How to on your Mental Game: Confidence Your Way
A month has gone by now since we started the articles on the mental game. I hope your training is seeing some improvements from using the STRONG/WEAK column.
Since day one you have been instructed to not erase the items in the WEAK column at all, and to just draw a line through it. If you are a curious archer and wondering why you leave it there and not get rid of it entirely, then you are not alone and about to learn why.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Grip * Release
Equipment/Gear * Crowds
Aiming * 3-spot target
Each time that you begin to move a WEAK item into the STRONG column you are not only changing how you see yourself but changing how your mind interacts subconsciously as you learned last week. You dictate what your subconscious can do so that you just naturally perform the way you want. What you can’t control is the past. It has already happened and will define you forever. Even when you change something on purpose there is a reason it was WEAK to begin with and that is the real you without any correction.
Remember how you were told that STRONG column items does not mean perfect but only things that you feel confident about and WEAK items were things that needed improvement in order to feel confident?
Those STRONG column items are not PERFECT! All the items that you move from WEAK to STRONG are moved because you purposefully worked on them and now feel confident in them. You feel confident enough to move onto the next item. The entire process is at your own pace and you have been given some steady tools like imagery to help move those items over one by one.
“I am confident in my release!” So why not erase it as a WEAK item for good?! The reasons are simple.
The past is a reminder of how far we have come. Progress forward builds confidence but if you were to erase the WEAK items then you could never look back and see exactly what has changed or in what order. Being able to see what you have changed is crucial in feeling more confident.
Back to the Future
Every archer will have a moment when things just don’t seem to go their way. Form feels good, equipment is tuned, you feel confident for now, but scores are starting to drop. This downslide is normal and is the hardest times to overcome mentally. You know you can do it because you had just been shooting well. This slump can be caused by many things but the top reasons usually start with something you moved over to the STRONG column. It could even be the very last WEAK item you crossed off your list. Slumps in sports are usually mental and require a spark to the subconscious to turn things around. By being able to see what WEAK items on your list you moved your subconscious will remember every little thing it took to move it over to the STRONG column. By not erasing those items we are forcing a connection with our subconscious mind without even trying. Since your mind will see the WEAK column item you crossed out, it will also see the STRONG column with the same item not crossed out. All the mind will see is the item. We consciously force our subconscious to relive what we did to move the item over. All of this without having to think about it or focus on it. The mind will do this all on its own and begin triggering events that took place during that time. Within almost no time at all your mind will start to point you down a path to repair what is going wrong. It is like a gentle reminder of the past and the future all in one glance of a word. It works this way because we trained it to work this way by using the STRONG/WEAK column from day one.
I promised to give you some weekly pointers on how to “psych” out the competition. So here is this weeks lesson.
The next time you are on the shooting line and have some close competition shooting with you, try this “psych-out” trick. Ask your competition if they think the target is really round or not. Look confused as if the target isn’t round to you at all when asking them this. The trick takes a few ends to kick in but eventually, no matter how strong willed they are mentally, their mind will notice the target was never round to start with but is actually square. This will make them focus on it enough to stop focusing on their shot and begin to over aim. Even a tough competitor will give up a few points due to this trick.
Not enough room in your head to store your tricks, try the Legend Archery Diamond Pack to store more tricks and gear!
Journey into your Mind: The Subconscious Journey
Everything that is automatic in your body comes from the “subconscious” part of your mind. Your subconscious mind controls everything that you do because like a computer, it is programmed to do so.
Understanding how your subconscious mind affects your STRONG/WEAK column is crucial and today you will take a journey into your mind and begin to connect the pieces of the puzzle from week one.
Subconscious vs Concscious
In simple terms your conscious mind commands your thoughts and your subconscious mind obeys by what it knows. As an example of your subconscious mind is your heart. The heart beats without you having to even think about it. It does that because the subconscious part of the brain is programmed to make that work for you no matter what, even if you consciously tell your heart to stop beating it will always beat. Conscious thoughts allow us to make changes to what we do or how we do it.
“You control your conscious mind just by thinking it.”
All your habits of thinking and acting are stored in your subconscious mind. It has memorized all your comfort zones. The subconscious mind also works hard to keep you in those comfort zones.
Your subconscious mind causes you to feel emotionally and physically uncomfortable whenever you attempt to do anything new or different, or to change any of your established patterns of behavior.
You can feel your subconscious mind pulling you back toward your comfort zone each time you try something new. This is the feeling you get when you when you get uneasy about something. Even just thinking about doing something different from what you are accustomed to will make you feel tense and uneasy.
People have been pushing the envelope of what makes them feel safe or how they react to fear. The difference between most people is that if you can push through your fears and you reprogram your subconscious to accept that what you are doing is the new normal, then you start to improve your abilities and you increase the levels at which you can perform both mentally and physically.
