As complex humans with a wide range of personalities and emotions, we tend to think about “the perfect shot” as a bulls'eye. Pulling the bow back, aiming, and then watching the arrow hit the target dead smack center. Sounds more like a dream than most archer’s reality, or does it.
Over the next few weeks you will get a "how to" guide to mental training to help understand how to increase your mental game when shooting. Whether it is for fun or competition, the mental part to archery is more important than the physical aspect. Archery can be mentally tough and to combat it you have to know yourself and how to deal with the pressure as it comes.
To me the absolute perfect shot starts with me standing on a shooting line somewhere green and lush with trees surrounding a field with many colorful FITA archery targets. I stand on the line feeling how soft the grass is beneath, the sky is blue with fluffy white clouds keeping the sun off me just enough as not to bake me all day, surrounded by fellow shooters basking in the warmth of the gorgeous day, and a breeze so light that you can barely feel it.
As I draw my bow I mentally feel I look like Jay Barrs or Brady Ellison. The bow pulls so gently and my form feels rock solid. I aim with no effort at 70m with my sight pin not moving at all. I pull through the clicker smoothly and effortlessly, and as it drops my release lets a thrush of the string go off my finger tips. The bow rocks forward and the arrow is in perfect flight as I watch it fly away so gracefully. And before it reaches the target my head is already on the next arrow being pulled from my quiver. I never see the arrow hit the target because I just know exactly where it will land. To me that is the perfect shot. The shot that feels like the whole world just comes together and you truly enjoy it all… That is until you get to the target and realize you shot a 7 instead of a X. To me the perfect shot is all in how it feels. If it feels perfect, it will find its way into the bulls'eye…eventually.
Everyone has their perfect shot in their dreams. For some it is simply any shot that hits the center. For others it is just the pleasure of hitting the target.
The perfect shot is not the same for everyone, but for everyone the perfect shot starts in your mind and the mind is where it does become the same for everyone. Keeping the focus on your perfect shot starts well before you ever pick up the bow. The mental game of archery is not only the hardest part of the sport, but the most crucial. I have JOAD archers trying to shoot the 1000 arrow challenge thinking that each shot is just a shot and the goal is to physically just shoot 1000 arrows. What if I told you that for 1000 shots on every shot you also had to do a math problem before each shot? Your mind would wonder well before the 500th arrow and your body would already start to get even more tired. Did you know that a thinking marathon is just as physically exhausting as actually doing exercise?
When we begin to concentrate we naturally start to tense up while thinking about say a math problem. Over time the problems, regardless of how simple it is, seem more and more complex. The reason is simple. The more we concentrate the more energy we expel through our bodies. This causes the body to become more fatigued. That fatigue along with physical exercise starts an even faster downhill slide to our energy levels. The combination creates a weaker body and a weaker mind and the more we try using both, the harder everything becomes in general. The mind wonders, the body collapses, and the perfect shot disappears.
The solution is simple. If you do shoot the 1000 arrow challenge, challenge your mind on every shot. For any archer that is simple. Don’t just shoot the shot. Focus on form, or focus on aiming, or focus on something like your idea of the perfect shot on every shot. If you do it enough then not only will your mind be able focus longer, but your mind and body will both be able to go longer with better results. This philosophy is the basic principle for elite military training. The reason they do it is so that at any given moment the body and the mind work in sink regardless of how tired you are.
The perfect shot starts in your mind, but is your body able to keep up. Practice your perfect shot on every shot in your head before you shoot. Practice the perfect shot in your head while you exercise. Practice the perfect shot. Practice. Practice. Practice. Remember this… Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. So what is the perfect shot? It is the ability to shoot a shot that you already shot in your head and make it happen in the exact way you mentally pictured it… EVERY SINGLE TIME!
I’m always curious, what’s your perfect shot?
Check back later this week for Part 2 of this series and don't forget to check out Legend Archery's new Summit archery quiver before leaving! I will have a full review on the new Summit Quiver soon so keep checking back to read all about it!
Check out the new quiver here: http://legendarchery.com/collections/archery-quivers-arrow-quivers/products/archery-quiver-summit