Tag Archives: target panic

Getting a Start on Target Panic

My colleague and good friend, Markus Wagner of Germany, made a comment that wasn’t exactly a question for me to answer, but does provide a topic to explore.

He said. among other things, regarding target panic: “I contend that knowledge of a neurological context is necessary. How does conditioning work in the brain? What is empathy in detail? How to read body language, facial expressions? So, non-verbal communication. Of course, these issues are best dealt with by a educated mental trainer. But a certain basic knowledge should also part of the technical trainers. Unfortunately, I don’t see any such approaches in any of the training systems there.”

Now Markus is a better educated coach/trainer than am I. He has acquired extensive certifications to become a mental sports coach, among other things, and his students have had more than a little success.

I acknowledge, however, that archery coaches are not looking for a university education in sports psychology, so some targeted trainings seem to be desirable.

I suggest the way to begin formulating those trainings would be to create a list questions that need to be answered. Here are a some to get the ball rolling, as they say, and I hope you can contribute more. Possibly we can then take our list of questions and submit them to our archery organizations who would then solicit answers from universities, etc.

So . . .

  1. What is target panic?
  2. Why are the symptoms so varied, even contradictory, e.g. freezing and not being able to loose vs. uncontrolled loosing?
  3. Is the cause mental, physical, or a combination of the two?
  4. How does one treat it?

What would you add to this list?


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We Get Letters! (Part 4)

Coach Ron Kumetz sent in two questions/topics. The first was answered in the previous post. The second is:

Coach Lee is also fond of saying that NTS (aka the KSL shot cycle) is the cure for target panic. In my estimation, it is not NTS that lets the archer re-take control but the dedication of their brain energy to concentrating on a process, not necessarily the NTS process. In essence the are now once again thinking about the process rather than the outcome. Thoughts?

* * *

Coach Lee made this claim, along with “no archer he has trained has ever gotten injured” when he arrived in 2006. I will let you evaluate the veracity of those claims.

Ah, a “cure for target panic.” I find any and all such claims to be dubious at best. Currently, we do not have an accepted definition of target panic, just a set of symptoms, and we certainly do not have an agreed upon cause. Imagine doctors trying to cure a disease when they aren’t quite sure what the disease is and they don’t know what causes it. In Medicine the accepted approach in these cases is to treat the symptoms and hope for the best. Then they go looking for a cause and a cure. Until then no one uses the word cure (except over zealous reporters trying to sell their words).

Whether target panic involves thinking about outcomes rather than process is debatable. Obviously there are lots of other reasons to avoid thinking about outcomes while trying to execute a complicated process.

I tend to think Coach Lee is a bit over zealous about his shooting technique. To prove his claim, he would have to show why his technique did this but other techniques would not.

Olympic champions, e.g. Michele Frangilli and Vic Wunderle, to my knowledge, shot in the Olympic Games with bad cases of target panic (not winning a medal on those occasions). This is a serious enough malady that we should get professional help to address it, rather than just making claims right and left (and many of these are quite wild). USA Archery has connections to research universities. Could not they ask departments in those universities to research the causes and treatments of target panic and get some real answers, rather than just living with conjectures?

That is quite desirable in my opinion.

Postscript I have written extensively about this topic, even to the point in laying out a treatment protocol (see “A Recommended Treatment Framework for Target Panic” in AFm 15-1 or Chapter 28 in More on Coaching Archery).

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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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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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Dear Archery Organization

It doesn’t matter which organization this is addressed to as it is addressed to each and every. Organizations such as these were created to serve their members by creating consistent and fair sets of rules for competitions and even to sponsor some events, helping members with range certifications and coach certifications, and a lot more.

Below I address some of the things that I wish all of the organizations would take seriously as they would really help archers and coaches persist in our sport and pursue excellence in our sport.

Rehab Help
Archers get injured. I often mention that I have gone through the “grand circle” twice already, namely problems with both shoulders, both elbows and both wrists. Some of the injuries were minor, but one elbow problem result in wearing sling for weeks, getting cortisone shots, and not shooting for a year and a half.