An old rule of thumb is that it takes 21 days to change a habit. That is because the average person must consciously think about the change for 3 weeks before the subconscious mind just reacts and makes it normal. By doing something the way you want to do it over and over and over, again and again and again, you eventually change the habit and it becomes automatic to you. So automatic that you never have to think about it again and it becomes natural.
That change is done consciously until the subconscious is reprogrammed to make it normal. You can change anything in your life you want to by consciously making an effort every single day until your subconscious makes it a normal habit.
STRONG vs WEAK: It is in your mind
Three weeks have gone by since I had you make your STRONG/WEAK columns. Did you catch that? Three (3) weeks! By now the thing you chose to work on should start becoming more natural to you and you should already start feeling confident about that item. If not then don’t worry, just keep working on it. Remember that 3 weeks is just an average and there is not rush on building confidence that will be with you forever.
Using imagery will help you keep a conscious focus on what you are wanting to change. Imagery will help speed things up and help teach your subconscious what it is that you want to be done. By physically practicing that change and feeling more confident you will be able to move onto your next item.
As I stated in the first article in week one, you will start to see how the pieces of the puzzle come together. I am sure you are still curious as to why we don’t erase the WEAK items and only cross a line through them so that we still can read them. Not to worry because next week you will learn why that is important and until then keep working on imagery and keep focus on reprogramming your mind so that you can physically make the change long term as well as feel confident about the changes.
I changed my subconscious to know that my Legend Archery Pro Sling will keep by bow safe and I don’t have to worry about it ever hitting the floor!
Follow back next week as I explain why we don’t erase WEAK items and I will start my series on using psychology to “psych-out” the competition.
Archery has Gone Mental: Part 2: Imagery
I hope your training is going well so far and that you made your STRONG/WEAK column this past week. If you still have not made the column list, then go back to Part 1 and be sure you do it. This process is in steps and in the end the parts will all come together. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat, just give it a try and do it!
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Grip * Crowds
Equipment/Gear * 3-spot target
Exploring the Imagination
Everything you do starts with an image in your head. That image you have of yourself doing anything is called imagery. Imagery is a picture or moving picture you have of something you want to act upon. The difference between imagery and dreams is that in dreams you are not always in control of what you see. Imagery is a conscious effort to see yourself doing something and is on purpose.
The concept of imagery is very simple. However it is the beginning of everything you actually do and if not taken seriously it can hinder what you are trying to accomplish. If you try to imagine yourself jumping off a cliff and then picture yourself with wings and flying, then you are just day dreaming and not using imagery correctly. It is important to understand that when using imagery you must picture everything you do as being completely real and not be unrealistic with it.
Every person is unique in the way they imagine the world around them. Some people have active imaginations and can picture themselves as Superman flying around and looking down at their house. Others struggle with an imagination like that and can’t even see themselves in their mind doing anything but what they already know they can do, like walking down stairs.
The difference between the two types is night and day, but by learning how to use imagery correctly it doesn’t matter what type you fall under. If you have an active imagination you actually struggle with imagery because you tend to lose focus and see yourself doing something unrealistic. While others dream and picture themselves in reality as seen through their eyes.
Active imaginations are great with imagery because you have the ability to see not only yourself but your surroundings as well as one image. You can easily change the background of where you are just by thinking it. This is a good thing, but needs to be controlled.
Have someone else read this part to you right now. Close your eyes while they read this to you.
Picture yourself flying through the air like superman. There are clouds all around with blue sky above you. Your arms are out to your side and your legs straight. Your head is up looking straight ahead. You lean to turn, right then left. Then you do a barrel role! Now try to picture yourself and what you look like. What color shoes are you wearing? (If you are the one reading this to them, did their body move to fly while in front of you? Did their head move down to look at their feet?)
Now put your feet back on the ground, we have stuff to learn.
When you were asked what color shoes are you wearing, did you stop flying and look down at your actual feet? Or did you keep flying and look at your feet in the air? If you looked at your feet while flying, how did you look at them? If you saw your shoes by looking at them then you are viewing in the first person. If you looked at your shoes from outside your body then you saw them as third person. Following so far?
Now ask the person who read that to you whether or not you just sat there or if you moved your head while looking at your feet.
If you just sat there and did not move it means that you are able to picture yourself doing something including a task without moving at all. Congratulations! You are able to perform imagery in public and not embarrass yourself!
For everyone else all it means is that you use your body to complete what you picture in your head. There is no right or wrong, just whether or not you don’t mind on lookers when doing it at the airport.
How to Visualize, You
Imagining yourself is not easy for everyone to do. Everyone can close their eyes and visualize seeing something from their own perspective. The hard part is being able to close your eyes and picture yourself from someone else’s perspective and not lose focus.
As an exercise to learn how to visualize yourself I have found that the easiest way is to have someone take a picture of you while shooting. Now take that picture and look at it. Look at every single inch of everything in it. Hold that picture in front of you and stare at it without blinking. Do this for about 5-10 seconds. Without blinking or looking away, close your eyes and visualize the picture. Don’t move, keep holding the picture, or at least don’t move the picture. After about 3-5 seconds open your eyes and look at the picture again. Do this over and over until when you close your eyes you can see the picture without your eyes open.
