Tag Archives: Mental Training

Skill and Tempo

I have been thinking a lot about the difference between acquiring archery technique and acquiring archery skill lately. Taking the chance that I may be oversimplifying this in this post, when you have learned archery technique fairly well, you have learned how to group your shots on a target; moving that group into the highest scoring zone of the target requires skill(s).

I was reminded while walking our dog this morning that if you are out walking with another, if the other wants to walk faster or slower than you do, it is quite problematic. Matching your pace to that of an elderly parent is an exercise in patience (and love, and …). Trying to walk a dog who wants to go at a difference pace is also a struggle.

What we tend not to recognize is that the pace at which we shoot arrows, our shooting tempo, is also a key factor in reaching higher levels of performance … but we are often unaware of our own tempo while shooting. And then when we find our good tempo, that idiot with a timer and a whistle keeps interrupting us to go score and fetch our arrows.

To explore this, you can ask your archers to explore shooting very, very slowly and very, very quickly to see if either “works.” They almost never do work (because, I think, every archer wants to show off a little and overdoes it). I then go into “Goldilocks’ Mode” and give them the “too fast, too slow, just right” speech about shooting tempo.

To get tempo on your side, you need to find the tempo that works for you (or for your student) … and then find ways to hang onto it.

You can count off shots in practice to find your tempo, but this is not advised to do in competition (as counting is conscious thinking) unless you have lost your tempo and are desperate to get it back. Like any other part of shooting, shooting in tempo can be memorized.

There are other things to use (metronomes!), counting off your shots on video, etc. A longish exercise is for you, as coach, to time shots with a stopwatch (I time from stabilizer tip moving upward to release) and then logging those times with arrow scores. If you find a “magic zone,” where high quality shots exist, then you can train around that zone. One way is to simply start the stopwatch at tip raise and if they shoot too early you say “Too early, do it again.” If they get to the end of the time zone, you say “Let down!” Eventually more and more shots will occur in the right time, then the archer can relax and concentrate on shooting quality shots alone.

I suggest to you, that if you have advanced archers in your care, some tempo training may just elevate their skill and performances. (Happy archer, happy coach!)

PS For those of you who object to skill being separated from technique, and who claim that technique is involved in developing skill, I say “Yes, and your point is … ?” My point is that it is not just technique that drives better scores. Shooting perfect shot after perfect shot and getting lousy groups because you possess no tuning ability cannot be solved by working harder on your technique. By calling these things “archery skill” we might just get developing archers to focus on such things and even get them excited to learn more and the higher scores than may result from that learning.

If you want to learn more about all of the things you need to know about target archery that doesn’t involve “how to shoot arrows” may I suggest (Warning! Shameless plug incoming! Warning):

 

Advertisements

11 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

Ten Ways To Develop a Winner’s Attitude for … Archery

You may be getting tired of me using golf wisdom to create the same for archers, but they are doing the work we have not done. They have more people doing the kind of work we need to do and I am just riding their wave. This piece appeared on www.golfstateofmind.com on July 16, 2016 and was written by David MacKenzie, a Canadian golf mental coach.

Read it and tell me if it translates to archery for you.

