If you’re looking to take your archery skills to the next level, you must learn how to build a strong mental game. Archery mental training is what supports your ability to build positive self-talk into success. Once you understand how to maintain the right mindset when shooting, you’re well on your way to becoming the best shooter possible.
Ideally, archers develop their mental skills at the same time as their technical skills, but this doesn’t always happen. If you’ve been working on your technical skills but haven’t considered archery mental training, know that it’s never too late to start!
In this introduction to archery mental training, you’ll identify problem areas, learn the steps necessary to resolve them, and understand how to set goals for improvement. Focusing on your mental game is just as or even more important as focusing on your physical strength as archery is for the most part a mental sport.
What Is Archery Mental Training?
Also known as archery psychology, archery mental training is all about mentally preparing yourself to take the shot. You can think of it as a way to exercise your brain to improve your overall shooting abilities. No matter your level of experience or where you decide to practice shooting, focusing on your archery mental game will lead to improvements in your performance.
It’s important to pair archery mental training with your physical shooting abilities. Physical strength alone only goes so far, those who have developed strong mental game will consistently outshoot the competition. Archery mental training helps you sharpen your shooting skills and requires you to practice mental training on a regular basis.
Why Archery Mental Training Is Important
Archery mental training gives you an edge over the competition. When you learn how to incorporate mental focus into every shot, you’re doing what it takes to excel. Archers, especially competitive archers, must take advantage of anything that can set them apart from the competition.
Starting the process of mental training requires you to first identify your problem areas. Once your problem areas have been identified, you can take steps to resolve them. Developing the right mindset can help you address these issues with consistency. Without the right mindset, you’ll establish bad habits that become increasingly difficult to overcome.
Getting Started With Archery Mental Training
There are many ways to develop your archery mental training, some of which we’ll cover below. The sooner you get started, the faster you’ll see results and solidify good habits. Once you learn how to combine your archery mental training skills along with proper physical conditioning, you’ll start to see solid improvement in your shooting abilities.
1. Focus On Technique
Take a moment to consider your form and technique as an archer. Would you consider it to be correct? If not, this is where you need to place your focus first. It doesn’t matter if you have strong mental game, if your technique and form isn’t on point, your accuracy will be limited. A great coach will help you with both technique and mental game at the same time, but most will focus on technique. For reference, here is the 11-step shooting process and what you need to master.
11-Step Shooting Process:
- Hook & Grip
- Posture & Alignment
- Raise The Bow
- Draw Down
- Transfer To Hold
- Release/Follow Through
2. Focus On Mental Game
It’s best to learn mental game along with technique, but many don’t consider it until years later, if ever. That said, mental game plays a huge part in your overall success as an archer.
To get started, how do you think before, during, and after you take a shot? Are you actively thinking or simply reacting to each shot? If you’re simply reacting to each shot, you need to establish your mental game. Each shot you take gives you the option to react or respond…one provides opportunity to improve while the other is simply an emotion. To improve your mental game, you need to establish mental consistency.
Visualization, focus, and mindset are the keys to success. First you need to visualize the perfect 11-step shot sequence from stance all the way to feedback. Secondly, you need to focus on executing that perfect shot sequence. Lastly, you need to respond to the results with a positive mindset and an action plan to improve. Negative self-talk and criticism is the last thing you need. Positive self-talk allows you to see impact as simply feedback on where you can improve.
Mental Game In Practice vs Competition
Your scores should be similar in both practice and competition. If they’re widely different, then there’s likely a breakdown in your mental game. If you find it difficult to focus on your archery mental game during competition, then you must work on your mindset.
Many times, the pressure of competition is the root cause. This can be overcome through better focus. Focus allows you to block out distractions and pay attention to your visualization and shot sequence. If the difference in scores is caused by environmental conditions such as wind and rain, you must challenge yourself in those conditions during practice to improve.
Archery Mental Training To Build Strong Mental Game
Archery mental training is all about removing any obstacles that get in the way of your ability to shoot with consistent accuracy. If mental game is new to you, here’s how you can get started.
Questions To Ask Yourself
There’s a long list of questions you can ask yourself before, during, and after practice to help you build your archery mental game. Below are a few questions to help get you started.
- Do I know all the steps of the 11-step shooting process?
- Do I perform each step correctly?
- Is each step done with consistency?
- Am I easily distracted?
- Do I focus, visualize, and execute the perfect shot process?
- Am I reacting negatively or responding positively with an action plan?
- Am I able to focus under pressure?
Steps Of Mental Training
- Fully understand and execute the 11-step shooting process correctly and consistently.
- Be fully aware of your mental process before, during, and after each shot.
- Take note of any mental and physical breakdowns during each shot
- Respond to each shot positively as an opportunity to improve
Following these steps ensures you understand proper form and technique while building self-awareness. This self-awareness provides insight into what you need to work on to improve, which leads us to goal setting.
Set Your Goals
Goal setting is an important part of becoming a better archer. Once you have taken note of any mental or physical breakdowns, you need a plan of action. Whether it’s negative self-talk, target panic, a lack of focus, a bad release, or any number of things, you can take steps to overcome it.
For example, let’s say you become upset and criticize yourself after taking a bad shot. You can set a goal to overcome this by first becoming aware of your self-criticism. Once you’re aware of your criticisms, you can reframe those thoughts into positive actions for improvement.
As an archer, you will face a number of challenges throughout your shooting career. You’ll never reach a point of total perfection, but you can shoot to the best of your abilities by setting personal goals and the steps to achieve them. To push yourself even further, surround yourself with archers who shoot better than you. This will provide inspiration and challenge you to improve and become your best.
Repetition Is Key
Once you’ve established good mental game, it needs to be solidified through practice. Practice is what solidifies the new process into habit. The more you practice, the more engrained it will become. This is vital to your ability to shoot with consistent accuracy. Those who don’t pay attention or neglect their mental game can only achieve so much, as their mental inconsistencies will translate into technical issues. In other words, bad technique and sloppy form will settle in.
Bad shots are going to happen along with self-criticism. However, a positive mindset will be much more effective at helping you improve. When a negative thought appears in your mind, it’s best to have a game plan. Whenever this happens, it’s important to reframe that thought into something more positive. Repeating this process regularly will dismiss criticisms and build strong mental game.
Visualize For Success
Visualization is a very beneficial tool for archers. This part of archery mental game requires you to visualize perfection in each and every step of the shooting process. You must do your best to imagine what every action looks and feels like so it’s well-rehearsed and when the time comes to perform, you simply bring those thoughts to life.
Never underestimate the importance of using your imagination to visualize the perfect shot. By consistently visualizing the perfect shot, you’re giving yourself the confidence and mindset necessary to succeed. This technique even allows you to practice archery without physically being at the range so you can practice anytime, anywhere.
Mental Game Coaching
Although the majority of archery coaches strictly focus on the technical aspects of archery, some can help you build your mental game. While not learning the mental aspect of archery can be seen as a disadvantage, know that you can learn how to build mental game yourself whenever you feel ready.
Serious archers should know that USA Archery strongly believes in archery mental training and even has an entire program dedicated to it. The program offers coaches the ability to take online courses that teach mental management techniques for improved results.
Archery mental training is all about perfecting your mental process before taking a shot. When preparing to shoot, you must dismiss outside pressure. Instead, you must simply focus on yourself and your target. By following what we’ve covered, you’re doing what you must do in order to compete with the best.
While form and technique is an important part of shooting successfully, you can only shoot your best once you’ve combined great form with strong mental game. Once you’ve properly mentally trained yourself, you’ll be prepared to take on the competition with confidence!