Analysis and Partners and Goals … oh my!
Archery is not an easy sport to get good at. It takes coaching for technique, lots of practice to master those techniques and exercise for core strength. However, that isn’t enough. Without focus, motivation, (a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder) and a little self-analysis … all the coaching in the world may achieve little. So, here’s a few of ideas that have worked for me, hopefully they will work for you as well.
You should track just what and how you are shooting. It can be as complicated or as simple as you like but there is a lot to learn by looking at how you are scoring your points. There are many approaches to this … scoring app on your phone (examples: Archery Scoresheets or iArcher) or simple excel spreadsheet but there’s lots of information to be found simply by looking at the numbers…
– If your half dozen scores always drop off towards the end of a round … Are you tiring? If so, exercise may be required to build up strength/endurance.
– Are there a wild shots creeping up in the middle of the round … Losing focus? Try to keep your mind on the round, not the gossip or banter.
Plotting the locations of where your arrows score can tell much as well.
– If arrows are repeatedly going low … are you dropping your bow hand on release?
– If the arrows are going high … are you flinching when the clicker goes off?
– If arrows are high, low and centre … Are you inconsistent with your bow hand placement?
All these problems can be addressed but first you need to know they are happening. Focus on the numbers, data mining in business parlance, and see if there is a pattern. Patterns in archery (other than sticking it in the gold every shot) are the equivalent of a big arrow pointing to a sign saying ”Here Be Problems”. However, don’t get hung up on over analysing your performance … that can prey on the mind. Unless your name is Ki Bo Bae or Brady Ellison, you will have dodgy shots so don’t fixate on rogue black or blues. This is why its best to focus on end scores or half dozens. That rogue 6’s won’t skew the numbers badly and mess up patterns if you consider averages.
Hopefully you can see that analysis can be a useful tool, but navel gazing will only get you so far …
In archery its relatively easy to see if you are improving … your round scores will go up. But passively sitting back and waiting for improvement will result in disappointment. You’ll have no measure for your rate of improvement and vague unrealistic demands on yourself are guaranteed to end in disillusionment, loss of interest and even quitting the sport. This is why you must set yourself goals.
Goals act as a focus for your motivation. It’s too easy to come along to a club night late, gossip a bit, shoot a few arrows badly, leave early yet convince yourself you’re practicing hard since you turn up every week. That’s not going to help you get better. “Targets” motivate, give focus, indicate improvement and drive you on for when you really feel like you could give practice a miss.
Goals should be split into the short term: a few weeks to a couple of months – and long term: an entire season (i.e. indoor or outdoor).
Short term goals ideally should be achievable with a little focused work/practice/effort. “Shoot 2 competitions next month”, “increase average dozen score by 2” or even just “shoot at least 5 dozen arrows, twice a week” would be achievable short-term goals. If you are unsure exactly how to set a target, it’s always better to make the goal easier to achieve rather than harder. You can always make a new goal if the first was achieved easily rather than struggling to reach a short-term goal that was a bit too hard.
Longer term goals should be more challenging i.e. “make C class” or “increase pb of a particular round by 10/20/30 points”” and may take the entire season to achieve. Again, err on the side of achievable… “Winning Olympic gold” or “making Grand Master Bowman” are goals far too distant for almost all of us but “win a D class medal” or “achieve 1st class status” stand a good chance of being doable.
Achieving a short-term goal should always help in the pursuit of a longer term one. Consistently shooting higher dozen scores (short term) will help push your personal best (pb) for a round upwards (long term). Shooting in a couple of casual club “competitions” every month (short term) will allow you to gain confidence/handle stress better as you learn to deal with the pressure inherent in shooting a formal competition which should improve scores (long term) and even win medals (long term). Ideal here are the 252 awards. They initially aren’t difficult but get increasingly hard til it’s a real effort to achieve the required score. They effectively start off as a short term goal but can wind up being a long term goal pursuing just one badge.
Focusing and achieving self-set goals will help push your archery onwards, but motivation needn’t always have to come from within…
There is only so much internal motivation you can generate. Sometimes the best motivation can come from an external source especially a little friendly competition with your mentor, another club archer or even another club.
For this you need one or two archers that are a little better than you are. Don’t pick a club hotshot (unless your pb is close to their averages) as they will take too long if ever to catch. Equally don’t pick someone who seems a bit lackadaisical in their work ethic as you’ll contract those same characteristics. Keep an eye on your chosen archers scores for rounds and their pb’s. These guys become your ever moving targets. Push yourself to catch them, equal them, pass them! If you trade banter so much the better but keep it friendly – this is about motivation, not open warfare! Knowing that X can shoot a 540 Portsmouth and you are just as good as them makes it a lot less intimidating than thinking about having to shoot an average of 9 per arrow for 60 arrows.
If you shoot with a partner, you’ll find your average scores start to sneak up, as will your pb’s. You’ll lift your game to match your partner since the competitor in you will rise to the challenge of catching a better (for the moment) archer.
If you are a bit shy or aren’t keen on trading banter, there’s no need even to let the person know you are in pursuit of their scores. Just keep note of what they score and practice to beat them. It’s all about giving you targets to aim for and drive towards.
Eventually you might have to trade in your shooting partner for a better one. If you do, be kind. Remember, they helped you get better than they are. Alternatively with a little luck, you may find that both of your pb scores start to leapfrog each other. This is the best possible situation as you are now driving each other on. A situation that could end with both of you reaching a very high standard indeed. GA Case Study: GA had 3 experienced archers whose best indoor scores in 2021/2 were within a 7-point range. How motivated to keep or take the top spot do you think they are? That’s a situation that could produce 3 pretty good archers, and probably better than they could have done on their own.
(Update winter 2022: One is now an internationalist, one achieved the GA gold indoor badge after years of coming up just a point or two short repeatedly and the other is running and putting in the hours practicing … this isn’t over!)
In archery you have one constant opponent and (s)he’s holding your bow … it’s you! Conversely that same person is always with you as a motivator who can push you on to achieve more than you ever imagined. Analysis and Partners and Goals are just devices to generate focus but don’t forget this is all about you and what you desire. You can go as far as your desire and drive wants so get out on the shooting line and Carpe diem! (‘Seize the day’)