The Younger Archers and Me

It can be a little weird being the oldest person in the room. Often I’m the oldest person nearly everywhere I go where their or other athletes. Sure, there are plenty of people over 60 in sport. I’m just not crossing paths with many of them.

This is abundantly apparent during archery league shoots. Some of the archers I shoot against aren’t much older than my grandchildren. And here’s the thing – they are all really good.

By really good I mean youngsters that already have professional backing. One of their fathers, during a 3D tournament, explained to me his son, in high school, earned over $70,000 shooting his bow last year.

The other night, I listened to a conversation about geometry class between ends and the speaker hasn’t missed an X in weeks. He’s plastering the walls of the indoor range with vertical 3-spots whose centers are completely shot out.

Last week’s league was tense. I found myself in a 1-arrow shoot off with one of these rising stars. We both hit the X. My arrow was farther from exact center.

In my defense on that defeat, I was shooting skinny outdoor arrows versus the larger diameter indoor arrows. 18-meter shooting is not my concentration until after September 16th and my last outdoor tournament for the year is history. When that’s done I change my bow over to match my fat arrows. Still, it was humbling not winning.

The thing about shooting with such elite archers it improves my game. I still haven’t shot a 3-spot 600, but I am getting closer to that mark.

Taking a Break From Archery to Race

There were two choices, a bow hunter 3D tournament or a 5K race in Watkinsville. I selected the race.

I’d not raced a 5K in a while and felt I needed to run one. I’d just shot in a league shoot two nights ago that was pretty intense. Besides, I enjoy 5K races and this one was only 11 minutes from home.

The race was the 11th Butterfly Dream 5K. The race collects donations for a special needs adults and children. My wife, Brenda, had pointed out a sign near our local grocery store that aimed at getting more runners involved. The night before the race I chose to run rather than shoot. It would be a nice competitive break.

It didn’t bother setting an alarm to ensure I got up in time for the 8:00 AM race start. Eleven minutes away from home and two dogs with stomach breakfast timers would be enough to get me to registration with time to spare. I did have plenty of time the morning of the race. I found a good parking spot and was amazed at the numbers of cars and people that had showed up to huff, puff and pound pavement for 3.1 miles.

Runners crowding the start line

During registration I learned all the awards were custom with each one being uniquely hand painted by one of the children that are supported at Butterfly Dream Farms. I wanted one. Seeing the crowd of runners I recognized I was not alone in this desire.

Starting my race at the back of the pack

There are so many 5Ks around Athens that you expect packs of runner to be on the smaller side. Of the two 5Ks I’ve done this year that has not been the case. Today’s run had about 200 adult runners. What was another surprise was the herd’s age split. There seemed to be as many or more runners over 50 as under.

The course was very scenic for a short race

As runners were called to the line I headed to where I am most comfortable starting – in the back. The really fast runners crowd the line. I’ve been there. No longer do I feel the need to grab a few extra seconds or get in with a small fast group for pacing. Nope, get in the back, run my race and pass people. I am perfectly fine with reeling in other runners and keeping a pace that feels good.

There were two horses at the turn around. That was a first. I tried to get better pictures but I was running.

With a mile to go I felt I needed to push a bit and ran my fastest mile. It was in that mile that I passed the most other runners. My pace was just right to earn me a 3rd place finish.

A good new t-shirt and cool award for the morning’s work

When the race was over and times were posted it was evident that the winner of my age group was a serious runner having taken 3rd place overall. Athletes over 60 cranking out sub-20 minute 5Ks are in great shape. I’m okay with a more leisurely pace at this stage of my life.

Each award is different. Each was painted by a child. They were random in the order presented. I was happy with mine depicting the University of Georgia colors, two paw prints and Uga in the center.

While running I did think about the 3D tournament. I thought about driving over and shooting in it after the run. I’ve done that in the past. In that instance it was a 10K followed by a 3D competition both in Maryland. That, too, was a lot of fun.

When I flipped my award over it became more special because it was painted by a child named David.

Today, however, I decided to skip the 3D shoot altogether. I’ll practice a bit this afternoon on my range. That is after a nap and before the Georgia football game.

What Sport Should You Do?

There are all sorts of “tests” you can take to help you understand which sport it is that is ideal for you. I stumbled across some of these “tests”several weeks ago while researching another topic. For fun, I gave a number of them a go to see how the results stacked.

It turned out that they were all pretty good and mostly fun. The simple “tests” did a good job of putting me into sports disciplines.

Cycling was always near the top. One “test” indicated I’d be good at triathlons. A few of them suggested boxing or tae kwon do. Archery came out a winner on one “test” and among the top 3 or 4 sport in others.

