More on this notion of training an athlete mentally.
Olympic Style Archery is routinely performed in quiet, much like the golf gallery as the golfer hits the ball – kind of a hushed up close, sometimes a little noise from a nearby fairway.
Even at National Championships for archery, even for World Cup events (usually) the archers enjoy a respectful silence from the crowd as they make their shot. The worst complaint regarding noise is from the archers who cannot shut out the camera shutter noise – click click click click click hundreds of a time during a shot cycle, which they might never have had to deal with until they get to a “big” event. As you know, a camera’s motor-driven mechanical shutter can drown out the clicker on the riser if the coach has not trained the archer to sense the clicker’s actions (movement, tactile vibration, AND sound) in order to free the arrow to fly. It can be VERY distracting to the unprepared archer!
That’s small peanuts compared to the show, the bigtime, the ultimate. When an archer arrives in some foreign countries, and especially at the Olympics/Paralympics, the archer will perform before stands of thousands of partisan fans (the word “fan” derives from FANATIC, remember). Those fans likely will NOT know the custom of “quiet” like you see when a tennis star is serving at Wimbledon, or a pro golfer is teeing one up. They will likely have brought inflatable mylar tubes, cowbells, clackers, loud voices screaming hoarsely for THEIR archer’s shot as YOUR archer’s shot clock ticks down from 20 seconds…
What will your archer do? What CAN you do? During this last 2012 London Olympics, I saw a commercial where an asian archer’s coach is inches from her face, screaming at the top of his lungs as she executes shot cycles. I thought, yeah, I did that. I also sprayed an athlete with a water jet while she shot, not just to simulate rain but to distract her. I banged pots together HARD and abruptly(not always constantly) behind her, to startle her. Of course, I yelled, screamed, and gestured into her visual field. I played an audio track from a previous game, with a world-class announcer who actually inserted the archer’s name into the dialogue to help with visualization. When it rained, we practiced.
I worked very hard on increasing the athlete’s ability to focus. It became a keyword. “Focus”. I played a video for her that epitomizes what I wanted her to learn to do – to shut everything out when the next 20 seconds become “everything” to her last 8 years of dedication.
For your consideration, I present a copy of that video, which she called “corny”. I thought for awhile on this, and decided, so what if it’s corny? It works as an example, and it planted the seed in her mind that she could do the same…
I do not think I did my job as well that last time as I would do, were there to be a next time. You can never do enough to prepare your athlete for 15,000 fans screaming their lungs out, but you can try.
Click to view the example of what *every* archer must be taught to do. The “key” mnemonic phrase to trigger it can be different, but the athlete has to be able to do it. Shut the crowd out. Zero in, focus on what is to be done.
Copyright Credit: This excerpt is from “For Love Of The Game”, with Kevin Costner from 1999 – it is only about 30 seconds in length but might be worth a lifetime of memories for the athlete that learns from it the concept of FOCUS. For the full movie, check here