My daughter has been shooting for about three years, and has just decided to take this tournament thing seriously. What kind of mental attitude should she be working on for competitions while she works on her shooting?
Brad – Anaheim, CA
It’s been said that once you have your shooting form down, the real work starts – getting your mental game on track. I believe that the only limitation that exists is the one we place upon ourselves through our doubts and fears – even the fear of winning.
One of the things I tell my students is that your mind is like an old fashioned scale. On one side, weighing the scale down, you have all your doubts and fears. You have to place enough good thoughts on the other side in order to tip that scale in your favor.
You start by first deciding what it is you truly WANT. Hint- always go for the end goal, and don’t care about the steps in between; they will take care of themselves. Write it down, and be clear. Then, and this is most important, write down WHY you deserve to have it. It’s OK to be selfish! Take note of your feelings. You know you’re on the right track when you start to feel a positive excitement each time you re-read your statement each day. Keep that positive FEELING throughout the day, every day. As the scale begins to tip – slowly at first, then faster, you will find that more and more positive circumstances will be drawn to you. Accept and ALLOW these good feelings to become a part of your life. Soon, your daughter will be entering competitions KNOWING she has already won.
A little esoteric perhaps – but it works!
I have a 17 year old son who has been involved in archery for about five years now. He is a member of our local JOAD and has attained his Olympian rank with recurve three years ago. Since then he has not progressed at all. We have tried several different coaches, both in state and out of state, and nothing seems to be working. As a matter of fact, his scores have gotten worse – if you can believe that! What advice can you give to get my son back on track? Can you recommend a really good coach we can try? I know he loves the sport and I would like him to stay in it.
Peter – Washington State
This is a two part answer, but first – “Welcome to the club”. You’re not alone in your concern. The fallout rate between Olympian and higher ranks is extremely high. Speaking from experience gained from my club, that rate is about 90%. The reason, I believe, is that it takes such a huge amount of coaching, training and practicing to hit this lofty goal, that the archer is relieved once it’s attained. With this huge effort accomplished, the archer feels the pressure is finally off, they pause to catch their breath, and his or her scores drop backward somewhat. It’s like stopping at your anchor instead of continuing to pull through the shot. If you do that, it takes more effort to re-start your muscles in order to pull through. The same thing may occur at any rank, but it seems to happen mostly at Olympian.
If however, and this is the second part of my answer, you take this happenstance to reflect poorly on his current coach, I think perhaps you might be misjudging that coach. After all, he has been with your son for three years and has coached him to Olympian in the first place. He had to have done something right! All coach/athlete relationships are based largely upon trust. They have to be by their own nature. When you disrupt that relationship and break that trust at a point when the coach needs your support the most to get your son re-focused, that may sometimes do more harm than help.
On the other side of the coin, a good coach, having their students best interest at heart, many times agree with a parents decision to step back and let another coach take over in an effort to correct the problem. You said you had several coaches in the last couple of years. Every time I see this happen, more often than not, it sets in motion a negative downward spiral effect.
Let me explain and be blunt… Most coaches play GOD to a certain extent. They believe the best way to correct a problem is to re-shape an athlete into their image of what an athlete should be and do, instead of taking the talent that already exists and building upon that talent. Many start them all over from square one – rebuilding their form, different equipment, weight, anchor, release… everything. They often use the current buzz words like back tension/motion while subtly trashing the efforts of the prior coach in an effort to establish their own worth. They also, directly or indirectly, lead you to believe that if you listen to them without question, your son or daughter will be “healed”.
After a while (sometimes years), when the anticipated results don’t come, you try another coach, then another, and another…each coach having their own opinion, and every coach playing God. I have seen kids ranked Gold Olympian drop their scores into the basement or even leave the sport because of this very thing.
By the way, coaching is not only a very personal, but also a hands-on thing. Paying someone out-of-state who claims to be able to coach your son to greatness by viewing videos or seeing him once or twice a year just costs you lots of money and yields minor improvement. Unfortunately, “long-distance coaching” has become popular over the years. In truth, I have never met an archer who is successful doing this, who doesn’t also practice their heart out on their own (5 or 6 times a week) or already has in place a really great “local” support system.
What these coaches do provide is probably what that first coach provided – a likable person, a voice of encouragement, someone who will take the time (you’re paying for both) to listen to their concerns and, of course, you can’t disregard that excitement that comes with “traveling to their coach”. Sometimes they help – about 1 in 100 are indeed successful. Of course, those are the archers you always hear or read about. However, for the others – the ones you never hear about – they only “maintain” at best or decide to leave the sport. After all, feeling hopeless, and after spending all that money, wouldn’t you want to give up?
My suggestion at this point is very simple. If you haven’t burned any bridges, try to re-establish and reinforce that relationship with his first coach. The coach who has brought your son his most success, and who has been a good part of his archery life. Give him your support and faith, encourage open communication, and stay focused.
You must also realize, however, that your son may never make Jr. or Sr. USAT, or qualify for the Olympic Games. Both of you might just have to settle for sharing something very special.
Thanks for asking,