“Do we need more than we need?”
In many cases, people strive for a greater understanding or technical ability than is necessary to achieve a goal, and this is a waste of their time and effort. This is not unique to sport; this is a simple rule, which applies to any situation where outcome is controlled by an effort on the part of the performer.
It is important to be very clear what any test is actually testing. In the sport of archery we are rewarded with points for accuracy not style. I must point out now I am not advocating poor technique, or that any means justifies the end. What I am advocating is for the individual to be very clear about exactly what they are trying to achieve and how they will measure this. Within sports there is often a desire, even in the novice, to achieve a technical cleanliness, which is both beyond them and not necessary for their stated outcome.
I see many athletes shaking their heads after a performance, which measured purely on outcome, would appear to have gone well. When asked why they are unhappy with their performance they will often talk about a poor kinesthetic result. Or put more simply that it just felt bad. Although admirable in some aspects this measure is unfair and more importantly unjustifiable. When the athlete began the shot, in a competitive scenario, their interest was in shooting an arrow, as close to the middle as possible and this is what they would be rewarded for with a score of a maximum of 10. There was no aspect of a style point, their stated goal was to do something and they did this and they are duly rewarded with a number of points, to then use a qualitative measure which may negate this apparently successful outcome makes learning and progressing very difficult.
In the UK, when a 17-year-old takes their driving test they are generally not interested in whether they can drive but rather whether they can pass their test. This clarity of goal and reward allows them to concentrate on the matter in hand, and so it must be for the competitive athlete.
Good technique should always be worked towards and allows the athletes to perform at the highest possible level under the greatest amount of stress. It allows them to develop their skill and increase their results over time, however the time for critical analysis of technique is in practice or post competition not after each shot. During competition the performer must be very clear about what they are trying to achieve and what they are rewarded for.
A rueful shake of the head on a lucky or fluked shot is fair enough but it cannot divert the performer from what they must do with the next shot.
Imagine that you are standing in the gold medal match of the Olympics and you shoot 12 technically not great shots but do enough to win does that in anyway detract from being gold medalist. Well I would hope that your answer is no. The stated goal is that gold medal, although it would be nice to shoot great and flowing shots, arrows closer to the middle than your opponent is what you will be rewarded for. The athlete has worked in practice to make technically good shots and must make the best of what they are doing on the day in competition. They cannot push for technically great shots and if they are shooting within their expected scoring tolerance they should not been even mildly critical of the kinesthetic (feel) aspect of the performance. From this idea comes one of the great truisms in sport, “the more I practice, the luckier I get” this simple statement accepts that there is an aspect of performance, which cannot be controlled, and great performance needs this. The football bouncing off the cross bar or in off the cross bar is a fraction of an inch the kicker can not control, they accept that they are trying to do something and they succeed because there skill is good enough due to practice, technical diligence and …… something else out with their control. To win a point in a tennis match the player must risk the ball being out, they must go for the line with total commitment and there is an aspect of luck as to whether it is in or not. They will be measured on the successful outcome, they have no recourse to how good the shot felt. Sometimes great shots are just out and kinesthetically poor shots (flukes) end up in.
Reflective practices are crucial but cannot get in the way of the performance. By this I mean that it is vital to be critical of what you are doing but this is tempered by the situation. During the performance one should be focused on exactly what you are being tested upon, in this case shooting arrows nearest to the middle. After the event one can be critical of how it felt and what can be done to improve that or in some cases that it was a near perfect experience. However, during the performance the result is everything and the archer cannot be sidetracked by issues that are not pertinent to the performance.
So what does this mean in terms of planning for events and how one performs during the event. In practice you must have times where you work on form and are not concerned by shooting the biggest score you can but focus on feel, you must also have times when you are scoring and interested solely in the score and reflect on how this was achieved after completion of the score. This means that when you are in competition you are clear about what you are trying to achieve and have a plan on how to do this. All athletes have days were the skill does not feel as good as it should but they stick to a plan and do not get “wound up” by this apparent failure, taking solace from achieving their stated goals. These athletes will quickly “find” their rhythm and good technique during the competition. Even though they know the performance is not perfect they will score in their normal “zone” of performance and to the observer it will appear like a normal performance. Those athletes who are unhappy with the feel will not get into their zone and it will be a below par performance and upsetting and mystifying experience for them.
So in conclusion as an athlete you should always be clear what you are being tested on and what you are being rewarded for, be clear in the goal you have and don’t “need more than you need”