10 Ways to Create a Winner’s Attitude for Golf

  1. NOTICE WHAT YOU SAY (TO YOURSELF AND TO OTHERS)
    When I ask a new student to describe their game or recent rounds, those with a winning attitude for golf will immediately go into the all the positives. There’s a positive tone and lots of positive adjectives. Those that need to work on their attitude, will highlight more negatives and things they don’t currently have in their game – it’s more pessimistic.
  2. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE
    Some players don’t have a winning attitude for golf because they don’t know their purpose for playing. If you don’t ask yourself why you are playing golf and how it’s going to fulfill you in the future, it will manifest itself in a poor attitude. Your purpose or “why” and a having a target in mind provides drive and optimism. Ask yourself what this is and write down the answer.
  3. FAKE IT UNTIL YOU BELIEVE IT!
    This isn’t about trying to change other people’s perception of you or pretending to others that you are something that you are not. This is about changing your behaviors by acting in a certain way. E.g. If you want to be a more confident and mentally tough golfer, then act like it! Walk and talk like you are one. Use more positive body language and smile! Over time you’ll start to think and feel more like that person you want to become.
  4. CHOOSE TO BE IN A GOOD MOOD
    Your mood is something that you have control over. Those people with a winner’s attitude use the positive energy created by a good mood. The best time to get into a good mood is first thing in the morning. If you haven’t already read my “Killer Morning Routine” article, please do so. I do my best to set myself up for a productive and positive day, by sticking to this routine.
  5. BE GRATEFUL
    Those with a winning attitude for golf regularly express gratitude for the simply being able to play the game, irrespective of the result. Last week I asked one of my Tour player students what his goals are for the week and one of them was to maintain an attitude of gratitude and remind himself about how lucky he is to play this game. When you do this, you’ll immediately feel lighter and more content.
  6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH OTHERS WITH A WINNING ATTITUDE
    Seek out others with a more positive attitude and do your best to avoid the company of people who have a poor attitude. A winning attitude is infectious – you’ll be inspired and motivated to achieve your goals by spending more time with the people that you admire.
  7. CHANGE HOW YOU VIEW MISTAKES
    I never learned anything from a match that I won.”– Ben Hogan
    Those with a winning attitude for golf see every round as a learning experience no matter what the outcome, and that any mistakes and failures can be learned from and reduced in the future. This is also called a “Growth Mindset”. The opposite of a Growth Mindset is a “Fixed Mindset” where failure and mistakes are seen as a reflection of ability level, instead of something you can change. Those with a winning golf attitude believe there is no limit to their success – they can keep growing with every round, even if it’s just a little. It’s most apparent whether a player has a winning attitude for golf in the face of adversity or defeat. Winner’s are able to look at defeat objectively, without complaining, blaming or dwelling.
  8. BE ABLE TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF
    Taking yourself too seriously and being too self-absorbed is not a trait of someone with a winning attitude. Research shows that those that can laugh at themselves are generally more cheerful in their demeanor, which is an important attribute for being able to handle stress. By being more cheerful, you are more able to ease tension during intense moments. Part of developing a winning attitude for golf is about having less of a sense of self on the course. Laughing at yourself isn’t about putting yourself down, it’s about realizing that no one is perfect and mistakes happen. Laughter is a powerful tool for improving mental toughness and resiliency. Zach Johnson says: “Realizing bad shots happen is the best way to deal with them. Take the drama out of a bad shot. Use humor or laughter to make it go away, and then move on.”
  9. SPEND MORE TIME IN THE PRESENT
    Learning how to stay more in the present moment is great for keeping a winner’s attitude. There are so many benefits to it. Rather than spending time speculating about the future or worrying about the past (which can cause performance anxiety), stay in the moment more often and you’ll see improvement in your attitude.
  10. AVOID COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS (IN THE WRONG WAY)
    One of the traps that I find many golfers fall into, especially junior golfers, is comparing themselves to other players. They can easily get into that Fixed Mindset and be envious of another player’s skills. By being envious about another player’s game, you are essentially telling yourself you are a weaker player. Remember that competition is a good thing – it drives us to get better. Notice whether you are looking at other player’s game for motivation (growth mindset) or envy (fixed mindset).

Well … ?

Leave a comment

Filed under For All Coaches

Making the Transition

If you have read much of what I have written, you have probably read me stating that our definition of recreational and competitive archers is that recreational archers are motivated by fun alone. Competitive archers are not just motivated by fun. Combine this with the fact that Mike Gerard and I are writing a book of archery drills for Human Kinetics, and you can see that doing drills is a good marker to tell you whether you are dealing with a competitive archer or a recreational archer.

