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.
Beautiful lake

Shoot Report – NFAS National Championships

Beautiful lake

Beautiful lake

This shoot report is a little different to others, as though I did shoot this years NFAS National Championships in September,  it wasn’t with my bow, but with my camera. I was lucky enough to be one of the two official photographers for this years event.
This was a wonderful opportunity and allowed me to catch up with lots of friends, but to have a behind-the-scenes view on both courses over the two days.

Background

The National Field Archery Society hosts 2 championships each year, one in May which consists entirely of 3D targets and the National championships run over a weekend in mid September, where all targets are paper faces.
Archers  would compete on two courses, in their chosen style (there are eleven different shooting styles from longbow to sighted compound in the NFAS). Each course consists of 40 targets and as I said are  entirely paper-based, the selection of target faces is massive being  from a variety of suppliers.
This year the two courses were set by Duvelle Archers and a group of volunteers, with Duvelle setting A course and the volunteers B course.
As a new challenge to archers WASP pegs were used for those adults shooting sighted recurves, sighted compounds and crossbows.
Preparation
Long before the archers arrive for the weekend a great deal of work goes in behind the scenes an I feel it only fair to recognise this.  From the entry administration as soon as booking start to arrive weeks before the event, registration on the weekend through to clearing up of the camping site at the end.
Behind the scenes admin team

Behind the scenes admin team

The sheer task of finding suitable woodland to house the event and camping is a massive challenge. Once the site is found, course layers need to be sourced and given access so they can scout out shoots the location, working out routes and paths between targets. The week prior to the event  everything kicks into high gear. The teams will be on site working to move target bosses, clear paths etc.
This year the hosts for the event would be Royle Farm Business Park, Drakelow, Burton upon Trent. This was a new venue to all and provided excellent camping and parking facilities for all attendees.
The grounds themselves were very flat, so the course layers had to work hard at times to make interesting shots. The advantage of this flat ground was to make it much easier to walk round. In addition, the woodlands is quite a young mixed plantation with access paths and open areas, which both course laying teams made use of with shots from the open areas into the darker woods or vice-a-versa.
Shot across the lake

Shot across the lake

A course set by Duvelle were fortunate enough to have a small water feature in the form of a lake which they used too great efficiency. I don’t  know about you but I find judging distance across water always challenging as I think others do. The flip side of this area was it was definitely the muddier part of the wood, especially on Sunday following the heavy rain.
Shoot through to the open

Shoot through to the open

B course on the other hand had more of the plantation aspect.  To their credit they worked hard to cut in a series of steps up to the shooting position for one shot on a steep slope.
Shot between the trees on B course

Shot between the trees on B course

I have to say I found it immensely enjoyable wandering around chatting to people and having the opportunity to take so many photographs. Long before I was into archery I enjoyed photography, something I started in my early teens and it was great to be able to  go round and just shoot more and more photos. I think I came off with about 600 photos of which over 300 are now on the NFAS website.
Compound archer relaxing

Compound archer relaxing – in fact he went on to win it

Back to the shoot report.  Compared to previous events this was quite small championships this year with just over 300 competitors. Past events have seen more than 400 archers and I wonder whether the timing of it, bring in mid-September is part of the problem. Many parents with children will have just seen them returned to school, others like myself who work at a university, struggle to have time off for that time of year.
There is also the fact that some people just don’t like shooting paper faces and prefer 3Ds.
The weather always plays a part in any outdoor event and I think we had everything from bright glorious sunshine of a late summer, early autumn day on Saturday, with archers in t-shirts. Contrasting with torrential downpours on Saturday night and at times Sunday.
Before the rain

Before the rain

The rain made getting round parts of A course a challenge, despite the best efforts of the marshals who put matting out and even built a bridge in one area.
After the rain

After the rain

As I said I saw behind the scenes a lot more this year. A few years ago I’d been fortunate enough to lead a group of volunteers who set a 3D championships course, which provided great sense of achievement. The thing being, we had to focus on one course, this year I got to see far more. With the early starts; I was out with my camera from just after 7 a.m. each day through until arches coming in 6:00 p.m. at night. Then back to the motorhome to grab some food, download the pictures, charge camera batteries oh and get some sleep.

Even the bows need a rest

Registration was from 8 am to 9 am Saturday and 7 am to 8 am Sunday, so pretty early starts on both days especially Sunday. To me there felt like there were fewer archers on Sunday, possibly due to the poor weather forecast or due to them not enjoying the first days shooting. Either way there were more than enough to make the event work, even in the heavy showers.
Open field shot on A course

Open field shot on A course

Saturday morning would see me walking round A course and then swapping to B course in the afternoon. Saturday was definitely the better day for photography and archery as it was warm and more importantly dry. Sunday I spent the day focusing on A course and trying to capture photos between the rain showers.
From my perspective the courses felt different with one having longer shots overall than the other. I’m aware that some archers voiced their concerns over some shots and I believe the course was modified on Saturday night by the course team.
It is very easy to criticise course layers by saying a shot is stretched or bad. A stretched shot being when the distance to the target from the shooting peg is felt to be too far for the size of the animal.
I think everyone, myself included could learn to provide more constructive criticism or constructive comments to courses layers rather than just saying it was poor or  bad shot.
Many of the shots were long and I think were good shots but personally I felt the choice of target face was inappropriate,  being possibly too small all for the distance. Then again it is something about my view of course laying and how I set shots compared to others. I prefer a shorter more technical shot  or closer shot where the top archers will get the 24s and the less able are likely to get a 16 or second arrow. I know on one course there were a lot of second and third arrows shot.
Please remember this is a personal view and and it’s up to you whether you agree, as at the end of the day I wasn’t shooting the course with a bow, l was out shooting with a camera.
One fun thing was spotting all the toy trolls that appeared on A course. I’m not sure how many there were but I know they just appeared from time to time watching us.
Trolls on A course

Trolls on A course

Being able to walk round, chat with people, take photos and generally engage with everyone was great. Also to have the opportunity to see the woodlands, not just as the archer see it when they’re walking through but having  the opportunity to stop for 10-15 minutes or longer in one location and see groups on A  course going through was a great privilege which I really really enjoyed.
Saturday I was able to get round most of both courses, taking advantage of the glorious late summer day. Sunday would see me mostly on A course.

WASP Pegs

I feel the use of wasp pegs or the introduction of them was a good idea. The execution of them or positioning of them didn’t always work. Having a shot with a wasp peg further back, doesn’t always make a more interesting shot or indeed a challenging shot. Greater challenge can be achieved by changing the angle or framing of the shot so the archer has a narrow window to view and shoot through.
Wasp pegs

Wasp pegs

Whether they will be used in future I don’t know I hope so and I think they offer the ability to to give some classes a greater challenge. At the club I shoot for Briar Rose, we use wasp pegs and I think in general we get them right. I hope other clubs will adopt this policy as it allows you to set a challenging shot for sighted compounds and crossbows, while keeping the red peg suitable for other styles.
Thats one thing we do different as we don’t have freestyle shoot from Wasp pegs.
I personally don’t believe that sighted recurve archers, i.e those shooting in the freestyle class should have to shoot from off wasp pegs, because at the end of the day their arrows do not have the same flat trajectory that compounds or crossbow do.
Pretty arrows

Pretty arrows

You can see the full set of photos that myself and Derek shot over the weekend at the NFAS site, along with a listing of the winners.
Congratulations to all those who were placed and who attended, some for the first time. I hope you enjoyed it and will be returning again.
If I had the opportunity to do it all again, I think I would do things a little differently but yes I would give it a go.
Thanks for reading.