Monday, February 21, 2011

How Not to Suck at Archery

Right now pretty much everyone I know is struggling with some aspect of shooting lately, so this post used with permission (Thanks, Mike!) by Mike Larsen pretty much sums it up. You can change or upgrade equipment all you want, but in the end, the operator is still the same. Here's his top list followed by a few of mine for some inspiration if you are in a rut. Not IN the rut, that's a separate website. ;-)

"I decided to write this article because of one simple reason.  Last night I sucked at archery!  We were shooting indoor 3D leagues and I was just not on my game.  There was nothing inherently wrong; I was in a good mood and having fun, but things were not quite clicking correctly and I was unable to consistently put the pin and arrow in the right place.  To better help myself, and hopefully anyone else, I jotted down several things that come to mind that affect my shooting game.  These things are not specific to archery skills but rather are things that will affect your ability to shoot well.
Get good sleep Everybody knows (or should) that to perform at your peak, you need proper rest.  This is true for all sports, archery include and maybe archery especially.  Sleep deprivation will make you less apt to concentrate well and can make you less steady.  It can also cause you to make really stupid mistakes.
Eat right and do it consistently Eating right is not only healthy, it puts your body in the best state to perform.  Eating consistently ensures that your body is not trying to make adjustments to your diet when you are trying to perform.  Chowing down on Big Macs all weak and then eating salads and veggies the day of the shoot will most likely do more harm than good.
Minimize body and mind altering substances And I’m not talking about smoking mary jane or shooting up.  Caffeine, sugar, energy drinks in general and other such substances can make you jittery, over-hyper and less apt to concentrate.  Forget them totally or at least minimize them before shooting or all together.  One of the best things I ever did for my body and health was to completely forsake soda/pop.
Stretch your muscles during the day and before shooting No matter your job or schedule, keeping your muscles stretched can do wonders for your comfort and athletic ability.  Whether you sit at a desk or pack sheet rock up 4 flight of stairs all day, taking breaks and stretching you muscles will make you more comfortable and better able to perform.
Exercise Regularly Pretty much enough said.  Being physically fit has lifelong effects and will certainly help your shooting.  Having even breathing and heartbeats and being able to pull back, aim and shoot without any strain on the body is a great benefit.
Wear comfortable clothes and shoes Being fashionable is all well and good, but wearing something that does let you have good, solid footing or restricts you movements and hampers getting into shooting position will surely cost you points.  Personally I like a light, long sleeve shirt, comfy jeans or cargo pants and soft leather boots will relatively flat soles.
Focus, yet relax your mind How many times have you come up to the line to shoot and thought about what you were going to do at home when you were done or about some problem at work or a million other distractions?  To make a good shoot, you need to focus on the shot with a relaxed mind.  It may sound like contradicting advice, but focusing in a stressed fashion or relaxing too much and forgetting your form are great ways to shoot your way out of the center of the target.  Focused yet relaxed; find your happy archery place where your form falls into place and the pin floats to the center.
Relax your body and muscles Not only should your mind be relaxed, but your body as well.  Don’t tense up, be natural.  Keep your body in natural positions, do not force anything.  Have you ever seen Reo Wilde, The Hammer or Jesse Broadwater shoot (if not, find some video!)   They all look like they are sipping ice water at the side of the pool when they shoot.  The only tension in their bodies is back tension to pull through the shot!
Keep good posture The best way to have good posture when shooting is to have good posture all the time!  Shooting while standing with good, natural posture puts your body in a relaxed, non-stressed position that makes aiming and good shot technique much easier.  Keep your posture good always so that when you try to shoot with good posture it comes naturally.  I love sitting on my exercise ball at work as it has helped me with practicing and maintaining better posture.
Have confidence in your equipment Keep your equipment in good shape and know it well.  Showing up to the shoot and not being sure if you 30 yard pin is dead on is a good way to rattle your confidence and cause second guessing.  Know exactly what your equipment will do and where that arrow will go.  Losing confidence in your equipment will stress your mental game and cost you serious points.
The only shot that matters is the next one I am absolutely horrible about this.  If I make a bad shot, I tend to dwell on it and figure how many good shots it will take to make up for it.  This is a terrible way to shoot!  After you let loose an arrow, analyze the shot and what went right and wrong.  Mentally make adjustments and move on.  Once that arrow hits the foam or paper, there is no taking it back so there is no reason to dwell on it after you learn your lessons.  Agonizing over a bad shot, blaming something for it and dwelling on the negative is a sure way to send the next arrow to the wrong place.
Practice, practice practice. Did I say practice?
Last but definitely not least: HAVE FUN! This is one of the most obvious yet most overlooked pieces of advice that anyone can take.  If you aren’t having fun shooting, why are you doing it?  Keep it light while doing your best.  There is nothing like flinging arrows with good people and sharing experiences and hunting stories.
I wrote this list because I need it for myself more than anyone.  Pulling all these together along with shooting with proper technique (that’s a whole other slew of articles!) will help you do well and have fun while doing it.  I haven’t heeded my own advice in the past and I’ve suffered for it.  Hopefully in the future I’ll pay better attention to this list and not suck at archery!"

In addition to this great list, here are a few of my own ideas that seem to work.
- Go on YouTube and watch some really great archers. The "great ones" are all there, some videos are in slow motion for one aspect and break it down. Fabulous and free, people. Look up World Archery and see what turns up.

-Now that you have that perfect finger release in your brain, go practice. You'll be surprised how much better it works now that your brain has something to compare it with.

-Ask someone that you respect to watch you shoot. If you can't work with someone on a regular basis, set up a video camera, get your SO to tape you from each side (not the front, duh) and you'll learn a lot. Or, take it another step, post it on YouTube and send the link to the long distance person who can help you. That's why Skype was invented, folks. That, and cheap calls to Italy.

- Give yourself a break. Being a wound-up perfectionist, I get in my own way sometimes and this is the hardest advice for me to take. Give yourself the permission to suck when breaking down something new or getting rid of a bad habit. For whatever reason, my right hand wants to flip over as soon as I release (compound habit) scattering arrows everywhere. I had 3 great ends yesterday where things grouped like they were supposed to. It got really frustrating, but at least I did it correctly 15 times, and which was 15 more than previously. And at least the groups were tiny.

I know there are more good ideas out there. Please post yours and share. You'll feel better immediately, I promise.

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