Of all the athletics I’d done in my life, the training part has always been the hardest and the most fun. Training and practicing with a team was wonderful. From high school football to cycling being part of a group was an experience that helped mold me. Sharing the experience and the path teaches athletes selflessness.
As life begins to creep in sport can become a more solitary activity. There isn’t always time to meet the schedule mandated for team activities. Running, cycling, duathlon, triathlons and archery can all be practiced alone.
Training or practicing solo helps clear your mind. There is a peacefulness that comes from training discipline that has been recognized for centuries. (1) As we improve in our chosen sport we seek a peacefulness that can assist our advancement and in cases of competition help find that zone which leads to our best efforts.
As an athlete you may learn that training is a time where you too reach a certain quiet or mental silence. During those moments you’ll get a feel of what you want to carry into competition.
In competition there will be times when you’ll be the victor. Victory is not as important as the process or how you reveal yourself as a winner. To win someone must lose.
The true winner is that champion who is able to remain humble. Know that when you are a champion others will look toward you as an example. It is nice to win, but winning isn’t as much the goal as the disciplined process that brings you to the podium.
As a champion, remember to care about those that finished out of the top place. Your ambition isn’t to win out of selfishness, but to win because you followed a path that can be shared by others. (2)
(Yes, these references are correct, hence this post’s title)
You know when you’ve taken your skill as an athlete as far as you can alone. You are probably self-coached, like most athletes. The top pros in most sports have coaches even though they are at the highest levels.
Last year, I was entirely self-coached. Prior to that I’d retained a level 4 USA coach for help. In hindsight he wasn’t much help. Personally, I think coaching physically challenged him. He wasn’t in good health and I think he’s expired.
When we moved to Georgia, there has been no coach until now. Now, I have two coaches. One coach is for archery the other is a mental coach.
I’ve got this friend that won the Ironman World Championship a number of times without a coach. I know another Ironman World Champion that relied heavily on coaches. I don’t really know any World Champion archers on the same level. I’ve met some fellows that have won archery World Championships and have trained with one. But, the acquaintances are all superficial. As such, I don’t know if they use coaches although I’ve heard one of them had his coach move in with his family early in his career.
In fact, I am a coach. There’s a wide gap between being the athlete and being the coach. In my head I understand what to do to hit an X. In coaching practice I can watch an archer for a few minutes and have an idea of how they’ll perform. But, I can’t see me.
As a result, I’ve gotten pretty good with a bow. Still, I think I can be better, hence doubling up on coaches. I’ll give this a year and see how it goes.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Confidence” is you number one mental factor needed for peak performance.(1)
Achieving a state where you feel the confidence takes some work. You train and train. When you train, build some matrix to monitor your progress. Set a goal that relates to your matrix. If you don’t monitor your work you can’t manage it.
Concentration is another important factor in archery performance. Being able to stay on task is a must for accuracy. If you’re at full draw and your mind drifts to the conversation behind you from the non-shooting line, well you’ll more likely put an arrow into the red than the yellow.
The mental factors that impact archery are more than confidence and concentration. Archers must have emotional control. That nine you just shot can’t be the value that prevents the next arrow from landing in the ten ring. If you’ve been having a tough time off the range in non-archery related matters, thoughts on those matters need to wait outside until you’ve finished shooting.
Throughout it all you need to remain positive. You’re shooting reach your best, not someone else’s best. Stay positive; find ways to delight in your experience and you’ll end up achieving your optimal scores.
Oh, and don’t worry about the score – the score will take care of itself.(2)
1.)Kim HB, Kim SH, So WY: The relative importance of performance factors in Korean archery. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 May;29(5):1211-9
2.) Coach Bill Walsh, NFL Head Coach*
* I met Coach Walsh once. We were speaking in Chicago at the same hotel but to different audiences. It was a totally unexpected meeting. When we learned we’d both been invited to lecture we decided to exchange brief comments to each other about our talks. His talk was essentially motivational mine was physiology. Among the things I recall was the Coach’s interest in the physiology and how focused he was on learning what he could during my explanations.
In any sport athletes have good performances, better performances, and days they seem to be able to do nothing right. Those poor performance days decrease as an athlete begins to excel in their sport. For the best athletes in any field a bad day can still seem amazing to most amateurs and fans.