So, if I log onto any of the archery organizations websites and search for help with injury rehabilitations, what do you think I find?

What I find is <cricket, cricket, cricket>.

Surely there are doctors who are archers who could provide some generic guidelines. USA Archery has archery teams as parts of major universities and surely those institutions have physiology departments or even medical schools that would help, no?

As it is now, if you get an archery-related injury you are on your own.

Archery Science
There is a large amount of “collective wisdom” floating around in archer and coach circles. Unfortunately much of that is dead wrong. There are many, many questions that archers and coaches have that science could answer definitively. Questions like: in a strong side wind, how much of the affect is on the arrow and how much is on the archer? What is the best way to deal with such winds? Which is better in a stiff wind: a heavier wider arrow or a thinner lighter arrow? (Arguments can be made for both.)

Another question is: what is target panic”? What causes it? How can it be ameliorated or “cured”? Imagine university graduate students in psychology looking for real world questions for which they could find real-world answers.

Again, USA Archery has archery teams as parts of major universities and surely they have physics or engineering or psychology departments that would help, no? Many of these universities have students actively looking for research projects. Having a list of such questions and maybe a small research grant to go along with each would get serious attention.

Providing a Coach Support Structure
At one point we attempted to build what we called The Archery Coaches Guild. The purpose of this organization was to help archery coaches by providing information, advice, continuing education, and connections to other coaches. We failed. I think it was a good idea, but the time or the people, aka us weren’t right. But this is something one would think archery organizations would be interested in, no?

And . . .
When the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) was founded in the early twentieth century, they focused on training two cadres of people: coaches and course superintendents. (There were no professional golfers at the time.) Coaches were needed to train new golfers who would then participate, or stay in the sport if problems were suggesting they leave, thus creating more demand. And they needed people to design and maintain courses, so that golfers had somewhere to play.

Currently the organizations make a minimal effort at training archery coaches, nonexistent coach support structures, and little to no help with range design and building and maintenance.

I have written a couple of articles about what I call “golf envy” from hearing golfers wishing that archery money purses were similar to those of professional golf tournaments. Maybe taking the path that the golf associations did is a way to achieve that.


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Release Aids: Conscious or Unconscious Execution?

In an online AMA question and answer column (AMA = Ask Me Anything) elite compound archer Tim Gillingham was asked the question “Do you still prefer command release versus surprise release?” Mr. Gillingham replied (in part) was “Absolutely. It’s the most accurate way to shoot a bow in all conditions. All top rifle and pistol shooters shoot the same but surprise shots are prevalent in archery because people don’t know how to control anticipation.”

I am trying to get Mr. Gillingham to write about how one controls anticipation but I wanted to get some of my thoughts “on paper” while waiting to see if he is willing.

Tim Gillingham is a very successful archer who shoots by consciously tripping his release aid. He is one of a small group who does this. Most archers use a “surprise release” process in which the release is not tripped consciously. Many compound archers do not realize that both techniques have been used very successfully.

The consensus wisdom currently is that a surprise release is better in a number of ways, but it is important to recognize that both approaches have strengths and weaknesses.

Here I am just addressing the comparison to rifle and pistol shooters and whether they are comparable and not the larger context.

Shooting Arrows vs. Shooting Bullets
There is a big difference between shooting arrows and shooting bullets. When shooting arrows (except in the case of crossbow archers) the archer is supplying the energy to be transferred to the arrow in the process of shooting. When shooting bullets the energy to be transferred to the bullet is supplied by gunpowder and not the marksman.

A consequence of this is that an archer is under the stress of the bow (if he is pulling 50# the bow is pulling 50# back) and that situation must be held for some time before that load can be released. Riflemen and pistol shooters have to hold their weapons up against gravity, as do archers do their bows, but do not have that much larger force involved in their shooting.

