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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Want to get better at Archery?

I have been asked by many people, how do I get better at archery? The answer is simpler than you think. Practice properly with expert guidance. Target archery is all about consistency since the target is not moving and you are in the same spot. The more consistent you are the better your scores will be.

If you want to get better then there are five areas of archery that deserve your attention.

Equipment

Ensure you have the right equipment for you. Find the right bow, proper mass weight and draw weight for you and your size. If you are unable to hold or draw the bow you are not going to be able to practice very long. Also arrows need to sized according to your draw/bow weight and draw length. Shooting arrows that are incorrectly sized will not perform well and will be very frustrating.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Mark Twain

Form

Focus on consistent archery form, pay attention to the minor details such as your exact stance, exact hand position, your exact anchor point, etc. Replicating the exact same form every time will improve your performance and accuracy. Some people blame their equipment for malfunctions which can be true however more often than not it is your form. Focus on to your form not your equipment.

“There is no spoon … Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”  Spoon Boy. The Matrix

Practice

Practice, Practice and when you are done practicing, practice some more. It takes thousands of arrows to make a difference.

“Practice is the best of all instructors” Publilius Syrus

Remember when practicing adjust one thing at a time until you have corrected it, and then work on the next thing.

Guidance

Nothing can replace proper guidance from a good certified coach with years of experience. Coaches are another set of eyes with knowledge to help you make those adjustments that will improve your shooting. So find a local archery shop and sign up for regular lessons.

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” John Wooden, basketball coach

Fun

Remember the reason you got into archery in the first place; it is fun.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” Michael Jordan