Archery tournaments: they’re fun, exciting…and maybe they make you just a little nervous. Whether you’re a beginner shooter trying your first competition, or a professional shooter shaking in your sneakers during a shoot-off, anxiety is part of shooting, and it’s something almost every archer experiences.
How well you handle your nerves affects your performance. Just like every other aspect of shooting, learning how to manage those nerves is key to your improvement. These five strategies will set you up for tournament success:
1. Label these emotions as positive: excitement and anticipation are part of the thrills of competition!
Not all nerves are bad. Some of the best events and performances in your life very likely involved emotions that resemble what you feel during archery tournaments. These special moments include your first kiss, an important date, winning an award, attending a great party, etc. Rather than trying to eliminate your nerves – which never happens – think of them as something that’s helpful. To compete at a high level, you need to learn to love the thrills and pressure of competition. The first step is acknowledging your nerves and knowing that’s OK to have them.
2. Have a relaxation plan.
Bring something that forces you to take a quiet moment to dive into it when things get too tense. This can be a book, music, a favorite yoga posture or anything that calms and relaxes you. In fact, bring a couple of options in case you forget your headphones, your phone reception fails, or the battery on your tablet or e-reader dies.
Other archers find it relaxing to catch up with friends between shooting ends of arrows. One Olympian was well-known for catching up on letter writing during national competitions. The point is to find something that helps you to stay relaxed.
3. Know your shot routine.
A shot routine is something consistent, comfortable and familiar that supports you when everything feels weird, unfamiliar or uncomfortable. When your nerves are up, your shots can feel strange. You might shake more than normal, your sight pin can bounce, and suddenly you find yourself thinking: “Has my pinky always been there? How am I supposed to stand?”
By knowing your shot routine, you can be aware of how things are supposed to feel and where your body is throughout the shot. There are lots of great ways to learn your shot routine, including taking video of yourself shooting, writing down the steps you follow when shooting, and then mentally reviewing those steps on each shot.
4. Compete early and often.
Archery competition is fun and easy, and opportunities can be found anywhere, from a local league to a national tournament. Some archers hesitate to compete until they feel “good enough.” This can set them up for frustration when they start competing, and find they don’t shoot as well as they do in practice. For others, competition motivates them to practice. If competition is your goal, then start competing as soon as you attain the appropriate skills. As long as you’re pushing your comfort level, you’re learning.
If you don’t have the time or money to attend a tournament, put pressure on yourself by scoring alone or competing with an archery buddy weekly. As long as you feel the pressure to succeed, you can practice competitive shooting.
5. Get your goals in gear.
Determining your goals and strategies beforehand gives you something to focus on during the competition. Your plan can consist of where to focus your attention during the shot, and what your attitude will be between shots. Your plan should address this question: “What do I need to do at this tournament to increase the likelihood of a strong performance?”
The bottom line: many archers view competition as a great way to practice shooting while making friends and just plain having fun. You don’t need to be “good enough” or an Olympic hopeful to compete; you just need the desire to try. Feeling some archery tournament nerves isn’t just normal…you can put it to work for you!
Get started: find an archery store nearby, and get competition news for your area!