It happens to everyone that toils away in hopes of perfection. It happens across every disciple from sports to business. Make a poor decision in business is can literally cost you.
One of my best friends is the CEO and President of a medical device company. He has a personal policy that he never signs a contract when he is sleepy, has had a drink or is angry. It’s a good policy. It helps avoid those bad day blunders. He can hold off a bit signing a contract. As an athlete, you’re not going to be able to push back a tournament, match, race or game because you may be sleepy or angry and certainly you’d not be competing with alcohol in your system. But, sooner or later you’re going to mess up during competition.
Occasionally, we all find ourselves in a bind. We’ve messed up a shot, botched a sprint, or struck out with bases loaded. A friend of mine shared a lesson he learned from Jack Nicklaus, the golfer, of how he handles those moments where things don’t go as planned.
My friend, Tim Simpson, a senior golf pro that now plays the Champions Tour having aged though the PGF and other tours, shared what Nicklaus had said.
Nicklaus was being interviewed by ESPN along with Simpson. He said, “I know I’ll have an occasional bogey. What matters is how I play through it.”
Last year I watched a top archer do poorly on a 3D target during an important tournament. It was a totally screwed up shot. Until that point he was leading. After that target he’d dropped out of the money.
He moved on to the final six targets landing six 11s in a row. Another archer commented, “Man, that is the best recovery I’ve ever seen.”
The recovered archer didn’t win; the error had been too great among a strong field. He ended up third by one point. But, that final run of perfection was amazing to witness. Had the poor shot gotten deeply into his head, well he could have easily found himself off the podium.
Know that as an athlete you’ll have sporting moments that might be the equivalent of “brain farts.” There will also be times when you’ll come through an event golden. Along the away, you’ll need to learn to work though those “brain farts”. As you improve you’ll see that those “farts” aren’t as smelly was they once were.
The range was pretty full of people practicing. People were filing in to prepare for the big Lancaster tournament up in Pennsylvania. There were occasional bursts of profanities as shots got away from the archer aiming for perfection. Coaches were coaching students about nerves, remaining calm, and not worrying what other people think.
What other people think? Does anyone worry about that? Sure they do and it a pretty dumb thing to worry about. First of all, if you are worried about what it is other folks are thinking about you know this – those other people are not thinking about you unless you’re one of the super stars other people are paying to watch. Since nobody pays to watch archery, you’re probably in the clear when it comes to other people watching you. Secondly, if someone happens to be watching you shoot, you’ll never know it. Your back is to the audience.
Of all the thoughts that will go through your mind when shooting a bow, the thought that someone is watching you really is the least worry among all the worries that you don’t need to worry about.
Every day I try to get some rest. Part of it comes at night. By 10:00 PM I want to be asleep because I’m awake at 05:30 AM. I don’t use an alarm, I just wake up. I’m even awake before my dogs. If I’ve gotten a full day of training and practice in I’m not waking up during the night. Some days that’s not possible and I’m still more likely than not to sleep straight through the night.
Sleep is amazingly important. In my opinion so are naps. As an athlete you may find that you need a lot of sleep. More sleep can mean a better performance. Sleep is part of my training program.
Recently, a top archer was asking for advice to help with muscle soreness and joint pain. He’d been ramping up his training and was paying a price – that price being delayed onset muscle soreness. Aside from many of the initial remedies that came to mind as he explained his ailments, rest was the first thing that came to mind. Other than cutting back practice a bit, ensuring proper recovery time, the right amount of sleep is paramount for a successful training plan.
I take a nap nearly everyday after lunch. Not long, only about 30 minutes and most of that I just lay still with my eyes closed. I never go into REM sleep.
Over time, my dogs have joined in the naptime. They nap a lot, but napping with me seems to make them happy. It’s like the pack laying down together.
I lay on the floor when I nap. I don’t want to get on the bed, I’m too dirty and it is too comfortable. Thirty minutes on the floor is perfect. Afterwards, I’m up, reloaded for the afternoon workouts and have had a nice pause while my lunch digests.
In a recent paper sport champions and athletes were asked what they thought it took to become a champion. The group had a large sub-set of Olympians (medal winners and participants), world Champions, State and Regional Champions as well as a sub-set of “chronic” athletes that had, at the time of the survey, not earned a Championship. The group had spent a significant portion of the lives competing and training. This of course makes sense because achieving a sport level of performance to reach a major championship takes years of preparation.1
The group seemed in general especially bright mentally as noted by their responses to the survey. This wasn’t too surprising because the mean of the group is 53.8 years with a range of 26 to 78 years of age.1Nevertheless; there was an air of vitality among these athletes.
