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I was talking with a couple of shooters and coaches recently and realized that many never think through a plan for practice. Also, many don't realize some of the principles of practice scheduling.

So how about posting some of the specific things that you do in practice to work on specific skills. Also, how do you organize practice?

For instance, in practice, I have two general ways of practicing, what I call practice mode and performance mode. Practice mode is focused on learning, relearning, or modifying a specific aspect of my shot. Performance mode is when I put it all together the way I think of the shot in a tournament and use a limited set of cues to execute the shot rather than thinking specifically about detailed steps.

In practice mode, I have several drills that I use for specific skill. One is to repeat instructions for every detailed step of the shot to myself and mentally check each one. For instance, checking the wind sock before starting the shot and just before anchor and verifying that the arrow is on the rest and has not jumped onto the plunger or fallen onto the shelf. Usually these are done without thinking, but have to be trained. Other steps are proper placement of my hand in the grip and fingers on the string. Again, normally I don't have to think of these consciously in performance mode. But one has to practice to learn and to be able to repeat a skill in all conditions. Also, when my shot is coming unglued I know that if I focus on these things I have practiced I can get back to THAT shot and refocus on what I need to be doing.

Aiming drills are another practice method. I spend an end each day doing + and X patterns and coming back to the center and to points that are not the center to enhance my ability to control the aim and to recover in the wind.

I spend a good deal of time shooting at close distance, like 3m. A lot of this is with my eyes closed for part of the shot. This helps learning the feel of the shot.

Clicker practice includes pulling trough the clicker and holding for counts of 1, 2, and 3 before releasing.

So for an ideal practice session I have one end each of clicker, + aiming, X aiming, aiming off, and many ends of working on a specific aspect of the shot. I also have several ends at close range working on feel, and at least one scoring round. The organization of these varies, which is another important factor. Randomizing practice schedules and changing the context of practice is an important aspect of skill learning. The ideal that doing the same thing over and over the same way as the path to ideal performance has a caveat. If you create a context with practice techniques and schedules, you risk not performing as well when that context changes. One can learn for recall and one can learn for transfer. Being able to successfully perform a skill under stress or changing conditions requires transfer. Randomizing practice schedules often results in poorer performance in practice but better performance under different performance conditions. This is known as contextual interference and has been documented in language acquisition and in motor skill learning.

Even though I mostly shoot target, I spend quite a few days on the field ranges. Again, changing the context of practice enhances the ability to perform the shot under every condition.

So how do you practice? What practice drills do you use and how do you organize practice?
 

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Let me provide a different perspective, courtesy of my Korean friends. I find it particularly interesting because it goes almost in opposition to what you present, which is close to what I also think.

For these guys, a practice is largely just showing up and shooting. For the most part, the training plan is extremely simple: three ends on blank bale at ~5m, then shoot about 300-400 arrows throughout the day. Rinse and repeat six days a week. The distance they shoot is almost always 70m, although every once in a while they'll change it up to a different distance (they do still shoot 1440 FITA's, after all). I only see them practice a score about once every two weeks, and otherwise it's just show up and shoot.

The team coaches seem to be the ones to dictate when they shoot scores or if they are shooting a different distance, and they will chime in occasionally with some technique comment, but otherwise the archers seem mostly independent. In a few occasions, one of them will choose to set up a target and shoot a different distance. There are also some cases where one of them stays back and shoots at 5m all day for a few days, but I have not been able to confirm if this is voluntary or imposed by the coaches.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what conclusion to draw from these observations, but I thought I'd present them anyways. One possibility for why they do things differently is that maybe they went through the structured practices already when they were younger (my friends are all between 20 and 30). When there were middle school and high school archers present, they seem to shoot with a bit more structure, but I never really observed their practice too closely. It may be that they impose the structure at that early age, and by the time they're adults they don't really benefit much more from it, so they use a more free-form schedule. Regardless, their system clearly has some results to show for itself, which is why I think the perspective is interesting.
 
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