CA State Indoor Archery Championships – 2021

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Instructor Trainer /Coach

The CA State Indoor Championships are going on this weekend at the International Agricultural Center in Tulare, CA. Big shout out to the Stan Creelman, his volunteers, and the State Archers of California (SAC) organizers for putting on a great event.

Day 1 at the International Agricultural Center in Tulare, CA.
Barebow archery is growing in California with 30 to 40 Barebow archers at most events.

The 2022 CA Indoor Championships will be at the same venue in early January, 2022.

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Indoor Barebow Archery Season

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Well, with the CA 2021 Indoor Championships this weekend and the Vegas Shoot in the New Year, it’s that time of year. As we move from summer into fall it is time to begin getting ready for indoor archery season.

While some archers have two Barebows, one setup for 50 meter outdoor and another for 18 meter indoor, others will be retuning their bows. The first choice is, “Do I stay with my skinny outdoor arrows, or opt for fatter indoor arrows?”

Some mornings just start better than others.

There are advantages to both. By staying with the skinny arrows such as X10s, A/C/Es, or A/C/Cs, you don’t have to change your tune but simply increase your crawl. But you may be pulling added poundage that is not needed for 18 meters. The advantage of going with fat shafts, such as the popular Easton RX7-23s, is cutting the line and getting the higher score. If two arrows were to hit the same place, one skinny and one fat, the skinny one may not cut the line for the higher score, while the fat arrow may pick up the added point. In the picture above, you can see where two of the RX7s cut the X ring, while with skinny arrows only one may score X.

My choice was to go with two identical Hoyt Xceeds – one with 38# limbs for outdoors and the other with 34# limbs for indoors. For 50 meters I’m shooting Easton A/C/C 3-28s with 60 grain points; and for indoor, Easton RX7-23s with RPS inserts and 125 grain screw in points (162 grains total).

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Finishing Strong in Barebow

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Instructor-Trainer

Whether your plan to shoot 60 arrows, 100 arrows, or just 36 in a practice session, you should always try to finish strong. If you shoot your last end and throw one in the blue, then keep practicing until you can go 6 for 6 without throwing a bad arrow. Or if you have a minimum acceptable score, such as 50 out of 60, then shoot until you score 50+ so that you finish strong and with confidence.

50 meter Barebow training; 5 out of 6 in the 9 and 10 rings for a score of 56/60

When I first took up Barebow practice my first goal was to not throw arrows into the blue 6 & 5 rings. Now my goal is to shoot 8 or better on every round at 50 meters.

Remember, how well you shoot is directly related to how often you train, plus a little coaching.

Hoyt Exceed with Velos limbs and Easton A/C/C shafts

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The Importance of Grouping in Barebow Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Just to differentiate between precision and accuracy, precision is the ability to shoot good groups, while accuracy is the ability to get that group into the middle of the target.

So when a barebow archer shoots a good group, but not in the yellow, he or she should not be disappointed. A good group shows that the archer is doing everything correctly, but simply need to adjust his or her point of aim.

First group of the barebow morning training session at 50 meters, but up in the 7 and 8 rings. This is not uncommon when your muscles are fresh and you are shooting strong. The point of aim was the X so it is just a matter of shifting the point of aim to 6 o’clock on the 9 ring.
Adjusted point of aim at 50 meters and the group has moved down into the 9s and 10s.

With the examples above, and as the muscles begin to find their groove, the point of aim will return to the X. This usually happens in the first three or four ends of 6 arrows. It’s also not unusual that by the end of a demanding training session of 100+ arrows, or late in the day after three training sessions and 240+ arrows, that you will find you have to aim a little higher to compensate for muscle fatigue. But as long as the groups are good, then you are on the right track with a good, repeatable shot process.

