By Crispin Duenas
Staying cool under pressure comes naturally to a few archers, but most people must learn how to handle it. Whether you compete locally or on the world stage, keeping your nerves in check greatly increases your score.
One of the easier calming techniques is visualizing the venue and conditions in which you’ll shoot. That takes some preparation, especially if you’ve never been in that venue. Look up pictures and talk to archers who have competed there to get a “feel” for the range before you arrive.
If you shoot in the famous Nimes competition and reach the finals, you’ll compete under spotlights, with only you and the target illuminated. You can prepare by turning off all the lights in the range except for the shooting line and the targets. That can give you a feel for what it’s like to shoot in those conditions, and grow a little more comfortable going into the Nimes’ finals.
You can also prepare for pressure by practicing pressure. Many coaches tell their athletes to shoot the competition like they shoot in practice, but that’s easier said than done. If you practice the opposite – shoot practice like you do in competition – you’ll be better prepared when the pressure hits. Try practicing by following the same format as the competition. That means instead of shooting arrows in volume, practice shooting with the same timing as you would when competing. That also means shooting make-up arrows, and stopping to simulate equipment failures and repairs.
Another tactic to add pressure is by practicing with rewards or punishments. The specific reward or punishment is up to you, but putting something real on the line adds pressure you seldom feel when nothing is at stake. You and your training partners, for example, could each put in $5 before you start scoring, and agree that the highest score wins all the cash.
Another way to handle pressure is to craft a game plan and choose a focal point during competition. Both take practice and experimentation to learn what works best. Some archers focus on a certain part of their technique, others focus on key words in their shot routine, and still others shoot best when thinking of anything except archery. A great example is the shot routine of Canadian archer Chris Perkins. He focuses on consistent timing during his shot to keep his nerves in check and his arrows on target.
Every archer feels some pressure when shooting competition, but the more you practice under pressure, the better you’ll control your nerves. To become more comfortable when competing, consider entering as many competitions as possible. Just make sure you’re still having fun and enjoying archery.