Its all very well to produce a routine but the adrenalin is still making a nonsense of my performance.
Last week I found myself at a tournament (the first for far too long) and I was reminded that this combination of the physical actions with the mental routine is still totally upset by the excitement of the occasion. The first few arrows were all in the grass again, well it was a longbow tournament. Once I had settled down the golds started coming and the routine did enhance my shooting. Checklist-deep grip with the tab-sight picture when bow held out to target-align the arrow string bow arm -draw steadily along the line-concentrate on the elbow of the drawing arm- at full draw to the chin -sight picture-loose….gold! Did I make a good shot? If not then concentrate on the part of the routine that was not upto normal and tell myself that it is there , visualising in my minds eye that I am doing it properly…with a good result at the target…important if it was not a gold. This feedback loop making me concentrate on the next shot. If the arrow was indeed a gold ,then the routine is reinforced and the commitment to shoot another all the stronger. This is the sort of routine I was using. However, the arrows I lost through not having controlled my mental state for the beginning of the shoot would have been saved had I done what I should have….enhanced mental training.
The splitting up of this subject in this manner is of course a device to try to assist in understanding areas of an intergrated subject, so dont expect tha next person you may talk to, to recognise my topic headings!
To control the mental state at the beginning of the competition mentioned above there are a number of ways to go. First way is to do lots of competitions, then you dont get phased by being at a competition. Second you can warm up by shooting some arrows on the day of the tournament….to reassure yourself that all is well. Thirdly you can shoot so much that your ingrained technique is so dominant that the degree of error that “nerves” can make is small compared with the average score you might make with an arrow when your mind is under control. Fourthly you can include in your mental rehearsal the “nerves” so that you have practised shooting in a situation when you do feel nervous, and you have a routine that includes feeling nervous. That way it is not only to be coped with ,but it is part of the process of shooting. Indeed in head to head shooting it is just that, the competition has been designed with that in mind. In an ideal world the archer does all the above things to the optimum level when building performance to a peak for that important tournament, be it Olympic or Club Championships. To simulate the “nervous” condition is tricky, but ways can be devised. An example is to get as near to to nerves by say doing a few violent physical jerks…stand up sit down , jumps, run up and down…then with your heart racing try to control your shot. Or you can have a helper stand near you whilst you shoot a few ends of arrows, with a bucket of water and at a time of the helpers choosing throw the water over you. You have to put that keyed up feeling under control in order to shoot well. In addition to techniques such as these ,you should rehearse the feeling of nerves in you imagination and go through the routine developed in the simulations above. Incidently you will develope the ability to withstand the “gamesmanship” of those around you if you can shut them out in this way. The comments meant to unsettle you such as “well done…you loose is really good today.. how do you do it… how does it feel?”( Dont fall for that one or similar ones which bring the conscious mind to bear on the routine you have so carefully practised an are trying to not disrupt on the day. If the gambit is successful you will ruin your shooting whilst you try to work out how you are doing this wonderful loose!)
When you first go to a tournament you get nervous. When you go to a tournament and find you are shooting with an archer who is your “hero” you stand in awe of that person…for a while anyway…before you start to think I can shoot as well as him… and then start to compete to beat him. The factors that could put you off have all to be looked at. The answer to each should be practised. The list might include…The Weather..the food available ….how do I react to making a number of bad shots….how do I react if I am winning ….or losing…a failure of bow,or other equipment….the roar of the crowd!!……. You can use your imagination to include all the things which could change your “state of mental arousal”