Target panic

From: (James Bridges)
Subject: Target panic (was Re: HELP Technical Question)
Date: 13 Dec 1995 07:06:34 GMT

In article <4aao38$>
Al Pencin <> writes:

> Hi,
> Is there anyone out in archery land that has shot competition (BHFSL)and 
> suffered from "Target Panic"?  If so, have you found a (surefired) cure 
> for this dreaded desease??  I posted a similar question to a bulletin 
> board in the Netherlands and received a few helpful comments, but would 
> like to gather as much information as possible.
> tx al

I hope you get lots of responses to this, even though it is something
of an FAQ. I don't know if and where it is in the official FAQ's

My answer, based on personal experience and what I've read here the
last year or two, is "no, no cure is surefire". That is, unless you
count quitting as a way to avoid it. Each archer finds a combination of
techniques to deal with it. And it is probably more prevalent than most
people who have it think it is.

My best advice comes from an article which quoted someone else (Len
Cardinale, I think). Target panic is the result of not following
through. Understanding this was the key to my regaining and retaining
control. I'll try to explain, although it is not obvious how the
symptoms are related to the source of the problem.

Target panic starts when we mentally quit concentrating at the release.
It is like a golfer who jerks his head up to watch the ball, thereby
spoiling his swing by moving his pivot point midway through the swing.
In archery, we instinctively want to see where the arrow is going, so
we begin to get in the habit of stopping our concentration on the
followthrough and start looking for the arrow. Thus we mentally quit
earlier and earlier in the sequence of shooting until we are already
looking for the arrow before we release. Often this devolves into the
inability to hold the sight picture on point, freezing with the sight
pin not on the target and/or uncontrollably releasing whenever the
sight picture gets close to correct. That is the root of the problem.
Now the steps to fix it.

My 3 steps:

1) I fought target panic for years and finally gave in and started
using a mechanical release. This helped some because it let my
conscious control come back. For starters, try aiming with your
finger/thumb off of the trigger. Be sure that the release is attached
to your hand; I've released the release before and can tell you that it
is painful when it hits your bowhand! Using the release lets you catch
your impulse to shoot and gain conscious control over it. It is not a
silver bullet, however. 

2) I also spent some time strengthing my drawing muscles using a simple
pulley rig I put together in my basement. Not that I couldn't hold the
bow weight before, but for control the bow weight should feel
inconsequential compared with your strength. 

3) Finally, I followed the usual advice of working at *very* short
distances so that I had no unconscious worries about missing the
backstop. Also, at 5 feet you shoot with your eyes closed to get the
feel of the shot and followthrough without the visual clues which
trigger the uncontrolled release. Learn how to "stay tucked in" after
the shot. You should learn to feel that nothing has changed and to hold
that pose for several seconds after the release, consciously moving to
relax after mentally finishing your shot sequence. Learn to mentally
reward yourself based on how good the control and followthrough were,
rather than on where the arrow went. Once the form is there, the
accuracy follows. Once you get control, you get confidence that if the
shot felt good you don't need to see where the arrow went because you
*know* where it went! It goes where you aimed, and success and
confidence do a positive feedback loop.

This feeling of "staying in" is crucial; it precludes unconscious
movement to watch the arrow. I find that when my groups start opening
up, I can fix it by concentrating on my followthrough and feeling that
I'm still *directly* behind the bow from the target after the shot.
I've finally gotten to the point I can now watch the arrow leave the
bow and follow its flight through the sights. If I find myself seeing
the string on the right side of the arrow (I'm right handed) then I
know I'm starting to drop the bow to the right to watch the arrow. 

Like I said, this is a very widespread problem. I think most people
experience it to some degree or another, although many probably don't
realize that on their off days they are flirting with the beginnings of
target panic. For me, although it once made me hang up my bow for a few
years, it provides the mental challenge which makes the simple practice
of the sport interesting. Good luck and share what you find as you
search for your solution!

James Bridges
Cleveland, OH, USA
By day: aeroacoustics researcher at NASA Lewis Research Center
By night: mad scientist
Quote: Turbulence is a point of view.