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Riding for the Brand in Barebow Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Shaft Shooters Archery

I’ve been running Hoyt Exceeds with Velos limbs for both Indoor and Outdoor training and competitions this season. I’m averaging 4,000 arrows per month since last August, so a total of almost 40,000 arrows with no issues and no complaints. Got ‘a love Made in the USA.

Hoyt Exceed, Velos limbs, Easton A/C/C shafts, Yost tab
Gold at the California State Outdoor Championships

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Visualization and Mental Rehearsal in Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Visualization and mental rehearsal are important components of success in most athletic endeavors. In other words, visualization is a process of consciously programming your subconscious mind to perform the way you want. For archery, this includes visualizing yourself shooting the perfect shot process from nocking to release and follow-through. You are visualizing your arrow hitting the 10 ring.

An important part of this mental game is positive reinforcement. For example, you don’t want to be saying to yourself, “don’t pluck the string” – instead say “clean release.” Don’t say, “don’t throw another 6” – instead say, “shoot for the 10”    

Training for indoor archery

By dwelling on not throwing a 6 in the blue, your mind is focused on the blue when you need to be focused on the yellow 10. What your conscious mind thinks about your subconscious mind will make you do. This is why you will often see a competitor throw a bad arrow, and then throw another bad arrow. They were so fixated on the high left 4 that they throw another high left 4. On the flip side, it is the mark of a champion when you see an athlete throw a bad arrow and then come right back with all 10s.

This goes back to the conscious mind programming the subconscious mind, and in an ideal world, after tens of thousands of repetitions, it is our subconscious mind that kicks in during competitions. As you will hear coaches say, “Don’t think, just shoot.”  Overthinking is not helpful when you have done the training, repetitions, and built the neuro-muscle memory programming.

To wrap this up, focus on what you want to do and not what you don’t want to do. And then visualize yourself doing the perfect shot process and scoring that dead center 10.

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A positive attitude is part of mental toughness

Managing Stress in Archery Competitions

By Mark V. Lonsdale

    Stress is both a psychological and physiological condition that plagues not only athletes and soldiers but also every one of us in our every day lives. However, the added pressure of high-level competition seems to manifest these stress related problems in more dramatic and quantifiable ways. Even for the super-cool champion who appears to have iced-water running through his or her veins, stress is still a significant factor, especially when entering any major championship where the stakes are high – for example, making the National or Olympic team.

Stress and butterflies are real

    Over the years I’ve trained with numerous athletes who have racked up excellent scores in training and demonstrated considerable skill in their field of endeavor, but then these same promising athletes were unable to reproduce that performance on game day. I have also seen superbly trained and equipped combat personnel freeze when required to go in harms way. Lacking any injuries or other reasonable explanations, the probable cause of their failures can most probably be attributed to fear, match nerves, and stress.

     Fear, a close relative of stress, is an interesting phenomenon, often triggered by unfamiliar circumstances or a confrontation with unknown forces. For the athlete, this can equate to participation in a match format that is not familiar; against opponents of possibly superior skill; and in conditions that are not favorable. There is also the more tangible fear of failure or not making the team.

    To remove fear from the equation, it is essential to add an element of realism to the training process so that training sessions directly reflect match conditions. To do this prior to a big tournament, the archer should practice shooting the entire match in the same format, under similar conditions, and with the same time limits. In this manner, and by using the same equipment, the archer should be able to gauge his or her expected performance while developing a familiar “comfort zone” with that particular match format.       

    Now to address the effects of stress. Looking first at the more physical aspects, match stress and nerves can be manifested on several levels ranging from sweaty or shaky hands or wobbly knees, all the way up to totally uncontrolled body shakes. In some extreme cases, the nervous individual can simply go catatonic as seen in the classic state of stage fright where the aspiring thespian forgets his or her lines and is frozen on the stage, much like a deer caught in headlights.