There was a theme for most of these questionnaire exams. Some were specific to Olympic sports and others more general. In the more general exams football came up as a top choice for me a time or two.

This is what I found surprising, the “tests” did a pretty good job of identifying sports where I have played.

I did play football in high school and was a starter. I’d had some serious scouting meetings with coaching advice to follow during summer between my junior and senior year in order to get a college ride. I failed to follow that advice and instead began racing bicycles.

The cycling turned out to be a good choice and even though I didn’t get a sports scholarship to college; over time I earned other awards that paid for nearly 100% of my schooling (which was a bundle considering I earned two doctorates and a masters degree – kind of like Dr. Sheldon Cooper).

Circa 1986

Cycling eventually gave way to duathlon. A duathlon is like a triathlon without the swimming and having more running. Duathlon worked out pretty good and earned me a spot on the USA Team to the World Championship Long Course Duathlon.

ITU World Championship, Long Course Duathlon – 2007

Duathlon migrated to triathlon and I even made it to the Ironman World Championship on Kona.

Ironman World Championship – 2008

Those online sport “tests” were pretty cool. I’d even done tae kwon do for several years earning a brown belt before cycling sucked all the time away I had for training. (One day I’d like to go back and complete that path.)

Of the sports selected for me archery is the most frustrating. Some folks say archery is 90% mental and 10% physical. I once heard a top coach, in jest, say archery is 10% mental and 90% trying not to quit.

Certainly, archery remains the single sport where I have yet to achieve the degree of expertise I thought I’d have by now. Archery is vastly different from the other sports where I had success. The gap in talent transfer is huge compared moving from cycling to duathlon.

Transferring from cycling to duathlon was easy. Moving to triathlon was harder because swimming required learning a new skill with a wider talent transfer gap than that of riding to riding.

Always come out of the water under your own power (My triathlon rule #1*)

Archery on the other hand just doesn’t fit the mold. The athletic skills needed to perform well in archery aren’t associated with sports that move fast. (Although, the conditioning needed to move fast can be beneficial in archery)

Archery is, however, one of the sports that online “testing” suggested my body type, conditioning, training, and brain should excel.

Did anybody see where my arrow went?

If you’ve got some time to kill go online and search for “Which Sport is Best for Me” or some variation of that query. It might be fun to see where you fit. Don’t be disappointed to learn you’re better suited for gymnastics or track and field other than archery.

Footnotes:

  • Coach Lain’s 3 Cardinal Rules for Triathlon
    • 1 – Get out of the water under your own power
    • 2 – Don’t crash on your bike
    • 3 – Don’t be last on the run
  • I’ll also note my wife, Brenda a professional Yoga instructor, took a few of the online “tests” to find her ideal sport.  It was unanimously archery.
    • “Is this as far back as it goes?” (50 pound draw weight)

Your Score Takes Care Of Itself

Among elite athletes you’d find that many of them know their competition. They understand who they compete against and their opponents’ skill level. Many of them compete against one another numerous times during one season. They all know what to expect from a competitor.

You can’t control the person you’re competing against. You can manage your scores.

When I train I like to have goals in mind. Often times one of those goals relates to points earned during a practice that simulates a competition. It allows me to do a few things.

I learn how I typically score. If I am scoring low I look for what it is I am doing incorrectly. From this I’ve learned my biggest two errors are too much heel in my grip and rushing shots.

This also trains me to read the score and forget about it. In a tournament you will see you score after every end. If you get the habit of seeing frequently seeing your score it becomes less of a mental burden. You learn to read it and release it.

Coaching tip

I do like to know how my opponents are shooting. If, for example, they are way ahead of me in the scores I have a more aggressive goal. With that in mind I might make training plans that could help me find the X more often during a specific type of shooting.

Certainly, we all want to shoot a perfect score. It is one of my current goals on a 3-spot. But, I know that it won’t come over night. I record all of my practices and view my scoring data graphically. When I complete a practice where I was simulating a 3-spot event I go back and review how I did against my previous practices.

Ideally, I’ll become so comfortable with my numbers they have minimal impact on my performance. The numbers will take care of themselves. This hit home when I was searching scores of the archers I’ll be shooting against in a few weeks.

In an outdoor competition I was shooting in a younger group – that is against archers a decade or more younger then me. I’d won 2nd place, but had no idea how far back I was before the OR. When I saw the brackets I was surprised. While I’d made it through the QR I really didn’t know how far back I was compared to the others. It didn’t matter.

