Archery isn’t popular, it’s an Archetype!

In a 2013 press release, USA Archery cited a 105% membership increase from 2011 – 2013. In that same period, they also noted huge increases in tournament participation, and demand for instructor certification. USA Archery and other organizations are quick to suggest the increase is a direct result of the prevalance of archery heroines and heros in movies and television. This is only part of the reason; archery isn’t just popular, it’s an Archetype!

The term “archetype” has its origins in ancient Greek. The root words are archein, which means original or old, and typos, which means pattern, model or type. The combined meaning is an “original pattern.” A synonym is prototype.

mother & child

The psychologist, Carl Gustav Jung, used the concept of archetype in his theory of the human psyche. He believed that universal models, archetypes, reside within the collective unconscious (as opposed to the personal unconscious) of people the world over. Archetypes are universal; everyone inherits the same basic archetypal images. Common examples include birth, rebirth, death, power, magic, the hero, the child, the trickster, God, the demon, the wise old man, the earth mother, the giant, many natural objects like trees, the sun, the moon, wind, rivers, fire, animals, and many human-made objects such as rings and weapons. There are as many archetypes as there are typical situations in life. Endless repetion has engraved these experiences into our psyches (Hall and Nordby).

cave painting 2

Representations or versions of these common archetypes appear in cave drawings, myths, legends, literature and other forms of recorded history. Every infant throughout the world inherits a mother archetype. This preformed image is then developed into a definite image by the actual mother’s appearance, behavior and experiences the baby has with her. Archetypes are not fully developed pictures in the mind like memory experiences. Instead, think of them more like a (photographic) negative that has to be devloped by experience (Hall and Nordby).

We can have no idea of how, or indeed why the principle of shooting with a bow was first discovered and then used. There are plenty of speculations and assumptions untouched by either fact or, indeed, artifact, for little survives to provide us with concrete evidence. Much of the controversy over the Lars Andersen videos has to do with his unsupported assertions about archery history based on his assumptions about what a few paintings “prove.” However, evidence for bow usage is suggested in early rock drawings. These show animals driven toward a group of archers who are busily engaged in their culling; and what seems plausible is that by the late Stone Age, a simple bow for this purpose had emerged in common use around the globe (Soar). It shouldn’t be hard to hypothesize that many of our archetypes were established by our human ancestors’ experiences in the Prehistoric & Stone Age times.

vintage photo 1

Archery experienced a “golden age” in the United States that started sometime in the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Archery returned as an Olympic event in 1972. You can trace the beginning of many of the outdoor archery clubs and ranges to about this time (Camera). Many if not all of the archers I know who were involved in the sport during the 50’s through the 70’s liken archery’s current popularity to what they call “bubbles” of interest throughout the years that coincided with specific media events during that time; during that period you can count the number of such events on one hand, maybe two. They talk about it as if they’ve seen it before, as if this too is a bubble that will pass.


So yes, the prevalance of archery heroes and heroines in the popular media has a lot to do with the popularity of archery. It seems like every action movie that comes out has an archer. There are numerous TV shows that feature archers. Archery is promininent in video games. The Summer Olympics are approaching. But it’s not just the popular media that is helping the archetypal image to develop. Social media is also playing a big part. Popular hunters, recreational archers, and Olympic archers update their followers daily (sometimes hourly!) about their activities. For better or worse, you can look up anything you want to know about archery on YouTube and other video media channels. Just multiply the handful of media events that sparked “bubbles of interest” during the Golden Age times a million and you’ll understand why Archery isn’t just popular; the archery archetype is being brought to the forefront of our psyches like it never has before – it is here to stay.

Cited References

A Primer of Jungian Psychology. Calvin S. Hall and Vernon J. Nordby (1999)

The Crooked Stick; A History of the Longbow. Hugh D. H. Soar (2004)

Shooting the Stickbow; A Practical Approach to Classical Archery. Anthony Camera (2008)


On Being Brave – A Method for Overcoming Tournament Nerves

By Paul Fender

Working on your mental game is important if you compete, and should be incorporated into your training program. My good friend Paul Fender & I have shot many tournaments together at the local “Novelty” level and more competitive State and National levels. I’ve always been amazed by his nerves of steel, so was quite amused to hear the story behind the skill. Paul graciously offered to write the story up for the blog – I hope his method is helpful to you – it recently helped him become a World Champion!


