Tag Archives: Competition Rules

Warm-up Requirements

QandA logoI recently got this question from one of my favorite coaches:

Hi Steve!
Here is my coaching question: I am coaching a young archer who needs to shoot 18-30 arrows to truly warm up and shoot consistently. This, of course, is problematic for tournaments and other competitive events where there are usually just two warm-up ends of 3 or 6 arrows. How do I help/coach to decrease the number of warm up arrows needed? Any advice on exercises/drills/mental techniques would be much appreciated!
Tammy Besser


Tammy, first off, let me say that shooting 18-30 arrows for a warm-up is not excessive. And, to be perfectly honest, the “two end” warm-up that is traditional (and in the rules) for competitions is insufficient. The purpose of the two ends of “warm-up” is really just to acclimate oneself to one’s position on the shooting line. Some archers shoot for the better part of an hour before their shoot times.

I remember attending my first “Star FITA” competition that attracted largish numbers of USA Archery Team members. As I pulled into the parking lot I was astonished to see that there were a number of archers shooting arrows into the trunks of their vehicles! Upon further examination, they had foam block targets in their trunks, they were not shooting into the padding of the back seat. As it turned out, there was insufficient “practice” targets at that competition (due to a very large turnout), so people were getting their shooting warm-ups done “off line,” as it were.

All that aside, it is often the case that at indoor competitions, there is no practice space per se and the two ends of warm-up is all you get. (You may shoot more than the number of arrows in a normal end in most cases, though, but if you are on a timer (not unusual) you may end up screwing up your normal shooting rhythm to get all of the shots in you want in those two ends, so, just filling up your quiver is not necessarily a solution.

It is often the case that we end up telling our athletes what to do. Since my objective is to get them to become independent, how about asking this young person: “What are you going to do when … (explain the indoor scenario, two ends, etc.)? Give them some time to think about it and try some things. I wouldn’t be surprised, though if the archer’s answer is “I dunno…,” so you need to have a few things up your sleeve to recommend. Here are a couple:

  1. Have them do some experiments. Using a short practice round (10 ends of three arrows), have them shoot rounds with (a) all the warm-up they want, (b) two ends of warm-up arrows (6!) only, and (c) one end of warm-up arrows (3!) only, and (d) no warm-up arrows at all. It is best to compare the average of several scores, but it is a start. You can spice this up, by being in charge of the scenario (One time it is “Hurry, hurry, you are late and you missed all of the warm-up period, you are shooting for score right now! another time …)
  2. A surprisingly effective method is to have your archer mentally shoot a dozen arrows before stepping to the line for the two practice ends. Have him/her stand opposite his/her target (behind the waiting line, of course) and vividly visualize shooting arrows into that target. Since this is a mental exercise, all of the arrows need to go into the center, but more importantly the focus needs to be on the feelings involved. They need to imagine the feel of the muscles being used. If the bow being used has little tics in it, those are included. The sounds involved (the arrows hitting the matt, etc.) are involved. The feeling that “this is for score” should be cultivated. Then they go ahead with the practice arrows.

I hope some of this helps!


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Ear Gear: On or Off?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,

Lanny Bassham mentions how the mental program forces your conscious mind to pay attention to the mental program, thereby allowing your subconscious to shoot for you. In that case, couldn’t I listen to music during tournaments? Wouldn’t music allow me to concentrate on the music, while allowing me to shoot subconsciously? If so, I am allowed to have earphones/ear-buds during tournaments?


USA Archery expressly forbids the use of “electronic devices” on the shooting line, so the answer is “no” there at least. A lot of people have, though, used headphones/ear buds as the universal sign saying “Don’t Bother Me” between ends to avoid getting into distracting conversations.earbuds-blue

I think the research is still out though on the use of music while shooting. And, time and technology march on—only recently have wireless ear buds become available. Prior to this, all such devices involved bulky headphone ear shells which create a balance distraction and/or cables which create another distraction.

All of that aside, we do not want “mindlessness” while shooting, otherwise we could just practice blanking out minds.

For archery, I distinguish “attention” as being a primarily conscious function and “awareness” as being a primarily unconscious/subconscious function. We want to focus our awareness on a bubble including us and our equipment stretching to the target, but including very little of the surroundings (that we do not want). We also want to pay attention to trouble spots in our shot and give minute corrections/exhortations (“strong bow arm”). Otherwise we want to make sure that our conscious minds do not get overly involved with our shots as the unconscious can do so much better of a job. The conscious part of ourselves serves as a mute observer who only offers mild encouragement at certain moments at most.

When I am shooting I can select and nock an arrow with no conscious thoughts at all … and I can feel an impression of my conscious self just watching, although this may be an illusion; I can’t tell for sure. The key point is you want to be in a heightened state of awareness focused on a small volume in space, paying attention to business. How does background music help with that?

Think about this this way: You are Captain Kirk. You are sitting on the Bridge in your chair while the Crew of the Enterprise is all over the ship doing all of the tasks needed to keep the ship on mission. The Bridge Crew (the conscious mind) has readings that tell them what is happening to the ship anywhere and everywhere, but not in infinite detail. The bridge crew scurries around monitoring what is going on, but the Decision Maker (Kirk) is not asked to make a decision during normal operations. The Captain is needed when things change (such as in archery when a wind comes up and must be compensated for). These decisions are best made when there is time and relative calm (no Klingon attacks, etc.—which for archers means “between shots”). The worst case scenario is when the Captain is needed and he is distracted or even asleep. He has to be brought to full attention and briefed in order to make a decision, which may take too much time, which is why the Captain (or whoever else “has the Bridge”) needs to be in the chair when mission critical events are taking place (shooting). Hence, attentiveness, not mindlessness is needed.

Does this make sense?

(And, yes, this is what Lanny means.)

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