Tag Archives: Coach Training

The Missing Link in the Mental Game of Archery Has Been Found!

Larry Wise has just published a new book on the mental game, Planning to Peak in Archery, but it is not just another such book; it is much, much more. In my opinion what has been missing in archery training is a way to create a mental plan for a serious competitive archer. Beginners and intermediate archers can be taught various mental tools (positive self-talk, process goals, affirmations, etc.) but this is a little like trying to create a machine shop starting with a few hand tools: files, ball pein hammers, etc.

How are we to go about creating the so highly desired “mental program” that is so often talked about? Well, Larry Wise has taken all of his skill as a high level archery coach and as a classroom teacher and created a system to develop mental programs that can be used by anyone participating in an aiming sport.

Archery has been missing this pragmatic aspect of the mental game for a long, long time. (Not that other sports have developed systems like Larry has. We may be out in front for the first time as sport coaches!)

I recommend this book wholeheartedly. When I think of the mental game of archery, I can’t think of anyone who has a better handle on it than Larry Wise. This is an absolute “must have” book if you are a serious archery coach or a serious competitive archer.

Full Disclosure In developing this book, Larry used me as a sounding board and as a copy editor for which I was paid. But if you asked me to point to one significant idea of mine in this book, I would not be able to. All of the credit goes to Larry.

Steve Ruis

Planning to Peak in Archery is available directly from Larry at www.larrywise.com. It is $24.95 and if you order it directly from Larry, you should be able to sweet talk him into signing it.

Contents

  • Section I: Forming Your Archery Perspective
    Learning Basics
    The Building Blocks Of Performance
    Engaging In Present Process Thinking
  • Section II: Developing Your Preparation Skills
    Practice With A Purpose
    Setting Your Goals
    Pre-Tournament Preparation
    Tournament Site Practice
    Post-Tournament Evaluation
    Helping Yourself With Self-Talk
    Shooting Beyond Target Panic
  • Section III: Adjusting Your Archery Attitude
    The Three C’s: Commitment, Composure, Confidence
    Did You Hear What Coach Sutter Said
    There Are No “Deserves”
    The Myth Of Pressure
    The Big Questions For Aspiring Athletes
  • Section IV: Engaging Your Mind Through Focus Mapping
    Understanding Focus Shifting
    Mapping Your Breathing Pattern
    Plotting Your Primary Muscle Group Loading
    Mapping Your Attentional Focus
    Focus Mapping For Advancing Athletes
    Pre-Start, Pre-Shot, And Downtime Routines

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Form and Function

If you saw a young archer shooting at your range and their form was, well, let’s say “unusual,” what would you say if asked for your opinion? I’d say, “Let me see your target face.” If the target tells me that he groups really, really well, then I would say that everything was fine, just fine. If his arrows were hitting all over the face, I’d ask if that were normal and if he/she said yes, I would say that if better performance were wanted, then some changes were going to be needed.

You see, as coaches, we need to distinguish form from function in archers. The comment has been made often enough that champion archers were winning with less than perfect form. In some cases it was almost bizarre. There have also been archers with impeccable form who never won. (If you have to choose between form and function, always choose function.)

I recommend that we teach beginning archers a form that is near optimum for those archers. (We start with generic form and then tailor it to the archer.) The reason why I avoid idiosyncratic form is that it takes longer to learn; that is it takes more effort and more time to learn. But if an archer has idiosyncratic form and they shoot lights out, then “don’t touch,” is my advice. They don’t get extra points for “style.” Form and function are not linked inextricably.

There are obvious examples of form and function being tied together: for example, if an archer stands with their bow side foot behind the shooting line and draw side foot ahead of that line, they have just made shooting a bow very, very much more difficult. Of course, that young performer who shoots a bow with her feet while doing a hand stand indicates that such limitations aren’t necessarily absolute, still it is far easier to shoot using something akin to “standard form.” There are reasons for this and I am currently working on a book (Coaching Archery from First Principles) in which I will endeavor to lay those out. And, it is clear, that the differences between things like slightly open stances and very slightly open stances are so small as to be only felt by an elite archer. But even beginners can feel the difference between a very open and a very closed stance. So, there is always a matter of degree involved and blanket statements like “an open stance is required” are just silly. The question is always “how open need the stance be?”

