Medals, Trophies, Beads and Trinkets

Sports trophies and medals, at our house, are not on exhibition. They’re mostly kept out of sight. The medals are stored in a large canvas bag gym bag. The trophies are put away in a closet. Seven of the prizes, kept behind glass, are in a lawyer’s bookcase in my office. Even those seven are hard to find and as a rule are missed by visitors. We’ve never had an occasion to call attention to them.

It’s not that the prizes aren’t appreciated. They were all hard earned. They’re just not suitable home décor.

Among the awards residing in perpetual gym bag darkness are hundreds of “Finishers” medals.  Those participation gifts are not considered an ‘award.’ Most of them fall into the categories of triathlons or runs where I finished in the herd. To fill a home with finishers medals one only has to sign up for an event, pay a fee, agree to all sorts of indemnifications, restrictions and releases, then show up on race day and somehow cross the finish line. Upon crossing that mark, a volunteer will drape glory around your neck. In archery, as in cycling, there are no participation medals. I, for one, and thankful for this small favor.

Now, I do have a fair share of medals earned for placing among the top three finishers, thus awards and not participation medals.  Out of fairness, as I was also a finisher, organizers, perhaps fearing retribution, hung two medals around my neck.

There is one medal that I’m particularity proud to have earned. It is a 3rd place medal, nope not a first place. The bronze is the result of a 12-hour bicycle race put on in connection with the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association. These are the folks that manage the Race Across America (RAAM). The athletes that compete in their events are machines when it comes to riding a bicycle for long distances. The RAAM is outside of my likely sporting conquests.

The 12-hour race was Calvin’s Challenge. What I wanted was one of their custom medals.  So, I entered the race specifically to earn a medal. As cool as it is and as hard as it was to earn, the medal lives in the gym bag stuffed inside a tool cabinet in my shed.

The gym bag that houses my entire collection of medals except one the Gold medal from the USA Archery Indoor Nationals held this year in Snellville. That’s in my lawyer’s cabinet. Not for any specific place of honor, it just hasn’t made the migration from office to the gym bag in the shed.

One medal I earned and want is the Gold from this year’s NC State indoor championship. I wanted that because it is unique looking and portrays the North Carolina state outline. After the tournament, when I learned I’d won, I mailed a large padded self-addressed stamped envelop to the event organizers and have been promised they’d put the medal inside it then put the envelope in the mail. Not a difficult task, but one that remain unfulfilled.

I have a few other unique awards.  One cut from wood and another crafty one made from an oyster shell.

When it comes to winning I prefer cash. I’ve gotten cash a few times. Cash never goes into the gym bag. It’s spent right away. Sometimes the cash doesn’t even make it home.

There are cash prizes at some of the local archery events. But, the cost to shoot for the cash is not worth the investment – even for the winners in most cases.

Occasionally, someone puts thought into non-cash awards. I appreciate it when effort is put forth to produce an award that doesn’t look like trinket from a five and dime store. I’ve been awarded “Gold” medals that were so junky I couldn’t even pawn them off on my grandchildren. When a five year old or a three year old has no appetite for the offered medal, viewed unworthy to adorn them by their exacting minds, you have little doubt left that it is junk.

If the Dutch had offered such trinkets in 1626 the Lenape Indians might still own Manhattan.

Last week I picked up a trophy I didn’t yet know I’d earned. It wasn’t large or gaudy. It is tasteful. It’s a clear acrylic with engraving. I’ve got several of that style and couple made from crystal. Those are in my lawyer’s bookcase. The one from last week will be joining that collection. Not because it was a particularly awesome tournament. Certainly, not in the league of the Calvin’s Challenge when it comes to pain. Rather, it will be there because it is respectable.

Test Day


I really wanted a good grade. Any grade equal to or greater than 10.6 points per arrow is a good result. That’s a score of 212 for 20 targets. It wasn’t a good test day.

For the 2017 I have a couple of 3D goals. In order to achieve them I must average no less than 10.25 points per target. The best I’ve shot this year in competition was 10.1 points per target.

After yesterday’s practices I felt strong. I’d been shooting well at 18-meters and 3D. Today, my arrows flew straight, but my yardage was not on mark.

The test goes like this: Using a random number generater I have it select 20 values (the yardage) between 20 and 40. On a piece of paper I write the numbers in a column 1 through 20, then in a column next to that I record the random numbers. For example, the number one, in column one, had the value 26 in the adjacent column, generated by the random numbers, to represent the yardage. In a third column I write down the foam animal to coincide with the columns on the left.

