REAGAN TRENT February – Tournaments can be very stressful for both new and experienced archers. All the pressure that weighs on your shoulders can be a mental challenge. Drowning all those negative thoughts and replacing them with hopeful ones can sometimes be difficult. Techniques in tournaments are very helpful to get you through each individual round. Lots of influences can affect you during a tournament, but lots of strategies and techniques can help you overcome some of those negative influences. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the past few years to help this issue.
Studies have shown that psychological stress responses often include negative emotions. Those emotions and thoughts get inside your head and destroy your mindset, I’ve done it multiple times. I got into my own head the last tournament I participated in and totally set myself up for failure. I didn’t shoot what I knew I was capable of. I had some internal emotions that were weighing on me and I didn’t have them under control. While it’s sometimes hard to do, when I walk into a tournament, I have to try and leave all of my emotions at the door. The only thing I should be focused on is each and every shot.
Being nervous can come in many forms. It could be that your heart rate is increasing, biting your nails, playing with your hair, or even feeling tired. Here are some ways to cope with pre-competition nervousness. Visualization helps when you think people are staring at you on the line. I assure you parents are watching their own kid, not you. Goal setting is healthy, but only if it’s realistic. Set goals that you know you can achieve, not ones that are out of your reach at the moment. When a negative thought pops up in my head, I try to identify what caused that thought to appear. Once I’ve figured that out, I isolate the problem and distract myself. If it happens repetitively, I refocus that negative thought into a positive one.
Breathing is one of my favorite techniques and for a good reason. Personally, breathing is key to keeping me calm and collected. Whenever I feel stressed on the line or waiting to score, I close my eyes and take a deep breath in for three seconds and out for the same. I do this until I feel my tension release and my muscles relax, every tournament I do this and it helps tremendously. Everytime an arrow doesn’t land where I want it to, I put my bow back on my toe and just breathe. Breathing gets me back into a healthy environment in my mind.
I know people love to look at their parents and tell them what they got each round. What people don’t know is that it’s actually causing you more stress. Some archers feel the need to prove themselves to their parents, show them that they’re worthy of actually being on the team. Each time you nock an arrow, the thoughts that go through your head could be catastrophic to your performance. “Don’t disappoint your parents.” “Anything under my personal best is a failure.” “I need to impress them.” “Are they looking at me?” If those thoughts are what you’re thinking about on the line, take a moment and remember how proud your parents are of you. How much confidence it takes to shoot in front of parents, coaches, and other archers. Remember those thoughts instead of the negative ones.
There is a reason you are shooting competitively. All that hard work and dedication finally paid off, and you’re surrounded with other archers who feel the same way as you do. I know there are many internal and external matters that you’re focused on and can’t control, but focus on what you can control. Focus on all the steps you take in your shot, focus on all the good things that came with you becoming an archer. Distract yourself from those trespassing notions and remember why you are competing.
Remember you earned your spot up on the line.
~Reagan is a 2023 student contributor~