Brennan Stephens – Archery is mainly a mental sport. You can have perfect form, but if you get up to the line nervous with an increased heart rate, your arrow group will worsen. For many people, they have a certain round that they struggle on. For me, it is the last round at 15 meters. This past weekend I was at a very competitive tournament. I shot a 149 at 10 meters and then we moved back to 15 meters. I shot ends of 48, 49 and then I fell apart. I got nervous and shot a 43. This dropped my score from potentially a 296 to a 289. I am currently working through this since a couple of weeks ago I shot two 294s in a row.
It is very stressful walking into an archery tournament. I had three coaches from different schools asking what I was shooting and other coaches standing behind me as I shot, watching me.
There are several ways to prevent this anxiety. The first step is to increase your confidence. If I struggle, I go back to the basics of a blank target and a dot to use as my aim point. I then shoot until I can consistently make my arrows touch. Another drill for more advanced shooters is to change up your target face. I have a standard NASP® target and then I have a bloc target that has a variety of square shapes to shoot. This allows me to build confidence in myself and that I am not dependent on my target. I am currently trying out “stress-induced training”. This is a firearms drill, where you run or do cardio exercise, and then shoot with an elevated heart rate. I am not recommending this, but I am trying it out.
Dealing with the Anxiety
Although this is not the most practical place to deal with anxiety, there are tactics that can be used while at a tournament. One is discipline. Everything needs to be a habit from how you draw to how you stand while waiting. After I rack my bow, I proceed to stand directly behind my target. This is a mental thing, do not look at anything other than your target. Do not look at your parents – it does not help you!
Your mind should be completely focused on the task at hand. If needed, you may need to pause and clear your mind, but if you have a rhythm going, that may interfere. Another thing you can do is lower your heart rate, but this takes practice. Take long, deep breaths. Archer John Dudley says, “Focus on the process, not the prize.”
When you go up to the line, visualize your shot and the arrow hitting the mark. In my mind, I constantly say to myself, “One arrow at a time” and as I release, I am saying “anchor…aim…release…”
If possible, do not count your score as you go along, although it is difficult to do.
Archery is a mental sport. My wins and losses are achieved in my head. Confidence is key. You must trust your release and follow through. Always remember that you can only control yourself and your bow. Practice is key to achieving the level of confidence needed. Many times, a winning score and a bad score is measured in hours and not points.
For more information, I would direct you to the Nock On Archery YouTube channel and there are several videos on “target panic”.