Doing drills is, well, boring. They are repetitive by nature and there just isn’t much fun in them. But for a competitive archer, getting better is fun and they are willing to do drills. Serious competitive archers are motivated by learning to win and they will do drills until the cows come home. Recreational archers will get bored or never bother starting a drill because, well, they ain’t fun.

There is a deeper aspect here and it concerns the same topic: motivation. Ideally our students would be intrinsically motivated, that is their motivation comes from within. As children, we often were extrinsically motivated in that there were rewards attached to good behavior (or possibly no punishment as a substitute for a reward). In most cases, having an intrinsic motivation, especially to produce an athletic performance is vastly superior. So, I was reading a book (Why We Do What We Do) and this jumped off of the page at me:

“As socializing agents—parents, teachers, and managers—it is our job to encourage others to do many things they might find boring but that will allow them to become effective members of society. Actually, our job goes beyond just encouraging them to do activities; it’s more challenging than that. The real job involves facilitating their doing activities of their own volition, at their own initiative, so they will go on doing activities freely in the future when we are no longer there to prompt them. (emphasis his)”

The author goes on to use the rather mundane example of a boy who, over time, transforms requests to take the garbage out into a process where he keeps an eye on it and takes it out when needed, no longer needing prompting. (Yeah, in your dreams.)

The point, however is well taken. How do we as coaches help archers with the transition from doing things because the coach said so and doing things of his own volition? This presupposes we are dealing with a competitive archer, maybe one somewhere between being a competitive archer (training to compete) and a serious competitive archer (training to win). If we, as coach, tell them what to do all of the time and set their goals for them, etc. we are extrinsically addressing them as a student. If, on the other hand, we offer things to them, for them to choose to do, we are going “beyond just encouraging them to do activities” and leading them to doing things of their own volition. This, of course, as mentioned above has ramifications regarding the effectiveness of their training.

So, how do you do this? You can start by offering choices, rather than giving directions. I am not suggesting that you are a “do this, do that” coach, I do not really know who you are (well, I do know some of you), but if you look at your students as if they were your best friend you were coaching, how would you coach them? (I learned this “trick” from my days as a classroom teacher.) You wouldn’t boss your friend around or give them orders, but often our “suggestions” can be heard by our students as being just that. If you ask them to make choices, they become more of a partner and less of a client in their own training.

So, you might say “I know of a couple of drills you could do that would help with that.” If they do not respond (assuming they heard you), then that isn’t something they want to do. So, ask “How do you want to address this?” If they answer “I don’t know,” then you can give them your opinion, for example, “Most archers address this by doing XYZ or ABC drills.” “What are those?” they ask. You describe the drills and you ask if they want to try the drills. You keep asking for them to make decisions as if their opinion actually mattered to you (I hope it does). If they want to do something you do not approve of, you can say “I don’t think that will work, but if you do, it is worth a try.”

In this fashion an athlete builds up trust in their coach as a partner in their training and becomes more intrinsically motivated or, at least, more understanding of their own motivations. What we see on TV (ESPN, etc.) is big time college coaches who are quite authoritarian and professional coaches who are less authoritarian (maybe). If coaches have a reputation for training winners, maybe this approach can get their athletes to where they want to go. many athletes sign up for these programs willing to do as they are told because of those reputations. And, there is some truth to showing people what they can do by demanding it (I experienced this in college athletics). But, I also suspect that if you are dedicated to the goal of not just making better archers, but also to making better people, the approach recommended above is more desirable.

Leave a comment

Filed under For All Coaches

How to Learn Archery

The standard approach to learning archery, or really any sport, is to establish a pattern of incremental improvement. Basically this is a “do good, then do better” approach. We teach archers good basic form, not elite archer form, and then we encourage them to make minor changes in their shot, checking to see if these are “improvements” or “just changes.”

