Archery – The Mental Game

There are two components in every competitive sport, the physical and the mental game. Often in sports we develop our physical ability long before we develop our mental game. Remember, my ascension to the world competition level was extremely fast, one year I was completely unknown in Canada, a dark horse. Then just 18 months later I had already won a Canada Games medal and was on my way to represent Canada at the World Indoor Championships; Real fast! Charles Lopez asked…

Perhaps you’ve covered this already and I’ve missed it but I wondered if you could expand on what you do on the mental side of things while you compete?

This is the toughest question I have been asked, since I still struggle with it and one of my training goals for this year is to work on my mental game. Archery is a lot like golf, you are not competing with anyone but yourself. So a good mental game is vital since it is slow paced and you have a lot of time to assess your shot, your environment and perhaps over analyse things. This means to perform your best, you need to have your thoughts under control.

Boy: Do not try and bend the spoon. That’s impossible. Instead only try to realize the truth.
Neo: What truth?
Boy: There is no spoon.
Neo: There is no spoon?
Boy: Then you’ll see that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.
– Spoon boy from The Matrix

Basically, whether or not there is a spoon is irrelevant, what matters is the belief. Any negative thoughts you tell yourself, can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. How well you play the mental game is going to have a significant effect on how well you score on a given day.

I remember the world indoor championships like it was yesterday. At the start, I was enjoying everything and shooting well. Then came the introductions, they were announcing former world champions, Olympians, and current champions. Then out of the blue, they introduced Jordan Sequillion as one of the representatives from Canada. At just 17, I was one of the youngest athletes there but the pride of my entire country filled me giving me the chills, goose-bumps and made me extremely nervous.

I remember trying to focus on shooting, I wanted to make every shot perfect, and I needed to shoot the best I ever had. My country was counting on me! I was so nervous that I was  shaking; not the best for archery.At the end of the competition, after being eliminated, I just broke down and started crying. I felt as if I let the entire country down. Coaches from other countries came over to comfort me, they had witnessed my shooting in the warm-ups. They simply said, you belong here you just need to work on keeping your emotions in check.  That helped comfort me a lot, it really helped me for the team rounds too.

Afterwards, my parents ask me the question, “Why do you shoot?” Seems like an easy question to answer. I shoot because I love it. So then they asked the question. “So what changes between shooting in warm-ups and in competition?” Hmmmm….makes you wonder. They insisted that only my perspective changed, not the target.

If archer shoots just for fun he has all his skill.
If he shoots for score his hands tremble and his breath is uneasy.
If he shoots for a golden price he becomes mad and blind.
His skill was not lessened, but the vision of the target changed him.
–          Old Chinese Proverb

So to answer… “What you do on the mental side of things while you compete?”

I am working on it, shooting because I want to shoot, not because I need a higher score than before. Not focusing on any past mistakes and not worrying about where I am; just remembering that I love the sport.  I shoot one arrow at a time and if I am the best that day I will win and if I do not win there will be many more opportunities in the years to come, because I love to shoot.

I do not know if this answered your question or not, however I did the best I could.

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Arrows Series – Part 7: Center Shot and Archer’s Paradox

Now that you have determined the arrows you should use you need to fine-tune your bow to maximize your arrows consistency. Most people think that once you set up a plunger and a nocking point it is all good to go, however that is not the case. The center shot of your arrow is one of the most over looked things when setting up a bow.

The center shot is where the arrow rests on the bow when looking behind it.  When setting up your center shot the arrow needs to be completely behind the string. Most traditional bows do not have a cut-away in the riser and the arrow has to deflect around the handle with something called archer’s paradox.

Archer’s Paradox: The term was coined by Robert P. Elmer in the 1930s. The paradox refers to the phenomenon that in order to strike the center of the target, the arrow must be pointed slightly to the side of the target. Modern use of the term has caused the interpretation of it to be corrupted and the bending of the arrow is often considered incorrectly to be archer’s paradox.