I try to put targets; today anyway, next to yardage that seems tournament realistic. I didn’t put a mosquito next to a 40-yard mark. Sometimes I do write down the targets first and assign them whatever yardage the generator spits out. In that case a mosquito could end up as a long shot. But, today I strived to create shots I will likely see during a tournament. Then, I go out and estimate the yardage per target as they appear on the paper where the data is written. I don’t use a range finder. I record the scores and analyze the practice when its over.

Despite heavy wind, 20 mph off the river, my right and left placement was fine. But, I ended up shooting a boar and two deer high. The boar was a brain fart, just as I released I lifted my bow arm a tad. Well, maybe more than a tad, I shot it through the spine and was lucky not to have lost the arrow.

Both deer were high due to bad placement of the pin. I tend to shoot long shots a bit high but usually no worse than an 8. Today, I managed total three fives on those two deer and that pig, one 5 each. Those scores along with 3 eights and only five 12s (the remainders all 10) ended up scoring 9.45 points per arrow. (You can check the math – 20 shots). I was disappointing and a poor grade.

Are You Shooting Enough?

If you follow this website, you may be aware that I practice a lot. Typically, I’ll shoot my bow two times a day, morning and afternoon. Each session ranges from an hour to three hours depending on the training plan. Some days I shoot as few as 60 arrows while other days exceed 200.

I’ve often wondered how many arrows do other top archers shoot? I find that after 5 hours of shooting I need a break even when the shooting is broken up throughout the day. It’s not so much that I need a break physically I need it mentally.

What is really tedious is shooting 20 to 30 arrows over a 4 or 5 hour tournament, like so many of the slow 3D competitions. When the range officials aren’t paying attention it can, occasionally, get bad in the matter of shooting tempo. Fortunately, most of the 20 arrow 3D events I do are finished in 3.5 hours, which is reasonable. Once, I competed in a 30 arrow 3D contest that took 6.5 hours. That was ridiculous. But, back to the original question, how many arrows are enough?

Sitting around during a 3D contest, waiting for a slower group of archers, I overheard the conversation from the group parked near my group. One fellow was bragging, “I shoot 30 arrows a day three times a week.” Not to be outdone a second said, “Well, if I shoot three arrows and they are all good, I stop and head back inside the house.” That may be fine for 3 arrows, but if you are shooting 60 or more, I doubt the accuracy of three will endure. So, what does it take?

Of course, you’ve all heard about the 10,000-hour rule or the 7-year rule or 8-year rule or in some cases the 10-year rule. All rules suggesting there is a time / practice mark that anyone in a sport must to achieve in order to be an elite. All of the ‘rules’ are somewhat true in that it take a lot of practice for a long time to get good. By good in archery I mean hitting the X most of the time.

There is a world champion that shoots pistol and claims to fire off about 24,000 shots a year. That only comes to 65 bullets per day. Allowing for time off, say shooting 260 days per year that come to only 92 bullets per day. By suggestion as related by bullets are 24,000 arrows enough?

In my search for the number of arrows needed to achieve excellence I found an interesting article by a guy that goes by Coach Tom out of Foxboro, MA. (Sure Coach Tom – Foxboro? – Brady. No way) Here’s what Coach Tom wrote in June of 2014:

“How many arrows should you shoot a day? That depends on how badly you want to get better. If you want to be a “good” archer, someone who can put the arrow into the red/yellow all the time, then you need to shoot 4-5 times a week and shoot 80-100 arrows per day. If you want to be a “great” archer, someone that can put the arrow into the yellow all the time, you need to shoot 100-120 arrows per day 5 times a week. If you want to be a “champion” archer, someone who can put the arrow into the 10 most of the time, you need to shoot 5 times a week with at least 120 arrows per day. If you live for being “Olympic” archer, then shooting 120-200 arrows per day 6 days a week is enough to easily make you a State Champion and in the top ten for National Champion.”

Well, if you’ve got ‘em, shoot ‘em!




Switching Up Practice Schedules

This morning was 3D practice. The usual morning practice has been 18-meters. Today, I changed to give more time to 3D; it is that time of year. Additionally, it gets me out of a routine. Change in sports is good.

It wasn’t easy making the switch. Shooting 18-meters is something I can do all day. It is very addictive. 3D is more of a challenge, having to judge yardage. Since this was practice designed to shoot many repeat shots I judged the yardage then verified my assessment using a range finder.

