– Sara Davis- The mind can be a great enemy sometimes.
It chases around thoughts of what if and but then relentlessly, and when your mind catches a thought, it holds onto it tight and forces you to obsess about it. Then you’re stuck in this terrible loop, and then legs seize up, and then arms and hands get really shaky which for an archer is pretty nasty. Then you miss a shot and now you’re even more nervous and shaky! It’s a vicious cycle, and we’ve all been there. I’ve definitely been there. But after almost five years of archery and by extension, archery tournaments, I’ve developed a trick or two to mentally prepare myself, and maybe even use my nerves for good. Maybe these tricks can help you someday too.
The first trick I learned, try to push down the nerves. Yes, I know, it must seem terribly obvious, but I don’t mean push down as in “get rid of.” I mean to push down as in “save for later.” More specifically, save the sort of adrenaline rush. It’ll help you focus. This tip was given to me by my uncle, who told me that he would try to save his nerves so he had a burst of energy come game-time. Granted, football and archery are vastly different sports, but it actually does work. I’ve found this tactic makes me more focused and steadies my hand during those crucial competitions.
The second trick, pretend it’s something easy. Maybe pretend that it’s any regular old practice or any situation in which you are comfortable in your abilities. At this year’s Oregon state tournament, the time behind the waiting line was spent telling myself, “it’s chemistry. Just pretend it’s chemistry. You’re good at chemistry.” It’s hard to pretend archery is chemistry, but I’ve found that just telling yourself it’s something you are good at, something that is easy for you helps you relax and make the maybe-not-so-easy bit feel a little easier. But don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be chemistry. A particularly helpful one is to pretend it’s just a formal practice. You’re just shooting with your buddies on any random day. It’s not the state tournament. No siree. Just practice. I suppose there’s a fine line between calming technique and denial, but I promise this does work.
The third trick, get out of your head. Don’t spend all your time before the tournament turning the competition over and over in your head. It’ll just make you even more nervous, trust me. Spend time with your family, eat something, talk to your friends, or if you’re like me, tell them a plethora of bad jokes. Do whatever you need to do to get out of the nervous loop. I know lots of people like to laser focus before tournaments, but for me, it just makes me even more nervous.
The fourth and perhaps the most important trick, remember your world does not start and end with this one tournament. I’m willing to bet that, while this tournament means a lot to you, it’s not the end all be all of our adolescent lives. I know it feels like that a lot, but trust me, there are gonna be other competitions, other opportunities, other chances. So do your absolute best, but remember, win or lose, it’s all gonna be okay.
There you have it, some tips and tricks to mentally prepare yourself for a tournament! Do keep in mind that these are just some things that work for me, and what works for me might not work for you. But I hope some of these were at least a little helpful. Best of luck to all in your future tournaments!
Sara Davis is a NASP® student contributor. Watch for her future submissions.