In this exclusive guest blog for KUDOS, archery and Paralympic legend Danielle Brown MBE tells us how she overcame adversity to become an elite athlete…

I got into archery just to have some fun

I never started archery with the intention of representing my country and winning medals at some of the world’s most prestigious events. I just wanted to have some fun!

My disability stopped me from taking part in all the sports I enjoyed. Sport had played such an important role in my childhood and now I could hardly walk, never mind participate in all the events I loved doing. Instead of moping I started to look around for a sport I could manage and archery seemed to fit the bill. That decision I made when I was fifteen years old has taken me on an incredible journey.

Hours of practice led to my selection for the Great Britain team and the world records and medals followed

I wasn’t a natural, but I loved the sport and enjoyed putting in hours of practice. Three years later I’d made the Great Britain team. I couldn’t have been prouder as I flew out to the European Championships in the Czech Republic. Two world records and a fourth place wasn’t bad for my first international competition and it made me determined to go that extra mile, striving to be the best in the world.

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Danielle Brown MBE with her Paralympic gold from London 2012

2007 was the beginning of my winning streak. Over the next seven years I dominated my field. I won three consecutive World Championships titles and the gold medal in Beijing 2008. Four years later I got the opportunity to defend my Paralympic title in London 2012. Receiving my gold medal in front of my family, friends and that amazing home crowd was one of the proudest moments of my life and something I will never forget. But it didn’t stop there! I held all twelve Paralympic world records and I did something that not many disabled athletes manage to do – I made it onto the able-bodied team.

In 2010 I became the first disabled person to represent England in an able-bodied discipline, where I won a gold medal with my team. Not bad considering I had only taken it up for fun!

I had come to realise the key to success was in my mind

So what’s the secret to success?

It’s quite simple. It was my ability to perform under pressure that consistently put me ahead of my competitors. Early on in my international career I realised that the mental game was far more important than the physical. You can shoot thousands of arrows in practice but none of that matters unless you can shoot a few good ones in competition. Of course, my journey to develop this gold medal-winning mindset wasn’t easy.

My tips and secrets to performing well in archery

Nobody taught me how to do it. Instead I relied on experience. The more international competitions I attended the more I learned and I improved by leaps and bounds. Soon I was able to isolate just what separated the best in the world from everybody else and develop my own mental programme. This allowed me to continually adapt and put myself ahead of my competitors. I’d like to share three tips for success with you:
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• There’s no mould for the perfect archer: We’re all different. No two archers are built the same and we all come with different mental and emotional capacities. Being successful isn’t about mimicking the best archers in the world. It’s about finding the right way for you. The important thing is to ensure your technique is repeatable and you are able to do it under pressure.

• There is no such thing as failure, only feedback: Don’t stress out if things go wrong. The most important lessons are usually the ones you learn when things don’t quite go to plan. Instead of labelling bad scores or tournament results as a failure, ask yourself how you can make it better next time.

• Always believe in yourself: Self confidence undoubtedly breeds positive results, helping athletes bounce back from setbacks quicker and produce superior performances. Trusting yourself to make a great shot increases the likelihood of it being a great shot! However, this is something that athletes commonly struggle with. To build your confidence levels start appreciating all your achievements to date, even the really small ones. Writing this down really helps as it acts as a reminder that you do have the ability to perform well.

I specialise in helping athletes perform under pressure. If you would like to know how you can develop your gold medal winning mindset and improve your mental approach to your sport then contact me via my website.

Danielle Brown MBE

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