Nico and I have frequently talked about Target Panic (TP). We’ve also talked about something that can become related to TP. Let’s call it Tournament Nerves (TN?) or a case of the jitters. Many new shooters will stay basically recreational. Others will go on to hunting and competing.

I myself don’t seem to have TP. Sure, once in a while I’ll have a shot that I should have let down, but I’ll flinch, or pluck, or even get stuck with a sight picture that I just can’t get on target, but no big deal. There is one thing though that I can talk about from my own experiences and that is having a case of the jitters at the start of a tournament.

I have competed at many levels, from local events to the International level.  Sometimes, for whatever reasons I may have, a particular event will be exceptionally important to me. I’ll find myself all jumpy, and itchy and irritated. My head will be full of crazy thoughts. “What if I screw up? I sure hope I don’t drop too many points! What am I even doing here? This sucks!” Maybe it only works for me, but I actually have a “method” for dealing with the negative feelings and the negative self talk. What’s interesting is that how I handle it actually grew out of a specific event in my life many years ago, and it wasn’t even archery related.

One evening I came home from work very tired. Ate dinner, went to bed early. Next thing I know, I’m shaken awake by my wife Annette and daughter Ashley. In hoarse stage whispers they were telling me, “Paul! Paul! Get up! There’s somebody in the side yard!” Naturally my first reaction was “Huh? Er…ah. What?” Once it penetrated what was going on I jumped out of bed, and yelled at everybody to call the cops, turn on all the lights, and make as much noise as possible doing it. At that point, not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a decorative Katana sword that I have hanging on the wall, and went charging outside, yelling the whole way. Rounded the corner of the house just in time to see where a bunch of bushes in the hedge were shaking and heard somebody running down the street.

Now, I don’t know if you noticed, but there is a step missing from that whole sequence of events. Yep. You got it! Picture this, crazed, over weight white guy running around the yard waving a Samurai sword and yelling. As Annette later pointed out, I was really kind of lucky. Good thing it took a while for the police to show up. They might have arrested me!

By now of course you’re wondering what on Earth could this possibly have to do with Archery, or having a bad case of Tournament Nerves? Just bear with me, I’m getting there.

During that whole little episode, I was honestly truly terrified. If I had had my way about the whole thing, I would have locked myself in the closet with my wife and daughter. Although what I did was rash, foolhardy, yes, even stupid, I none the less did what I needed to do, despite being scared out of my pants. Literally. It redefined what the word “bravery” meant to me. Being brave does not mean being without fear. It means being afraid, but still doing what needs to be done anyway.

The first time I had a bad case of Tournament Nerves, I realized that I was afraid of looking foolish. I was afraid of failing. I realized that it came down to the fact that in reality I had only 2 choices. Step up, put my reputation on the line, and shoot, or go home. So, knowing that it would be a cold day in Hades before I just packed up and went home, I stepped up. I thought of what my understanding of bravery means. I just had my fears, didn’t try to ignore them, or stuff them deep down, or pretend that I didn’t have them. I just had them. I went on to do what needed to be done anyway. Funny things happened. Following my shot sequence, thinking about what I was really doing there, shooting a bow, nothing more, nothing less than that, and a few targets in, my fears had given up on torturing me, and had left me. It was so weird in that I actually didn’t even consciously notice the transition.

So what is there to say about Tournament Nerves?  Have the fear. Don’t try to “handle” it. Be brave. Cut through the confusing babble and realize that you, just like every other one of us has only two choices. Once reduced to its bare essentials, it becomes easy. Shoot or go home. And once you get to that point, I’m willing to bet that you too will choose to step up and shoot.

An Exploration of Target Panic

By Nico Gallegos

Target Panic is a phenomenon experienced by many archers. There are three common ways people describe it:

    1. Involuntary flinching, clutching, twitching, or jerking.
    1. “Locking up” or “hitting a wall” as the archer tries to anchor or aim.
  1. Releasing the arrow prematurely, before coming to full anchor.