Rifle and pistol shooters, who are in good shooting shape, only have to focus upon the aim and execution of their triggers. Archers have to focus on their aim, maintaining their bow at its proper draw length against the pull of the bow, and executing their triggers. Archers have three things to focus on, rifle and pistol shooters have only two. Note There are long lists of things that people claim are important at this moment in time and many of those points are valid, but how many of them can you pay attention to consciously?

You may have been taught that the conscious mind can only handle one thing at a time. I have taught this myself. But more recent studies show that people can actually hold two things in their minds consciously. The shooters of guns have only two things to attend to: aiming and triggering and so both can be done consciously. Archers have three things to do at that moment so, they must choose which two of the three (aiming, maintaining full-draw position, and triggering) they can do consciously.

So, the comparison is not exact.

My current understanding is that the vast majority of Compound-Release archers are better off with a surprise release because the proportion of shooters that have a personality that allows for conscious triggering without creating excess anticipation is somewhat small. This means they concentrate on aiming and maintaining their full-draw-position, while an automatic process works the trigger which “goes off” when it “goes off.” This process avoids the anticipation associated with a conscious triggering of the release aid. (Note, even with a surprise release technique employed, many archers are regular enough that the release trips at an exact point in time anyway.)

If I am wrong in this I would love to find out why.

If Mr. Gillingham has techniques that conquer the anticipation bugaboo (which leads inexorably to Target Panic), I will certainly give them a try.


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Helping with Target Panic

I often see archers beseeching others on the Internet to help them with their target panic. A common response is “go here, do what he says.” If you actually do go there” often the TP treatment is “Do X. do Y, then do Z and all will be well.”

This almost never works (sometimes, yes, but more often “no”). The reason, in my opinion of course, is that some really important steps are left out. Below I list these steps and why they cannot be left out.

Step 1: Fix the Archer’s Equipment
This must be the first thing done, otherwise the bow will be fighting any program using it. If the archer’s draw length is too long; if the archer’s draw weight is too high (aka the archer is overbowed), if the bow is just too danged heavy, no program will work. You must fix these things first. This may require an interview with the archer, if so, just ask them what kinds of things intrude upon his/her shots. That list should tell you what needs fixing. If you do not, everything that is wrong will create an interruption of the shot process (shaking, twinging muscles, pains of various sorts, etc.), making every shot different.

Step 2: Fix the Archer’s Form
This is normally done Blank Bale. The archer needs a simple, fairly quick shot process. The sequence needs to be written down and the archer needs to be able to shoot shots quickly (fairly quickly, not blazing fast) with their new shot process.

Step 3: Always (Always) Include a Pre-shot Rehearsal
This usually takes the form of a passionate imagining/visualization of a perfect shot, just before raising the bow to take an actual shot. Some coaches object to the term visualization because the “rehearsal” needs to involve as many senses as your imagination can conjure up. This needs to be a vivid rehearsal, one involving sounds, smells, whatever, as well as sights.

This rehearsal is important because it is basically an instruction set for your subconscious mind. You are saying to it: do this shot just like this. Holding that “video” in memory lasts only about nine seconds max, so this should only be done immediately before making the actual shot.

Here is the “why” for all three of the above steps. If you do not do this rehearsal, you are basically going into each shot with no plan. I call this path finding mode: you are searching for the path to follow to make this shot based upon clues (broken twigs, footprints, etc.) you find along the way. Do you have a specific list of such clues? No, you do not (with a few exceptions like a steady aperture/arrow point in the right spot), so you are looking for . . . whatever . . . clues and, trust me, you will find them, too many of them.

If your bow is too heavy, your bow arm will shake, or your sight aperture/arrow point will fall below your POA. If your bow has too much draw weight, your muscles will fatigue quickly and will shake, giving you an unsteady sight picture which will lead you to wait in the hopes of it becoming less shaky (it won’t). If your draw length is too long, your full-draw-position will be unstable, leading to shaking at full draw, and so on. (I recommend jettisoning the “steady sight aperture” clue altogether: (a) it is never steady so you are looking for “steady enough” which means (I don’t know!), (b) if you try to control it you will make it worse. A steady sight picture is a consequence of doing quite a few things correctly, not something you do.)