    So to combat stress, we need to first understand what causes this very real physical reaction? We are all familiar with the physiology of the Flight or Fight syndrome found in the human condition. Under situations of extreme stress or fear, our primal survival instincts kick in and our body energizes itself to either run from danger or stand and fight. This is often manifested in the individual who exhibits almost super-human strength to save a loved one, or the quiet soldier who risks his own life in combat to save his squad or platoon.

    This burst of adrenalin driven energy and strength can be of great value in some sports such as power-lifting or judo, but equally detrimental to athletes who participate in precision sports such as archery or target shooting. Where the weightlifter or fighter has a physical and dynamic outlet for all this adrenalin and energy, the archer or pistol shooter is trying to remain exceptionally calm and relaxed.

      Archery and shooting are sports where whoever can move the least is often the winner. Unfortunately, when competition stress creates adrenalin and over stimulates the nervous system, the only outlet is shaking, which in turn creates a loss of confidence and even more stress. At times like these, one pre-game remedy is to go for a run or get some vigorous exercise to burn off that nervous energy. 

Treat the brain like a muscle that needs to be trained and strengthened

     Since shaking and tremors are physical problems, accompanied by accelerated heart rate and shallow breathing, they can often be reduced through physical conditioning. A conditioned athlete will have superior cardio-pulmonary responses to stress in that his or her heart and respiratory rates will remain slower and blood pressure lower. Therefore, having an active and healthy life style is an important first step in stress reduction for everyone, not just athletes.  

       Another physical symptom of nerves is indigestion and the feeling that one will throw-up. This again is the body’s need to empty the stomach so that the blood being used for digestion can be better utilized to Fight or Flee from perceived danger. So obviously, heavy meals before competition are not recommended, particularly foods high in fat and protein which can be difficult to digest. In addition, food or drinks that contain excessive caffeine or sugar are not going to help the precision shooter.

    However, not eating is also a problem causing lack of energy, weakness, and loss of concentration. Reasonable amounts of bland foods and carbohydrates are excellent in the morning or prior to competition and may absorb some of the gastric acids and help settle the stomach. Several light snacks during the day, such as bananas, along with adequate hydration, can also have a beneficial effect supplying the energy required to concentrate and compete, without overloading the digestive system. 

    Now we get to the more complex psychological or mental aspects of stress control. As humans, we frequently play mind games with each other but the ones we play on ourselves can be the most destructive. For some reason we persist in dwelling on the problems of everyday life without actively working to solve these problems. We hate our job, but we don’t quit. We are in a destructive relationship, but we don’t leave. Our car is unreliable, but we don’t get it fixed. We don’t shoot well in competition, but we don’t practice enough. You get the idea….

    All of these problems will continue to occupy our conscious thoughts until we correct them. For the athlete, it is critical that both personal and professional lives are kept in order so as not to arrive at training or enter a competition with a myriad of mental distractions. From personal experience, I know that it is difficult for me to enjoy and benefit from a training session if I am neglecting work commitments. The solution is to first clear the desk and then go the range with a clear conscience.

    There are however bigger problems in life such as personal tragedy, death or illness in the family, an ugly divorce, getting laid-off from work, etcetera. We often have no control over these, so must simply try to work through them. However, in many of these cases, having a healthy outlet and distraction such as physical training or archery can actually be cathartic (even though performance can be expected to suffer).

    To be successful in competition, one needs to be not only a problem solver but also a positive thinker. This may sound overly simplified but it is true. You must think positively. As the old adage goes, “If you think you can, you probably will. If you think you can’t, you probably won’t. But in either case you are correct!”

    The other quote that I like is the one from Rick McKinney’s book, The Simple Art of Winning, “We literally become what we think about most of the time.”

    Along with a positive attitude, confidence is an important component of stress reduction. Not the arrogant confidence of the big ego, but the confidence that comes with having laid a solid training foundation for the trials ahead.