In every aspect of archery form and execution, what I call “form elements” (Once a chemistry teacher, always a chemistry teacher.), there are fundamental principles at their core. Often these principles are simple laws of physics or biology (anatomy, kinesiology, etc.) and because of the issue of “degrees” being involved, everything has tradeoffs, pluses and minuses, pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. So, the existence of such things is never in doubt, so we much focus upon the magnitude of them. A tiny difference between slightly open stances and very slightly open stances is a much smaller issue than between which foot should be on the target side of the shooting line. One form element is highly flawed, the other is, meh, maybe a moot point.

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A Review of “Choose to Be a Winner” by Jens Fudge

We are finally getting more than just a scant supply of resources on the mental game of archery. One such new source I encountered just before I published my book, “A Guide to the Mental Game of Archery,” is “Choose to Be a Winner” by Jens Fudge of Denmark.

I loved the tone of the book. The voice in my ear was that of a friendly coach/shooting partner who had, by all means, “been there and done that.” I am a little jealous of that tone.

And there is novelty in the contents. I read ideas and approaches I had seen nowhere else before, so something new is always welcome.

An especially strong segment of the book was the one on visualizations. Jens reminded me of uses archers can put visualizations that I hadn’t been focused upon of late. (I wish I had read this section before I published my book, but all authors have to be careful to attribute ownership to ideas and exercise and it is oh, so hard to not steal the good stuff. Oh, I am going to “steal the good stuff” when it comes to my coaching, but if I publish someone else’s work, it reduces their sales and is therefore unfair.)

What this book provides quite a good bit of are actionable exercises. And, trust me, I have been looking for years for mental exercises to help archers and this book has more than a few of those. As a tease here is one: Speed Visualizing. To do this you visualize one of your arrows, in detail. Then you visualize shooting it dead center into a target, then you repeat with a second arrow, and a third. (Mentally put yourself through the process; feel the building muscle tension, everything.) Now, speed up those three shots, reducing it to the three hitting dead center: bam, bam, bam. All three should take less than one second now. Then see if you can get this “video” burned into your mind. Practice it during breaks in your day. Then, when you reach important points in a competition, and you are in need of a boost in self-confidence, run the video several times in quick succession.

I will reinforce over and over that these techniques work for some but rarely all archers. You can only find out if any of them work for you is to try them, sincerely and vigorously try them. The hard part is coming up with things to try and Coach Fudge has supplied you with a basket full.

I am recommending this book, highly, to all archers and coaches who want to get deeper into the mental game. It is a bit pricy (see price below), but what price do you put upon winning?

Contents

1 What This Book is About
2 About the Author
3 Training Planning – Competition Planning
4 Training Journal
5 Mental Training
6 Visualization
7 The Inner Conversation
8 Mental Energy
9 Focus
10 Self-Confidence
11 Mental Competition Preparation
12 The Reviewers
13 Additional Resources

173 pages (including a number of blank pages, I assume for taking notes)

$37.79 (Amazon US), no suggested list price

Available in English and Danish (It would probably be nice to get it into French and German, too, but translations are tricky things, so we are just throwing the idea out there to potential archer-translators.)

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Do I Need My Own Equipment? Do I Need Better Equipment?

I am currently working on a book on coaching archery from first principles, my effort to supply “whys” for all of the “whats” we propound. Currently I am working on an equipment chapter and the following questions came up and while they don’t necessarily involve fundamental principles of coaching archery, I decided to include answers to these questions. I am interested in any constructive criticism you might have and suggestions as to things to include, etc.

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As I have mentioned (ad nauseam?): archery equipment purchases are a minefield for newbie archers and/or their parents. So allow me to address the two questions here, even though they do not necessarily involve first principles.

Do I Need My Own Equipment?
When beginners start in archery, they generally will use “program equipment,” that is equipment supplied by the instructional program. The criteria for what makes good program equipment are: it has to last, be affordable (aka less expensive), suitable for beginners (low draw weights and draw lengths common to the kinds of beginners being taught—adult, youth, etc., easy to maintain and repair, sturdy (it has to last), it has to perform fairly consistently, and it has to last! (Did I mention it has to last?)

Few of these criteria are invoked when buying personal equipment.

