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Ranked number 1 in the U.S., Olympian Mackenzie Brown has put a lot of time and effort to achieve her place in the archery world. Just before turning 17, Mackenzie moved to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, and has been living and training there ever since. She tried out for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Archery Team and made the first cut, but was not ultimately selected to the team: "I never let myself believe that I wasn't going to be an Olympian," shared Mackenzie. With a strong mindset and solid goals and training plans in place, four years later Mackenzie won the Trials outright, sealing the U.S.'s only female slot for Rio, and has been holding on to high national and world rankings.
Mackenzie's secret: "I think that the biggest key to success is creating good goals for yourself and being patient with yourself. Those come hand in hand for setting expectations. If you have good long, mid and short term goals and you're patient with yourself to reach them when you reach them, but keep pushing yourself to get to those, then that's having healthy expectations."
On how to set those goals, she added: "When you set a goal, at least a short-term goal, it's challenging, but not outside of your reach. And then you hit that. Your mid-term goal is going to take longer; it's not something you can achieve right now, but it's something that you can work towards. And your long-term goals are very similar - something pretty hard for you to get to, but if you're patient with yourself and give yourself enough time, it's something you can get to. Putting too many expectations on yourself can add a negative self-image; if I expect myself to be at a certain level and I'm not, then I'm disappointed. I don't want to be disappointed, I want to be happy with the results that I do get."
Mackenzie continued: "You have to let yourself know that it's okay not to reach your goals today - if I'm still pushing myself, I still have my support system behind me and I'm still doing the things that I need to do day-to-day, at the end of the day, I may not reach my goal, but that's okay, we still have our eyes set on that goal."
In addition to having a good goal plan in place for success, it is important to have the tools to implement a good mindset in competition. "Since I was younger, I couldn't know where I was in the ranking round-I felt like it messed me up if I knew I was in first and I would psych myself out too much," shared Mackenzie. "I still kind of feel that anxiety if I know where I am in the rankings, but I can manage it better just knowing that that's a feeling that I get."
To deal with that anxiety, Mackenzie focuses on the pieces that are within her control: "Ultimately at the end of the day, I'm shooting against my best. I'm making the best consistent shots I can and that's what I'm looking for; from my first match all the way through, I'm looking for consistency in all of my shots, so the first is the same as the eighteenth or fifth."
She added: "One of my mantras is 'it's like me to shoot a good strong ten shot.' A ten shot, to me, is like on a 1-10 scale, how good is my shot? I need to be shooting good shots worthy of hitting the ten, and if they do, I've done everything right. I've made my shot right, I've read the wind right, ate the right amount for breakfast that morning; a lot of different factors go into that, so if I make the best shot as I can to allow the arrow the opportunity to hit the middle, then more often than not, it will."
Another one of Mackenzie's rituals involves listening to music to stay in a positive mindset. "Staying in the best mindset you can is important. For some people, it's I shoot best when I'm angry, or for others it's when I'm happy. I've found that for me, it's either one of those spectrums. If I've shot a bad shot or didn't hit where I wanted it to, I get determined/angry that that happened and I'm going to fix it. It's not that I'm throwing a fit and getting upset, I'm channeling that do better for the next shot."
But, Mackenzie added, it's much more fun to be in a happier mindset, joking with friends and enjoying time with the people in your support system. "I like to talk about the other things going on in my life, random things like sewing projects I'm working on or where I'm going on vacation at the end of the year (when I actually have time for it), things like that. I like to stay relaxed because when my mind is relaxed, my body is relaxed and it's a lot easier to execute the strongest shot possible."
With tournament season heating up and Nationals right around the corner, it is a good time for athletes to work one on one with their coaches to refocus on short, mid and long term goals, and to develop the best mindset for strong shot execution.
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