Fix the equipment.

Fix the archer’s form.

Introduce the pre-shot rehearsal and get them to commit to it while fixing the archer’s form.

Then: do X, do Y, do Z and they may just work.


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An Epic Problem that May Require an Unusual Solution

I have a student who is struggling and has been struggling for a long time with target panic. Recently he wrote me at length and I got his permission to share part of what he wrote with you. I know it is long but that is part of my point, so please bear with him and me. Here is his letter:
“Let me mention where I’m at with things. I hate to admit it but I’ve failed being able to shake the apprehension on the shot using a thumb trigger release. It’s rare I fail at something. I’ve spent weeks and months at a time doing holding drills, blank bale shooting, combinations of both many different ways. I just can’t hold on a target, thumb on the trigger knowing I’m actually going to make a shot while I can hold on a target for 8-10 sec knowing I’m not going to take the shot. I’ve had some fantastic days where everything did work but never got more than a couple of days of that if that much.
“I see there’s about five different ways people use back tension to release the thumb trigger release. One of them is squeezing your hand and the trigger gets pushed while using back tension to pull back. I believe that’s how I’ve been doing it. I’m unable to just wrap my thumb around the trigger and pull back and have it go off. The index finger keeps that from happening and it bears most of the weight. About a week ago I tried to shift the weight from the index finger to the thumb and ring finger as I’ve read is another method. I practiced that for days on the FLT & Rope first. Now I’ve seen first hand how you can’t concentrate on two things at the same time in archery. Trying to shift the weight made things bad enough where I let the release go, this time realized exactly how that happened. Tried to just shift the weight to the thumb and out of my hand it went. Luckily I had the lanyard you recommended. I’ve spent the past year at least, trying to change things, no actually shooting for fun. We have fixed a lot of things though, just not the apprehension described.
“My plan if this didn’t work was to revisit the T.R.U. Sweet Spot BT Release w/lock you recommended since I have it. I don’t really want to use this type of release but I looked at a note I sent someone in 2013 while I was experimenting with it and having a really good day. When I dropped down and got above the gold @ 40m, I clicked off the safety and when it dropped in the center released the shot. Sounds like I was punching with a BT release now that I fully understand punching. I had adapted the BT release to my style of offhand rifle shooting I’d been using in archery for a long time. We’ve come a long way since then and I don’t need to drop into the bull any more. Also back then I was only going out one day a week and now I can shoot every day in the garage. Several weeks ago I tried the Sweet Spot release and didn’t experience any apprehension.
“My final game plan is to work with the BT release for a month. If I see improvement over the apprehension, I’ll continue otherwise I think it’s time to put the bow down and move on to other things.
“I’d like to get together and make sure I’m using the BT release correctly so I don’t spend a month or more doing it wrong. I don’t think we’d need to spend a lot of time since I already know how to use it. Seems there’s many ways people use them. Squeeze shoulder blades together, squeeze right back muscle towards center, tighten your fist, rotate your hand, just pull back and the list goes on. Most big name archers who have videos on YouTube mention just pulling back until it goes off, no real mention of back tension or squeezing back muscles or shoulder blades. Viewing videos of these guys in the matches, they all seem to have their right elbow end up down after the shot, not straight back.
“For the past week using the T.R.U. release, I’ve been anchoring using my back muscles, squeezing more with the right side. Seems to go off nicely that way. Did try the squeezing both shoulder blades together and I seem to get tired out faster using that method. When I get tired out I don’t get a smooth release. I’m using a blank target right now with my eyes open, 30 shots a day. Between sessions I use the FLT a couple or more times a day.
“I’ve given it a good try. I’ve never shot the bow this much, even bought another Morrell Super Duper target. Got both stacked in front of each other. Since I’ve wasted the entire season, I’m willing to give it one last try, after all everyone says to beat punching/TP use a BT release. Being only 15 or 30 feet away with a large piece of one inch plywood behind my target my problem doesn’t seem fear of missing the target.
“Sorry for the epic,”
<name withheld>


Your epic is … epic! It is rare for an archer to document what lengths they have gone through to deal with an issue. At some point it would be wonderful for you to write up your entire journey regarding your TP, but first I have to share with you something that happened to me.