These is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and I do not see that there is anything inherently wrong with it, but it does seem to be wrong to assume this is the only way to learn. There are basic weaknesses in this usual approach. A good example in archery is tuning. Tuning involves making small changes in how your bow and arrows are setup and then testing to see if the new setup is “better.” The problem with this approach is that you may end up with what is called a “false tune.” The approach of “a little bit, a little bit more, a tiny little bit more, oops, too much … back up a little” will find a local “best tune.” But is that the best tune available? This approach is a little like hiking while always moving uphill. You will eventually find yourself at a hill top, but there may be many taller hills nearby. You just had the misfortune of starting on the slopes of a shorter hill. Since it is very hard to get a wide angle view of the tuning landscape we have to resort to starting from a good starting point. In tuning, this is a well set up bow (as the manufacturer recommends, not as your bow has come to be). Trust me, if you start with a bad setup, you will only find bad tunes.

You can also fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be shooting well to learn (“do good, then do better”). Sometimes when you are shooting quite poorly, it is a good time to break down barriers to better shooting.

A way to get off of the “just a little bit of progress at a time train” is to do something really, really difficult, something you thought you (or your student) could not do. One example comes to mind: the thousand arrow challenge. A colleague, Tyler Benner, actually took this challenge and described it in detail in the book he wrote with Kisik Lee, Total Archery: Inside the Archer. Basically the idea is to start shooting arrows (blank bale) at sunrise and before you get to sunset, have shot 1000 arrows. If you have read his account, it is quite brutal. Even if you were to do it with a very light drawing bow, that is a lot of arrows. Even with volunteer arrow pullers/fetchers and a gallery rooting for you, this is very, very difficult. But … if you pull it off, things change for you. Never again will you feel like there is something in archery you cannot do. This is the big payoff.

How many times have you asked a student to do something and their response was “Oh, I can’t (or couldn’t) do that.” It is our out thoughts that get in our way much too often. Whenever some really difficult task is accomplished, it is often the case that rapid progress occurs thereafter. The “really difficult” task can’t be impossible or something that doesn’t get attained, although there are some people who are energized by simply trying something so hard no one expects them to accomplish it.

Such tasks are “doable” yet very, very difficult. We are most definitely not talking about hitting a target at some really far distance one time in 100 shots. Shoot enough arrows and you will hit something just by chance. For many archers this task is shooting a perfect score on a “gettable” round (one that people have already shot perfect scores on) but could be a round that people have almost shot a perfect score in competition and setting the goal of shooting one in practice. Or it might be a scoring level breakthrough (a score of 1400 on the 1440 FITA Round). This may seem like a small achievement, but for the archer who has never reached that point, it is significant. The key, though, is in the preparation and execution. You don’t just keep shooting that round until you get a perfect score, the goal is to always (almost always) get a perfect score or shoot at that level. When you have accomplished something like that, then you feel as if you can accomplish more and, just like a springboard, the accomplishment can launch your archer to new heights.

Leave a comment

Filed under For All Coaches

A Structure for the Mental Game of Archery

As I have mentioned (ad nauseum?), I am working on a major book on the mental game of archery. This is a long term project as I have too many other things on my plate to devote all of my time to this one project. Still, I find myself thinking about the topic often, whether I want to or not. One of my struggles has been to come up with a framework for the mental game of archery that coaches and archers can understand, relate to, and use productively. Below I have outlined such a structure as best I can for now. This is not a plan to learn how to use the mental game, but is a map to all of the places the mental game shows up. A “plan to learn how to use the mental game” is actually on the map (When Not Shooting: Planning to Learn: Education) and that will be covered extensively.

Basically I want this to help organize this very broad topic into bites that can be swallowed without being overwhelming. (I am often overwhelmed by the topic and I think it is fascinating. I have students who look at the topic, shudder, and go back to looking at how to buy a better score.)

If you have any feedback at this stage, I will be most grateful if you share your thoughts. Are there aspects of the mental game I have missed? Are there things included that shouldn’t be?