Here is the guiding principle for equipment acquisitions—in order to learn to shoot well, your equipment must give good feedback. To give an archer good feedback, his equipment must be fitted to them. For example, I can pick up a 48˝ recurve bow, but if I were to draw it to my 32˝ draw length, it would either break or the bowstring would slip off the limb tips. There is no way I can shoot that bow with good form. So, in order for equipment to give good feedback it must be fitted and to be fitted, the archer must shoot fairly well. This sounds like a scheme out of the book Catch-22, but it really does make sense.

When I fit an archer for equipment they wish to purchase, we need to list all of the parameters involved in the purchase. Things like the color of an arrow’s fletches is basically a personal preference, but the length and heftiness of the arrow is not. Those are based upon the bow’s power, the archer’s draw length, whether they have their fingers on the bowstring or shoot a mechanical release aid, and how well they shoot. So, arrows are tested to find the sizes that will work best for the archer, and then color choices and whatnot can be made. The same is true for bows. If a recurve bow is being purchased, the bow’s length, draw weight, and draw length all must be factored in. But if the archer has only shot a few dozen arrows, his draw length may be all over the place: longer one shot, shorter the next, with no two measurements the same, so what do we use to measure the arrows?

So, the equipment purchasing pattern goes: (a) an archer shoots with program equipment (or borrowed equipment) until they develop somewhat consistent archery form. This is indicated by being able to shoot groups of arrows that land in roughly the same place on a target face, somewhat consistently. Then comes (b) the archer is fitted for his/her own equipment and that equipment is acquired. This equipment will then give the archer better feedback and so they will learn more and at a higher rate than if they had stuck with program equipment. If they are confined to using borrowed equipment/program equipment, their progress will plateau fairly quickly.

This first acquisition of fitted equipment is a major turning point in pursuing the sport of archery. After a few months or even weeks of lessons, archers or their parents are asked to shell out some hundreds of dollars to get equipment tailored to the archer. Please note one can use inherited or hand-me-down equipment or borrowed equipment, but that equipment must fit the archer, otherwise there is no point. I have seen young archers trying shoot bows their uncle gave them that were physically too heavy and too hard to draw. Their little bodies were twisted into pretzel shapes to hold up that heavy bow at arm’s length and then draw it. None of that helps. I use tests to see if the weight of the bow is too much; tests that show whether the draw weight is too much, tests to come up with a draw length that is close. But, with regard it growing youths, we are always providing some “room to grow” into those purchases, and I will be sharing those tips as we go.

Do I Need Better Equipment?
This question is similar but different from the one above. In this situation our archer has had equipment fitted to him/her that has either been outgrown, or the equipment is hindering their performance, rather than enhancing it.

If the archer in question is a casual, recreational archer who is satisfied with their performances but has clearly outgrown their equipment, then equipment of roughly the same quality, just of larger sizes needs to be sought out.

If the archer is dissatisfied with their performance and it seems as if the equipment is holding them back, they need better, not just different equipment. So, if your archery child is really enthusiastic about archery, why not just buy them top-of-the-line gear and have done with it? This sounds reasonable and I have even heard other coaches recommend this, but there are some, actually many, drawbacks to this. If the archer is young and still growing their working draw weight and draw length may go up in leaps and bounds. You may need replacement recurve limbs at the end of a summer, when you bought new limbs at the beginning of summer. Do you want to be replacing $100 limbs or $1000 limbs? In addition, equipment designed for advanced-to-elite archers can be quite finicky to operate. Small variations in execution can produce major errors. That level of equipment assumes a high level of execution and without it,  it may perform worse that cheaper equipment. (See “Patience” by John Vetterli in Archery Focus magazine, 8-3, about half way through John relates how he over bought equipment and how it delayed his progress.)

The rule of thumb I use is the level of equipment should match the level of the archer: beginners should get beginner-level equipment, intermediate archers should get intermediate-level equipment, and advanced-to-elite archers should get that level of equipment (close to top-of-the-line or there). Of course archery manufacturers don’t help you out with accurate labels of the levels of what they are selling, but there is a price correspondence: beginning level equipment is the least expensive; advanced-to-elite equipment is the most expensive, and intermediate level equipment is in between. (If you are just starting at the intermediate level, look at the low end of intermediate priced gear; if you have been an intermediate for a while, look at the higher priced end of the intermediate equipment range.

