The power of control – lessons learnt from archery

I had the pleasure in meeting Clive during a Veterans week at the Battle Back Centre, Lilleshall. With a larger than life personality, a truly proud Welsh man who had formally served as Welsh Guards.

It became very apparent within minutes of meeting this larger than life character that the week was going to be a fun one, full of discussions about music and films of the 80’s, bad jokes shared and that there was more to Clive than he first let on!

What I didn’t realise was how much I would learn from Clive during this week and to gain a deeper Understanding of how control, consistency, breathing technique, repetition and focusing on detail (process) would have such an effect on the outcome (performance).

Clive was blinded in 2000 and in 2001 took up archery. Having become British Blind Sport Indoor and Outdoor National Champion, he had taken a break from the sport, but that was all to change.

The veterans programme at the Battle Back Centre in Lilleshall uses activities to reinforce well-being. The week started with Clive demonstrating that inclusivity is actually that, as he shot a basket in the wheelchair basketball to take his team into the lead. Other activities included climbing, cycling, walking, seated volleyball, tennis and archery.

What became very evident very quickly was that archery was his passion. Clive set up his station which included a wooden framed foot plate, a sensory sight which was held at the correct height to touch his left hand, that in turn allowed Clive to draw the bow at the right height to aim the arrows at the target. Once set up shooting began and arrows started to group in the target with feedback to Clive coming from myself. Soon arrows were being collected from the boss and then fine tuning commenced. This attention to detail; the minor adjustments to the foot panel, sensory sight, body position, all completed in a methodical order provided marginal gains with the arrow placement.

So what did I learn then and have learnt since watching Clive shoot, and how has that impacted on my coaching:

• Repetition with feedback (IF NEEDED) is vital for fixing key habits within closed skill routines

• Feedback has its importance but only when timely and is communicated in a way that the athlete can relate to

• Athletes need to become autonomous and self-reliant on making the minor adjustments that they can control, which In turn will make an impact on performance outcome. A methodical and systematic routine is critical for the athlete to make these minor adjustments

• Communication is key from coach to athlete, but being able to convey in a way the athlete understands

• In a closed skill, the power of relaxed controlled breathing has a major effect on the body and mindset, and this relaxed state is vital to the outcome of the arrow

• The ability to focus and remove attention from distracting factors which may influence the balanced state and ability to repeat the pre-shot routine

• A growth mindset is required to assist the hours required for repetition and commitment

The above in turn has benefitted my feedback to B1 players on the tennis court. Tennis (in its various forms) is an open skilled sport, however closed skills within, such as the serve can learn a lot from archery.

My journey as a coach continues and it is this journey which continues to excite and make me grow.

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