In order to be accurate, an arrow must have the correct stiffness, or “spine”, to flex out of the way of the bow and return back to the correct path as it leaves the bow. Incorrect spine results in unpredictable contact between the arrow and the bow, therefore unpredictable forces on the arrow as it leaves the bow, and therefore reduced accuracy.[1] Additionally, if an archer shoots several arrows with different spine, even if they clear the bow they will be deflected on launch by different amounts and so will strike in different places. Competition archers therefore strive not only for arrows that have a spine within a suitable range for their bow, but also for highly consistent spine within sets of arrows. (Wikipedia)

For an Olympic archer, ideally your set up should be 100% behind the string. Some people actually require the arrow lean a little to the opposite side of your riser so that the arrow can get past the bow without hitting it. You can reduce the effects of “Archers Paradox” by adding spin to the arrow by fletching your vanes or feathers with an offset or helical. It is critical that the arrow must have the correct spine so it can bend around the bow, so the fletchings do not touch anything for consistent arrow flight.

Therefore, once again I stress, for proper safety and best performance, arrows need to match your entire bow setup.

Arrows Series – Part 4: Spine, Flex and Stiffness

Before we discuss the topic of arrow spine, for proper safety and best performance, arrows need to match your entire bow setup. If you change draw weight, draw length, limbs, riser size, etc. this will affect you arrows. You may need to adjust the arrow length or require different arrows.

Arrow Myth:  An arrow is always straight.

Arrows SHOULD be perfectly straight when not in motion. However, when an arrow is released the force applied from the string causes the arrow shaft to be compressed against the resistant static weight of the arrow point and therefore bends.

Newton’s First Law of Motion: Every object in a state of uniform motion (rest) tends to remain in that state of motion (rest) unless an external force is applied to it.

Since the force applied is greater than the  resistance (weight of the tip), the arrow is propelled forward, and the shaft continues to flex and oscillate as it straightens itself. Arrow shafts that are either too stiff or too flexible will not fly well and will impact the accuracy of your shots or fail causing damage and/or injury. Therefore, we need to manage the flex properly so the arrow does not make any contact with the bow, or your arrow flight will be affected.

Important Tip: Arrow spine refers to the arrow shaft’s degree of stiffness (how much the arrow resists being bent) and is called spine deflection.

Basic Rule 1:  Shorter arrows act stiffer and longer arrows act more flexible.

Basic Rule 2: Powerful bows require stiffer arrows and less powerful bows require shafts that are more flexible.

Basic Rule 3: The heavier the tip equals greater the resistance, therefore the greater amount of compression.  So, a heavier tip causes the arrow to flex more and a lighter tip increase the stiffness.

According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) the modern standards (ASTM F2031-05) an arrow’s official spine deflection is measured by hanging a 1.94 lb. weight in the center of a 28″ suspended section of the arrow shaft and is used for aluminum and carbon fiber arrows. (I believe original AMO standard has a basic guide to use for wood arrows spine determination and uses of 2 lb. and 26” section for standard measurement.) The actual distance the 1.94 lb. weight causes the shaft to sag down is the arrow’s actual spine deflection

For example, if a 1.94 lb. weight causes the center of a 28″ arrow to bend down 1/2 inch (.500″) the spine deflection would be .500″.  Stiffer arrows will bend less and more flexible arrows with bend more.

Almost every arrow manufacturer has its own numbering system and there are no universally agreed spine sizes among the various arrow manufacturers. Simply, the lower the deflection measurement equates to a stiffer arrow and higher the deflection measurement the more flexible the arrow. Manufacturers can number, size, and market their arrows anyway they want, as long as they provide the deflection data and test using the industry standard method.

Fortunately for us the engineers have already done the math for us and manufacturers provide spine selection charts. You are able to select an arrow based on your draw length and draw weight.

So when selecting arrows a good rule of thumb is that lighter draw weight, shorter draw length and/or lighter tip weight equals LESS arrow spine OR heavier draw weight, longer draw length and/or heavier tip weight equals MORE arrow spine.