Shooting bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye requires focus, precision and accuracy. Unfortunately, stress, pressure and the simple fact that archers are human can affect shot placement and, ultimately, a scorecard.
Because it’s inevitable to make a bad shot at some point, it’s extremely important to know how to recover from it. To get the best advice, we went straight to the top and spoke with Mete Gazoz, the Turkish recurve archer who won the gold medal in the men’s individual event at the 2020 Summer Olympics held in Tokyo, Japan.
“Archery requires your full concentration,” he said. “You can’t hold that full concentration through an entire competition because competitions are so long. Bad shots are normal because you’re human, not a robot. You will make mistakes. What’s important is how many mistakes you make. Three? Five? 100? To win, you have to make less mistakes (than your opponents).”
So, how do you make fewer mistakes? You hone your mental and physical shot process. If you strive to do the same thing mentally and physically before each shot, chances are each shot will have a similar outcome. Gazoz said every archer must find a pre-shot routine that makes them feel comfortable and confident. For example, Gazoz himself:
- takes a deep breath;
- positions himself for the shot by getting in his stance and angling his body toward the target;
- adjusts his glasses;
- checks the weather and his surroundings to account for any shot adjustments he must make;
- pulls the bowstring back to his anchor point;
- and releases his arrow.
The concept for an archer’s pre-shot process is like a basketball player’s routine just before shooting a free throw or a volleyball player’s technique before serving. Whatever the sport, creating a personalized step-by-step approach before you perform an action helps calm your nerves and focus your attention. Gazoz said some archers have a three-step approach, while others have a 10-step approach. It’s up to the individual. A consistent process helps an archer shoot consistently and identify what went wrong when they make a lousy shot.
“If someone makes a bad shot, no one knows what happened except the archer,” Gazoz said. “It’s a big problem if you don’t know what you did wrong because then you probably don’t know what you’re doing right. It’s a possibility to shoot anywhere on the target.”
Mistakes are usually made during an archer’s technical process or because of the weather. Either way, Gazoz said all good archers will know what caused a misplaced arrow. They likely rushed, skipped a step in their process, didn’t compensate correctly for the wind, or were affected by the sun or rain. Most often, identifying your mistake takes practice and experience.
If you make a bad shot, evaluate the shot to determine what went wrong. Then, Gazoz said, shake it off and give yourself time to forget about what you just did and focus on what you’re going to do. Don’t look back. Look forward.
“If you shot bad and quickly shoot again, it would probably be bad because everyone has muscle memory,” he said. “Instead, shake out your body and wait five maybe 10 seconds to forget your shot. Give your mind and body time to recover and mentally say, ‘OK, I have to do this, this, and this (for my pre-shot process). Then, go.’”
But even if you do everything right, remember, even the best archers make mistakes. Gazoz recalls making a bad shot during the Olympics. Luckily, it was during the qualification round, and he was able to regroup. “I said to myself, ‘It doesn’t matter,’” he remembered. “I can’t change it, but I can repair myself before the next round.” That’s what he did. He used the advice he gave above, executed his process and went on to win a gold medal at 22 years old.
Use that inspiration as motivation to hone your pre-shot process and learn to persevere after a misplaced arrow, despite stress, pressure and human nature.