I was shooting (compound release) in a July 4th fun shoot (900 Round) and at 40m (122 cm target) my groups blew up to the size of garbage can lids. (I was capable of 280-290+ scores at that distance at that time. I responded the way we all do … I panicked, but when I settled down and looked at my shooting analytically, I discovered that my bow hand was becoming more and more tense at full draw. Fiddling with it, trying to get it to relax at full draw didn’t help much but I got through that shoot. I then began a process that involved years of attempts to deal with this problem. (I never found out the root cause; it was just something I did. I also didn’t know a coach to consult.)

At one point I took off 1.5 years from shooting hoping my bow hand problem would “go away.” I ended inserting two steps into my shot sequence, both were “relax bow hand” one during the “set your hands” step and one just prior to “aim.” None of this worked.

What worked is I got busy and forgot I had the problem. (Although I still can feel echoes of it happening when I “look” for them.)

Basically I think that I paid way too much attention to my “problem” and made it more real than it was. Possibly you are doing the same. Possibly you should just try turning your mind off and shooting “automatically” for a while, with and without a target face. Each time you have a thought … of any kind … mentally brush it away (I visualize a broom) and go back to shooting “mindlessly.” As a long term approach I do not recommend mindless shooting as being much less effective than correctly engaged shooting (aka mindful shooting), but when our own minds may be reinforcing a problem, they need to be pushed out of the way a bit.

Now, I do not “know” this is the case for you, but it is a possibility. If you think it is, you might have another option for a way forward.


PS regarding “Most big name archers who have videos on YouTube mention just pulling back until it goes off, no real mention of back tension or squeezing back muscles or shoulder blades.” This is the problem with video and book advice (it is one-way) and in this case, it was way oversimplified. This is indeed what it feels like to the archer, but it not what is happening. If you pull straight back with a standard triggerless release aide, it will not go off, because the tripping of the release is based upon the release rotating relative to the direction of the pull. When you are “just pulling back” correctly, your draw arm is rotating around toward your back (because your draw shoulder is doing the same) and that motion causes the release to trip at the right point if it is set up correctly (I can’t emphasize this enough; too many release aides are not set up correctly).

PPS Regarding “Sounds like I was punching with a BT release.” This is why I do not refer to such release aides as “back tension” releases, instead I call them “triggerless” (no release aid requires back tension to use it and all release aids can be used with back tension). Most archers trip their triggerless releases by hand movements, that is they rotate the release in their hand, rather than rotate their hand by rotating their arms around toward their backs. This is the equivalent of “punching a trigger,” if you were switching from the correct operation of the release to a faster hand manipulation. I do not know that you were doing this. It is entirely possible that your arm was rotating your hand and release while you were dropping down into the middle and just tripped when you got there. (I recommend getting your aperture on center before starting the final approach to the release tripping.) Note that triggerless release archers do not shoot any slower than triggered release archers. They have just trained to do the correct movements in the minimal amount of time at full draw. There is no advantage to spending more time at full draw than is needed.


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How Much is “Enough?”

QandA logoI have a student battling target panic (TP) and he sent in the following question:

Do you think 1000 shots are enough to get the muscle memory for that good back tension release feel or is it more important on a certain number of days doing it? I’ve read one month, three months. I remember my martial arts instructor (early 80’s) telling me if you do a move 3000 times, it’s with you for life. Don’t know how that relates to archery shots.

* * *

The usual estimates are only estimates but it is more than 1000 shots. There are two phases, I believe, Lanny Bassham refers to the first as “Building the Base.” This is the phase requiring many thousands of shots. After that “Maintenance” requires fewer shots but you never get to “no practice necessary” because of the design of our brain software, manifested in the phrase “use it or lose it.”

