will help you a ton…if you allow it to happen!
    So much for bow grip. Same with release hand, too, but DO NOT USE VASELINE ON YOUR RELEASE AID, that is likely to end in disaster!!! HA!


    • I love the story and appreciate the warning at the end!

      On Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 12:31 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Tom Dorigatti

        Bears repeating concerning the release hand and the release itself:
        You will have to learn how to replicate your finger position on the release aid itself, or if you are shooting fingers, then getting your fingers onto the string in the same depth and positioning every time.
        Years go, we used to have a pad that we filled with talcom or baby-powder to help “slicken up” the finger tab. It was so fun to be on the shooting line and pat the talcum holder to coat the finger tab and see the cloud of white powder flying! Of course, many shooters, especially Bare Bow shooters had talcum powder all over their faces, too! One good part was that we all at a fragrance about us on the shooting line, and then next person and the next…TRUE STORY #2.
        I don’t know if finger shooters still use the talcum powder or not. We didn’t have the super slick tab materials back then like we have these days. I shot with a Leather “Kant-Pinch” shooting tab and did use the talcum powder thing for a short time, but once Monofilament center serving came into play, I abandoned the talcum powder and used monofilament serving. It did, however leave tiny grooves in the leather of my shooting tab after thousands of shots. I didn’t like the “calf-hair” shooting tabs because they wore out quickly and were really constantly changing due to that wear. You could buy snap-on cow-hair replacements, but I much preferred my Kant-Pinch tab, up until the 1980’s when Black Widow came out with their simulated leather shooting tabs with a felt backing. Replication of finger depth was easily controlled because of the way the “leather” and the felt backing were stitched. Plug your fingers onto the serving up to the “stops” (stitching) and you were dun replicated to the right spot!


      • You are a wealth of information, Mr. Dorigatti, have you ever considered your own blog. (You could use it to advertise your books and also share some of the wealth of info you have acquired over time.)

        Just suggestin’!

        On Wed, Nov 8, 2017 at 1:04 PM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Tom Dorigatti

        I so well remember my “finger shooting days.” I did convert to a compound and release aid in late 1973 for competitive shooting only.
        For bow hunting and bow hunter focused competitive shooting, however, I kept my fingers on the string until 1986 when I ended up converting to RIGHT handed shooting. It was at that point that I finally got around to hunting and shooting 3-D with a release aid and compound.
        It is interesting in that I could compete on a bow hunter course and stay right with release-compound shooters, but obviously, a finger shooter could not compete against release shooters on a field/hunter, or any of the indoor rounds without getting trounced! I only bow hunted with a release aid for 7 years before giving up bow hunting entirely in 1993.
        I am back to left handed shooting now, however, and it is highly likely that if I took up bow hunting again, I would be shooting with fingers back onto the bowstring to HUNT.


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