CONTROL OF PERFORMANCE

An experienced athlete recognises that the thousands of hours of practice have built their skill sets and allows them to access their internal control mechanisms in tough situations in order to concentrate on performance, which includes the time taken to perform the task, the level and specificity of effort in competition. Consistency of time taken to shoot an end of arrows is a good indicator of the proficiency of the archer and their ability to control their performance and not to become anxious.  This consistency of time ties up with their kinesthetic consistency as competition requires controlling anxiety as well as disappointments when arrows go astray and avoidance of the mind wandering or loss of physical strength. An archer must concentrate and “work hard” for short bursts and be able to switch back into a relaxed state in order to conserve their resources when not on the line to avoid competition fatigue.

NB: Processing of arrow position audibly , and what that means to the archer, makes it very difficult to return back to the non cognitive state that is seen in elite performers of a closed skill.  For this reason many archers at an elite level have people spotting for them, as the ability to process information aurally requires less cognitive processing than visually. The priority here is attaining the feeling of control over performance, avoiding excessive nerves and being able to Deal with “dropped” from bad arrows. Once nerves are controlled, the next control is over the anxiety of expectation and avoidance of the anxiey of making an error.

Elite archers deal immediately with their mistakes, not surpressing them or hiding them but also accept that they have no control over past events such as their mistakes, the weather, the venue, past distractions.

NB: Many people are taught from the beginning of their archery careers that they can do nothing about the arrow that has been shot and should therefore ignore it.  This advice, although understandable, is not particularly useful.  If an individual perceives that they have made a mistake they need to deal with those thoughts, it cannot be put off or ignored as its importance will magnify in the mind of the individual.  This has been seen in those in the performing arts who are actively taught when practicing and even in live performances to deal with errors.  If time is permitting within a series of shots, after a bad shot, the individual must, metaphorically, step away and deal with it.  This does not advocate over analysis of where the faults came from or what they were.

NB: The most effective method of dealing with errors is the fault-four system:
* Simple emotional outburst.
* A superficial look at what the error was.
* Reassessment of the archer’s personal 6-step shot plan
*Return to focus on the target, ready to shoot the next arrow and reaffirmation of the trust in their skill and ability.

This leads us on to the idea of an athlete needing to come to terms with things that they have no control over and can not change and must therefore adapt themselves to.  This includes the weather, the venue, illness and nebulous anxiety, such as national representation.  You cannot remove or hide from these factors, all that one can do is come to terms with them. These factors should be taken into account during goal setting and may change the goals of the athlete, remember a goal set which requires something out with the athletes control can be a weak goal.

Top athletes will often get asked how it felt during the closing stages of the competition and are always surprised by this question because they have “lived” this moment thousands of times before in practice,  imagining the experience, addressing their likely fears and anxieties they would face, how they would control this and deal with what they couldn’t control.