When I approach any target it’s reminiscent of the Rebel Alliance’s attack on the Death Star at the end of Star Wars: A New Hope. In the film a small band of seasoned veterans, accompanied by one green rookie, make a suicidal attack on the most feared battle station in the galaxy whose only weakness is a thermal exhaust port the size of a “womp rat” (whatever the hell one of those is!).
So the veteran guys get the first crack at the exhaust port. They’re in pioliting heavy Y-wing bombers, they have their targeting computers turned on, they follow the mantra of “stay on target”, they make their shot only for it to just miss and then to add insult to injury they’re shot down unceremoniously by Darth Vader as he mutters ‘all too easy’. In my archery life I’m these guys. I’m constantly checking and trying to improve my form, when I approach the target I break my shot sequence down and go through each element from the ground up. When i’m at full draw my mind is saying “stay on target” over and over then I release and it’s not the perfect shot, the arrow hasn’t hit the pro kill, it’s scored but it’s not perfect. After a while of being shot down it can start to get disheartening.
Then I occasionally have a moment of brilliance, my Luke Skywalker moment, where I turn off my targeting computer, I draw and aim without the “stay on target” mantra playing in my mind, I trust in the force, everything is calm, the shot just feels right as the arrow leaves the bow and it goes exactly where I want it to. Perfection.
I wish I could trust in the force all the time but unfortunately archery isn’t like Star Wars, there’s no force that can make you instantly successful. Sure, some people will have a natural talent for archery but that’s just a good base to build off. I’m a firm believer that for those “Luke Skywalker moments” to become the norm you have to put the arrows and hours in. Those arrows however, have to be quality arrows. I see so many people moving to nock their next arrow before their first arrow has even hit the target. It’s hard but I always try and let my body and mind remember the shot before I move onto the next one. I believe this is as important for the shots you mess up as it is for those perfect shots. If you can remember the bad shots you’ll, hopefully, not make the same mistakes again and if you can remember the good shots you can replicate that again and again.
Like all worthwhile things in life, it takes time, and a lot of bad shots, for your mind and body to learn how to make the good ones. This is at least what I tell myself when I’m a few hours into shooting badly and it’s starting to get to me but then it’s all worthwhile as it all comes together and I bullseye a womp rat right in the exhaust port.