I see the word target panic thrown around a lot. It’s become a catch phrase and every time I see it, I cringe a little bit more. You see the thing is, we’ve all gone through it at some point. And if you haven’t yet…. Well keep reading, you’ll need the information some day.
I want to start referring to this ailment as Archer’s Block. I feel it more accurately describes what is really going on. Much like writer’s block, archer’s block will cloud your mind and impair your ability to perform at your best. So let’s break this whole thing down and look at it from a technical standpoint. What is really going on?
You’re out shooting for practice and you’ve been shooting the best you’ve ever shot. Scores and averages have improve and everyday you just want to go shoot your bow some more because of the enjoyment of the scores you have been posting up. Then one day something is a little bit off in your form and your float pattern opens up more than it has been. Or maybe your outdoors and it’s a little bit more windy this day and it’s blowing you around some. The next thing you know you’re standing on the line and your muscles are burning and you’re running out of breath and it feels like you’re never going to get the shot to fire. Then it does and it’s an 8. What just happened here? You get frustrated. You draw back, same thing. Another 8. Then the rest of the day just spirals down hill. But why? What changed? You’ve been shooting the best scores of your life. It must be the bow. But did the bow change any from yesterday to today? No. So again you ask yourself, what changed?
Well, sit back and look over your outing. Your float pattern opened up for some reason. This sent a little strike of panic through your brain. You’ve been drilling the ten ring time after time and now all of a sudden your pin/dot is not in the ten ring anymore. You’ve gotten so caught up on your SCORE that you have taught your mind to think in terms of getting a perfect SCORE. So that when you’re not burning a hole in the ten ring your mind is subconsciously shutting down your body. It won’t let you keep flowing through your normal shot process until the ten ring is covered up again. Then it rushes to get the shot to go off and before you know it your body has jerked unevenly, too quickly, and in a direction that is fighting your bow. And it just keeps happening. So what do you need to do to recover?
You need to retrain your mind. The subconscious part that controls your muscle movements. How do you do that? By no longer focusing on your SCORE, and ONLY focusing on how the shot FEELS.
This is where so many recommend what they call “blank bailing”, or shooting at a bail with no target face on it. And I can agree on this, if it’s done correctly and with purpose. Get up close. Ten yards, ten feet, whatever you feel works for you the best. Then start shooting at a blank canvas. Clear your mind before you start this and you’ll probably find that the fluidity of your shot process is magically back. The reason it’s back now is because you’re not focusing on an X ring. Just focusing on making a shot. So this is where the purpose comes in. Focus 100%, solely on the FEEL of your shot. All the small things in a checklist of your routine. Start it off with your feet. Set and check your stance and then keep right on going through each little part. After you get the bow up and drawn back to anchor and settled in, PAY ATTENTION TO ONLY HOW IT IS FEELING. Make a slow, steady, good shot. Pay close attention to how each shot feels, and when you get that really good shot where you’re just on it. Remember how that felt. That’s what you are looking at replicating. Now each time you go to shoot again. Replicate that FEELING only.
If you’ve ever looked at a bow on a firing machine, you can see it hit the same hole almost every time. Your bow can easily out shoot you. So why worry about a score? What you need to be worrying about and focusing on is staying out of that bow’s way. And to do this, you need to focus on the feeling of each and every shot. Your scores, when you are making good FEELING shots, will happen naturally. So don’t worry about them anymore. Once you anchor and put the pin/dot on the ten ring, that motion is DONE. Now it’s just letting the bow and your body do it’s own thing. And letting your mind be retrained to focus on the feel only. And as a bonus, when you’re in a higher pressure situation, you won’t be as worried about the outcome of the shot and score. You’ll still be focusing on the feel of how you are executing and this will help you calm your nerves.
The mind is a powerful weapon when used correctly. Just make sure you focus on the positive and not make the mind a weapon of mass destruction.