Whilst it is known that physical activity and sport has a huge part to play in promoting and sustaining good mental health, it is not as simple as saying, ‘go for a run, it will take your mind off things’? It is the high concentration sports that are known to have enormous benefits for mental health and well-being and combining physical sports with high concentration sports provides the highest physical and mental health benefits.
Why is this?
This is because when we exercise, the brain releases certain endorphin chemicals which are known to combat anxiety and depression, even if only in the short term, and this is known and marketed by most gyms and has been for about 2 decades.
What isn’t widely known is that high concentration sports such as Archery produce nearly 3 times more beneficial endorphins than sports where concentration is only required occasionally, such as netball, cricket, hockey, soccer and rugby.
Collective sport where we engage with other people whether as a group or in a team also promotes mental health as it offers interaction with others, fundamental for a healthy mind and outlook and the nature of archery tournaments and practice shoots where there is close interaction with the other archers, both on the shooting line and during scoring as well as when waiting to shoot, means that Archery ranks right at the top of the sports providing excellent mental health well-being advantages.
The Seven C’s
The seven key mental factors in Sport are considered to be:
- Control Stress
Archers develop a very high degree of focus, learning to tune out all distractions, focusing on their form, breathing and the key movements of the body in order to release the bowstring consistently. This concentrating practice has benefits in school too (as well as in later work life) and can add as much as 10% to exam results, partly because of greater concentration in exams, as well as the ability to control the body, avoid panic attacks and the like, but also because the greater concentration comes in class as well as during study, making these elements also beneficial and more effective. Competing in tournaments is also good practice for coping with high-pressure situations.
Archery is a great sport for building confidence quickly. Some of the most respectful kids you will find are on an archery ranges and the reason is confidence. The feeling of shooting a bow and accomplishing your goal – whether it’s drilling a bull’s eye or executing a great shot – helps you build self-esteem and enjoy a sense of accomplishment and it also gives you the ability to get past failure as every archer has the occasional terrible shot, unless they’re Ki Bo Bae who seems never to miss the 10! Archery also isn’t bad for improving patience and maths too.
For an arrow to hit the center of the bull’s-eye, you must believe it will hit the center of the bull’s-eye and as you improve, you’ll have confidence that every one of the arrows shot has the potential to be a bull’s-eye and successful archers know that success in archery competition comes not from shooting one bull’s-eye but from scoring high when all the arrows that have been shot are totalled. The action in archery is so small that it is easy to convince yourself that the equipment is responsible for the outcome, whether good or bad and you can spot the archers who lacks confidence in their shooting and their ability to execute good shots because they are always fiddling with and blame their equipment.
As an archer perfects your form and practice, they build confidence and believe that they can control every shot. In archery, success in practice builds confidence and breeds success in competition …. “Success breeds confidence” and “confidence breeds success”. The focus and concentration we’ve already looked at means that archers set their own targets. Initially, archers want to live up to someone else’s expectations, even on those days when, try as they might, nothing seems to work well, but as their confidence builds, they learn to accept mistakes, they realise that you can’t unshoot and arrow and try again, and they build the confidence to keep going in adversity as well as the confidence that a good arrow brings.
Together with a good archery coach, archers learn to turned errors and failures into a positive statement. “Oh, no, it’s windy, and the last time I shot in the wind I scored terribly,” turns into “Last time I learned about wind and how to overcome it, but didn’t get a chance to put it into practice….Today the wind will give me a chance to improve over my last score on a windy day.”
Archers coaches learn to set expectations. Beginner archers undermine their confidence when they set unrealistically high goals for themselves because if shooting 270 in practice, they go to a tournament wanting to shoot 280. A good coach will lower expectations. “Your average is 270 in practice so with tournament pressure anything over 260 is good”. The coach knows that it is unrealistic to expect to shoot above average in the tournament so ensures that there’s a realistic goal and that by achieving that goal, there is a building of confidence.
Whether you catch up at league night or compete in tournaments, friends you make in archery can become lifelong buddies and many of the country’s top archers have shot together on teams for years, and they’ve made new friends from countries worldwide. All this builds confidence!
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.
Many things must happen quickly to execute a good shot. Place your feet. Ensure distributed balance. Nock your arrow. Grip the bow, but not too firmly. Push the bow away while pulling the bowstring. Draw to the same point. Find your anchor point. Release. Follow-through, Many of these steps take just a few seconds, but each and every step affects your shot. Archery has 18 points of consistency in every shot and requires consistency between shots. Consistent practice builds muscle memory, and your shooting becomes more instinctive.
WHAT DOES BEING COMMITTED MEAN?
Being committed to your profession encompasses many different elements. PUNCTUALITY, PREPARATION, SELF-DISCIPLINE, INTENSE FOCUS, VIGOROUS EFFORT, STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT, ONGOING LEARNING, PERSEVERANCE, and RESILIENCY all define being committed at the elite level of sport. As an elite sport leader, a commitment entails loyalty to the players you lead and to the organization that hired you.
Being on time is an important aspect of leadership and commitment. Also, managing your time efficiently is key to becoming a better leader. There will be a variety of tasks to focus on. Head coaches have various job specific tasks as well as administrative duties. A leader must lead by example. If you expect your players to be on time to practices/games, it is important to practice what you preach. Being on time will set the tone for what you expect from your players. Managing your time efficiently will profoundly impact the team in ways they don’t even realize.
John Wooden once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” An elite sport leader must be prepared as well as prepare his or her players both mentally and physically for the competition. The players are counting on the coach for insight and answers. It is a coach’s responsibility to put in hours of time putting together a game-plan to help put the players in a position to be most successful. It is an administrator’s responsibility to make sure the team is ready for the draft. A leader must come to work ready to communicate strategies and ideas to his or her team. Preparation encompasses intense focus and vigorous effort. Planning for contingencies is also important because sports can be unpredictable. Change favors the prepared mind. Preparation is the groundwork for magic to happen. Preparation builds confidence.
