Mental Strength Part 2

A repeatable mental management programs sets great archers apart from good archers.

Sport psychology and athlete mental management incorporate many mental skills that would benefit all archers if they incorporate it into their regular training. Archery is 90% mental.

Focussed Breathing is a skill that athletes can use to help them reach an optimal state of calm and focus. It is about moving your focus from the environment around you to your breathing. If intentionally focusing on your breath there is no room for negative thoughts, doubt or distracting thoughts.

When athletes are learning to practice focussed breathing, they’ll spend 5-10mins going through the routine, but after practice it can be reached in as little as 2-4 breaths.

1. Find a comfortable position whether that be standing, sitting, or lying down.

2. Begin Inhaling and Exhaling feeling your stomach and chest expand as you inhale and deflate as you exhale

3. On inhale count one, exhale count two. Continue counting up to 10.

4. It is inevitable that thoughts will enter your head and distract you whilst you practice focusing on your breath and you should simply acknowledge the thought by way of saying to yourself “Thought, come back after archery finishes”. This acknowledging and letting go is a key part as it allows you to let go of those stresses, not to dismiss them but to acknowledge that now is not their time to be  focused on.

5. Continue focusing on your breath, counting up to 10 and starting over again at 1. Acknowledging and letting go when you need, always returning your focus back to your breath.

6. Complete the allotted amount of time and then slowly bring your awareness to the archery field.

Implementation is combining focussed breathing with a mantra.

Mantras are a phrase or set of phrases you repeat silently to yourself whilst focusing on your breath. This directs your mind to a certain point of focus and helps reinforce a positive focused mind set.

The first step is a 2-3 minute Mantra/Mindful breathing exercise, that can be implemented before training sessions, before competitions, or during distance changes to focus an archer for the upcoming session.

So a typical session would be 10 breaths focussed on the breathing  followed by

Stance                  is Focussed

Calm                     is Focussed

I am                     a 1200 score archer

I am                    unhurried

I am                    relaxed

I am                    unrushed

I am                    focussed

This is                my spider

After practice, this becomes simply “I am relaxed, accurate, confident, unhurried, focussed, winning”

but can be personalised to your desire. For example I am the 2017 National Champion, I am a(goal score here) point archer,I am relaxed, accurate, confident, unhurried, focussed, winning, I am capable of setting new records for high scores.

In order to create a positive self-image and increase confidence it is important the it is repeated  frequently in the first person as part of the focussed breathing routine.

Do it between ends, not just on the line. 

Step 3:
After each arrow has been shot, if you are focussed, you’ll have felt whether the shot was good (without needing to see it). You then acknowledge any error in a positive way – so if you felt that the release was poor then you will say to yourself

The shot has passed                         let it go.

My release                  is focussed

Stance                          is Focussed

Calm                             is Focussed

I am                              a 1200 score archer

This is                         my gold

I am                             unhurried

I am                             relaxed

I am                             unrushed

I am                             focussed

Then after you have loaded your arrow, come to set position, close your eyes and complete the following two breath Mantra:

This                        Is

My                         Spider.

Then set your head to the target and complete your shot process.

You are not aiming for the gold, you are aiming for that little cross known as the spider.

Utilising the “This is my Spider” phrase between EVERY shot positively reinforces what you are working to achieve and allows your subconscious to take over to ensure that your well trained body properly executes the shot. It removes all ability for self-doubt or negativity to creep in.

 Continued Use and Practice:
In order for this mental management program to be most effective in competition it requires regular use and practice. For optimal effect I suggest the following:

Outside of Competition
1. Use the Practice Stage Exercise for a minimum of 10 minutes every single day (I suggest regular practice first thing in the morning).

2. At the beginning of EVERY SINGLE training/practice session complete Step 1 of the Implementation stage.

3. In practice/training sessions use Step 2 between every end.

4. Use Step 3 before and after EVERY shot (whether in practice or competition)

5. Whenever you find yourself stressed out during your regular daily life practice Step 1 to allow you to quickly and effectively de-stress.

In competition
1. Implement Step 1 into your warm-up routine at competitions

2. Use Step 2 between ends after scoring, before moving to the line whenever you are feeling pressure or need to refocus (or ideally between every end, after scoring)

3. Use Step 3 between EVERY arrow shot

4. Use Step 1 to refocus or de-stress between distance changes, between matches, after lunch breaks etc. whenever you are feeling negativity or pressure creep in is a time to go back to Step 1.

With consistent practice, personalization, and regular use this mental management system is an excellent way to train an athlete to reach the optimal states of calm and focus required for every shot.