Dave Pelz, the Master Golf Instructor, estimated that it takes 10,000 repetitions to learn a move and 20,000 to “own it.” With regard to your TP, what you are striving to do is get to “normal shooting” so that your practice is “normal” and not focused on TP. I know of no test one can do to see if one is “healed” from the TP malady, in fact I don’t think a “cure” is available yet. It seems to be something you live with.

You have to make the transition (from blank bale to “normal” shooting) along the lines of what you are doing and then see if you can handle normal shooting. (I recommend warm up shooting to start blank bale regardless—focus on the feel of shots to reconnect your thoughts to your actions.) If you have a relapse, then it is back to the blank bale, then the transition program, then trying “normal” shooting again.

This is why so many people fail to effect this process: the want to “rush” the whole thing to get back to normal. This is like someone taking antibiotics saying “the doctor said I need to take these pills for ten days, but I think I can do fine with just five.” Rushing such a regimen dooms you to failure. The unfortunate thing is we do not have a test to see if what you have done is “good enough.”

Interestingly, I knew a young lady who closed her eyes just before she released (This was mentioned elsewhere in this letter. SR). She shot better than I did keeping my eyes open. And I am not sure this is not a valid way to deal with a TP recurrence on the fly. If you get a touch of TP during a competition, you might want to try closing your eyes just before you shoot (as he described) and see if it “goes away.” TP is an anxiety disorder and this may be an effective way to deal with it short term. Of course, you have to be able to do it, and it seems you have established that. The key to success doing it is to be setup so that you are not fighting your body. Tom Dorigatti wrote a nice article in Archery Focus magazine on shooting with your eyes closed and adjusting your stance until, in the case of some of his students, they were shooting perfect 25 point ends on the NFAA indoor five-spot target.



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Got Flinch?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,
Sometimes, at the very end of my practices, I have issues with deciding when to let go of the string. During these times, I might decide to release the string but then quickly re-catch the string. This problem has also occurred in the past during tournaments, usually during the last third of a tournament. What’s going on and how do I fix it?


This is called a “flinch” and it stems from having to decide when to release the string. It is an inherent problem with Barebow Recurve. It is one of the reasons the clicker was invented. The clicker was not just a draw check (designed to fix the draw length at a particular value); it was invented in 1955 by a man named Fred Leder because of “flinching, freezing, and creeping.” The idea was that, when used properly, the clicker obviates the need to make the decision to loose.

Ch 09 Clicker (Andy M)For Barebow Recurve and a number of other disciplines involving finger looses, the clicker-less solution became shooting process and shooting rhythm. A consistent rhythm is created based upon a consistent shot process. My process (Barebow Compound) is when I get to full draw position, I align my point to my POA, check my breathing (I have asthma), and then check my string alignment, then I come back to my point and POA; if both are aligned, I loose the string. All the time I am partially focused on the feel of my rear elbow moving backward (so as to not lose back tension). A comfortable rhythm has been developed around this process.

In the absence of such a process, one’s conscious mind tends to invent new processes when one tires. As you tire, things feel “different” (harder, more difficult, etc.) which allows the conscious mind to go through a “things have changed, I had better adapt” sequence and the consequence is “Ooops, I didn’t mean to let that one go.” One’s conscious mind has to be kept out of the decision making process. That has to become a matter of habit, which is in the realm of the subconscious. One’s subconscious can multi-task, one’s conscious mind cannot, consequently when you start functioning consciously, your attention flits from this to that to that and … “Ooops, I didn’t mean to let that one go” happens. Do this often enough and you can create a syndrome known as target panic which is responsible for a great many archers quitting the sport because they “can’t shoot any more.”

So, decide on what your “shot completion” process is. The easiest way to do this is simply pay attention to what is happening when you are shooting well and normally. You must write this process down (Step 1, Step 2, …). You must read this list every time you shoot, then use that process at first deliberately, but then transitioning into using it “habitually” as you warm up. When you have a rhythm shooting in your process, you will find that you won’t be deciding when the string is to leave, it will “just happen” along the way.

Let me know how this is working for you.



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