Coaching Tips from Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a 93-year old Vietnamese Buddhist monk who has been one of the most influential spiritual leaders on earth for the past fifty years.

Below are some of his teachings that apply to archers (actually they apply to all people, but this is showing how they apply to archers).

  1. The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

For coaches coaching an individual sport, you do not have to divide your attention up amongst many team members. Attending to your students, one by one, allows you to give this gift. Of course, if you are constantly interrupted, or let your phone interrupt you, of your mind wanders, or . . . you will send the exact opposite message. There are communication techniques that can be used by coaches to strengthen your relationships with your archer-athletes. One is called “mirroring.” when an archer indicates they have an idea, the first thing to do is to repeat it back to them and asking, “Did I get that right?” In this manner you are saying: I paid attention to you; I heard what you said. Then, rather than dismiss their idea out of hand (even if it deserves to be), asking your student to think it through and analyze whether they think it will work at least shows them how to do this for themselves when they are on their own. And, from time to time, you can offer: “I don’t think that will work, but do you want to draw it to see for yourself?” And, then have them try it. You may find out you were wrong or they may find out you were right. Obviously you don’t want to designate a large amount of practice time to ideas you do not think will work, but on occasion, it may be very helpful to both of you.

  1. To be beautiful means to be yourself. You don’t need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. When you are born a lotus flower, be a beautiful lotus flower, don’t try to be a magnolia flower. If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

We have often said that archery is an exploration of ourselves, a journey into self. Knowing ourselves, as archers, and trusting ourselves, as archers, is key to competitive success, for example. We find out many things about ourselves from our participation in archery. And we, as coaches, offer tidbits of wisdom, such as “Shoot your shot.” This is not because your shot is special or better than anyone else’s, but it is the one that you know best. Our current culture may promote narcissism but archery certainly does not.

  1. The best way to take care of the future is to take care of the present moment.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Is there anything about a repetitive sport, like archery, that this is not pertinent to? We are constantly asking our students to perform in “the now,” and avoid speculation on the future or dwelling on the mistakes in our past.

  1. Your breathing should flow gracefully, like a river, like a watersnake crossing the water, and not like a chain of rugged mountains or the gallop of a horse…Each time we find ourselves dispersed and find it difficult to gain control of ourselves by different means, the method of watching the breath should always be used.” (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Focusing on our breathing is still the most potent tool and archer has to re-establish calm during tense, competitive moments.

Interestingly, all of these things apply to our daily lives, which I think is what Thich Nhat Hanh was referring to. Do you think he might have learned these things through archery?

1 Comment

Filed under For All Coaches

One response to “Coaching Tips from Thich Nhat Hanh

  1. Good post, thank you. The breathing is a great reminder to work into practice. I have definitely been lax on that recently, having done most practices over zoom. Going to have to take a step back and look at what practice segments will need re-enforcement now that we are getting closer to shooting outdoors and together again. Any thoughts for practices that have been virtual for a while?


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