sharon - old bow

Low poundage bows are not a waste of time or money

So before I start let me wish everyone a very Happy New Year. I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and are looking forward to the new year, full of archery.

I wanted to start this year by addressing a question that has arisen through recent coaching sessions, that of the use of light draw weight bows.

In many of the techniques I’ve mentioned over the years and will be in these articles on target anxiety or target panic, I’ve sited, you are best using a light poundage bow, rather than your normal draw weight.
This is something I believe is of huge benefit for archers whether they are new to the hobby or experienced.
Bows of relatively light draw weight, say 18lbs provide a useful tool for an archer, as from personal experience I find them heavy enough to allow the person to execute proper back tension, whilst being light enough poundage for them not to have to be fighting to hold it at full draw. I’ve used light draw bows myself when I’ve been struggling with my form or recovering from a shoulder injury so I know it works.
Another advantage with these bows is it allows the archer time to focus on improving different elements such as draw up, release or anchoring more easily. By shooting the lighter draw weight, it allows you to develop good posture, overall form, release, etc. All these elements then go to give you confidence in your ability and shot sequence. In turn building confidence in your shooting when you transit to your normal weight bow.
Think back to when you started shooting. Chances are you didn’t start with a heavy draw weight bow? I’m guessing you started with a lower draw weight bow, so you could develop your skills and muscles, without straining yourself. So does it not make sense to revisit these bows when you are developing your confidence and techniques to overcome target panic?
Remember using these bows is less about being strong and/or hitting the bullseye at 40 yards, it’s about learning to control your anxiety.
I have a couple of such bows in my coaching arsenal that have helped more archers than I can remember. They are simple 18lb takedown recurves, one ILF for those more used to shooting that style and one with wooden riser and simple bolt-in limbs for those who prefer the feel of a wooden riser. I quite enjoy using these bows myself at times to keep my form and technique solid. For those interested, I normally shoot a 45lb flatbow.
Sadly I’ve seen an implied stigma from some archers when you suggest using a lighter bow, as though they see its a failure or not macho. It’s not an indication of failure and this mentality is something I get very annoyed about. So in short and a message to those that think that, grow up.

N.B. Just a quick point here. If you are fighting to draw and hold your bow at full draw, then chances are you are over bowed i.e. the draw weight is too high.

Thanks for reading

Sharon on the range

Target Panic and the archer part 3

So in the second post on target panic I wrote at length about shot sequence and tried to set some foundation of ideas for you to build on. In this post I am going to describe some techniques, but first I want to discuss confidence.

Confidence and it’s role in Target Panic

I have always felt that confidence is hard won and easy knocked.  Remembering this it’s my view confidence and target panic go hand in hand, with a lack of confidence in your own ability often sparking some form of anxiety. Think of this cycle for a moment.
A lack or loss of confidence can spark anxiety, which in turn may cause a loss in performance due to nerves. The loss in performance then results in a loss of confidence in ability. It’s not hard to see how this can quickly become self perpetuating.
The possible result is an archer can develop a variety symptoms, not knowing where or how to aim, unable to reach anchor before releasing etc. Bearing this in mind we can look at elements of your shooting process and how we can identify the separate steps in your shot cycle. This was why in the last article I spoke at length about shot sequence.
As for building confidence, well that is a huge element of archery so I’ll come back to that later in this series of articles. To start let’s look at what I think of as our mindset.

How your mindset plays a vital part

I feel you can be your own worse enemy at times or rather your mindset and memories can help weaken your resolve. How you perceive or approach a target can have a huge impact on how you shoot. Ask yourself this, have you either thought any of these when you see a target?
“I always miss this shot.” ,
“I never hit this face.” ,
” I don’t like long shots.”
The best I think I have heard is “I hate things standing on legs like 3D deer as I always go between the legs.”
Statements like these have an effect on your mindset long before you nock the arrow on the string. Effectively you are starting preparing for your shot by talking yourself out of making the shot successfully, before you even start! Almost as though these are the excuses you can use for when you miss. You might not realise it but I believe this mentality adds stress and starts pre-programming your brain into a negative mindset. So please stop doing it.
You want to avoid trying to use these descriptions when effectively talking to yourself about a shot. So much or archery is in your mind and how you approach or talk to yourself about shots, that talking in negative terms starts a downhill spiral.
I think it was Nelson Mandela who said “I never lose. Either I win or I learn.” I think this could be modified for archers to “I miss and I learn, I hit and I learn more.”
Why do I believe this? When you shoot and miss you might realise you judged the distance wrong or performed a poor release. When you shoot well and hit, you remind yourself you can judge the distance, execute the release, you help to remind yourself you are a capable archer. This helps to build individual confidence it also helps build a reservoir of successful shots.

