Measuring performance

Some measures of performance

Can we glean information about how we are performing from specific outcomes and trends in results? The short answer is, of course, yes, but interpreting results can require some lateral thinking and almost sooth sayer like abilities.

A common one to start: “When in competition my first arrow is always good with the last arrow of a series being consistently poor.” This is a fairly simple one and is obviously based in focus and expectation, however on closer inspection this gives us more information than we would expect. This result tells us that the archer has a workable, and effective, technique but their performance lacks robustness, and the lack of trust is causing the archer to use too much cognitive processing (though not necessarily in the actual physical processes but in the performance itself).

Basically, in performance terms, they do not trust their technique enough and they are not comfortable that each shot is an unique event. In maths terms they have forgotten that each shot is a mutually exclusive event, ie the outcome of one shot does not effect the next. However the real information that we can take is that they are a learner or at best an intermediate! They have yet to be comfortable in the understanding that shooting 3 arrows in a series is not 3 separate events but one event encompassing 3 shots, the event begins as you cross the line and ends as the last arrow of a series leaves the bow.

The skill is good enough to put the first arrow where the archer wants it, but remember this is after a break or resetting period. So when the archer comes to the shot with a fresh plan the result is good but this process is being muddied, not by a lack of belief in the technique but a lack of comfort in the expected outcome of a whole series of three or six arrows. In effect the result of each shot is affecting the outcome of the next one, this can be categorised as “thinking too much” or “lack of focus” but these simple,trite, terms are of no use to the performer and are generally followed with some useless piece of advice like, “shoot each arrow one at a time” or, heaven forbid, “RELAX” or “FOCUS”! These last two, contradictory gems, are often thrown out by a coach in the same breath causing utter conflict to the archer.

The archer who is fixated about making each shot a single event by trying to “reset” between shots in a series will never be able to achieve the results of one who sees that the single event is the series that they must shoot. On a side note this is one of the reasons why, even an experienced archer can be poor in the alternating shooting of a head to head semi-final or final. The archer tries to focus on a single arrow at a time but they can’t because they are stuck on the line with no respite or reset. They must learn that the single event that the are training for is actually 3 arrows with a 20 second break between each shot that they must fill, consistently and comfortably, as the other archer shoots.

So what can be deduced from a bad first arrow and a good last? There is still the overriding fact that this archer is an intermediate as is the case where there is any discernible trend across the series, ie they have not understood that the performance is a single event which removes any specific arrow, result, trends through the series. However this result tends to imply a lack of confidence or clarity in the technique. The archer can not shoot the first arrow with a clear plan that can be confidently carried out, and so it is only after the first arrow of the series that the clarity of method comes. This routine will generally precede the original scenario that I have discussed in this article. So once the archer has a clear idea of what they are going to do they will then start to struggle with a performance rather than technical issue. This can be overcome with understanding that the single event that they must focus on is shooting the series of arrows be that shooting 3 or 6 arrows and then they will see no discernible trends over the arrows they shoot.