While Shooting

Pre-Round Routine
Preparing for success. Setting up equipment in a routine to avoid errors. I have a routine I recommend all of my students use to begin shooting that later becomes a mechanism to get back into normal shooting rhythm as part of a Recovery Routine. Also, the pre-round routine needs to be tailored to your archer’s personality. For example, I dislike being rushed so my routine is to show up early, help set up the range if needed (I feel a need to “help.”), get comfortable at the venue.

Shooting Process (Woven Into Shot Sequence)
Controlling one’s attention, confining it to “the now”
Focusing on the external, not internal, aspects of the shot
Pre-shot visualization/rehearsal

Between Shots Planning
Comparison of perception of shot with outcome of shot, followed by adjustments to shot routine. (Example: Good shot but arrow hit left of center due to wind—adjustment: aim off to allow for wind drift.)

Recovery Routines
A shot outcome is very much poorer than expected: is there an equipment problem, or a shift in environmentals (wind, etc.), or a failure to execute properly? Analysis, adjustment, recovery of shot routine and rhythm.

Post-Competition Review
Assessment of performance against goals and expectations. Plan elements are identified for the future.

When Not Shooting

Planning to Learn
Performance Assessments (Group Sizes, Practice Round Scores, Competition Round Scores, etc.)
Practice Planning
Education (coaching, seminars, books, articles, interactions with other archers)

Planning to Compete
Goals (Ladders to Success)
Education (competition rules and practices, nutrition, equipment, etc.)

All of these things fall under the adage “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

8 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

An Archer’s Focus: Internal or External?

I realize that I haven’t written about this much (or at all?) and since it is a major part of the mental game I should get started. This has to do with whether an archer needs to focus their attention internally or externally.

So, an archer with an external focus will look at the target and visualize the arrow hitting dead center and then execute the shot. An archer with an internal focus will focus on how their body positions feel and their back tension and how the followthrough feels as the shot is finished. So, which should an archer have, do you think?

In the past, I would have been tempted to say “both,” but now I know better. It seems almost irrefutable in my mind that archers need an external focus. There are many ways to demonstrate the truth of this but I will leave those up to you to find for now.

Archers need to have an external focus, focusing on the bow, the arrow, the conditions, and the target.

The purpose of the shot sequence (shot routine), is to guide the archer’s attention to the externalities of a shot. First we consider the position of our feet, then we select an arrow and attach it to the bow, attending only to these tasks. Before we raise the bow, we visualize a perfect shot as a way of showing our subconscious minds the “plan” it is to adhere to. Then we focus on the target and execute the shot. with an external focus.

The reason that focusing on “both” won’t work is the limitation of the conscious mind to hold thoughts simultaneously. We used to say that our conscious minds could only hold one thought at a time. Recent experiments in psychology, however, have shown that we can get as high as two thoughts simultaneously. The subconscious mind does not seem to be so limited and can simultaneously track quite a few things, which is why we leave the “feels” part of the shot up to it (there are many, many feels associated with a good shot).

It is a good thing we can hold two things consciously in mind because there is a point in our shot sequence where we do just that. It is where we are aiming just prior to the loose. We must maintain our sight picture (of where against the background we want to hold our sight’s aperture or arrow point) while also focus on finishing the shot. Sighting is a point that is much discussed but finishing the shot is not. Some people recommend a focus on the tightness of the back muscles involved in the “hold.” This, however, is an internal focus. Some focus on the position of the draw elbow as a substitute, again an internal focus. Some, who use a clicker, focus on the clicker, but I think that is a mistake in that it gives the clicker too much power. It is better to set the clicker up so that it corresponds to proper posture and let it take care of itself, the same being true for release aids (set them up so that they go off when posture is good and not otherwise). I teach Barebow Recurve archers to use their arrow point as the signal they are to loose. They are looking at the point to aim in any case and what they are looking for is the back-and-forth movement of the arrow point to minimize (an indicator that stillness has been achieved). Both of these (aiming and movement checking) are external foci so we are good there. For Unlimited Recurve and Compound, we have to aim and then be patient as we wait for the release aid to trip or the clicker to trip, so there is some internal focus almost no matter what. This makes shooting with a faster tempo valuable as there is less waiting and anxiety associated with the waiting. What constitutes “faster” for archers varies with the archer, all of whom have “too fast” and “too slow” tempos to avoid.