This practice was about 2 hours and I fired off 60 arrows plus an eight-arrow warm-up. I stopped when my left deltoid told me to take a break. After a rest, lunch, putting up bridge over a creek, washing River (my dog) and a bike ride I’ll begin again in the afternoon.

Mentioning the washing of River, that is a result of 3D practice. She prefers play to watching me shoot. While I shot she: went swimming in the Little River three times, ran down a shallow creek, chewed a small tree, laid in mud, fetched sticks, and wallowed in something dead. The bath was mandatory. At present she is sleeping it off.

This photo was taken at 30 yards, but the shot is from 42 yards. At that distance the target doesn’t photograph well without zooming in. The trees make the target interesting. As you can see though there is a clear shot on the pig.

During practice I labor to make the shots difficult and reasonable. I try to make up positions from where to take aim that might resemble those confronted in a 3D tournament. Because I am self-funded (no big 3D target manufacturers feeding me foam) many of my faux-critters are on the small side. A few are ‘labeled’ back yard targets, but I shoot them from 20 yards to as far out as 40 yards. I’d go further but it would mean either moving them or clearing more of the woods.

Not too bad at 45 yards, 50 hurt me a little

The larger targets I own can be shot as far as 100 yards, but I rarely take those shots. Still, on occasion, and at the risk of an arrow, I throw one or two from that distance. Eight yards seems to satisfy and is more conservative on arrows.

This morning all the shots were recorded. Overall I scored 9.4. On all shots of 40 yards or less I scored a little better at 9.8 (45 shots) The larger shots hurt some and I scored an average of 8.1 on targets from 45 to 50 yards (15 shots). The longer shot average was brought down by my first two arrows at a Cinnamon Bear, which were both fives. I shot them hesitantly being a little worried about missing the target. That bear looks real small at 50 yards.

Just as I completed the last sentence in the paragraph above, River was able to rouse herself up and vomit on the carpet. The upchuck was mostly solid stuff like twigs and grass and perhaps a bit of dead bird. Fortunately, Brenda, my wife, was at Lowe’s buying plants during the upheaval so River and I remain unscathed by the episode.

River is now lounging on the lawn.


Don’t be afraid to win during a tournament.

Don’t be afraid to win during a tournament. Sure that sounds dumb. If you’ve practiced enough to reach a point where you can shoot excellent scores what is there to stop you from winning? You.

It’s not really all that dumb. There are a lot of people who “choke.” We all get nervous before significant events. Those events can be athletic, academic or social. The more exposure to the situations that make you nervous the more comfortable you get in that situations.

Even so, some folks frequently think that they’re not as talented as some well know star in any field. To balance this thought there are many people who believe their ability is unmatched but don’t really have the skill to line up with that image of themselves.

As you practice record your progress. This way you have an objectives to measure of your shooting ability. If you shoot regularly 590 out of 600 possible points, you can expect to shoot around 590 out of 600 points during a tournament.

It does not matter whatsoever the level of scoring your opponent has been achieving. Your opponent is not shooting for you.

Don’t expect a miracle. If your average score is 590, that means on occasion you shoot more than 590. You might sometimes shoot a 600. It’s not a miracle. It comes from a lot of hard work and practice.

Then, during a tournament, you end up scoring 574! What happened?

Everyone has that momentary brain-fart where you end up hitting a wide nine or even an eight. Once done, that shot is over and there is nothing to change it. Don’t let any poor shot change you. Trust your training and let those tens start again on the very next shot.

Don’t beat yourself. If you shoot in practice an average of 590+ then during a competition you should shoot just as well, maybe a few points better. For some people competition brings out their best and the stiffer the competition the better they perform.

Put your mind away from anything that isn’t positive and focus on one shot at a time. Never think that your opponents are better than you. If you are scoring an average in practice of 590 or higher it is unlikely that the competition is better than you. Sure there are a few archers that are consistently scoring 596 or better but once you reach an average of 590 count yourself among them. Actually, go to your events with a comfortable attitude and visualize yourself leaving with the first place award.

The number one element to winning is confidence. Don’t be afraid that others are better archers. If you are putting in the practice and averaging high scores there is no physical reason that will not be the case during a tournament. And with practice comes confidence.

Don’t Be Afraid to Miss

You are going to lose an arrow. No matter how good you think you are, you are going to lose an arrow. If you don’t occasionally bury an arrow somewhere other than the target, you are not trying hard enough.