This is a way to train your mind to see what you want it to see. By memorizing the picture your mind is able to see it as if you were actually looking at the picture with your eyes open. This may take some of you a while to learn how to do it, but this is crucial for learning imagery.
Once you learn this, assuming it does not come naturally to you, you will be able to close your eyes and see yourself like a picture. If you struggle with being able to see yourself from different angles in your head, then have more pictures taken of you while shooting from different angles. I have found that making a video of yourself is the fastest way to see yourself in all angles.
What you want to be able to do is close your eyes and see yourself shooting. You want to be able to see yourself as if you were a camera from all angles. Being able to visualize yourself in your mind and moving around yourself is the goal. If you get frustrated trying to do it, just watch the video of yourself again and see what the camera sees. Once you can see yourself in that way, elaborate on it. Try to move your view to above yourself in your mind, looking down on yourself.
Being able to visualize every part of you is not always easy and takes practice. Once you are able to do this however, you will be able to see yourself in a different way and it will begin to help you understand your form and your surroundings better.
Once you grasp being able to see yourself and your surroundings with your eyes closed, you can begin to use imagery. Imagery is an ability to see anything you want from first person to third person point of views and change the picture you see to how you want it to be.
Assuming you can do this now, close your eyes and take a look at the field you are shooting on. Picture everything around you as you wish. The sky, the grass or dirt, the target, the trees, the wind, everything you would see when you shoot. You can use imagery in your mind to change the field and things like weather or time of day. You can picture yourself shooting on a rainy day and visualize the water running down the riser. Imagery can go even further with your senses and you can learn to smell the rain or feel it on your skin.
Imagery is a key ingredient to a stronger mental game because it allows you to create a perfect picture of what you should be doing and to find ways to fix problems before ever shooting a single real shot. If you feel comfortable in an environment before ever showing up to that place you will already feel more confident.
Never been to a specific tournament or location and feel anxious about it? Use imagery to calm yourself down. Find pictures on the web of previous tournaments at that location. Study the pictures or video. Look at how it is laid out, the grass or carpet if indoor, look at the targets and lighting, and find everything you can to picture yourself standing there. Imagine being the one who took the pictures or video. Close your eyes and look around the venue. Get a feel of the place. Walk around a bit in your head. Go stand on the shooting line and fire a shot real fast. Don’t worry, no one will mind.
You can even go online to see average weather of the venue or find the weather for that day you will be there. You will know if it is 70deg with sun or 90deg with rain. Visualize yourself on the shooting line knowing what it looks like and what the weather is like. Visualize and imagine the perfect shot. Picture how perfect you release the string and how strong your bow arm is. Visualize everything as if you were actually there right now.
Take a WEAK column item and work on it in your head. Visualize yourself doing it the right way, perfect. Picture yourself shooting with perfection. Work on it in your mind until you just want to pick up the bow and just do it right away. Build confidence before you even stand on the shooting line. Use imagery to curb your fears. Shoot strong shots in your head.
The mind has a wonderful way of helping us correct physical struggles. If we imagine it enough the mind will start to help our physical bodies perform exactly the way we picture ourselves. You can cut WEAK issues time in half by using imagery to correct the problems.
By using imagery, which you can do anywhere at any time, you can learn to shoot an entire tournament before you even get there. Imagery is nothing more than picturing the perfect you. Anyone can do it with some practice and advanced practice will let you close your eyes anywhere and shoot all your shots perfectly while feeling the rain on your skin and the push of the wind on your back. Remember not to day dream and keep it realistic. Feel confident when visualizing yourself, and always visualize hitting the X!
You want to use imagery before shooting every real shot. Picture your shot process and how you want to execute the shot before nocking the arrow. Then shoot it exactly how you imagined.
What are you imagining right now? For me I am using imagery to see myself preparing my gear with my Archery Backpack before heading to the field.
Weekly Challenge: Use imagery to help move a WEAK column item over. Remember that moving a WEAK item over is about confidence and confidence is all in your head.
See you next week when I take you on a journey with your subconscious mind.
Everyone you know may be posting about pumpkin spice lattes and colorful leaves, but for archers, October also signals the start of the indoor archery season. Whether you’re new to archery this year, or an indoor gold medalist, here are three tips everyone can use to improve their indoor game:
1. Get your gear on point
If you’re switching from an outdoor setup to an indoor setup, a small investment of time can have a major impact on your bow’s performance (and your sanity).
First, use a note-taking app to make a record of your bow setup as you’ve used it for outdoor season, including bow weight, arrow specs, arrow rest type and where it’s positioned, and your stabilizer/weight configuration. Be sure to take photos as well, so you have a clear record of exactly how your outdoor setup works before you change anything for indoors, so that you can change it back next spring.
