Balance INCREASES Performance

Posted: 2014/02/27 in From the perspective of an Archery Coach.

All too often I watch an athlete get caught within the rigours of competition and group opinion. This is where one of two things can take place; one, the athlete begins to accelerate in skill, so much so that it is noticed by peers, and two, the ride comes to a crashing stop because they never had the chance to develop the maturity to handle the change in… well… everything. Balance is an important factor in keeping these two things from blending together and making both true.

Balance of the training schedule

It is important to maintain a fairly consistent training schedule but it is equally important to insert personal goals and challenges that are mixed with intentional down time.

Balance of information flow

Athlete’s that begin to show signs of promise are often hit by a barrage of information by well-wishers whose intentions may be two-fold, one being genuine in trying to be helpful, and two, inserting some level of self-serving claim to the rise in success. However, either can lead to casting the athlete into a pit of doubt, regarding their own skills or the relationship between those skills and the people managing the effort.

Balance of the physical

The physical aspects of personal skills growth are equally important, in as much as an athlete needs to maintain a healthly physical regime, including diet, exercise and sleep. It is an absolute certainty that any and all equipment be maintained to the highest and strictest levels. Why? To eliminate any cause to distraction or blame transference.

Balance of the mind

Contrary to popular belief that focus is a mental process, it is not. Focus is the result or benefit of physical adaptation to the brain reacting to external stimulus. Each time we prepare an athlete for a competitive environment we call it “practice.” In fact, what we as coaches are doing is balancing the level of instruction to coincide with the athlete’s conscious mind and its ability to instruct the subconscious mind through “repetition of process.” The athlete physically develops new neural pathways that are charged with a singular task, bring into “focus,” for lack of a better word, the physical attributes necessary to successfully perform the skill(s) that is being demanded of it. We must remember to be careful not to call this “instinct” because the subconscious mind doesn’t recognize the difference between reality or not, past or present, and negative or positive, it simply reacts to external stimulus as it has been “programmed” to do, without a conscious effort. And, this is where one might be tempted to call the process, “instinctual” but in reality it is “habitual.”

Another, myth about balancing the mind is the attempt to bring physical focus by “emptying the mind of all external thought or influences, be still and quiet, focus only on the task at hand.” Think about that process for a minute, I mean really think about it. Now, empty your mind and do not think about any part of the shot process while aiming. No matter how hard you try, some part of the process with creep in consciously and disrupt any confidence within the process. Attempting to quiet your mind consciously provides your subconscious mind with the “negatives” it needs as fuel to reprogram itself into a position of doubt, which will inevitably turn to fear. Ahhh, target panic? Bull pucky! Improper reaction to external stimulus due to poor training. Controllable? You bet ya!

Balancing the mind requires one simple technique and that is having a conversation with yourself that involves NO negatives, NO thoughts of the process or RECOGNITION IN ANY WAY of the physical demand at that specific moment. Think of it this way, during practice go ahead think and sweat about the details but on game day the job is to just do. Talk to yourself about anything but the task immediately at hand. Just do. Think about Mom’s apple pie while you aim. Think about anything that makes you feel great, talk to yourself about it, answer yourself, revisit the experience in your head, WHILE YOU AIM. Are you noticing the common theme here?

Balance of reward

Through effort there is always achievements to be measured in self-confidence and blended with humility.

One final thought…

However right, or wrong, in my opinions here that you may feel I am… Ask yourself… Which BALANCE appears to be the most important in regard to the development of a competitive athlete?

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