An often overlooked part of archery lessons is that of the mental checklist. I provided earlier some archery tips oriented towards beginners to try and improve their shooting technique, and now I will show you how a mental checklist or program might be one of the missing links in perfecting your form.
Focus and concentration are key elements in the success of any archer. Competitive archers and bowhunters are often under pressure that could cause them target panic or otherwise cause their thoughts to wander around, affecting their concentration, relaxation, and focus, which leads to missed shots. In fact, when asked about focus and concentration, many elite archers have said that it’s easy to stay focused when you have a mental checklist to go through.
Definition: A mental checklist is a set of steps and procedures that the archer follows throughout the practice of shooting an arrow.
Different archery lessons and teachers could define this differently, but it all comes back to the same thing.
In general, this checklist is consistent when the situation is consistent. What this means is that the checklist itself could vary daily depending on the conditions in which the archer is shooting. For example, it is common for an archer shooting at a target on a sloping hillside to unwittingly cant the bow. The addition of a reminder to level the bow inside your mental checklist for this specific situation will change the checklist, but will allow the archer to fix their shooting technique when faced with the situation.
The mental checklist is a helpful way to proceed through the shot setup. It reminds you to focus on the necessary steps of shot preparation and leaves you very little time to be nervous or to focus on other things. For this reason, it is important to practice and rehearse it regularly to ingrain it in your mind so that it becomes a second habit that comes easy to you when shooting.
Everybody has a different shooting style. For this reason, I recommend you begin the development of your own mental checklist by identifying the keys to success that are pertinent to your shooting style. It can include a step-by-step list of assuming correct shooting form, as well as address the bad habits that you tend to fall into. You can also write it and style it any way you want.
Considering this, it doesn’t hurt to have some help, so here is a sample mental checklist that contains a skeleton list of the keys to success.
a. Assume stance
b. Nock arrow
2. Draw & Aim
c. Set bow hand
d. Set draw hand hook
e. Raise bow then draw
g. Align the sight and level the bow
h. Steady the bow
3. Release & Follow-Through
i. Tighten back muscles
j. Relax draw hand to release
k. Keep bow arm up and steady
For an example of customizing this to your needs, let us assume that one of the mistakes you make that affect your aim is that you grip the bow handle tightly. This is a very common mistake among beginners, and to correct this, you might choose to add a reminder to the checklist between points c and d that says “Relax grip on bow hand”. When going through this checklist and you get to that point, you will notice that you have a strong grip on the bow and relax it. It’s a perfectly good use of archery tips inside your mental checklist.
To practice your mental checklist, copy it to a sheet of paper, and either attach it to the upper or lower bow limbs, or put it in front of you on the ground, written in a font that’s large enough to read at those distances. Use this checklist when practicing for the next 2 or 3 practice sessions, and then attempt to recite the checklist without looking at it. When you can recite the checklist without looking at it, start shooting without it, but make sure to mentally go through it on every shot. If you happen to forget, you can keep it the written checklist in one of your pockets to refer to it at any point during, before, or after practice.
In addition to this, you can practice by reciting the checklist out loud for every shot you take. During the anchor and aiming, it is usually better to do this silently to not affect your form.
The mental checklist or program will help you execute each of your shots consistently while keeping you focused and concentrated on what needs to be done. This is an important part of all archery lessons, and you will notice a big difference in your technique and aim as the mental checklists becomes easier to remember.
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