As archers, we strive to become better at our sport, always seeking that perfect round where we shoot nothing but bull’s-eyes.
We tune our equipment to the best of our ability, then spend countless hours at the range practicing, but with the added pressure of a big buck standing in front of us or standing at the line in a tournament, we often fall short of our expectations.
As human beings, we rarely look to ourselves as the cause of these shortcomings, instead, blaming our equipment or making other excuses. In reality, it is often small defects in our form that lead to much bigger problems on the target.
One man who understands this better than almost anyone is Rod Jenkins. He has won the IBO World Championship three times: once with a compound bow and twice with traditional bows, making him the only person ever to win in both categories. Additionally, he has won 14 national archery championships, a national service rifle championship and is a national pistol champion as well. He is prominently featured on the Masters of the Bare Bow instructional DVD series. This man can shoot, and he knows what it takes to win.
Several years ago, Jenkins retired from competition to focus his energy entirely on coaching other archers. Not only is he a great shot, but he is exceptionally gifted in his ability to transfer his knowledge of the sport to other archers, having coached 17 world champions.
I was fortunate to attend one of his recent clinics, and he fundamentally changed my approach to the sport.
Jenkins was quick to point out that “Archery is perhaps the only sport in the world where participants constantly scrimmage, but never practice.”
He likened this to a football team that never did drills, and instead, only scrimmaged. Without the solid foundation provided by doing drills to establish and reinforce the most-basic skills, it is virtually impossible to succeed when you hit the field for a real game. Much in the same way, increased mental pressure for an archer who hasn’t drilled the basics of proper form often causes the shot process to break down, leading to misses and poor performance.
In Jenkins’ mind there are only two types of shots: “perfect arrows” and “less thans.” Nothing less than a perfect arrow will do. He explained that most archers mistakenly measure their success based on where their arrow impacts the target. Instead, the true measure of success is a perfectly executed shot with the perfect shot process. Once an archer wraps their head around this concept and focuses on the process itself, he or she becomes very difficult to beat, because the focus on the process reduces the mental pressures associated with a critical shot. This process is reinforced through a series of drills where each component of the shot process is broken down and drilled separately. These drills include stance, grip, anchor point, expansion and several others.
Now the archer begins to put in the work, doing 21 days of drills. By doing these individual drills on a blank bale at point-blank range, the archer learns the proper shot process. After 21 days, the archer’s mind begins to assimilate these individual shot components into one, solid shot process. Aiming is then reintroduced to the shot process through a bridge method.
It’s the process
With the archer’s mind thus retrained to emphasize shot process over results, mental pressure is lowered in the heat of the moment due to increased focus on proper process, leading to more accuracy and consistency.
All of this is assuming, of course, that the archer is drilling with proper form, and this is where an archery coach comes in. A good coach ensures proper form and alignment is followed, giving the archer the tools he or she needs to be successful.
If you are drilling improper form, you are only practicing to fail. The money spent on a good coach will more than pay for itself in time saved and results. I can’t say enough about Jenkins’ coaching and how much it has helped me, as well as my customers.
Jenkins does shooting clinics all over the world — for traditional archery, compound bows or a mixture of both. For those who prefer online learning, check out Roots on Push archery, featuring Jenkins and Jimmy Blackmon who offer this online learning program. I encourage every serious archer to focus on the basics and spend some time with an archery coach to better their shooting. ■
Rod Jenkins can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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