Ever have a Bad Day ? Need some Help ? Well maybe the answer is near at hand.
If something is going wrong and you don’t know what it is, then it’s time to go through the checklist.
Most of the time, the pattern of your arrow groups may give you a clue to what may be happening. It could be some part of your equipment has come loose or moved, or it could be that you are shooting slightly different from how you shot yesterday, without you realising it.
Part A – Solving Problems with Archery Equipment (Arrow Patterns).
Part B – Solving Problems with Shooting Form (Arrow Patterns).
Part C – Solving Problems with Shooting Form (Mental).
Part A: Arrow patterns due to equipment
- Check your archery equipment and set-up thoroughly.
- Check that everything is in its correct location and setting, with no loose parts or screws. (This is why keeping set-up and tuning records are important! )
- The direction of error relates to where the arrow lands in the target (e.g. Fig. 1). Some errors may also have a diagonal component. A high, left error could be caused by either a combination of equipment faults or a combination of shooting form faults.
- The error patterns described below relate to right-handed archers. For left-handed archers, the left and right error causes should be reversed.
Once the equipment has been eliminated as the cause of the errors, then its on to…
Part B: Arrow patterns due to shooting form
If you have tried to find the cause of your shooting problem and can’t find a fault by yourself, then the next step is to have a friend watch your shooting. They may be able to see something that you may have missed. You can also have a friend video your shooting from close up and from different angles. It can make a great deal of difference, when you see yourself shooting.
If you still can’t find your shooting fault, then it’s time to consult your local archery coach or you may choose to by pass all the above checklist and consult the archery coach first.
Solving Problems with Shooting Form (Mental). Some archers may experience problems such as:
- not able to hold aim on centre of target face (“Gold Shy”)
- not able to move aiming point to centre of target face (“Freezing”)
- not able to hold aim on centre of target face without releasing (“Snap Shooting”)
- not able to hold aim on centre of target face without releasing (“Punching”)
- any combination of the above (“Target Panic”)
In severe cases, these problems may cause the archer’s shooting form to degenerate to a state where it becomes difficult for the archer to even reach ‘Full Draw’. Some archers have even given the sport away in shear frustration over these problems. In my opinion, all these problems although physical, stem from one basic fault. That fault is not physical, but mental. It’s all in the way we think and learn a new skill.
The brain is able to learn a new skill, such as walking. If we practise walking often enough, then the skill becomes automatic. We no longer have to think how to walk. Walking has become a skill controlled by the ‘sub-conscious’ part of our brain. This allows us to look about, talk and do other things controlled by the ‘conscious’ part of the brain, all at the same time. Like a computer, the ‘conscious’ part of the brain learns what is required, writes the program code and then stores it in the ‘sub-conscious’ for instant execution when required.
In Archery, the brain has to learn many new skills of very finely controlled muscle movements in order to shoot an arrow consistently. The more we practise, the better the Archer shoots and the score improves.
The Archer’s shooting form becomes automatic as the ‘sub-conscious’ part of the brain becomes ‘programmed’. This allows the Archer’s ‘conscious’ part of the brain to concentrate only on aiming.
The ‘Anchor’, ‘Release’ and ‘Follow-Through’ should all happen under the control of the ‘sub-conscious’, automatically, without having to think about it. It is when both parts of our brain try to control the same skill, at the same instant, that the wires get all crossed up and the ‘program’ is corrupted. This usually starts as a small change in thinking of the Archer. While concentrating on aiming, the Archer will also switch their thinking to the release. As it is very difficult to think about two different things at exactly the same time, the brain will rapidly try to switch between both. So now both the aiming and the release are not in full control all the time. The aim may wander slightly and have to be corrected, while the release may ‘go off at the wrong time’ or the fingers may ‘flinch’ or the release aid trigger may be ‘punched’.
This seemingly small problem can cause a drop in the Archer’s score, so they will try harder to control their shooting. The more they try to control the shot, the worse the problem grows. This may occur over several months, until the Archer suddenly realises they have a major problem with their shooting form. The Archer’s confidence in their own ability to aim in the centre of the target or even to release may suffer.