I have some published research to my credit and originally intended to conduct a full blown scientific research study. Instead I decided to explore this topic more informally. However to be somewhat thorough I am including a few references and have commented on them to enhance the conversation.

Because I was going to conduct a research study, I started collecting accounts of Target Panic from people experiencing it. This written description provides a rich glimpse of what it is like: Target Panic Description. There is a LOT in this description worth noting. I wanted you to hear something personal and first-hand before reading published articles that include editorial comments and suggestions.

This NY Times article is a comprehensive editorial piece: The Secret Curse of Expert Archers. What I find most interesting is the author’s claim that Target Panic could be psychological or neurological in nature. On the psychological front, the author notes that the anxiety people experience in response to Target Panic makes it worse. My favorite comment in this article is an appropriately cautionary one: a “cottage industry” of coaches, books, and accessories for cure have arisen in response to the phenomenon.

Here is a very entertaining article written by Ted Nugent: Conquering Target Panic. Ted talks to us like he’s our friend and he wants us to have hope. What strikes me the most about this article is that Ted suspects Target Panic as a major cause of people giving up on archery – so sad! The other major point to take away from Ted’s article is that like the coaches cited in the other articles, he normalizes Target Panic as a very common thing.

This is the best article of the bunch: Beating the Curse. It combines the down to earth writing style of the Nugent article with some very insightful technical information. For me though it is a little too emphatic in its emphasis on what the author calls “the real problem” (afraid to hit the middle and anticipation of the shot). The author spells out a very useful plan for battling Target Panic, albeit based on solving what he identifies as “the real problem.” If you are a Traditional Archer you’ll have to ignore the verbiage about “the trigger” and the (sight) “pin” in order to make use of his very sound advice. My favorite part of this article is Step 3 – Enforce The New Habit!


When you look at these four reference pieces some themes emerge:

  • An initial period of good performance.
  • A sudden and unexpected onset of Target Panic.
  • A lack of control; an inability to stop doing something undesired or do something desired.
  • Negative thoughts in response to the Target Panic.

I’ve struggled with Target Panic personally. Based on my experience I believe it can also be a stimulus-response problem. I became very good at shooting Compound Freestyle with a scope – I’ll never forget the day I shot a perfect 20 on the 70 yard walk up target – I won the Regional Championship that year! Shortly after that, I developed a flinching problem whenever I tried to center the spot in my scope. I found some effective strategies to manage the problem, but I had to constantly work at it and archery became a chore, lost a lot of its fun. Then I discovered that I did not have the problem if I shot a Traditional bow “instinctively” without a sight (see my Aiming Without a Sight post). Shooting this style brought the fun and passion back to archery for me, and allowed me to be competitive again, so I sold my compound bows and gear and made the switch. BUT, whenever I try to develop a more precise aiming method like “gapping” (again see the Aiming Without a Sight post) it comes back. Hence the stimulus-response theory. Like the person in the Target Panic Description, I also found that lowering my draw weight helped.

I also have a hunch that some personality types are more prone to this than others, but I’ll save that for another discussion.

If you have or in the future develop Target Panic I hope this post gives you enough information to find your way through it. As a coach, my fundamental advice to anyone trying to overcome a performance problem is:

  • Face the Problem; it’s a puzzle to be solved, don’t allow negative thoughts get the best of you. Don’t hide it or pretend it’s not there or that it will magically go away. Call it something different – like mentioned in the NY Times article you don’t have to use the negative, loaded term Target Panic – you can be more descriptive: “I’m doing such and such to help me come to full anchor; I’m doing so and so to keep from releasing too soon,” etc.
  • Play with Options; very rarely does one size fit all – experiment with solutions until you find one or more that work for you. There are a wide range of suggestions within these articles!
  • Be in Process; things like this are rarely “cured” right away, sometimes not at all – adopt a process mindset and come up a with strategy you can “plug and play” whenever the problem rears it’s head – chances are it will re-emerge from time to time.