Want to improve but are short on time? Here are Andrew Smith’s quick-fire ways to get organised and boost your shooting in short sessions
I am often asked how archers can improve their scores and shooting form, despite only being able to shoot once or twice a week. I find it is not the case that just replicating what the top archers are doing by following selective parts of a complicated training routine without the time to give it justice is very effective.
We all understand the pressures on day-to-day life and how it often means sacrificing shooting time, so my view is that we should use our shooting time productively and work smarter. Much of what I am going to suggest can be done at home.
With some planning and organisation, these seemingly uncontrollable influences can be overcome and even work in your favour. The important thing is to remember that archery is your chosen sport and an opportunity to take you away from daily pressures. So, when things don’t appear to be going as you expect, just go with the flow – that way, you won’t get frustrated and give up.
Unfortunately, any improvement does not happen by accident and some work and effort is required to get the desired results. How quickly things change will be down to you, but a few minutes a few days each week should see your scores increase.
Away from the range
Equipment required: 1 x Korean training stretchy band and your bow
I favour the new Korean stretchy band over the popular tube or exercise band because it allows you to put your bow and drawing hands in a more familiar position. The stretchy band is not about strength training; you can use your bow for that. Rather, it is about offering a bit of resistance while working on the feel of the shot and keeping good form. It is important to get it right with the stretchy band, otherwise you have no hope of doing it correctly with your bow, and the simple exercises outlined overleaf can be done anywhere.
Using the Korean stretchy band
This exercise is simple, and can be used as daily practice or a few minutes before you start to shoot. Basically, you are replicating the shot and the follow through without letting go of the stretchy band.
It is important to go through the shot cycle as if you were shooting, paying specific attention to posture and where the drawing hand finishes, and keeping the hand in contact with the jaw.
Time spent at the range
Time shooting at the range is the reason we do archery, so here are a few ideas as to how you can make the most of your time, enjoy what you are doing and improve at the same time.
Firstly, no bow tuning – you are working on improving your form and putting into practice all the work you have done in your spare time. Providing you have correctly spined arrow shafts and a good basic bow set up, nothing such as an adjustment to a screw or spring will make the kind of gains you will get from working on shooting better. In fact, the better your form, the straighter and more consistently your arrows will fly.
Secondly, you don’t need to bother with tons of blank boss shooting. I find that to get the benefit you need to do it regularly, and as soon as you put up a target face, it’s easy for all the focus goes on aiming and the work you have done to improve your form goes out the window. So, work on implementing the feel from the stretchy band into your shooting whether you are just plonking a few arrows with friends or shooting a round. Yes, you might still get some poor shots, but hopefully fewer than before.
Every part of your shot is affected by your stance and posture, so pay attention to this!
Concentrate on what you are trying to achieve while you are making the shot, then switch off when collecting arrows and scoring. This way, you will be able to concentrate when it matters. The main points are to pay attention to your feet position, stance and shot execution. If your memory is not very good, or you find it’s a lot to try and think about, write the steps of your shot down and refer to this regularly during the session. Accept all will not go well instantly, this is an ongoing process and you’ll find that, over time, you will not have to think about what you are doing, you’ll simply be able to feel when it is right. When it is wrong, stop and start again. A poorly set-up shot rarely sends the arrow where you want it.
Aiming is not always given much consideration, but a lot of archers do over-aim. This shows up in an unnatural, mechanical shot with lots of muscle tension. Which method of aiming works best for you is a matter of trial and error, but we all shoot better when we are in control and relaxed. Ideally, shooting with both eyes open and having the gold in focus and the sight pin out of focus helps to reduce over-aiming and trying to keep the sight pin dead still on the gold. Keeping the sight pin dead still creates a lot of tension, so having a blurred image floating over the gold should help you to concentrate on making a good shot. Your brain is good at aiming without your interference, and you will be surprised how good your groups can be when you relax.
Most importantly, enjoy your time shooting. Training can be fun and I think at whatever level you shoot we all like to see some improvement each year. I have outlined a simple plan to help you achieve this. It is not the complete answer, but at least it is a start to making your time down the range more productive, and might even allow you to pick up a few medals and achievement badges along the way.