Practice is just that – practice. This is the time to make your training more difficult than you imagine a tournament might be. Otherwise, you’ll become real good at shooting easy targets under perfect conditions. The conditions are almost never perfect.

If you primary mission in archery is to be great at 18-meters then you will need to practice at 18-meters for thousands of hours. After some time, you may start landing all your shots in the yellow, no more of those red shots. But, that will not be enough. You will need to get better. So, you can make your practice a bit tougher.

How do you make it tougher? Eighteen meters is just 18-meters. Eventually, you end up shooting it really well at your practice range. You sign up for a major tournament and you end up putting an arrow or two  into the red. Why? Who knows and who cares other than you. Are there ways to train smarter that might help you shoot well in a tournament? Here are a few that have helped me.

First, I will occasionally practice with a clock. Two minutes is plenty of time to shoot 3 arrows. But, unless you know beyond doubt how you do against the clock, during a tournament the clock can get into you head. Another way is to practice with music on. USA Archery tournaments are now playing music during the competition. If you haven’t practiced with music in the background that too might get into your head. It can be especially bothersome is the music played is not to your liking.

How about shooting with the goofy archer standing next to you poking you with his arrows or stabilizers? If they are available put stools next to you just outside of what would be a tight lane measurement. Get comfortable with things encroaching your space. By the way, if another archer is touching you, tell him to stop. Don’t be afraid to speak up. If you are touching someone take steps to stop. Something you can do during practice is move your quiver/belt to another position as if it’s orginal position were infringing on someone else. It will feel different.  Get used to different. Basically, you want to do anything you can think up to make your practice life match whatever might be thrown at you during competition. There will be circumstances you can’t think up. Having practiced with an occasional curve you’ll be better prepared to handle life as it comes to you.

Three D is easier to make more difficult. You can move targets so that they are harder to hit. Don’t do stupid things, be smart about target placement. If your maximum distance is 50 yards, practice some at 60 yards. Don’t neglect the close shot. You will on occasion come up on a target that is less than 15 yards. Your twenty-yard pin is less useful at 10 yards than you think if you don’t practice the shot. Don’t practice only at 5-yard increments starting at 20 yards. Shoot those in between distances. If you hit an eight don’t move on until you only hit higher scores on any target at any distance where time and ranges allow.

Rest assured at some 3D range there will be a “Range Master” setting up a course that will be harsh. Getting a line on the shot is absurd. Yet, there are those archers that land 12 (of 11 for IBO) on those targets time after time. If you have the property and inclination do what’s possible to make shots tough and safe.

By creating challenges for practice you will improve – you might lose an arrow or two.  Don’t be afraid to come up short in the quiver a time or two.

Don’t be Afraid to Miss; Don’t be Afraid to Win

I practice day in and day out. To be sure, I take recovery days and at times longer ‘vacation’ breaks. But, since I began shooting a bow, in September 2013 I’ve logged a lot of hours on ranges.

When I bought a bow it was not my intent to take archery seriously. It was only something to do that would occupy some time and be relaxing. Well, part of that worked out, it occupies time; it’s not always relaxing. It isn’t that shooting isn’t relaxing, it is, but some of the tournaments where I’ve competed haven’t been relaxing.

Many tournaments are entertaining. Some are a pain. In general most qualify as fun.

Since I began, I’ve improved. My personal training challenges have also gotten ‘tighter.’

It’s not a game of hitting the X. It’s how many out of sixty can I hit. The next game will be how many in a row.

I try to write here, to share the experience, and add any pearls I pick up through coaches, training plans, fitness programs, and sports science. In addition, this is a semi-public rendition of my training log. The science part is the sports physiology that I write in under the research tab.

There are two things I’ve learned from my practice and competition that so far I haven’t read elsewhere. That doesn’t mean they are written or that I am the sole creator of these thoughts. Forms are these two thoughts are well known. And if this is an infringement on what you might believe as your ideas, good for you for figuring it out as well.

I think both are applicable from the novice to the elite archer. They are: 1) Don’t be afraid to miss during practice, and 2) don’t be afraid to win during a tournament.

Simple Toy Works

River is a fine dog. She’s pretty much been at my side since she was a pup. For the most part she’s pretty good. She is, however, a Labrador retriever and a chocolate lab at that, which means she’s not always selfless.

This basketball was not a purchase. A treasure River brought home. It’s origins a mystery.