Remember the good shots

Too often we recall the shots that we perceive as failure or target faces we hate to shoot. This can make us over analyse the shots we take,  going over them again and again in the virtual world of our mind. This can also re-enforces a negative cycle in our brains. I will admit this is something I have struggled with for years. I have a good memory a d remember shots and courses, sometimes for years. The problem was I often recall the poor shots or the ones I felt I should have done better, rather than celebrating the good shots, the successes. It has taken a lot of work to retrain my brain and shift it’s focus, but if I can do it so can you.
For this reason I started to actively remind myself of the good shots, whether this was at the range or at a competition. Changing the terms I would describe events in my own head. I shifted  my focus to remember the actions that made them good shots and I found I could then repeat them more easily. I stopped looking at what I was doing wrong and reminding myself what I was doing or capable  of doing right. I can trace how that change in mindset helped me back to a couple of instances one of which I will recall now.

This is what helped me?

Starting to remember the good shots and learning from them, rather than constantly re-analysing the misses. Knowing why and how I missed is important, but you can overdo things. I would finish a competition shoot feeling down and when asked how I did I’d reply not well. It wasn’t until a mate said your bad days are better than most people good days, I realised I needed to change how I saw my results. (By the way, thanks Jim as it made me think)
There is one specific shot at a NFAS 3D championships a couple of years ago that helped me and was a turning point. I had started a few weeks before the event focusing on the positive, trying to remember the good shots and not to be so negative. I knew this tournament would be the testing ground for my new outlook. The target that brought it home for me was a standing 3D stag, about 60 yards or more. My shooting group was waiting to shoot the target as the groups in front appeared to  pepper the undergrowth. None were hitting it from the first peg and most were taking 3 arrows to score or come close. I think it was fair to say that this wasn’t filling any of us in the group along with others with a sense of confidence. By the time it was my groups turn to shoot there were others groups waiting behind us. Each member of the group took it in turn to shoot before me and only one hit with their third arrow. By the time it was my go the viewing audience of other archers had grown to several groups. I’m not a big fan of being watched when I shoot, so have a couple of dozen people watching me wasn’t high on my list of things to enjoy.
I remember feeling the anxiety build, long before I was on the shooting peg. I took my place at the peg and breathed out, forcing my shoulders down and to relax. I nocked the arrow and slowly breathed in and out a couple more times, smiling to myself while thinking I must be mad to do this to myself.  I remember the conversation in my head ” Come on you’ve shot this distance before over harder terrain. Any doubts then just focus on form and smile.
I focused my concentration on my form, my balance on my feet, my grip on the bow and how my fingers felt on the string. All the time looking at the target. I breathed in and drew up in one fluid motion, bending at the waste for the distance. I reached anchor and when I was ready I released the string, letting the arrow fly towards the target.
I then heard the thud of an impact, not a sound of arrow burying into the ground but the dull thud of an arrow in a 3D.
Lowering my bow arm I could see my arrow central in the body. A good shot, a first arrow hit scoring me 20 points. More importantly it told my doubting head I could do this archery lark.
Now when faced with shots that make me nervous I think back to that shot. How I focused on form, my shot sequence and most important remembering the positive outcome it gave me then and since. I would go on to come second in my class at that national tournament.
So start today to focus on the elements you are doing right and build on them. It will take a bit of time and you’ll probably catch yourself more than once being negative but believe me it’s worth it.
Sharon forcing me to pose for my shot on elk

Sharon forcing me to pose for my shot on elk

With Christmas round the corner I want to share a top tip that many retailers will hate me for. Please don’t spend lots of money on new equipment or upgrades believing this will help with your shot anxiety. IT WON’T. All it will result in is you potentially missing faster, getting more frustrated after spending money, sometimes a lot of money and being back at square one.
Your objective is not to hit the target but to gain control over your target panic / shot anxiety – remember this. Too often we focus and perceive success as making the shot score highly. That is an outcome from solving the anxiety, your true goal is to take back control of the shot.
Thanks for reading and as I have said previously feel free to drop me a line with any questions or thoughts you might have.