And we always recommend that you “try before you buy.” This is the really big advantage of a good archery shop. Most shops have a place to shoot and if they are selling what you are interested in, they will allow you to shoot it to see how it feels (within reason, though). If you then buy from them, the tend to set up the equipment for you and adjust it if necessary. These services justify a higher price for your bow or arrows than you can get online. Don’t just compare prices, compare prices and services.

How Do I Know If My Equipment is Holding Me Back? This is not an easy question to answer. One obvious example is if all of your aluminum arrows are slightly different lengths and are somewhat bent. Getting a set of weight-matched, straight arrows will result in an immediate score increase.

Another case is “making distance.” Young archers compete in age-range competitive categories. As you move up in age, the competitive distances increase and the target faces get smaller. Young archers using light drawing bows often encounter this problem when they move up to the next age-competitive category. In order to hit the target at their new longest distance, they have to hold their bow much higher, so high that their arrow point or bow sight aperture are lined up way above the target. Careful aiming is no longer possible and, well, tilting that far up distorts an archer’s form and undermines achieving good, consistent archery execution.

What is needed to “make distance” is lighter arrows, a stouter bow, or possibly both. Both of those things will produce flatter arrow trajectories, leaving the archer with his/her arrow point or sight aperture on a recognizable spot on the target face, allowing careful aiming and having archery form near what it is at the other, closer distances.

Since this is not an easy question to answer, this is where the help of an experienced archery coach can really help. In lieu of a coach, a very experienced archer may be of help in answering this question.

Note
For some strange reason WordPress has decided all of the text of my posts is to be italicized. I have not yet figured out what to do. Any ideas? Steve

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Pet Peeve No. 

As a tyro magazine and book designer, I have a pet peeve regarding “eye candy” which is what I call photos that attract the eye but do not support the associated text. Consider the following photo:

The text this is supporting is an admonition to consult a coach who can check to make sure your form is good.

Do you see anything not quite right in the photo? I do. Check out the next photo.

Here I drew a line along the archer’s forearm. In perfect form, that line would be pointed at the center of pressure the bow hand makes upon the riser. As you can see, it isn’t even close.

Now, I am not pointing out a form flaw. There are many reasons why an archer may need to have a high draw elbow: a shoulder injury, a congenital defect, etc. I am not criticizing the archer, I am criticizing the choice of photos. If your point is that an archer should consult a coach to ensure their form is good, and you want a photo showing a coach and archer, you should use a photo in which the archer’s form is close to perfect, otherwise the photo is contradicting the text.

* * *

Since I am currently working on a book advocating coaching from first principles, which are often scientific principles, allow me to address why a lower elbow (than shown in the photo) is recommended (if possible, always if possible). When a bow is drawn, you push upon the riser and pull upon the string. The force, therefore, in a finger-release situation, is directly between the centers of pressure of the bow hand on the riser and the fingers on the string. This “line of force” (being just the line of the direction of the force) is often called the primary force line and is described as being from the center of pressure on the bow’s grip (which needs to line up with the central plane of the bow to prevent pre-loaded bow hand torque), through the nock of the arrow and out the bottom of the archer’s draw elbow. This line of force is as close as we can get to the line the arrow sits upon. The farther away the arrow is from that line, the poorer the transfer of energy and direction to the arrow. (Ask any string walker of the consequences of the arrow being elsewhere.) We can’t get any closer, because the arrow can’t sit in the middle of our bow arm, etc.

If the archer’s draw elbow is in any other position, they are effectively pulling away from the line we want the arrow to travel upon. If our elbow is on the high side, as in the photo, there is an upward pull on the bow that isn’t balanced and will cause the bow to move when the string is loosed and we do not want the bow to move once we place it in a “perfectly-aimed” position. If the elbow is low, there is an unbalanced downward force. If the elbow is outboard, you have an outboard force (which causes a wrist cock, and eventually a pluck). If the elbow is wrapped too far around the torso there is an unbalanced force in that direction, which can lead to the string rubbing on the archer’s face or arm as it leaves.