In the followthrough, I tell my students that “the shot is not over until the bow takes its bow,” so after the shot, the archer is focused upon the behavior of the bow, thus providing valuable information about the forces unleashed by the release of the string (the bow should do the exact same thing after every shot, ideally).

The important of having an external focus is why I do not recommend Kisik Lee’s Total Archery books and similar books to archers. The information is designed for coaches, not for archers, and has a great deal to focus on internally. (The internality is part of the explanation for the external patterns recommended, not as a source of focus for archers, but given this information, can you expect archers to not use it?) Coaches have an outside-in viewpoint while archers have an inside-out viewpoint. The archer’s viewpoint must be directed to the external parts of shots and not be directed to what is going on inside their bodies. So, while it is important for coaches to know what is happening internally during shots, it is not helpful at all to archers and a potential source of a great many distractions.

4 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

The Post Tournament Review Process

What do you do at the end of a tournament? If you are like I was, you would pack your gear, thank the tournament officials for their hard work, get in your car and drive home, thinking about anything but archery, if possible.

As a post tournament review process, this sucks. I do not recommend it to you.

So, what should one do after a tournament? There are a number of things and I think all of them are rooted in the Bassham’s oft quoted aphorism “You either win or learn; there is no losing.” The focus here has to be “what did I learn” especially in so far as it will help you perform better later.

Any number of things can be addressed in a post tournament review. The technical side of archery is about physical movement, which you can see and measure more easily. The mental side however, is about thinking, attitude and confidence but it is harder to measure. I think both need to be addressed. The key thing, though, is to avoid dwelling upon mistakes. The more you think about your mistakes, the better the odds you will repeat them (another Bassham aphorism). For example, if in the middle of a round, as a recurve archer, you struggled getting through your clicker, but you applied your first corrective (to run a relaxation routine) and that worked, the success of that action is worth dwelling on. It makes doing that corrective easier in the future and it reinforces your success in dealing with difficulties. If, instead, you whine to yourself and others about how many times you have struggled with your clicker, there is no positive reinforcement of “the fix” and there is positive reinforcement of struggling with your clicker, exactly what you do not want! Commiserating with others is a time-honored activity but that doesn’t make it an advantage.

Obviously if you were implementing process goals during your performance, you need to assess your performance with regard to those and plan on what you will do next time. But what else is there to do?

Rather than give you a list, I will give you a start. This is what I ask of my students when they attend competitions. I ask them to write two lists, within 24 hours of the shoot’s end. Each of these lists must have at least three things on them. The first list is “What did I learn?” The second list is “What will I do differently next time?”

These two lists can be compared with previous lists to learn a great deal. If the same thing shows up on the “What did I learn?” list multiple times, maybe you didn’t really learn it and need to set a goal around actually learning that. If you find the same thing popping up on the “What will I do differently next time?” list, then maybe you need to take that seriously and develop a process goal to make sure you actually do it.

Obviously, the “What will I do differently next time?” lists play a role in preparation for future tournaments, not just the list from the last competition but a collection of the recent lists.

The goal is to develop a regular tournament review process, one you could develop a form for (which is an option but not necessary). Regular means you do this every time the same way. Forms are handy so we don’t forget anything and emphasize that you must , absolutely must, write these things down, a topic I will take up in my next post.