If you’re a compound archer, you might find that one type of arrow rest shoots better indoors than out, and you’re likely to need adjustments even if you’re sticking with the same rest but changing arrows for indoor season. If you’re able, keep your outdoor rest intact and simply remove it from the bow, and pop a new arrow rest on for indoor season. For recurve archers, the same goes for the plunger; try to keep separate ones for indoor and outdoor season, because it can be difficult to duplicate plunger settings once they’ve been changed.
There are some archers who won’t change arrows from outdoor season to indoor season, and that’s okay, too. If you’re not making any changes, just be sure that you still keep a good record of your archery equipment so that if something breaks or is lost, you can make an exact replacement quickly.
2. Learn the Game
Indoor archery tournaments can be hosted by target, field and 3-D archery organizations. Depending on where you live, you might be able to choose from a variety of local, state and regional competitions, or your options may be limited by the type of archery that’s popular in your area.
Whatever archery game you decide to play, take the time to learn the rules, from how to shoot your target to scoring. The rules at some National Field Archery Association tournaments, for example, could differ from World Archery’s format. Here are some good questions to research:
By asking these simple questions, you can set yourself up for success, whether it’s your first indoor archery season or just the first time you’re trying a new round.
3. Set a Goal, and Get Started!
Now that your equipment is ready and you know what kinds of indoor archery rounds you want to shoot, it’s time to set some goals and work toward reaching them.
If this is your first indoor season, or if you’re shooting a new indoor game for the first time, your goal should really just be to learn: learn the round, the rules, how to compete, and develop confidence in an unfamiliar environment. If you’ve shot indoor archery before, your goals might be a bit more involved: perfecting your shot process indoors, setting a new personal best at a tournament, or earning a spot on the podium.
Remember that even though indoor tournaments tend to have fewer arrows required per day than outdoor tournaments, your shots and scores will still only be as good as your commitment to practicing. The target is where you’ll see your efforts pay off (or not). Even though the days are short and temps become cold, practice is still a necessity, even if indoors at very short distances. If you’re planning to shoot tournaments, be sure to learn the format and practice keeping score: this will help develop confidence.
Finally, as you progress through your indoor archery season, be sure to keep good notes. Things you should write down: how your tournaments went, what you liked most about the season, which things affected you positively or negatively during practice, and changes you’d like to try making to your bow. By keeping notes, you’ll be able to see your accomplishments, track your progress and be even more efficient in planning for future indoor archery seasons!
Approaching the Mind: Part 1
Archery is a sport like any other. It requires immense physical abilities to repeat a set of steps to complete a task. Not every athlete is built the same and nor are they able to complete the task at hand exactly the same from person to person. What an athlete lacks in physical qualities, they make up for with mental strength and ability. Just the pure fact that someone never gives up is already their greatest strength.
Archers train their body to repeat every step exactly the same shot by shot. That is the true secret to being a great archer, being able to duplicate everything you do on every single shot. It doesn’t matter if it is perfectly executed. All that matters is that you do the same exact thing every single time. It doesn’t matter how much weight you can shoot or how fast the arrow can fly. A slow bullseye is the same as a fast bullseye.
Perfect form with more arrow speed will certainly help in many circumstances like shooting in the wind, but less than perfect form and a slow arrow can still hit the target where you want it to. Physical abilities are different from archer to archer and like any athlete in a sport everyone is different in that area. Better form only helps lessen the chance of a poor shot, but even bad form can still work.
Why all the talk already about physical ability and form? You thought reading this article would help your mental game, not tell you about good vs. bad form?
Within a few short paragraphs you have already learned more about the mental game of sports and archery than you realize. If you shoot a low poundage bow and always wondered how your bow weight affects a bullseye or if you have less than perfect form due to an injury and there is nothing you can do about it, then I know for those of you in those categories that I raised your heart rate slightly already and got you excited about the idea that none of that matters and you can still shoot a perfect shot.
Now let me take your heart rate up more and turn up your blood pressure. Unless you shoot 50+ lbs and can shoot 8 hrs a day with perfect form because you have a great coach, you will never win an Olympic Gold Medal. Ever!
Stirred up and mad? Did your stomach drop and heart rate jump up reading that? If it did then you are not alone and the next few weeks you will learn the basics of how and why that happens to you. Most importantly you will learn a few ways to curb those feelings.
Some of you reading this laughed at the comment and rolled your eyes thinking to yourself, whatever. If you chuckled at the comment then you have confidence. Confidence because you simply know it isn’t true or confidence because you can prove it wrong right now.
Confidence is Knowledge
It is not a secret but the biggest factor in having a mental game is confidence. Confidence is a learned trait for most, but some people are just naturally confident in everything they do. Those rare individuals just know they can do something before they even attempt it. If you are not one of those people then don’t worry about it because the key to confidence is knowledge. Knowledge gives us the ability in any situation to conquer fear. Fear is the number one distraction. We are only afraid of what we don’t know.
