Tag Archives: Mental Training

Can You Dislike Practice and Succeed at Archery?

Way more often as not, you can read me answering this question as “no, if you do not enjoy the process, you likely will not succeed.”

But is this “attitude” fixed or can it change?

This is a good question and it does apply to archers. This is especially the case in that young archers often “succeed” at winning championships without practicing. These are archers who go to, say, a weekly JOAD session, which is as much social as it is instructive, and then attend competitions and win them. This can go on all the way up to state and national championships. This is a manifestation of a lack of competition. These kids do win without practicing because they can win without practicing. If more kids were practicing effectively, this would not be the case.

Since it is the case that some kids do win without practicing, they logically think that practicing, or practicing a particular way, is unnecessary. Of course, if they continue on, they will reach a point where they no longer win, and many of these kids drop out at this point, either because they have a fixed mindset and think their talent ran out, of they just didn’t want to have to work at the sport.

For the number who hit a wall and ask for help, there may be an answer: some people feel that you can trick yourself into enjoying boring subjects, like archery practice. This is a bit like neurolinguistic programming I guess, but all you have to do is get them to tell themselves that they like learning about archery. That they find it interesting. That they want to know more. Even remote curiosities about a subject, like searching online for “What are archery bowstrings made of?” should be encouraged.

Learning that they can “reframe” their own attitudes is a way to motivate them to go deeper into any subject. Even if the task or subject is boring, even if it is not something they would choose to do, this is a valuable tool which will also pay dividends later in life.

Of course, as a coach, making practice boring is not a plus; making it interesting and challenging is.

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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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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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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?

* * *

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

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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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It Could Happen to You (or Your Students)

Recently professional golfer Viktor Hovland was flying to Hawaii to participate in a golf tournament. When his clubs finally showed up, there was breakage involved.

Why he wasn’t using a hard case is beyond me, but what do I know? (I always used a hard case when flying.)

So, could this or something like this happen to you? I suggest the longer you are involved in archery competitions and the more ambitious you become, the more likely something like this will happen to you.

So what should you do?

I remember Rick McKinney telling us that when he flew, his broken in finger tabs were not in his luggage but in his pocket. Everything else could be replaced.

Because of the wonders of modern communications, you do not have to carry a physical description of your bow, arrows, etc. with you, because you can park such a list online, in a Dropbox or whatever. But that list must exist and it must be updated every time you make an equipment change.

The story is somewhat old now, but champion compound archer Dave Cousins was flying to Sweden to participate in the World Field Championships and his airline lost his luggage, all of it. (I still don’t know whether it eventually turned up or not.) His teammates supplied a backup bow for him to use, including stabilizers and release aids, arrows, etc. After sighting in and practicing a bit, Dave was in second place after day one! If you think about all of the equipment variables involved, that is as close to an archery miracle as I have ever heard of.

Part of being a high level competitor is being prepared. And that isn’t limited to physical fitness and tuning your equipment. Preparing for the worst case scenario can be very helpful, even when the case isn’t worst. Plus, you may end up with a great story to tell your grandkids.

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More Help from Golf Coaches

If you have read this blog for any time at all, you know that I “borrow” extensively from golf coaches. This is because there are many similarities between golf and archery. This latest tip is to a column by Golf Mental Coach David MacKenzie and it involves arousal control. Both golf and archery are “low arousal sports,” hence the connection.

Enjoy!

Module 4: Arousal And Arousal Control

Postscript I am not exactly “flush” as the saying back in my day went, but when I find one of these coaches very helpful, I tend to buy one of their products as a form of payment. In general, they are running their sites as a money-making proposition. And, I encourage you to do the same, if you can.

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A New Way to Look at Target Panic

Since we are not even close to a definitive explanation of target panic as experienced by archers, I feel it is important to get every possible idea into print, so that future investigators will have a place to start from. In this case I think a very good source for target panic is in our emotions, or rather in our interpretations of our emotions. For example, there is a bit of common wisdom that if one is getting angry, venting that anger can make things better. You don’t want to suppress it and have it build up more and more until you explode. This bit of collective wisdom is unfortunately wrong. Scientific studies show that expressing anger makes one more angry, not less. This is because we have gotten emotions wrong from the get-go. We have always thought there is a sequence in which a stimulus, say one that evokes anger, triggers an emotion that triggers a physiological response, in this case, the well-known “fight or flight” response of rapid heart beat, sweaty palms, etc. In actuality this is mixed up. The stimulus evokes a physiological response first then we associate an emotion with that response, and we are not all that good at interpreting those signals. So, a likely sequence for target panic is that subconsciously we become anxious or fearful and out heart begins to race and our palms sweat (common responses to a fight or flight situation). But when we experience these things, we can associate them with negative performances we have had in the past. In the past, when your game imploded right in front of you, you became self-conscious, embarrassed, confused, etc. so the symptoms are not far apart. You get into what I tend to refer to as the “here we go again” scenario. The sensations evoke those negative memories, by association, which makes us even more anxious, which enhances the physiological responses even more. This positive feedback loop takes you farther and farther away from what you need to do to shoot well: focus on your shot sequence in a calm and consistent manner. Now psychologists haven’t studied target panic to any great extent, but they have studied panic attacks a fair amount. One approach to people who had frequent panic attacks was to characterize those attacks as the patients misinterpreting the physiological signs (heart racing, palms sweating, etc.) and assuming the worst: they think they are having a heart attack or are going to die and they become even more stressed, which makes their hearts beat even faster and their palms sweat even more. The process feeds upon itself (it is a positive feedback loop, after all) until they enter a state of extreme panic. The doctor pursuing this line of thinking trained many of his patients to see that the initial response was their body experiencing a small degree of anxiety (for reasons unknown) and if they would just wait a bit or do some relaxation exercises, they would avoid a serious attack. The treatment turned out to be quite successful and even applied to students who were getting exam anxieties, or job interview anxieties. Another approach was to associate those feelings with something good, e.g. ‘I love the feeling of competition pressure, it means I am close to my goal!” The key thing here, that we have just learned recently, is that emotion doesn’t cause the sensations, the sensation causes the mind to interpret them, often by associating with an emotion, at which task we are not all that good. Addendum One of the more successful recent theories regarding emotions is that we learn them! We are taught how to respond to various situations by our parents and guardians. Kids with calm parents usually end up with calm demeanors. Kids with explosive parents often end up with exaggerated demeanors. As a young man, I had an explosive temper which I now believe I learned from my father. I have since trained myself out of that. But that is a whole different topic. Target Panic Science . . . Finally If you are interested, here is a good scientific paper on target panic: To what extent can classical conditioning and motor control systems serve as explanations to target panic? You can find it here: https://varden.info/doc.php?id=5 Don’t be afraid, it was written by a college student for a class and is not full of obscure jargon.

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An Excellent Summary of the Role of Practice

I don’t think this is behind a pay wall and I recommend it as an excellent summary of the role of practice in archery or any other performance sport or art

Does practice make perfect?

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