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under For All Coaches

Follow-up on “Committing to the Shot”

In a recent post (Committing to the Shot) I made the point that at some point or other, an archer (as well as golfers, baseball players, etc.) needs to commit to what they have planned to do in every shot. In the absence of such a commitment, our subconscious minds may come up with their own ideas on how to achieve the goal. What I did not do in that former post was indicate where this commitment needs to take place.

Golfers have more variables than we do: putts take different tracks at different speeds, the ball can be made to curve left or curve right, as well as go straight, shots can be hoisted up high where the wind will affect them more are shot down low where the wind will affect them less, the turf itself has different textures which affect the roll of the ball (the “fair way” vs. the “rough way”—those are the original terms), etc. In archery, we may have wind to contend with, and a shot clock, but little else, so the physical choices are fewer. Unfortunately, though, some of our choices include previously learned shot techniques, that have been shelved but can be called upon subconsciously.

Because of various factors, I suggest that the commitment needs to go after the shot visualization just before the raising of the bow. The visualization is a plan for the shot transmitted to the subconscious mind. The commitment is the command to the subconscious mind to “stick to the plan” and don’t consider other options (equal to a “Do Not Improvise” command). Either you commit to your shot at that point, with the sight, sound, and feel of such a shot just vividly imagined, or you need to change your plan and start over.

There is an aspect of timing involved here. From the visualization, there are just a few seconds before that “image” fades from short term memory, so it is “commit and go” time right after it.

Training This I do not recommend dumping all of this on an archer from the first moment they think they are serious about archery. I recommend that the shot sequence be taught as a series of physical steps first. When it has been learned then you can spring upon your students that the shot sequence is also the framework for all of the mental activities involved in shooting.

Shot Sequences The shot sequence or shot routine is basically a guide as to where we need to place our attention, not to micro-manage each step of the process but to be there to observe whether anything is going wrong. If you are looking at your arrow’s nock when it is being attached at the nocking point (in the context of a shot, of course), but your mind is on “going to MacDonald’s after practice because boy, are you hungry,” you are ever more likely to attach the arrow in the wrong place or with the index vane in the wrong orientation or…. You just need to be “there” and “paying attention.”

An Aside The phrase “paying attention” is indicative of the feeling we all have that our supply of attention is finite. Our supplies of other mental properties seems not so bounded, e.g. love, hate, finding things humorous, etc. I tend to agree with this as our attention has been woven into our mental processes very deeply. For example, much of the information that comes into our eyes that results in neural pathways being activated is just jettisoned in our brains. The small cone of focus of our eyes that we can control, acquires information that is much less likely to be jettisoned. If one is focused on what one is observing and one is “paying attention” that is attending to that task, the information is even more likely to get into short term memory which is the only pathway to long term memory and from which we can “re-play” events that go wrong for us. If we are not “paying attention,” the information involved is much less likely to be kept. (If you are interested in these phenomena, I recommend the book The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size by Tor Norretranders to you.)

7 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

Committing to the Shot

I was watching the last few holes on the Arnold Palmer Invitational golf championship and I saw Tiger Woods do something uncharacteristic … well, several things actually. One of those has to do with archery. In his post round interview Tiger was asked about the poor shot he made on the 16th hole that ended his chances of winning the tournament. The old Tiger would have said something like “I made a mistake and there was no recovering from that.” He never went into detail, as if he were protecting proprietary secrets. This time he expanded on what happened. He said “I failed to commit to the shot.” He said he had at least three ways to play the hole and he described them. He chose one of these but failed to “commit to the shot” which resulted in the ball, instead of curving right as desired, curving left and going out of bounds, in effect a two shot penalty.

So, what does this have to do with archery? Good question!

As archers we face the same dilemma any time there is more than one way to take on a shot, for example we could aim off because of the wind or cant our top limb into the wind. Which should we do? Which ever we choose, we must commit to doing that and only that. If we do not, then we end up like Tiger. He wanted one shot, but he left his subconscious mind juggling three possibilities, with no one of them the clear set of instructions as to what needed to be done. As a consequence, he got a blend of multiple approaches instead of the one he wanted.