When you stand on the shooting line in a tournament and shoot your very first shot in practice rounds, do you shake or feel faint? That feeling is caused from adrenaline which is triggered by a certain emotion, fear. It is a normal reaction for most of us. The reason is simple. The reason you have fear is because you are not confident enough in knowing your abilities.
“…Confident enough in knowing your abilities.”
The reason seasoned archers or athletes are confident is because they know what they are capable of doing. They have knowledge of themselves and have performed in every scenario possible. They know the good and the bad. When the wind blows, they know how to aim or what to change to make the shot. When equipment fails, they know what needs to be fixed and how to deal with it.
We will get into how to gain confidence later on. The important thing at this point is to understand where you are in your mental game and work on your mental weaknesses.
As a positive booster to get you going keep this in mind every single time you compete. Every athlete has a breaking point mentally no matter how good their mental game. You will also learn in these series how to turn the mental game around and us it to “psych-out” your competition.
Now that you have a basic understanding of how confidence is knowledge, let us dive right into your first true lesson in any mental game. Fear.
Fear is a normal human reaction and is an emotion. Fear has many different faces and for most it is the fear of the unknown. Confidence is the ability to overcome fear. Knowledge is the key to confidence. See a pattern starting?
When we begin to shake it is because adrenaline is pumping through our system and fear is usually the cause. Anxiety is also fear and is hard to control unless you know what it is that is making you anxious in the first place. In order to conquer your fears, you simply have to face them. Over the years I have found this to be different for everyone, so everyone has a different approach but the results of what is next works regardless of your mental type (and by mental type remember that it is referring to whether or not you feel anxious or afraid, or if you already feel nothing) or ability.
Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. This is true no matter what you do in life or sports. Athletes practice and practice and practice to prepare for competition. We practice so that we can do what we want as we want at any moment. Being natural at what we do. We want to practice so that we get better. Practicing in a garage or in the backyard will only get you so far. You can practice your form for 10,000 shots and put years behind your practice. Let’s say that your practice is perfect every time. You shoot a planned practice with 100 shots each time. Each practice your form gets better and better and you get stronger and stronger. You can average 290s in practice for indoor, but when you shoot in a tournament your averages drop to 275s. How is that possible when you practice perfectly every single session? Your form is solid and the arrow flies so perfectly down range. The reason is because when you get to a competition you become anxious and the little imperfections start to come out when shooting. The bad shots go to your head and the score starts to drop no matter how hard you try. Be careful not to try too hard, you know what you can do. The 10s become 9s and you lose your confidence. You become frustrated and afraid of the next shot. The moment you let fear enter your mind, the damage is done. Or is it?
The first lesson in this mental game is understanding yourself. After reading this article I want you to grab a piece of paper and pen or something you can’t erase. Draw a line down the middle to make 2 columns. On one column side write STRONG and on the other column write WEAK.
Under the STRONG side I want you to write what you feel are your archery strengths, ie strong bow arm, solid anchor, etc. and on the WEAK side I want you to write what you feel you are weakest in doing.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Once you are done look at the weak column first. These are the things in your form or shot process that need work. They are not perfect but they are fixable. These are things you need to focus on each week in practice. As each part of the WEAK column improves and you feel they are STRONG, cross them out and add it to the STRONG column. DO NOT ERASE the WEAK COLUMN! You will see why later.
Your first goal is to improve one WEAK column item in one week. I call it WEAK for WEEK.
If you are unable to accomplish moving a weak issue over in a week then it is ok. It is simply a goal that has long term affects but can be corrected.
Example: You fixed your anchor this week so you can add it to the STRONG side. Don't erase it from the WEAK side. Just cross it out so you can still see it.
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Now you can’t read the next part until you make this column. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat. Just do it! Right now!
..... Waiting on you to make your columns....
You are now probably asking why would I make a column to work on my weak parts in my form when I am trying to have a better mental game in archery? The reason is because there is not a way to become confident in yourself if you still feel you have a weakness to overcome. The fact you wrote it in the WEAK column proves to yourself that you feel unconfident in that part of your shooting. The only way to overcome that part of your mind is to work on it until you can write this column later from scratch and put everything in the STRONG column. Remember that STRONG does not mean perfect. Hence the point of the exercise. The point of this is so you can see where your mind is headed. If you put anything in the WEAK column then your mind is already fighting a battle with confidence. I will say it again, STRONG does not mean perfect. It just means your mind sees it as a part of the process it is comfortable with and is confident enough to work with.
The goal this week is to know how your mind feels about your shot process. There is not a right or wrong answer, just pieces to a puzzle that you will soon learn how to put together. Without the confidence in the shot process there is not a solid foundation to build a mental game in competition. The STRONG column is your confidence and everything else is why you get afraid and anxious. By eliminating the items in the WEAK column you begin to build confidence in the entire process.
