Competitive archery is rewarding and lots of fun, but as you gain experience you’ll want to do more than just participate. In the words of NFL coach Herm Edwards, “You play to win the game.”
If you’ve set your sights on winning a tournament, you must master the sport’s physical and mental demands. Then you must gain experience by practicing those elements in competition. After that, you could be on your way to the podium and a gold medal.
Good shooting requires consistency, and that starts with your form, which is the process of shooting your bow naturally shot after shot. Classic archery form combines good posture and body mechanics with a consistent grip, stance and anchor point. No two bodies are alike, so it’s important to work with a coach to find the form that works best for your body. Once you’ve achieved a repeatable form, practice until it’s part of your subconscious. After a few thousands repetitions, your shots will feel as natural as walking.
A Mental Game Plan
Great form takes you far, but the best archers also excel at archery’s mental game. If you shoot great in practice but not as well on league nights or in other competitions, your form isn’t the culprit. Your mental game needs work. The key is to shoot like you’re not trying to win. Lean on mental strategies to bring home the gold.
A strong mental game helps you execute your good form when it counts. Much like your form, your mental strategy must match your personality. Instructors can help you develop a strategy, as can books like “With Winning in Mind” by Lanny Bassam, and “Archery: Think and Shoot Like a Champion,” by Terry Wunderle.
One mental game plan is to repeat a positive phrase while you shoot. This keeps you focused and stifles negative thoughts. Another strategy is a form checklist, which ensures you complete all the necessary steps to make each shot good. Once you find a mental strategy that works well, use it every time you shoot, especially in competitions.
Practicing for Competition
The best way to practice for competition is to shoot in every tournament possible. The more you shoot in pressure situations, the easier it becomes. Before you know it, competition feels much like practice.
If you can’t compete more often, you can replicate competition in practice. Use a shot clock, shoot with people around you, and score each round before pulling your arrows. You can even add pressure on yourself by placing fun wagers with friends. The more realistic your practice sessions, the better you’ll shoot in competition.
Winning at archery isn’t easy. It takes the right skills and lots of hard work to compete effectively. If you’re ready to get serious about archery, find a coach at the archery shop and clear your schedule for lots of disciplined practice.