Modern sport faces a challenge.
Sport requires many months, or years of dedication to training and improvement to see outstanding results, yet these days the access to and abundance of social media and gaming is conditioning people towards instant gratification.
Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, twitter… all of these platforms mean we are more connected than ever, which is a good thing! The side effect however, is that these applications thrive on constant interaction, and an ‘action-reward’ impulse. These apps are designed such that getting a like, follower, subscriber or comment delivers a rewarding dopamine hit. Even scrolling through your news feed or checking notifications are designed to provide a rewarding dopamine bump. That’s all lovely, but the problem is that in excess this can contribute to problems with neurotransmitter imbalance, desensitivity and addiction.
People are now compulsively checking their phones to check updates, and you don’t have to look very far to find attention seeking behaviour on social media. This has become a widespread issue now that reliable internet has become easily available on mobile phones. Now everybody has a smart phone in their pocket!
This issue is by no means exclusive to adolescents and teenagers. Adults are also subject to the same physiological response to these ‘dopamine-hits’. The difference is that at a younger age people are subject to stronger neural programming, and the effect is thus increased.
So what does this mean for archery?
Development in archery can require many months of dedication to your training before receiving a positive outcome based reward, such as shooting a certain score or winning a competition. As people become more conditioned to instant gratification, it makes it much harder for athletes to get up for some early mornings training, or to complete your SPT program, or spend the whole weekend at the range…
It also means that archers apply the immediate 'action-reward' impulse to their shot process, putting more focus on hitting the '10' than their internal shot process. This can, and does manifest into all sorts of over-aiming issues.
Archery, and sport in general, is an important medium for students to be able to apply themselves and learn the value of dedication and hard work. Outside of archery, this can translate to all areas of life, and lay the foundation for personal success.
Moderating social media abuse is the most important step. Follow these guidelines:
No phones at training
Only one screen at a time (no TV + phone)
Limit social media and gaming within 3 hours of going to bed
No media within 1 hour of going to bed
Turn off social media alerts on your phone
Schedule social media time i.e. check maximum twice daily
Introduce daily mindfulness sessions or meditation
Part of the solution may be to incorporate mini challenges or shooting games into each training session that provides an action-reward to the archer, engaging their interest whilst directing their attention towards a productive training element. For example, running SPT challenges during training sessions.
I won’t pretend to have all the answers, social media is here to stay. We must be aware of the effects of social media abuse on prospective athletes, and the subsequent impact on dedication and commitment to training.
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