The confidence you gain from “knowing” your shot process is stronger is the beginning of a champion’s mind.
I added an item to my STRONG column for archery equipment / archery gear because being confident in your gear is half the battle. I am confident that my gear makes it safely to and from archery training because I know my Archery Recurve Backpack Akiles2 will safely carry my precious gear without worry.
Check back very soon for Part 2 of this series: Imagery. You will learn how to mentally visualize the shot process and shoot the perfect shoot without ever picking up a bow. You will learn how to build confidence without having to shoot a single physical shot.
Mental Game for the Week: When you are having a bad day shooting, stop and ask yourself what kind of pizza you want for dinner. Think about what toppings you want while shooting and drool over the idea of melted cheese. Try it and see how much better your shooting gets and then enjoy that tasty pizza!
For more pictures and details, please follow this link : archery quiver Summit.
As complex humans with a wide range of personalities and emotions, we tend to think about “the perfect shot” as a bulls'eye. Pulling the bow back, aiming, and then watching the arrow hit the target dead smack center. Sounds more like a dream than most archer’s reality, or does it.
Over the next few weeks you will get a "how to" guide to mental training to help understand how to increase your mental game when shooting. Whether it is for fun or competition, the mental part to archery is more important than the physical aspect. Archery can be mentally tough and to combat it you have to know yourself and how to deal with the pressure as it comes.
To me the absolute perfect shot starts with me standing on a shooting line somewhere green and lush with trees surrounding a field with many colorful FITA archery targets. I stand on the line feeling how soft the grass is beneath, the sky is blue with fluffy white clouds keeping the sun off me just enough as not to bake me all day, surrounded by fellow shooters basking in the warmth of the gorgeous day, and a breeze so light that you can barely feel it.
As I draw my bow I mentally feel I look like Jay Barrs or Brady Ellison. The bow pulls so gently and my form feels rock solid. I aim with no effort at 70m with my sight pin not moving at all. I pull through the clicker smoothly and effortlessly, and as it drops my release lets a thrush of the string go off my finger tips. The bow rocks forward and the arrow is in perfect flight as I watch it fly away so gracefully. And before it reaches the target my head is already on the next arrow being pulled from my quiver. I never see the arrow hit the target because I just know exactly where it will land. To me that is the perfect shot. The shot that feels like the whole world just comes together and you truly enjoy it all… That is until you get to the target and realize you shot a 7 instead of a X. To me the perfect shot is all in how it feels. If it feels perfect, it will find its way into the bulls'eye…eventually.
Everyone has their perfect shot in their dreams. For some it is simply any shot that hits the center. For others it is just the pleasure of hitting the target.
The perfect shot is not the same for everyone, but for everyone the perfect shot starts in your mind and the mind is where it does become the same for everyone. Keeping the focus on your perfect shot starts well before you ever pick up the bow. The mental game of archery is not only the hardest part of the sport, but the most crucial. I have JOAD archers trying to shoot the 1000 arrow challenge thinking that each shot is just a shot and the goal is to physically just shoot 1000 arrows. What if I told you that for 1000 shots on every shot you also had to do a math problem before each shot? Your mind would wonder well before the 500th arrow and your body would already start to get even more tired. Did you know that a thinking marathon is just as physically exhausting as actually doing exercise?
When we begin to concentrate we naturally start to tense up while thinking about say a math problem. Over time the problems, regardless of how simple it is, seem more and more complex. The reason is simple. The more we concentrate the more energy we expel through our bodies. This causes the body to become more fatigued. That fatigue along with physical exercise starts an even faster downhill slide to our energy levels. The combination creates a weaker body and a weaker mind and the more we try using both, the harder everything becomes in general. The mind wonders, the body collapses, and the perfect shot disappears.
The solution is simple. If you do shoot the 1000 arrow challenge, challenge your mind on every shot. For any archer that is simple. Don’t just shoot the shot. Focus on form, or focus on aiming, or focus on something like your idea of the perfect shot on every shot. If you do it enough then not only will your mind be able focus longer, but your mind and body will both be able to go longer with better results. This philosophy is the basic principle for elite military training. The reason they do it is so that at any given moment the body and the mind work in sink regardless of how tired you are.
The perfect shot starts in your mind, but is your body able to keep up. Practice your perfect shot on every shot in your head before you shoot. Practice the perfect shot in your head while you exercise. Practice the perfect shot. Practice. Practice. Practice. Remember this… Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So what is the perfect shot? It is the ability to shoot a shot that you already shot in your head and make it happen in the exact way you mentally pictured it… EVERY SINGLE TIME!
I’m always curious, what’s your perfect shot?
Check back later this week for Part 2 of this series and don't forget to check out Legend Archery's new Summit archery quiver before leaving! I will have a full review on the new Summit Quiver soon so keep checking back to read all about it!
Check out the new quiver here: http://legendarchery.com/collections/archery-quivers-arrow-quivers/products/archery-quiver-summit
“I want to be an Olympian.”
