SARAH ESHMAN February – Imagine this.
You’re at full draw, ready to shoot your final arrow for the round. Your grouping on the target is dead-center and exactly where you want. But then something happens. The arrow lands several rings away from your group.
I believe that bad shots like this have happened to everyone at some point. It can hinder your goals and your mindset from then on. Errors while shooting are frustrating, but you can overcome any bad shot. Here are my personal favorite ways to do so.
When that arrow lands exactly where you don’t want it, wait. Don’t pick up a fresh arrow yet. Take a moment to breathe and calm down. Inhale deeply, and then exhale slowly. Imagine the frustration of that mistake leaving along with your breath.
Next, consider what might have caused the bad shot. Was your release smooth? Check your stance. Give a good look at your arrow rest to be sure that it’s properly angled. There may be a small, fixable error that makes a big difference. However, it may have been just a bad shot. They happen to everyone, no matter how long you’ve been shooting for. Whatever the reason, treat it as a learning opportunity. Correct any fixable mistakes.
It’s time to clear your mind.
You may be struggling with plenty of doubts. Maybe that bad shot was the third or fourth of many other mistakes. Whether it was the first or the fifth, that’s okay. What’s important is to focus on the next arrow.
The next step is to close your eyes and visualize your next shot. Picture the shot in your head. Imagine your entire shot process- everything from nocking your arrow to the moment after your follow-through. It goes perfectly in your head, right? Now, it’s time to recreate it.
Be sure to focus as you set up your shot. Remember to correct any issues with your stance or form. Aim and release your arrow.
If all goes to plan, that shot was successful. But it might’ve still gone badly. That’s okay. It’s important to remember that bad shots don’t define you as an archer. You might be going through a slump (something that I’ve dealt with a few times, myself).
Score slumps can be so frustrating. One moment you’re shooting for the stars, placing consistently at tournaments. Next, you’re just trying to hit the target. It’s scary, especially when you’re not sure why you’re shooting badly. Back in 2021, my average dropped from a 280 to a 240. Nothing that I changed about my shot process helped my score. All of my coaches tried to figure out what was wrong.
Eventually, my score began to slowly increase. I remember shooting a 259 and excitedly telling my coach the good news- I had almost shot a 260. As an archer who used to shoot 280’s, it was unsettling to be so excited for a score I used to dread. But that excitement over the 259 soon became excitement for a 262, then a 276. Suddenly, I was shooting the virtual Nationals tournament. I hit 280. I had broken out of my slump. It had been stressful and even infuriating at times, but it was over.
If you’re in a slump, it’s important to remember that it won’t last forever. There’s something causing you to shoot poorly, and you just have to figure out how to overcome it. Sometimes it’s easy, and sometimes it takes months. But if you stay committed and keep working at it, your arrows will be right on target once more.
~Sarah Eshman is a 2023 student contributor~