There is a difference between discipline and self-discipline. Discipline is listening to what people tell you to do, where to be, how to do something. Self-discipline is knowing that you are responsible for everything that happens in your life. You are the only one who can elevate your performance to a high level.
If you are going to hold your players to a certain standard, you must be willing to pay the price yourself. Holding a leadership position at the collegiate, amateur, or professional levels of sport can be overwhelming and a grind. It will be extremely difficult to find time outside your job for yourself. Without hard work, you don’t stand a chance.
Focus is effort, but concentrated effort applied to the particular task you are trying to accomplish. At the elite level of sport, it is very common to put in countless hours studying film, developing practice and game plans, and doing your part in improving an organization. However, your focus during those tasks will make the best use of your time. Concentrate on one step at a time. Focus on the process, not the destination. Visualization, relaxation techniques, and distraction control are all forms of mental skills training and improving your focus.
It is of the utmost importance to focus on what is in your control. There will be unpredictable circumstances and adverse situations. That is a part of the process. However, we cannot afford to worry about factors out of our control. That is where faith plays a role. If you prepare and address the factors you have control over, you will put yourself in a better position to succeed.
In life, you never should stop growing. Many great leaders are constantly studying to improve in weak areas. The more intuitive you are the most inclined you are to implement new strategies. John Wooden, who was voted Coach of the Century, was a diligent learner as well as a teacher. During UCLA’s championship run, Wooden would often spend his summers learning about a topic of interest, typically an area his team could improve. Ongoing learning means reading autobiographies on successful people in your profession. It is also finding mentors and opening your mind to new ideas and strategies.
Effective leaders persevere through adverse conditions. They are persistent and don’t take no for an answer. No matter how difficult your job gets, remember your dreams and push yourself to the limit.
Job security at this level is limited. Elite sports are highly pressured situations where turnover happens often. There are a variety of factors that influence success at the elite sport level. The infrastructure above you, the personnel you inherit, and the different day-to-day circumstances that come with positions of leadership. It is important to respond and not react to these situations. How you respond to adverse conditions is the measure of an effective leader.
Committing to your task means having a concrete purpose and passion for it, whether your job is large or small. It means making your task or goal a top priority in your life and consistently attacking it with enthusiasm by adopting the kind of attitudes and actions that maximize your chances of achieving it.
Most of the time you will get to pick the specific tasks and goals you want to pursue as you try out for certain teams, compete for specific spots or positions, or apply for various jobs in the work world. It should be easy to totally commit to the tasks or jobs you want to be a part of and most interest you.
But you will also have many tough and tedious tasks assigned to you, especially by your coaches as well as your bosses in the work world. Rather than bemoaning your assigned task, complaining about the person who gave it to you, sloppily doing it with poor quality, or blowing it off completely, make a Total Commitment to execute it efficiently and effectively, exceed expectations, and do it all with enthusiastic attitude. This kind of exemplary commitment to your task will quickly set you apart from the rest, get you noticed by the leaders, and position you for greater responsibility. Although you may initially be assigned menial tasks when you first start as a freshman or new employee, if you do them in an enthusiastic and exemplary manner you will impress your leaders, quickly move up the ladder, and soon get more meaningful and exciting tasks and roles.
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Martin Luther King, J
Along with your Total Commitment to your task, you will also need to make a Total Commitment to your training. Committing to your training means putting your heart, mind, and soul into your preparation, practices, lifting, conditioning, etc. It means preparing yourself with quality in every way possible to consistently be at your best.
A Total Commitment to your training means you consistently put out maximal effort in all of your workouts and refuse to give into fatigue, frustration, and or failure. It also means striving to find every possible way to develop and improve by using strength training, conditioning, watching video, mental training, leadership training, speed training, etc. Finally, it means taking care of yourself by watching what you eat and having a healthy diet, hydrating properly, getting enough rest and sleep, stretching and rehabbing to prevent and minimize injuries, avoiding or abstaining from using alcohol and drugs, etc.
“The successful person has the habit of doing things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose.” Albert E.N. Gray, Author of The Common Denominator of Suc
In addition to committing to your task and training, it is also highly likely that you will need to make a Total Commitment to your team. As an athlete, you are almost always in some way a part of a team setting. Even though some of you may compete in an individual sport where you don’t necessarily need to rely on your teammates in competition to be successful, you will still spend a great deal of time training, traveling, and competing with your team. So you will need to make a Total Commitment to a larger team typically comprised of the following people:
Teammates – You will need to make a Total Commitment to your teammates. Your commitment to them begins with and revolves around being a great teammate. Of course being a great teammate means a variety of things including being a selfless, team player, consistently giving your best effort, supporting and challenging them, etc.
Coaches – You will obviously need to make a Total Commitment to your coaches. When you become a part of the team, you agree to live by their particular vision, values, and standards. You will need to commit to being coachable, honest, hard working, responsible, accountable, etc. You will also need to understand, accept, and ideally embrace the role that is assigned of you for the benefit of the team.
Sometimes practice isn’t enough so if you find yourself needing more strength to pull back the bow, try SDPT or Specific Daily Physical Training, for example, repetitious “draw and anchor” for an hour as this builds the muscles you need as well as allowing you to focus on the muscles you use everyday for archery for a period of time.
Strengthen your arms, core, hands, chest and shoulders by practicing a proper draw. Trying to draw a bow with too much draw weight can cause injury, so begin by having a professional set your bow to the correct draw weight. As you build strength and skill, increase your draw weight