The survey was not done face-to-face with the athletes. However, a large percentage of the athletes were seen face-to-face as part of typical social interactions. In addition, after the survey a number of the athletes felt compelled to discuss the work by phone. At times one or more of them were present at different gatherings. Among those surveyed there remained a competitive presence as well as a high degree of verbal and body language mild posturing that could be considered friendly yet slightly aggressive regardless of age. The overall impression a bystander might of noted is that these people appeared extremely healthy and engaged. Certainly, the group is physically fit regardless of age.
An important observation is the general health of the group. At a mean age of nearly 54 they are generally not overweight. A few are overweight. An archer is obese (but currently on a strict diet to drop the weight), there’s an overweight ex-football lineman (thought not obese) and in that category there is a PGA golf pro, and one ex-major league pitcher who are heavier than during their playing days. In general, the group was not overweight. This may be attributed to; overall the group continues to exercise to a large degree.
Exercise is a relatively easy why to remain in good health both mentally and physically. 2,3As we age we can hope to die young at a very old age. In that vein exercise can be an adjunct to prolonged health and mental compacity.4Aside from clearly obvious physical attributes associated with aging and exercise, exercise decreases the degradation of our brains.5
Being physically active isn’t the sole method to engage our brains as we age. One study showed that individuals who played chess were cognitively engaged and had better health than a control group.6The same study, which compared the chess players to master level track and field athletes, revealed the athletes had more injuries than the chess players.6For those injuries the athletes gained a lower prevalence of chronic disease.6However, the chess players and athletes had a lower incidence of chronic disease compared to a control group.6
As we age, exercise can be modified to account for slower recovery times.7, 8Even with modification exercise among the senior population can improve quality of life and independent living.9As a measure of successful aging, exercising among the older population may be a model to support concepts of best health over longer durations as exercise works to protect the body including the brain.10, 11
Through active engagement in sport and exercise we can prolong better physical health and mental health. This becomes clear to an observer in the presence of chronic athletes.11By adding a regime of exercise to activities of daily living we can improve our quality of life.9
Lain,D C; What it takes to be a Champion.In review, NFAA Publication, Archery, Nov. 2018
Patelia S, Stone RC,El-Bakri R, Adli M,Baker J.: Masters or pawns? Examining injury and chronic disease in male Master Athletes and chess players compared to population norms from the Canadian Community Health Survery. Eur Rev Aging Phys Act. 2018 Nov 30;15:15. doi: 10.1186/s11556-018-0204-z. eCollection 2018.
It was a local fundraiser. The drive to the indoor 3-spot tournament was less than 30 minutes from our home in Good Hope, Georgia. It was held in one of my favorite towns, Madison, Georgia. The ‘turn out’ was excellent and the range was filled with archers. My bow seemed to be back in order after a new string, re-tuning and checked for every possible malady. My last practice had been a good one. It seemed the planets were aligned for a good score.
Madison, Georgia is a beautiful historic Southern town. It is one of the major historic attractions in the Peach State with around 100 antebellum homes that have been restored. When we moved back to Georgia it is one of the towns we searched for a home. In fact we found one, however it was in the city limits and there is a law against shooting a bow within city limits. Had that not been the case, we’d have likely ended up living in a restored home. We didn’t and archers will understand the decision not to settle there. Madison is close enough to where we ended up building that we can visit on the spur of the moment.
The tournament was held in the new Morgan County High School gymnasium. Arriving an hour early I was lucky to have gotten a parking place that wasn’t a half of a mile away. At first I thought I’d gotten my information wrong – there seemed to be too many cars. But, no the morning line was packed full, as were the bleachers.
The Morgan County high school gym in no way compared to my high school’s gym. This modern gym was more like what I’d experienced in college. Not all the bleachers were open. The upper bleachers behind the line were packed with friends and family that had come to watch the tournament.
The target of the day was a 3-spot. I’ve been practicing against a 3-spot for over a month. While my scores have been mimicking the Stock Market, my more recent practices had diverged and begun to rise. I knew I’d be shooting against some good archers in the 21-49 year old age group. I felt ready, and I was for a while.