“I want to go to the Paralympics.”
“My daughter could be a World Champion.”
What exactly does it take to compete at the top levels of a sport? In many sports, it’s about speed, strength and agility. But in archery, the ultimate sport of precision, it might take just three things: work ethic, true passion for the sport, and the ability to quiet the mind.
“Work ethic” means different things to different people, but when it comes to top-performing competitive archery stars, it’s about finding the winning balance between quality and quantity. While many top archers are known for their impressive daily arrow counts (think 300 or more arrows per day for some of the world’s best recurve shooters), the sport’s champions make each of those arrows count, and carve out time for other important activities, like visualization, cardio, strength training and equipment tuning.
It’s especially true in archery that “perfect practice makes perfect.” Just being able to release hundreds of arrows isn’t enough to win – and in fact, shooting for practice numbers, without regard to technique, could actually cause an archer to form bad habits. Thoughtful practice during which the archer concentrates on each arrow is far more likely to result in success.
Passion for the sport – such an important quality in competitive archers – can’t be taught or coached into an athlete. Regardless of how much potential a coach or parent sees in an archer, if they don’t truly love the sport of archery, they’ll eventually struggle to compete at a high level.
For an archer to get to the level of a compound world title or an Olympic team placement, they’ll shoot tens of thousands of arrows per year – maybe more – often alone in a field, or in front of their target, rehearsing the perfect shot over and over again. They’ll struggle in competition, shed tears of frustration and joy, and hopefully, eventually triumph – but only because they had a true love for archery and a willingness to shoot arrows even when they felt a little lazy – because they had the drive to win.
I once heard a coach talking about an athlete who was competing at a very high level – a World Championship team member, Olympic hopeful and international medalist in archery. The coach said the archer was successful because she could “quiet her mind” and focus on what she needed to do.
The ability to “quiet the mind” is the same thing as getting in and out of the zone; it’s the mental strength to shut out distractions and have a laser focus on the task at hand until it’s finished, and not allow the mind to wander. If you’re an archer, how many times have you known you had something to work on – perhaps your release, for example – and then become distracted because you realized something was “off” about your bow hand, your grip or your stance? In the end, the archer who can quiet their mind is able to focus on what must be fixed, and focus only on that one thing until it’s a good habit. And that same archer can shut out distractions – wind, rain, heat, and other competitors, for example – when the competitive pressure is high.
All of these qualities are critical to competitive success, and all of them are interconnected. With work ethic must come the passion for the sport required to put in the arrows and hours needed to succeed. And the archer who has a quiet mind will be able to get the most out of every arrow they shoot, fueled by the love of shooting a bow and arrow, and the desire to win.
Understanding Reflex and Deflex risers
Thousands of years ago man did not have a true understanding of technology and how it affected the bow. Different styles of recurve bows were used in different cultures. By understanding the differences in their style of archery and hunting, you can see why some cultures chose different styles of bows.
Today we still toy around with different types of bows and when you are talking about recurves in competition you see manufactures selling you on the idea of a “more deflex” tuned bow. Understanding the purpose of what a more deflex bow does will help you gauge why all the hype is around today.
How well do you understand reflex vs deflex?
To make this simple for you to understand and not go into the science and technical aspects that most won’t understand, this article is a base to help you to get to know the difference and why they are important.
Reflex bows are designed to have the limbs pivot point in front of the archers hand or more easily to see in front of the grip pivot point. As you can see in the picture, this bow has a slight reflex design and puts the limb pivot points in front of the hand. (This is a deflex riser but with a more relflex design than normal. You will understand better later on.) The red line is drawn from the limb pivot point to show you the relation from the riser ends and the distance from the grip.
Deflex bows are designed in the opposite way. The limb pivot point is behind the pivot point of the grip. Take a look at the picture and compare it to the one above to clearly see the difference. By using the red arrows you can see how the more deflex riser has more gap from the grip in comparison. You will notice this later on in the article as well.
As for the definition of the two styles, this is as simple as it gets. Reflex and deflex simply refers to where the pivot point of the limb sits in relation to the pivot point of the grip. Simple right? You bet it is, at least until you start thinking about why the two designs and how they play a role in our shooting.
Reflex bows are much faster than a deflex bow design. There are several factors that come into play to make this happen. If you are up to speed on how brace height affects arrow speed, than this will be easy to understand. The lower the brace height, brace height is the distance from the throat of the grip, the faster the speed. We know this because by lowering the brace height you in turn weaken the arrow shaft spine, thus meaning more speed is introduced.
Purpose of each design has had its place in traditional archery designs and is now making its way back into the market.
If you have a short draw length and just cannot get the speed you are wanting, then a reflex design is more your speed. On the other hand if you are looking for a more forgiving bow and speed is not a concern, then a deflex bow is what you want.
