Beating Target Panic
So, what is target panic? First before we fix the problem we need to understand where it comes from. As we go through our shot process our mental and physical status has to be in sync just like the cams on our bows. Target panic occurs when these two aspects of our shot becomes unbalanced or out of sync. When this happens our minds are on system overload because they are trying to do too many things at once. Our minds wonder from anchoring, to aiming, to shot execution, to shot timing and to shot anticipation. The list could go on and on. However, when we try to think of too much at once a couple of these will get over looked while the others will be poorly executed and accuracy suffers. Studies have shown that error rate increases by fifty percent when we attempt to multitask.
How we approach target panic is really no different than how we install new strings and cables on our bows. First thing you do after installing is make sure both cams are in sync, in this case it is our mental and physical game. After our cams are in sync we focus on cam timing which we can view this as our aiming process. If our mental and physical games are out of sync which is the first step then the aiming process is pretty much useless. If we continue to shoot like this it will only get worse because we are teaching our body bad habits.
Now the big question. How do we fix this issue? For this I am going to use my wife as an example. She is a secretary for our local school system and has been for quite a few years. It amazes me how she can type words that she is reading from a sheet of paper with such speed and accuracy without even looking at the keyboard. I asked her how she got so efficient with this talent. She goes on to talk about when she was taking classes in college she devoted nearly three weeks to learning hand placements, key locations and proper form. She had to learn this and train her subconscious before she could even think about typing while looking at a sheet of paper. Sound familiar? Our goal here is to form proper muscle memory, with the key word being proper. This way your body will operate and perform most of these tasks subconsciously. Not teaching our muscles the proper way could lead us right back to where we started causing us to plateau with our accuracy and never reach our fullest potential.
To get us back on the right track we need to start at the foundation of our shot. We need to humble ourselves and throw everything we know out the window and approach this with an open mind. Remember, your mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open. Our vision controls so much of our actions so first we need to start by removing our sights from our bow. Next we need to get within 5 yards from the target and start working solely on form and shot execution so we train our mind and muscles what a perfect shot feels like. Another good idea here is to set up a camera to record yourself so you can see if there are any imperfections that may need addressed. There are several free coaching apps for mobile devices that will allow you to watch your shot frame by frame. These are very helpful. This short range will become your home for the next couple of weeks. Is it the most exciting way to practice? No! Is it the most productive form of practice to get yourself on the right track? Absolutely!
As time goes on you will find that your mental and physical are coming back in sync with each other. You will notice that you can go through the steps without any effort what so ever. Now that we have achieved this we can then put our sights back on and focus completely on aiming the bow. With our muscle memory now in control of our shot process our minds can be completely focused on one task and that is aiming. A good drill to help out with getting your aim perfect is to come to full draw and put your pin on the target. Hold this as long as you can without firing the arrow. When you feel your shot start to break down let your bow down and relax. Another good tip is when you are ready to close out a practice session, go back up to the target and fire about a half dozen shots into the target with your eyes closed. This will help keep your muscle memory in tone.
Remember we get out of our time what we put in. So practice wisely, set yourself productive goals. Gradually increase you practice sessions to greater distances. Train your subconscious to do as much as it can through muscle memory so it leaves your eyes and your mind only to focus on aiming. It will require some effort but the rewards are worth it. Vince Lombardi once said "The only time success comes before work is in the dictionary" Good luck and happy shooting!