Another thing that happens with draw elbow variations is they change the pressures of the fingers on the bowstring. If the draw elbow is too low, it creates extra pressure on the top string finger and high fliers are the result, etc. Non-optimal finger pressures on the string and even the arrow can create forces on the arrow rest, causing things like clicker bounce, arrows lifting off of the rest (even under a clicker), etc.

Moving away from the primary force line results in compensations that result in larger arrow dispersions. If, for example, you have a flying elbow. you are actually pulling the bowstring away from your face. To make a semblance of an anchor position, you will tend to push your string hand in toward your face. When you loose the string, that inward push will result in an outward compensation and a pluck will be seen. There are some extensive videos of this on the ArcheryWinchester website.

The archer-bow-arrow system is somewhat closed so one thing out of whack always leads to others.

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Coaching Pride is a Funny Thing

I have mentored a few coaches along the way. One of the most successful is Brent Harmon, who was just honored by USA Archery as one of their Developmental Coaches of the Year (see here).

I gave Brent his L2 and helped him with his L4 and a number of other things. We have had many long conversations about archery and coaching and the most valuable thing I passed on is, I would guess, was encouragement (and warnings about burnout).

As to his recognition: all of the energy was his, all of the ideas were his, all of the followthrough was his, and of course, I still felt pride that he was recognized so.

Coaches often experience a feeling of pride when our charges, colleagues, etc. get some sort of recognition or achieve some lofty goals, e.g. championships, making teams, winning medals, etc. and we were a part of that process. Helping any of them along the way, was why I was in the coaching game as it was. I have spent more money on the process than I have made, so it can’t be viewed as an American-style success, but there is a certain emotional reward in being part of the solution and not part of the problem.

“Feel the pride, let it go, go back to what you were doing” is the advice I am giving myself.

And just to show you who I really am, being a retired chemistry teacher, I had a tee-shirt that read “If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate.” If you understood that joke, you like me, are probably overeducated. Steve

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How Important is Willpower to Archers?

I was reading a post on the Medium.com website (You’ve Been Sold a Massive Lie About Willpower by Sean Kernan) and I encountered the following:

Each day, 205 people went about their lives, walking through Germany, going to work, going on dates, doing the routine things of everyday life.

Every few hours, their phone beeped. An app asked about their difficulties with self-control (since their last check-in).

They were part of a study that produced a paradoxical result: the people who reported being best at overcoming temptation also experienced the least amount of temptation.

Put another way, a signal of good discipline was not having to use it at all.

A separate study had a parallel conclusion: people who exerted more self-control felt more exhausted and achieved fewer goals.

This runs in sharp contrast to the absolute fetishization of willpower.

Hustle culture would have you believe that willpower is a vessel to unlimited motivation and success.

What does this say about our recommendations to our athletes regarding their practicing? What do you think?

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If you want to read the full article, it is here.

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On Rhythm

Part of the AER Training for Coaches from the 19-3 Issue of Archery Focus magazine

Often the last thing competitive archers address in their form and execution is shooting rhythm. Possibly they would be better off if they would be aware of it earlier on.

Beginning Archer’s Rhythm If there is a phrase to characterize the shooting rhythm of beginners, especially youthful beginners, it is “too fast!” They seem to want to erase the previous arrow from memory and replace it with one that hits closer to the center and the sooner the better. (Archers reaching for the next arrow before the last has hit the target are not unknown.) In trying to get them to slow down, the most important point in their shot sequence is after they have achieved anchor position. Several seconds have to elapse for the archer’s mind to determine that they have become still and, once still, do the necessary trigonometry to aim (remember beginners aren’t using a sighting system). Otherwise the “calculations” (whatever goes on subconsciously to get the arrow directed) will be based upon . . . what? Shooting while moving is often described as “drive-by shooting.” It can be done, but if you are competing against an archer of the same skill level allowed enough time to be still, you will lose.

Intermediate Archer’s Rhythm Intermediate archers are using a sighting system, from simple off-of-the-point aiming, to gap shooting or string walking up to using a pin or target sight. Often the rhythm of these archers is erratic at best. Sometimes they shoot slowly other times quickly. Again, the most important point in their shot sequences to ensure sufficient time is after achieving anchor position and while aiming. Seconds are needed to see one’s arrow point or sight aperture to stop moving (transitioning from larger scale movements to very small scale movements, they don’t “stop” per se) and once stillness has been achieved, alignment of the point/aperture with the point of aim is needed. Many people line up the point/aperture first and then wait for stillness. Others do it in reverse. Both approaches have their merits.

