Q: How can I best use my practice time to prepare for competition?
A: The aim of good practice is to manipulate your training to mirror competition as much as possible. This will allow you to practice the skills used in competition and identify strategies to enhance your performance under pressure. Therefore practice sessions must be structured; this will largely be through mimicking competition conditions, both in structure and in content, including limited practice, shooting three arrow ends, timing and scoring. Shooting under pressure may be simulated by shooting against other team or club members. Other important considerations relate to pre-performance management, which will include developing an effective warm up, both in mental and physical terms.
Competitions and practice should be approached with a pre-performance plan that covers your expectations of the session. After the session, complete an analysis of what you have done and a realistic assessment of the effectiveness of strategies used to control the score .
Analysis of what you have done is vital feedback and includes using some form of arrow plotting or shooting at a new target face – group size, sight set, where bad arrows go, and so on.
Strategies can be developed and used to control the level of performance during competition score, such as coping strategies on how to deal with bad shots, and how to deal with performing under pressure.
Here is an example of the format your practice sessions may take (the timing and number of arrows should be altered for your needs and experience level, but it is about structure).
Warm up without bow (10 mins)
- mobilise, stretchy band
- Increased concentration on the score you are about to shoot
- build up mental arousal concentrating on expectation and performance
- These aspects of pre-performance planning will be personal but should include some aspect of expected outcome, ie a predicted score.
- Sighters (upto 20 minutes)
- Practice as with normal competition, timed to 2 minute ends (4 minutes outdoors) with a two minute break between shooting and collecting arrows
Scored Arrows (50 mins)
- 30 arrows in three arrow ends (36 arrows outdoors), in timed ends with two minute breaks between shooting and collecting, scored
- various strategies to increase pressure and therefore simulate competition will include: concentrating on the number of points dropped, competing against another archer, and performing after exercise
- Various strategies to cope with increased pressure: dealing with bad shots and re-focusing, using the time period to your advantage.
Drills (30 mins)
- further 24 arrows maximum
- these are based upon performance within the scored arrows and their use will be rotated within a 3 practice session cycle: single arrow ends (this breaks up the natural rhythm as in head to head competition and means that the individual must be able to turn on and turn off or rest performance), plotting groups (to imitate accuracy of sight positioning within competition and reinforce group size) shooting three arrows in 30 seconds (30 seconds for recurve, longer for compound).
Finish (15 mins)
- final 12 arrows: big pressure shots, shooting for tens, timed three arrow ends in two minutes
Practice sessions should be recorded but only in terms of score, work done and the briefest of comments on performance including three good and three bad things, which will be used to evaluate and direct the programme.