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Build your shooting confidence

By Dr. Kathleen Haywood, Ms. Catherine Lewis

For an arrow to hit the center of the bull’s-eye, you must believe it will hit the center of the bull’s-eye. You must have confidence that every one of the arrows shot has the potential to be a bull’s-eye. Remember, success in archery competition comes not from shooting one bull’s-eye but from scoring high when all the arrows that have been shot are totaled. Successful archers report having this positive expectation during a peak performance.

It is very easy in archery to blame the equipment for your mistakes. The action in archery is so small that it is easy to convince yourself that the equipment is responsible for the outcome, whether good or bad. Archers who lack confidence in their shooting and their ability to execute good shots often blame their failure on their equipment. Continuing to blame the equipment stands in the way of developing confidence in shooting.

As you perfect your form and practice, you will build confidence. You will believe that you control every shot. Think of the saying “Success breeds success.” In archery, success in practice builds confidence and breeds success in competition or in hunting.

What undermines confidence? A common problem with archers is trying to please others with their shooting. Many archers want to live up to someone else’s expectations, even on those days when, try as they might, nothing seems to work well. The only person you need to please is yourself. If you make a mistake, don’t spend your time trying to explain it away to everyone around you. Accept it, and go on.

When archers make a mistake, they often begin to expect that they’ll make that mistake again. They talk about and think about making that mistake. They undermine their confidence. If you find yourself verbalizing a negative statement about your shooting, either aloud or to yourself, turn it around to a positive statement. For example, if you find yourself saying, “Oh, no, it’s windy, and the last time I shot in the wind I scored terribly,” turn this statement around. Say, “The wind will give me a chance to improve over my last score on a windy day.” This helps you develop a positive expectation and, over time, confidence in your shooting.

Some archers undermine their confidence when they set unrealistically high goals for themselves. For example, an archer who has been shooting 270 on a 300 round consistently for the past several weeks might go to a tournament wanting to shoot 280. If the 280 happens, great. But is it realistic to expect to shoot above average in the tournament? Of course not! Most likely this archer is destined to come back from every tournament disappointed and discouraged when anything but a personal best is shot. If the goal had been to shoot 270 and the archer achieved that goal, he or she would be building rather than undermining confidence.

John Williams, an Olympic gold medalist, recommends setting scoring goals conservatively. Even in practice, if you set what is really the minimum score you would ever want to shoot on a given round, your chances of feeling confident and positive after every practice session are good. Setting the minimum goal makes you work to achieve at least that level. Most often, you will score above it and in your mind you will be that many points up rather than points down. When you set a very high scoring goal and fail to reach it, you have a negative mind-set, even if your score was a very good one.

Mentally rehearse shooting a bull’s-eye by imagining each of the points listed in figure 9.4. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. You can visualize from an internal perspective or an external one (seeing yourself on television, for example) as you prefer.

Confidence Drill 1. Mental Rehearsal

At a regular practice session, shoot three ends as you normally do. After any shot you consider a mistake, mentally rehearse the feel of a good shot and see the arrow hitting the bull’s-eye before you take your next shot.

Success Check

  • Proceed through your mental checklist.

Score Your Success

Improve your score 5 points or more over three ends with mentally rehearsed shots = 3 points

Improve your score 1 to 4 points over three ends with mentally rehearsed shots = 2 points

Your score_____

Confidence Drill 2. Imagery Practice

Sit quietly with your eyes closed. Practice using imagery by trying to see every detail of a close friend. Make the image as vivid as possible, almost as if you were seeing this friend on television. When you can do this exercise well, picture your bow, including every detail possible. Then picture yourself performing with the bow. See every detail and hear the sounds that accompany shooting. Feel your muscles as they tense or relax. Note that you can picture your performance from the outside as if you were seeing yourself on television or from the inside as it feels to perform.

Success Check

  • See more and more detail.
  • Stay relaxed.

Score Your Success

8 minutes of imagery practice = 4 points

6 minutes of imagery practice = 3 points

4 minutes of imagery practice = 2 points

Your score_____

This is an excerpt from Archery.

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