If you know labs, you are aware there are black, chocolate and yellow coat variations. Decades ago breeders culled the non-black labs at birth believing the other colored dogs weren’t right. Over time, the practice of culling the supposed inferiorly coated labs halted. Today, labs of all colors remain Americans number one choice of dog breeds.

River deciding whether or not this coyote needs her attention

Having been around labs I come to realize: Black labs are the most serious, chocolate are the most mischievous, and yellow labs are a bit crazy in a playful way. All are very loyal and smart. They all want to be entertained. They will all steal your stuff and steal your heart.

This game is called, throw a stick, shoot three arrows, and throw a stick

Practicing archery with a lab at heel can be a challenge. River has followed me around many a 3D practice and even waited in the truck, all windows down, in cooler weather while I competed in 3D. After the tournaments we attended together, once she was set free, she quickly discovered where food was being sold and made friends with whoever was cooking. Hamburgers and hotdogs awarded her efforts.

She wanted to come along on the range

But, there are times when she wants to be entertained while I shoot. Typically, throwing a stick satisfies. Today I gave her a large rawhide strip hoping that it would occupy her. That strip was a worry for River.

She carried it around yard and woods burying then reclaiming the precious scrape, the former hidden hole seemingly, after further canine consideration, to great a risk for being stolen. Eventually, River returned content it prize was properly stowed. So, the ‘play with me’ barks and mock attacks began anew.

The pronouncements, in barking form, that it was playtime warranted bringing out the ultimate toy. This toy locks River in place without fail. The toy – a plastic bottle.

A large plastic ice tea bottle can buy time

A small water bottle is fun. A large ice tea bottle is the ultimate game for dog activity. It bought me a solid thirty minutes of uninterrupted shooting. By then, it was once again: Game On.

Game On

Some Days Go Better Than Others

Some tournaments go better than others. Some practice goes better than others. It’s not necessarily a matter for too much concern.

Like all athletes, I aim to improve. It’s a slow process. One thing I do, as mentioned here in then past, is to monitor and measure my results. That doesn’t mean simply how many times I win. Actually, winning is great but not my focus. I visualize hitting the center of the target, then I let the score take care of itself. Although, I also visualize accepting a podium award for the major events before tournaments. That’s not to mean I don’t track my progress.

I keep several similar graphs. Before the switch to the small 10 ring, I’d almost hit a 600. I have another graph for the larger 10 ring, but don’t practice it often.

When I began shooting a bow the outer center ring of the 3-spot was a ten and the inner smallest was an X. Less than a year later that changed. Along with the change there was a decline in my score even though I was improving as an archer. Since the change effected everyone, it’s not a bother.

By tracking my practice and competitive results I can manage my training. So long as I see a gradual increase in scores it’s good.

The Weather Dealing with Me

This past few days the weather has been on and off as far as outdoor archery goes. For example, morning practice seemed like it was going to be ideal for shooting 20 yard 3-spot. No wind, slightly overcast (meaning the sun wasn’t going to be a problem) and a decent temperature.

Finally, I could move out of my shed and shoot entirely under the sky. I disassembled my tower of targets, old shot up blocks supported by cement blocks balancing a fairly intact block at its apex, from in front of the shed to parallel with the driveway.

Within minutes of that maneuver the wind picked up and was pushing white caps across the river toward my position. The tower of targets was deconstructed and remanded to its prior placement.

The Tower of Targets

Shooting out of the shed is not a bad arrangement. But, the thousands of times I walk back and forth over the same lane on the lawn is beginning to make a trail. Walking over the driveway leaves no evidence of back and forth hiking.

Sure, I do vary the shed to target lane passage; still the wear and tear of my feet are taking a toll on the grass. Here I apply a liberal use of ‘grass’ since much of my lawn is weed. Mowed low and with causal observation, the lawn is green and for me satisfying. A bald lawn is less gratifying.

Wearing a path in the lawn

In the afternoon, when the wind typically is more forceful than mornings, I head over to woods and practice 3D. Today was just fine. Yesterday, not so fine.

It looked like the overcast morning had progressed into what could be rain. As I headed to the shed to grab my bow there was not a drop falling.

This bear is beginning to show the rain

Entering the 3D range a very light sprinkle began to fall. Not enough to drive me to cover. Ten minutes into shooting I was headed for cover. Approaching the shed, the rain stopped -I headed back to the range. A few shots fired and again I was in retreat. As I approached the safety of a roof, the rain subsided.

I repeated this game of chase with the weather a bit longer. I lost.