Speaking from personal experience of these sorts of problems, it’s like having two people in your head, each of them fighting for control over aiming and releasing. Each knows what should happen, but refuses to let the other control it. The shooting form is fine up until having to aim at the centre of a target, then everything just goes haywire. The aim may lock below the gold and then refuse to move or the trigger may be punched to just get the shot off. I know how to shoot, I’ve done it often enough before, but now it doesn’t want to work. Archer’s who have experienced these sorts of problems will know exactly how frustrating they can be. Other Archer’s, who have not experienced these problems, have no idea what these people are going through. The above may be a lot to read, but I hope it goes a long way to explain the problems and help in understanding the effects and causes.
Solving the Problem.
I have read a few articles about the subject written by coaches. I think it will take a lot of very specific shooting practise to cure these sorts of problems. Depending on the Archer, how serious the problem is and the amount of practise time, it could take somewhere between 4 weeks to 3 months to cure.
This shooting practise will consist of :
- aiming at a target face at a short distance and holding for 10 seconds, then ‘let-down’
- aiming at a target face at a longer distance and holding for 10 seconds, then ‘let-down’
- shooting at a blank target butt at a short distance with eyes open
- shooting at a blank target butt at a short distance with eyes shut
- combining the above to complete a shot sequence at a short distance
- combining the above to complete a shot sequence at increasingly longer distances
1. Start with a 122cm target face at about a distance of 3 metres.
Aim into the centre of the gold and hold for about 10 seconds. Don’t worry about how steady you can hold to start with as the purpose of this practise is to regain your confidence in your ability to aim. Don’t shoot the arrow, but ‘let-down’ instead. You can also vary the position of your aim in the gold, from top to bottom and left to right and in between. This will help take away the problem of ‘having to’ aim in the centre, as you can control where you want to aim.
2. When you can aim at the target and remain calm and feel in control, then move back to a longer distance, say 10 metres.
As you feel confident at each distance, then move a little further away. At about 20 metres, change the target face to 80cm size. If you have any problem with aiming at a longer distance, move forward to a shorter distance and start over. To regain total control over your aiming may take some weeks of practise.
3. Start with a completely blank target butt with no markings on it at a distance of 3 metres.
The purpose is to go through the complete sequence of shooting an arrow without having to worry about aiming at a target face. The focus of your concentration should be on the ‘feel’ of the shot. A good shot will ‘feel’ good.
4. To make sure that aiming does not influence your shooting sequence, you can try shooting with your eyes shut.
By closing your eyes from the ‘Anchor Position’ step through to after the ‘Follow Through’ step, you can concentrate fully on your release. When you are fully in control of your shooting sequence at 3 metres, then move back to a longer distance. Progressively move back to say 20 metres and then it might be a good idea to keep your eyes open at the longer distances.
5. This step is the hardest of all.
This is where we put together the aim with the shooting sequence. Start with a 122cm target face at a distance of 3 metres. Concentrate only on the aim and let the rest of the shooting sequence take care of itself. It may not happen with the first shot, but keep trying. If it does not seem to be working, try shooting at a blank butt and also aim for a spot on the blank butt. When this works, then place a target face on it. When you can aim and shoot your arrows into the gold with complete confidence, then try again at a longer distance.
6. Progressively move back to longer distances.
If there is any hesitation, lack of control, loss of confidence or a feeling of tenseness, then move forward to a shorter distance and start over. If you have any re-occurrence of the problem, then switch your practise routine to include ‘aiming’ practise and ‘shooting sequence’ practise. This suggested solution to the problem may help some Archers, but not all. Some people may require different techniques to solve their particular problem. I strongly recommend that if you are experiencing any of these sorts of problems, that you seek the advice of a Level 2 or higher qualified Archery Coach.
The May-June 1999 edition of the ‘US Archer’ magazine has a very good coaching article about the mental attitude required to maintain and improve shooting form.
Author : Graeme Jeffrey
Copyright © Centenary Archers Club Inc. 1999-2013
This page last revised : 2013-03-29