     Developing confidence begins with being well prepared. When you know that you and your equipment are in the best possible condition, you will enter the competition arena with a level of confidence that is unmatched by less prepared competitors. The first step towards becoming better prepared is to remove any possible excuses that you may be able to conjure up for not performing well. These may cover the full gambit from personal fitness and finances to equipment and training. The solution:

  1. Get into good physical condition for archery.
  2. Make sure you have the best equipment available.
  3. Ensure that your equipment is tuned and working at its optimum performance.
  4. Know how to set-up and tune your own bow and arrow combination.
  5. Allow necessary time for training and travel.
  6. Work towards getting the financial resources needed to train and compete at a national level.
  7. Get a coach who will not only help your form but boost your confidence.
  8. Enter each competition with a realistic expectation of where you will place.
  9. Only expect to win if you can consistently shoot championship scores in practice; and even then, do not focus on winning just on the shooting process.
  10. Think of every competition as a learning experience and don’t fixate on the glory.
An example of a lapse in concentration in 50 meter Barebow practice

    So the next subject is competition mindset – that delicate balance of confidence and focus that can be so easily disrupted by personal demons or the words or actions of others.

    The novice competitor will often ask his or her coach, “What should I be thinking about when I am shooting?” Answer: “Exactly the same as what you think about when practicing by yourself.” Stance, set-up, draw, anchor, transfer, aim, release, follow-through. It is important to lock out all the other distractions and perform in the moment.

    Drawing on the Zen philosophy again, launch each arrow like it is the only arrow. To quote from a kyudo text, “Whether one thousand arrows or ten thousand, each one must be new.” In other words, do not dwell on earlier good or bad shots, and do not think about the shots to come – only the one that is nocked, drawn and ready to release. Thinking about earlier bad shots will only erode confidence, and while it is acceptable to draw confidence from a good series or end, this should not give a false confidence in future performance. Stay focused, stay in the moment.  

    As stated earlier, the mind games that we play with our selves can be extremely destructive, one of which is self-imposed pressure. We put pressure on ourselves to shoot better, to score higher, to impress others, to win and to make the team. Unfortunately, in precision shooting sports such as archery, performance generally deteriorates the harder we try. This is where one must differentiate between “trying” and “focusing.” When we try harder to do something, we are focusing on the outcome and not the act. Without concentrating on the act, performance deteriorates which continues to create stress. This in turn makes us try harder, only resulting in additional loss in points and more stress – a vicious cycle that must be interrupted by stepping back from the abyss, taking a deep breath, relaxing and returning focus to the act of shooting not the hope of winning. 

    Anyone who is driven to win at a national or international level is probably very motivated, bordering on being an over-achiever. It takes confidence and determination to win, but too much determination, unsupported by a structured and comprehensive training program, can simply be manifested as destructive stress.

    The important aspect of harnessing this determination is not to set unrealistic goals or make unattainable claims. To boastfully claim that one will win a specific tournament, only puts the proverbial “monkey on the back” and creates additional stress. Remember that everyone likes to see a braggart fall flat on his face, just as the crowd likes to see a quiet and humble man or woman win gold.

    At the risk of contradicting myself, it is however important to have confidence that you can win in a specific tournament. This confidence should be derived from well-structured training and knowing that you have been consistently shooting scores that are capable of winning this match. If you cannot shoot winning scores in practice, then it is unreasonable to expect to shoot winning scores under match pressure. It is then better to go and just shoot the best you can and enjoy the experience. By removing the stress of “having to win”, you may in fact shoot the best score you have ever shot and actually win.   

     Lastly, it is important to surround yourself with equally positive thinking friends and training partners. A healthy support network of non-judgmental friends and family, who will continue to love and support you whether you win or lose, can be a major asset to a competition shooter. Just as they can share the joy of your successes, they will be equally supportive and encouraging during the slumps and all too frustrating training plateaus. But when it’s all said and done, it is your own mindset and attitude that will make or break you as a competitor. So think positive, dare to dream, stay focused, train with a purpose, and the golds will take care of themselves.  