Advanced Archer’s Rhythm Here rhythm rises to higher importance. Not only does enough time need to be taken to achieve each phase in the shooting sequence, but this must occur regularly, that is in about the same amount of time, shot after shot.

If your archer does not feel shooting rhythm naturally, a number of things have to be done. One is the archer’s awareness has to be extended to include shooting rhythm and feedback must be given to the archer on this topic. A coach’s primary job is always to provide feedback to his student. This must be in a form that the archer can understand and accept, of course.

Timing Shots In order to create an awareness of one’s shooting rhythm it is suggested that you time some shots, to establish a baseline for further thought. A reasonable way to do this is to have someone (it doesn’t have to be you) use a stop watch to time how long it takes from bow raise to release of the arrow. This can be anywhere from as few as three seconds (machine-gun like) to close to 15 seconds (a watching-paint-dry pace). All that is necessary now is to see what the shot timings are and whether they are consistent.

So, what would be consistent? Assuming your archer has warmed up, an advanced archer could have all of their shots go off in a two-second range. That would be a very good day. On another day, the same archer might have a five second range (from fastest to slowest in a 5-6 arrow end). Some elite archers have almost metronome-like shooting consistency. But that only comes from practicing perfect shots for many tens of thousands of repetitions. Do not have high expectations here. It is important for your archer to feel “normal.”

The hard part for the coach is seeing when the differences are. When your archer shoots faster, are they “saving” time at full draw or in getting there? These are the two main divisions of this “slice of time:” at full draw and getting to full draw, of course we are only talking about from when the bow is raised to when the arrow is loosed. You can learn something by asking your archer to “speed up slightly” or to “slow down slightly.” If the time it takes them to get to full draw stays about the same, then they are inclined to make adjustments at full draw. If the time at full draw stays roughly constant, they are inclined to making adjustments on the way to full draw. Ideally, when an athlete must speed up a little or slow down a little it should happen evenly, but how is one to learn to do that without good feedback?

Why would an archer need to adjust their rhythm? This is a good question. Archery is all about normal variations (described mathematically by the iconic Bell Curve). An archer’s positions in both time and space vary. None of us are robots, so we will not have robot-like precision. Everything we do with bow and arrow will differ from the average. No matter how carefully we craft our arrows in any set one arrow will be the heaviest and one the lightest. Our criterion for a high quality set of competition arrows is that the weight difference between those two arrows is negligible (as are the spine differences, FOC differences, straightness, fletching differences, etc). Similarly, there will be a range of times taken to launch arrows. One’s “normal range” from fastest to slowest must be found to have negligible effects on our scores (otherwise we would change it). Nobody who has a very wide range of shot timings has been all that successful, so most archers want a quite small range of variation. But on occasion, we drift out of that range going slower and slower or faster and faster. If we have trained properly a subconscious alarm bell rings and it is brought to our attention that we have been shooting “too slowly” or “too quickly” and we have to speed up or slow down to get back to our normal rhythm. That’s why we need to be able to change rhythm.

One of the most difficult skills to master is shooting in the wind. Shooting in significant wind almost always requires shots to be slower and finding a new rhythm, a rhythm one can stick to, is the hardest part of adjusting to the conditions. Just getting used to the fact that one’s range of shot times will also go up because of the wind can be hard to do.

Coaches are not violating the coaching dictum “never tell them what they are doing wrong, tell them how to do it right” by doing this you are supplying information that the archer needs to be able to get a clear picture of what he or he needs to do.

Conclusion
You can see why the fine points of an archer’s rhythm tend to get left to the stage in which an archer is described as an “advanced-elite” archer. Addressing it can be quite complicated.

Archers often make very rapid progress near the beginning of their foray into archery, but then the rate at which they make progress slows considerably, largely because the effort needed to make increasingly difficult improvements goes way, way up.

You can give your students a leg up by helping them to become aware of shooting rhythm when they have gotten reasonable control of their shot process. Their focus has been more about space (Where did that arrow land? Where is my point-of-aim? Is my bow shoulder ‘up’?) rather than where they are in time. That is normal as is discovering that time is important, too.