Even when we are shooting normally, we need to make a commitment to the shot we want to shoot. This normally takes the form of a pre-shot rehearsal/visualization of the shot we are to shoot (just before we raise the bow). This activity constitutes our subconscious mind’s marching orders.

This “commitment to the shot” is so important that Master Coach Bernie Pellerite recommends that compound archers put that step into their shot sequences, a practice he got from Hall of Fame Coach Len Cardinale.

4 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

Should Your Students Have a Score Goal for a Competition?

If you have never had a student going into a competition with a score he/she wanted to shoot, you haven’t been coaching long. The question addressed here is: Is this a good idea? I hope to convince you that it is not.

The first problem with shooting a specific score is that it doesn’t help you achieve that end. Note I am not saying one shouldn’t hope for a good outcome, just not have a goal for that outcome. A score outcome is what is known as an Outcome Goal, sensibly so. Outcome goals are incredibly useful … except in producing outcomes. Basically this is because the harder you focus on such a goal, the harder it is to achieve it.

Another drawback to outcome goals is they are future directed. When you are talking about hitting a particular score, you are talking about when the competition is over and that doesn’t happen until you have no further options at improving your score. And anything that distracts you from present-moment thinking while you are shooting is a distraction, not an aid.

To create a high score, a personal best, say, what one needs are Process Goals. These are things, which if they are done, increase the score you will shoot. They are based on improving the process of shooting the arrows. I learned a lot as a schoolchild in my short stint in boxing programs (through high school). The minute the competition starts, all thoughts of goals rush out of your thoughts (very, very quickly when you are being punched in the face). Your corner men are there to remind you, which they do by shouting at you (Jab, jab, jab, stick him, etc.). So, some reminder is needed for even a process goal to have any effect during a competition. And having a coach yell at an archer while they are shooting is not advised and may be against the rules.

To use this ability of ours a goal needs to be selected, preferably something you/they are working on to improve your/their scoring and a process of tracking progress and reminding is needed. I recommend a simple score card for the latter. Here’s an example. You have decided that having a strong mental program really improves your shooting, but you often forget to do it. So, your process goal is “I …” (Always I and always in the archer’s handwriting!) “I will use my full mental program on 85% of my shots.” This level of execution, the 85%, has to be high enough to be a challenge but not so high as to depress your archer at the end if they fail to hit it.

This goal is written at the top of a page of a small notebook (that fits in the archer’s quiver). Down the left edge, the ends are numbered (1-10, 1-12, whatever). To keep track of whether or not the archer’s full mental program was used, while walking to the target or waiting for a second line to shoot, he mentally recalls the end just shot and then writes hash mark for each correct execution ( | | | ). Then the goal at the top of the page is read again to reinforce that it is in play. If the archer can’t remember whether he used his full mental program (or whatever the goal is about) on a shot then it is a miss, not a hit. (Based upon the need to reinforce the ability to remember and focus on that thing.)

At the end of the shoot, the number of hash marks is added up and the percent calculated. If the goal was blown through, a much higher % is chosen next time. If your archer falls way short of the mark, chose a smaller number. You want numbers which are challenging, but doable. Success breeds motivation (believe it or not). Feedback needs to be on the thing being worked on and not superfluous things, so the first thing you want to do is discuss this outcome with your archer. Ask questions like “Did this work?” or “Do you think this helped you stay on your plan?”

Do not get ambitious and lay out four process goals for a competition or practice session. This is like giving a dog too many tennis balls to hold in his mouth. He will drop one, and then another, and then become obsessed in fitting them all in and lose tract of what he was doing before. I recommend one goal at a time. If you think your student can handle more, try two … but only in a practice round or practice session. Let me know if that worked for you and them.

3 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches