Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Preparation key to avoiding archery flinches

"Archery is a sport anyone can do,'' Ray Howell said. "You don't have to be an athlete or the sharpest knife in the drawer. It's a confidence builder.''

By Al Henderson, Target Communications Outdoor Books

At almost any tournament, you’ll hear someone say, “I really blew it when I flinched that arrow.”

Physically-induced flinches are those that could be caused by someone touching you while you are at full draw or by a noisy truck passing or a big disturbance behind you. All of these can make you lose control. They are conditions that generally are easy to see, and because of that they seem to be the most common cause to the shooter.

Such situations demand a great amount of control. If you do not practice maintaining control under those circumstances, then you will forever have trouble.

Mentally-induced flinches are those sneaky little devils that come in all sizes and at any time. Some seem so innocent we would never think to accuse them of being there.

These are the flinches I am most concerned about. They are often so small the coach can barely see them, and the shooter is not aware of them.

A flinch is caused by an indecision because the shooter’s shot preparation was not accepted 100 percent by the subconscious self. This is the one part of the self that, through habit, has taught the self exactly what it wants it to accept and what it wants it to reject.

When there is a rejection, the message to the brain saying “hold everything” comes too late to stop the shot. The later these rejections occur, the smaller the visible signs are that they did occur. Some signs are so small that we wonder what happened.

What happens here is that we are trying to do two things at once. We are trying to let the “explosion” of the shot, the moment of release, do its thing, and at the very same instance, we decide to prevent it.

To keep a flinch from occurring, we must assemble a lot of things to make a shot perfect. Some of these things are large and obvious. Some of the most important ones are invisible, such as control and concentration.

We tend to worry about the more-obvious things and get very careless in our efforts where the not-so-obvious and the invisible ones are concerned. We might say, then, that concentration is the key to the elimination of flinches.

Could we say here that the loss of control caused by a loud noise, a poke in the ribs or a disturbance behind the shooter could have been prevented had the shot been 100-percent prepared? I think we could. Being 100-percent prepared includes 100-percent concentration. Had the shooter been trained under those circumstances, there would have been no flinch.

A flinch is not a bad thing, really. It is your little helper. In its true sense, it is nothing more than an indicator that tells you to shape up your form, that you are getting careless. If you like, you can also feel good because it is saying your subconscious apparatus still functions.

Don’t give yourself the devil when you flinch. Prepare the shot so there will be no rejection of any part of it.

Henderson was a professional archery coach – including for the U.S. Olympic team – for 42 years. His archery shooting wisdom was collected in Understanding Winning Archery, available at

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