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Blogging About Target Panic

I was reading a commercial blog on “how to beat target panic” which consisted of personal testimony from an individual claiming he did. Here is part of what he wrote:

How I Beat Target Panic
I ultimately beat target panic by putting all the information together from the articles that I read and the people I talked with and formulated the best plan for me. I started by shooting at a big target up close. I shot until I couldn’t miss. At that point, I moved the target back a few yards and shot at that distance until I couldn’t miss. I did this again and then repeated it until I no longer had a fear of holding my pin in the middle and could make a good clean shot every time.

No matter which path you choose, just know that target panic will take a lot of determination and practice to overcome, but it is possible.

Target Panic Just Happened
For me, I don’t remember when my target panic started; it just happened. I didn’t realize what it was and suffered through it for a few years. It wasn’t until I heard people in the industry talking about it that I put two and two together and realized that I had it.

His cure “I started by shooting at a big target up close and so on . . .” is what is called a bridge program which I contend must be part of any effort to contain target panic, but it is just one of six steps I recommend to address in a TP treatment.

I appreciate the author’s effort, but to distill a TP treatment regimen down to a bridge program is what I would call really bad advice. And, the problem is that the information available to archers is larded with these kinds of things. When I did my extensive search for information on TP (hundreds of books, dozens of magazine articles, dozens of videos, etc.) I estimated that over 90% of what I found to be useless. Here’s a small sample:
•  “Lots of good advice for you here, Try it all and see if it works.”
•  “There are many ways to fix this form slump: #1 don’t panic and #2 just shoot the bloody thing.”
•  “Try a “pull back” triggerless release like the Carter Evolution.”

We still do not know what causes target panic, but that doesn’t stop people from stating their opinions (including me):

“In my opinion, no matter how you experience target panic, it all stems back to a fear of missing the target that just got out of hand.”

This is the opinion of the blogger above. And, I repeat, “We still do not know what causes target panic.”

I have been hammering away for years trying to get our archery  organizations to use their standings with colleges and universities to take up questions such as these, e.g. ‘What causes target panic?” and “What is target panic?” and “How should target panic be treated?” to see if we could get some definitive answers, instead of just a series of opinions (over and over and over . . . ).

If you get a chance to add your voice to the call for such research studies, we will all benefit if they are answered.

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Archery—Ahead of the Game?

I have recently been working hammer and tongs on “A Guide to the Mental Game of Archery,” a book I have been working on for over ten years (off and on). And in Science News (January 26th) I read the article “How mindfulness-based training can give elite athletes a mental edge” by Ashley Yeager, in which she reports:

There’s also been an explosion of research into elite athletes’ mental health in the last few years, says sports and clinical psychologist Carolina Lundqvist of Linköping University in Sweden, citing a 2020 analysis in International Review of Sport and Exercise Psychology. The research points to two promising psychological tools.

One is mindfulness — paying attention to, or staying in, the present moment without judgment. Another is acceptance and commitment therapy, or ACT. In conjunction with mindfulness, the therapy trains a person to accept difficult thoughts or feelings rather than actively work to get rid of them. Studies have shown that these tools can improve athletic performance — and, importantly, lead to a richer life off the ice or the court.

I had already written on acceptance and mindfulness in my book. I had heard it advocated for quite some time that we needed to accept bad shots calmly, that everyone shoots bad shots, that we need to be wary of expectations (usually our own) as they can lead to disappointment while we are shooting, which can lead to other things, none of which are good for your score.

I and others have recommended exploring mindfulness, which the author perfectly described as “paying attention to, or staying in, the present moment without judgment” even though as archers we need to trim the things we fill our minds with severely and judgment is part of every post shot routine, e.g. “was that a good shot or a bad shot?” This is necessary to adjust one’s shooting routine if something came up that wasn’t part of the plan on that last shot (wind, damaged arrow, etc.). This always involves comparing a judgment of the quality of the effort and the outcome of the effort . . . for every danged shot. But those judgments need to be calm and somewhat detached.

I have been whining a lot about how many of our sport’s beliefs aren’t backed up by much of anything scientific, so it is good to see scientists paying attention to what athletes need to perform at a high level. It is also gratifying that coaches (others, not me, I was just following their suggestions) had identified some of the tools needed before the studies were done.

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