My first twelve arrows had all been smack in the center. Number 13 followed suit, as did arrow 14. At full draw on the third arrow of the end, with 40 seconds on the clock the whistle sounded. Three blows of the whistle. It wasn’t time to pull arrows. Did something happen and the next two blasts got halted due to some injury? No one knew. We all stopped shooting.
Looking down the line at the judge he made no comment of gesture. Everyone waited. Then, we waited some more. The clock was down to 26 seconds, 25, 24, 23 – people began shooting.
Not me. I was worried. Whatever had happened something was wrong or had gone wrong. Ten seconds. I looked toward a friend on the line and he shrugged and said, “Just shoot.” Eight seconds. I shot with 1 second remaining. Eight.
I knew I was now out of it. An eight against these archers meant I was now on the range for practice. For a flash I considered packing my gear and heading home I was so disappointed. I didn’t, I stayed and worked though the 8.
I don’t know if the whistle hadn’t have incorrectly sounded whether or not the day would have gone better. I expect it would have been better. What it did do was provide a teaching moment, albeit a rare one. Still, having a major distraction and getting through it was good practice.
In any competition things outside of your control can happen. An athlete needs to be prepared to deal with the distraction, block it and move forward. I doubt I’ll have this sort of mistake happen a second time. If it does, I’ll be better prepared.
Often you’ll read at this website that I post articles about fitness. Many of those posts include stories about running. While cardiopulmonary fitness isn’t essential to pick up a bow and shoot it, it does improve one’s health and ability to maintain an athletic posture during long archery tournaments.
Among the exercises I do as part of my training regime, running is a major element. One manufacturer of running shoes once had an advertisement that read, “Athletes Run.” Whether or not archery is part of my life, I believe running will always be a part of it.
One of the running pleasures I find most appealing is trail running in the dark. In the winter months running in the dark is easy – it’s dark when I get up to run. In the warmer months this isn’t the case.
For some, the thought of running through the woods in the dark might bring to mind some scene from a horror movie. Not the case for me. I do run with a light – getting smacked by a tree or limb isn’t on my bucket list.
Running in the dark is peaceful in my mind. The woods are quiet and calm. Occasionally, I run in the direction of some critter and that can be startling, but never horrifying. I do run with my dog, River, who’s a big girl who provides a sense of ease when I cross paths with an unexpected animal.
There’s a 1.3-mile loop behind my house that cuts a perfect trail to travel whether running or hiking. Sometimes I’ll run it in the morning and hike it in the afternoon. I try to cover a few laps each time, more laps when running.
I understand not everyone that reads this site runs beyond being chased. If you do run and have access to trails try running in the dark it is an entirely new experience compared to running during the day light. Oh, carry a light, bring your dog, and watch how you plant your feet. Also, let someone know where you’ll be running and when to expect you home. Plus, carry your cell phone just in case. Before you run a trail in the dark run it several times during the lighted part of the day to learn the trail. If you happen to get off the trail it isn’t difficult to get turned around. If you happen to get lost, wait where you are until the sun comes up to regain your bearings. Clear lens running eye glasses are ideal for not getting an eye poked out by a low hanging pointy limb. Now that I think about, maybe you shouldn’t run in the dark – you’d probably get hurt.
There have been a number of “studies” published stating individuals that have poor sleep who don’t exercise may get better sleep if they exercised. Seriously, that has been studied. Another way to look this is that if you complete a day of hard labor or exercise you are likely to sleep more soundly than if you lounged about all day. Scientists study a lot of topics that are pretty much common sense.
People are frequently talking with me about their sleep problems. Not because I’m a good listener (I am) but because I have a background in sleep medicine. The most common complaint I hear relates to a poor night’s sleep. Some of the folks have a condition called obstructive sleep apnea, which needs a medical intervention. Some folks’ sleep issues are related to poor sleep hygiene and a lack of exercise.
Without getting too in-depth an example of poor sleep hygiene refers to lounging in bed while watching television hoping to become sleepy. A some piece of advice – If you have a television in your bedroom take it out.
A lack of exercise is, as a rule generally, understood. Running for example is considered exercise. If you run you exercise. A video game played seated would not be considered exercise.
When you exercise you’ll need to rest for recovery. Sleep is a method of recovery. You do enough exercise, moving around versus playing video games; you’ll find that you can sleep well.