All the things we have on our minds when we are on the shooting line

Excellent mind tip for focusing on your goal in archery

The key to success in archery is being able to reproduce a shot perfectly, so the arrow goes always to the same place, the golden ring. However, to achieve it, you have not only to be physically tuned but also your mindset is vital.

Through a lot of research, I came up with an excellent exercise to focus your mind on the target. Incredibly as it sounds, it worked like a charm. However, it isn’t something you can just start doing and from overnight you master the technique. It requires a lot of practice since it’s not easy to teach your mind to go blank in an instant. Dr. Patrick J. Cohn explains the importance of psychology in sports.

Why doing it?

Every human being has its problems. Men, women, teenagers, even kids have their issues. And those issues can block your mind.

Adult people have lots of worries. Among them, the most common are bills to pay, an ill son/daughter, problems at work, financial struggles, you name it. The list can go on and on all day long. Teenagers have some struggles, too. School, their social life, a not-corresponded significant other, etc.

All these things in our head distract us from where we want to put our focus on. Particularly in our case, they keep us from concentrating on the target. It would be awesome being able to put all those things aside for a moment and only be us, our bow, the arrow, and the target. Ahh, marvelous! Well, let me tell you what, you CAN put those things aside and focus only on the target (or any other immediate goal).

I’ll describe below a trick that I learned from an archer friend, which I’ll call V, who happens to be also a psychologist, specialized in sports.

How does it work?

The mind is a powerful thing. If it gets stuck with something, it will keep going around with it. Since the mind has an autonomous functioning, we can’t tell the mind what to think. So, if we want to put our attention to another thing it’s quite difficult.

The saying from some people that can put their minds in several things at once is not generally true. The mind can work, deeply, on a single subject, twice if it’s not too deep. But don’t ask much more. So, if you have your mind occupied with something, it’s difficult to concentrate on something new.

Luckily, the mind is easy to cheat … if you know how to. There’s a technique that you can implement to cheat your mind. Let me show you.

Have you ever …?

Monkey wondering
Picture taken from Keshav Mukund Kandhadai‘s Flikr account

Not all of us are the same, but surely some of these things happened to you at least once.

  • As a kid, you were worried about something that your parents didn’t consider a big deal. And they tried to solve it suggesting: “think on something else, you’ll forget about it in a second
  • You were trying to think about something, or do some mental calculations and, suddenly, your mind starts drifting with a catchy tune, and completely forget what you were thinking?

All these things have something in common. You tried (or were suggested) to cheat your mind with another thought. You are trying to force your mind to think about what you suggest it to, so it gets distracted from the main issue. Well, this technique is exactly about that.

The resetting word

When you are standing on the shooting line, with the bow on one hand and the string on the other, it would be great to clear your mind from negative thoughts. You can do it, though. 

The key to this is to have a resetting word. What’s this? It a verbal tag (or two, but not more), that is easy to repeat. It can be anything: a name, your favorite cartoon character, an object, the title of a book, whatever you want. It’s recommended to be something that doesn’t produce you a deep feeling, so you don’t start drifting with that feeling. If so, you’ll stop concentrating on one thing to start thinking in another which is not your target. Let’s choose the word “Excalibur” as an example.

With each successive repetition, you are trying to force your mind to concentrate on that word. Since this word, generally, doesn’t have a deep meaning for you, it will generate a kind of white noise, clearing your mind for a bit.

Once you chose your word, follow these simple steps through the whole shooting process:

  • Take a deep breath. This will slow your heart rate down to more normal levels. As you do it, think about the breath you are taking. This way, you’ll be starting to think about something else.
  • After exhaling, while standing on the shooting line, start repeating your resetting word. Don’t stop. You’ll have to keep repeating it until I point out you to stop.
  • Do the shooting process while keep repeating: raise your bow, draw, aim, and release.
  • After you released and don’t have any influence over the arrow, you can stop repeating the word.

The idea of this is to forget about everything during those seconds. Then, when you start shooting again, repeat the whole process.

A tip for tournaments

2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games archery competition in Chicago. Photo taken by EJ Hersom

The tip I’ll tell you now is not strictly just for tournaments. But let me put in that situation to better explain the tip.

Imagine you are in a tournament, you finished your round, and go to the target to write down your score. If your round was bad, you’ll start thinking about all the things you probably did wrong, and start worrying about lowering your performance. Then, you’ll start overthinking and feel pressed by the thought that you can’t do a bad round like the last one or you’ll be out.

It’s time to start using your new trick! But, sadly, it very annoying to make the walk back from the target repeating Excalibur, Excalibur, Excalibur. Even worse, imagine if you are shooting at 50m or 70m! That’s impossible. For this kind of situation, there’s an alternative trick, which I’ll show you below.

The happy thought

The happy thought, as I call it, works similarly as the resetting word. The difference is that we now need a bit more complex thing to think. One word (or two) is not enough. You have to repeat it too many times, you’ll get tired and stop saying it, so it won’t work. Because of this, the idea now is to think about a more complex thing, like a memory. Try to visualize it, connect with as many senses as you can. Try to remember (or recreate) sounds, smells. Here are some tips for improving your thought:

  • The thought you choose has to be 100% happiness, no sad or bitter things allowed. 
  • One great suggestion is to choose holidays. They are, by definition, pure happiness.
  • Try to think about your happiest holiday. Generally, a vacation in your youth is preferable, since at that time you didn’t have as many concerns as now. A good idea is one with friends. 
  • Remember any sound or smell which is characteristic of that moment. Perhaps the sound of the sea (it nearly always works), the smell of a particular food you tried at that time.
  • It may sound like a joke but, if you are hungry, don’t try to remember food smells. Your stomach will to rumble and you’ll start thinking only in food, ruining our technique.
  • Try not to generate much nostalgia with the thought or your mind will start drifting again.

Some remarks

For some people, this may sound easy. However, take into account these things to make it more effective.

  • Practice it a lot before using it in a tournament: Although it’s very straightforward to understand (after all, you just have to repeat a word), it may require some time to get used to it. It’s not as easy as repeat a word and, voilá, the mind is blank. It takes practice. The recommendation is to practice it in your archery range, or the field, or in your backyard every time you go. If you want to start practicing in your backyard, follow to this post.
  • Control your voice: How to speak the resetting word works differently for each person. Some like to say it out loud, others whisper it, and some just think about the word without speaking it. This is rather personal. Do it how you prefer. However, you have to take into account where you are using it. If you are shooting in your backyard or the open field, then you can say it in a regular voice. However, if you are in an archery range with other people, you probably want to say it low to not bother other archers. Finally, at a tournament, you’ll be nagged if you speak in the shooting line. You’ll have to learn to say it really really low, like a whisper or just think about it.
  • Easy to pronounce: This is especially important if you plan to speak it. It has to be something easy to pronounce. If you choose something too “Brobdingnagian” (like this word itself) you’ll have serious problems saying it over and over, and you’ll get distracted by that instead of concentrating on the target.


Perhaps it seems silly, but psychology plays a major role in sports. Having your mind completely immersed in what you’re doing is important. And, as I always say (I didn’t invent it, just reproducing what the real pros say), archery is about finesse. So, if you have disturbing thoughts during your shot, it may affect it severely.

Mastering this tip you will be one step closer to a perfect grouping and an ideal consistency. Here’s another thing that will surely help you reduce your grouping.

If you are thinking to start archery, I invite you to our 2-part guide to learn archery by yourself. With this awesome guide, you’ll fully understand the basics and start shooting in no time. Don’t forget to read these common beginner mistakes so you can learn how to avoid them and be more pro sooner.

Hope to see you around. 

Good arrows!





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