Note: For more information on the mental game, check out Mental Management Systems’ books and audio CDs available from Lancaster Archery.  

Concentration in Archery

Mark V. Lonsdale

When you have attained a good grasp of correct form and shot process in archery, focus & concentration become critical. The 50 meter Barebow target below is a good example of where a momentary lapse in concentration resulted in lost points. We jokingly call it “the arrow that hates you” but in reality, it is the archer and not the arrow at fault.

At 50 meters, a score of 54 equates to a 9 average, which is good in any outdoor archer’s book. But a small lapse in concentration threw the 7 high right.
Barebow backyard practice. Bow is a Hoyt Exceed with Velos limbs.

Concentration is like a muscle in that it must be flexed, practiced and exercised regularly. At the beginning, telling yourself to concentrate is a useful conscious thought process, but with time and practice an archer will automatically click into the zone as he or she steps up to the line.

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The Mental Game in Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

This is no great secret, but it is a truth in precision sports. Don’t compete against the other shooters, compete with yourself. In other words, go out on the field to match your training scores or beat your personal best, not the archer next to you. In this way, you are not letting the other athletes get inside your head.

Most of us shoot better scores in practice, when there is no pressure and no audience, than we do in major competitions. Therefore, the mark of a champion is someone who can shoot just as well on match day as he or she does in practice. This tells us that he or she is unaffected by match pressure.

So when competing in competitions, don’t worry about what the other archers are shooting or where you are in the rankings. Just keep shooting your backyard practice game. Once you start stressing over your placing or ranking, then you have lost the purity of mind needed for archery. Archery requires total relaxed concentration and a strict adherence to process. Everything else is a distraction and a detriment to performance.

That said, it is only through competing regularly in competitions that you can develop the focus needed to block out all the activity around you. Keep in mind that there is another archer shooting in your lane and another in the next lane less than two feet away. You need to focus on nocking your arrow, setting your hook, and then turn your attention to the gold 10 ring. From there, relax and follow your shot process.

Parting shot – when you can shoot your practice scores on game day you are well on your way to making the winners’ circle.

One for the 50 meter Barebow shooters. A score of 54 or 55/60 may not look great for a compound or Olympic recurve archer, but for a Barebow shooter, who can do this repeatedly, this is a winning effort.

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Barebow Competition in California

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Barebow competitor

It’s official. Barebow is alive and well in California. The recent California Outdoor Championships included Recurve, Compound and Barebow categories. Barebow, alone, had eight divisions including Men’s and Women’s Cadets, Seniors, Masters 50+, Masters 60+, and Masters 70+. Juniors also shot Barebow on Friday.

State Archers of California Outdoor Championship in Sacramento: 25-27 June 2021

This was the first State Archers of California (SAC) event to roll out the new Barebow 1440 format. All four rounds are shot at 50 meters, with two rounds on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Rounds 1 and 2 are six ends of 6 arrows. Rounds 3 and 4 are 12 ends of 3 arrows for a total of 144 arrows / 1440 points. The 50-meter distance was adopted to conform with the US Open and other international outdoor Barebow match formats with the thinking that State events should be a training ground for National and International events.

The hope, now, is that the Barebow archers attending the SAC California Outdoor Championships will go back to their clubs and spread the word that Barebow is back and with a new format.

Barebow bales at 50 meters

For those not familiar with Barebow rules, a target Barebow is essentially an Olympic recurve bow without the sights, clicker, or stabilizers. That said, any trad recurve, long bow or stick bow can be shot in the Barebow divisions. For the most part, Barebow archers shoot three fingers under and set up their bows to be point-on at 50 meters, or “lollypopping,” holding 6 o’clock on the 9 or 10 ring.  So dust off that Barebow, or go out and invest in a new one.

Barebow Masters 50+ division

Last but not least, big shout out to the SAC board, match coordinators, judges and volunteers who made all this possible.

See you on the field

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