In an age where speed seems to dictate what we buy, the idea behind a more reflex design bow has been a focus. Speed sells to the masses, but accuracy is what wins. With speed you will certainly sacrifice some accuracy. The trade-off is of personal preference in the end, but the end result for some is pin-point accuracy.
So how does each design make or break the archer?
If you are an incredibly accurate archer with little mistakes being made, then you can shoot a more reflex design bow. For the masses however, a more deflex bow is better and more forgiving.
Most recurve bows today are of deflex design. The question becomes how much deflex is built into the riser? Most entry level good risers have quite a bit of deflex built into them. The reason is simple. The more deflex the more forgiving the bow is and the more accurate. By giving a new archer a bow that shoots more accurately the more confidence they have quicker. The quicker they get better, the quicker they buy a new riser. So why not make every riser with more deflex to begin with? The reason is because in the midst of having a more deflex riser with more accuracy, the less deflex riser is faster and faster wins in the wind and at distance. There is a trade-off remember and you can cross that fine line easily.
Win & Win make mostly high deflex risers from the base range to the top end. Ask many archers why they love their Win & Win and they will tell you that the bow just seems to shoot better. Hoyt on the other hand has used a much less deflex design in recent years on their high end bows. They have found a balance with speed and stability, and it shows. Recently Hoyt have brought back the RX design which has more deflex than in previous models. Notice in the picture below how the old RX design had more deflex built in versus the HPX, which was and has been a very successful bow.
Why more delfex now then? Back to the beginning of what the modern riser design is mostly based on, the Hoyt GM TD2. Earl Hoyt used more deflex in his original design than anyone probably ever thought of without notice. The following decades gave way to very similar geometry with very slight differences. The more modern times with technology has introduced risers with less deflex making for quicker bows.
Whether you are new to archery or an expert with decades of shooting skills, the more deflex designs offer more accuracy regardless of brand. Shoot a less deflex riser well and the more deflex risers will help make you even more accurate.
If you don’t understand how brace height affects the arrow, then don’t feel alone.
There are two types of brace height. No not high and low.
The first type I call “Natural Brace Height”. This is the bows natural brace height based on the geometry of the riser design, is it reflex or deflex in design. As stated before a reflex design will have a lower brace height and a deflex design will be higher. Given the same limbs and length of string with the same number of twists, you would see this naturally happening. This is why I call it the Natural Brace Height. You can achieve the same brace height for each design by making the string longer or shorter when made or changing the number of twists.
The second type of brace height is what I simply call, “Adjusted”. By changing the string length as stated above, you can adjust the brace height for either design of riser to be the same.
So why the fuss with two designs, reflex or deflex, if you can “adjust” the brace height from its natural location?
If the riser has more deflex design then the natural brace height will be higher. Remember the higher the brace height the slower the arrow, but the more stable and more forgiving it will be. A riser with less deflex with a natural brace height being lower will be faster and not as forgiving. You can change the brace height by adjusting it, but you are changing the natural nature of the bow.
Let’s say that the less deflex riser naturally rests at 8.5” of brace height and the more deflex riser naturally rests at 9.0” brace height. Just as an example without adjusting anything, you can see that the more deflex riser is already closer to a more forgiving setup without any adjustment yet. By adjusting the less deflex riser and bringing the brace height up to 9.0” we have to shorted the string via twists if possible. This increase in brace height will affect the arrow spine some and stiffen it. To go up to 9.25” of brace height we will drastically change the arrow flight and tune, where the more deflex riser will be naturally closer to the 9.25” of brace height with only a few twists. This allows us to keep the spine much closer for tuning and still give even more forgiveness without being far from the natural design of the bow.
Forgiveness is a term used lightly and nothing makes it truly more forgiving, but what it does refer to is a more forgiving bow is purely just a more stable and accurate bow.
While a higher brace height is a tad slower, it is however more stable. The idea is to introduce more deflex into a riser so that the bow is more stable.
So what do you know now? You know that a reflex design is faster at the cost of accuracy because the bow naturally is not as stable. You know that a deflex design is slower at the cost of more accuracy because it is more stable.
Want to see the proof? Over the past year or so you started to see some changes in what risers are being used. Take a look at some top archers and you will notice that more and more Hoyt GMX risers are being used. The Hoyt GMX is an ILF riser with more deflex geometry built into it. You will also start seeing a lot more Hoyt Prodigy RX risers being used which also have more deflex built into it. Both risers use Earl Hoyts original geometry dating back to the TD2 over 30 years ago. Win & Win already use a more deflex design and have had their success stories as well, but keep in mind that they stuck with their geometry for the most part for all of these years.
The simple truth is that more deflex to equal a natural 9” brace height is still the way to go to achieve a bow that is more stable and accurate. Technology is moving forward only to find that old designs are more in tune than we ever imagined.
Hoyt Formula RX and Hoyt GMX (Old deflex geometry, just like the TD4)
So the next time you are shopping for a new riser or bow, you will now have one more thing to think about before pulling the trigger. It better be an accurate decision.