Our field at H@PP (still Craigholme to many soggy competition survivors) is known for its water retention and treacle like mud. However, quicksand is not something any of our archers have ever had to deal with. We have never lost an archer to the field (no matter what the rumours say ;o). So why are we talking about quicksand? Todays subject is about the mental side of archery and, to be honest, fear. We’ll let Keanu Reeves’ character Shane Falco, from The Replacements (2000), explain…
“You’re playing and you think everything is going fine. Then one thing goes wrong. And then another. And another. You try to fight back, but the harder you fight, the deeper you sink. Until you can’t move… you can’t breathe… because you’re in over your head. Like quicksand.”
Thanks Shane. Now if you’ve ever shot for a medal, a badge, a personal best or even chocolate, where something was on the line, you know that your brain can literally betray you. Two in the gold then the self doubts hits. Your shot cycle falls apart and you make a terrible shot. You start to second guess yourself because the seeds of doubt are planted. You over-focus on aiming but you forward release/drop your hand/string picture wanders. The round starts to go to hoyt as problems snowball. Desperately you fiddle with kit, move your clicker, modify your draw making everything worse. You can’t get through the clicker. You punch the release aid. You can’t get the arrow away. You start to panic. Fear takes over. Quicksand.
So how do you overcome quicksand when things start to go wrong? First off … deep breath, exhale, now yawn. Nope, we’re serious and suggest you practice. A fake yawn will trick your body into thinking this is a boredom situation and the panic should diminish. Now its all about Trust! You need to trust all those hours spent in practice. Trust your shot cycle. Trust your muscle memory. The bad shot that started this slide is gone. It can’t ever be reshot so forget it. The only shot that matters in the one you are about to make. Its your brain here that’s the problem so relax and think less. Be calm. Focus on your shot cycle. Be aware of what possibly went wrong and come down if you see it starting to occur again. Make a strong, dynamic shot and the odds are you’ll be back on track. The key is to not let that ONE bad shot affect the next and the next and the next.
For all the time archers fret over draw weights, bow arm stability, back strength and endurance (its a long walk to 70/90m and back) … at least 75% of archery is mental. In the case of compounders, probably 90%. Archery is all about focus, repetition, ignoring distractions, calming those nerves. Bad shots happen (even to Koreans) but don’t panic. If it happens, stay calm. You know how to shoot … just let your body do its thing without your brain getting in the way. Trust yourself, trust your shot and the quicksand will never claim you as a victim.
GA Case Study: A GA archer was shooting an indoor competitions and doing well when she hit a wall of tiredness. She could not make it through the clicker on her last arrow of the end. With the clock running down, alone on the line and after multiple failed draws, she was heading for full panic mode. Someone (not unknown to GA archers) slightly naughtily, as you aren’t allowed to coach during an end, shouted “come off the clicker”. This she did. Then trusting to her shot-cycle without the troublesome clicker, she shot a nine. A good recovery from a bad situation. The fear lessened, the quicksand retreated and confidence returned. Next end she was pulling through the clicker cleanly and went on to a PB.
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