Started near the bottom and finished near the top (2nd)

You will see your score during a tournament. You can’t let it get into your head. Shoot each shot using your process and trust your training. Your score will take care of itself.

Athletes Run

John Kruk was a great first baseman and outfielder. His lifetime batting average is .300. He was an All Star multiple times and played in a World Series. During an interview he was asked about being an athlete. He responded, “I’m not an athlete, I’m a baseball player.” Kidding aside, he was an athlete. Archers, too, are athletes though some may have a more Krukarian opinion of themselves.

Coaching tip

Should you look at a training plan provided by USA Archery you’d note a section for weekly cardio/strength/conditioning sessions. While cardio is not exclusively running it remains exercise intended to develop cardio-fitness. Running is likely the first form of cardio that comes to mind.

Running is cheap. A pair of running shoes, which you probably already own, shorts and a t-shirt and you’re equipped for cardio.

Why do cardio? First off for your health. Look around at your next archery competition. You will notice a lot of overweight archers. Being overweight you know is not healthy. Secondly, as your fitness improves your heart becomes stronger. Your resting heart rate may lower. In archery a calm easy heart is better for shooting than a heart that is pounding away. Finally, if you are fit you may increase the years you have to live and thereby increasing the time you have to enjoy archery.

US Olympic Archers, London. A fit looking group

If you can’t run, due to poor fitness, you can walk. Start walking and see if it leads to running. If running simply isn’t your thing, there’s cycling. You might think about swimming. If you shoot a lot you’ll find swimming won’t give your deltoids and shoulders much of a break.

Archers are indeed athletes. As an athlete you need to consider the total picture of your health and fitness. Running or other cardio workouts might improve that picture.

Steps of Shooting

There’s a lot of movement that goes into shooting an arrow. Watching archers you’d see them lift a bow and let go an arrow. In fact, there are over 100 steps involved when an archer shoots an arrow using a recurve bow. If the archer is using a compound bow there are 78 steps involved in shooting just one arrow.

That is a lot to learn, put in exact order, and shoot a good shot. The motions for shooting an arrow are listed in 11 major steps. Each of those steps involves subsets of movement to reach perfect form for that perfect shot.

Practicing these steps, rehearsing them in your head during the release of every arrow seems overwhelming. It isn’t that difficult. Before long you move effortlessly through each shot. But, you still plunk out less that perfect scores.

If you are a serious archer you may have found ways to move through a shot sequence, touching on the steps needed to assume good form, that work for you.

Good form comes with practice. For the purpose of this writing we’ll assume each of you has developed good form. But, you still find that you are not landing arrows consistently where you want them.

After years of practice you might have gotten a bit sloppy or lazy and no longer think though the shot process. Why should you, you’ve done it thousands of times. Here’s why: You need to move your thought process from a conscious one focused on making a good shot to a sub-conscious one that shoots the good shot. If you are thinking too hard about the shot, you’re working at it too hard and not letting it happen.

Now, I am taking for granted you are a well seasoned, practiced, and coached archer.

Coaching tip

Here’s a little something to try that might help you get through those 11 steps of shooting that you know well (and have abandoned):

As you take the line you think about your stance. Get it right. Easy enough.

You nock an arrow. You hook and grip your bow. You set up, go to set, draw to load, anchor, transfer to hold….

Wait this reads a lot like the first eight steps of the process of shooting. That’s because these are the first eight steps. Next you think expand and aim, release and follow though and feedback. But, you want your mind blank. You want the subconscious dealing with the shot.

Here you might find words or phrases that help you switch over to your subconscious brain and let it make the shot. Here’s an example:

Think, ‘Put the dot in the middle, relax, shoot the dot.’

Of course, before you can reach this point, you need to understand the 11 steps of shooting. Once you have master those steps look for your process to give the shot over to you subconscious.

Having a Training Plan

Each week I look over training plans. These cover the daily, weekly and monthly practice sessions. The plans are arranged around tournaments. Those tournaments are graded as A, B, or C events.

Coaching tip

‘A’ events are the major tournaments such as a State, National or World Championship. ‘B’ are typically local tournaments where I want to do well but leave some room to try new things and make adjustments. The ‘C’ events are mostly league shoots where I want to do well but may not have exactly what I need to provide the best score.

River surveying range before practice

During a ‘C’ event, such as indoor league, I might compete with outdoor arrows rather than the wider indoor arrows. In these events I focus on applying skills yet to be mastered that I worked on during the day at home.

The archery training plans I follow have blocked time everyday for fitness. Each morning there is a stretching routine followed by running before I pick up a bow. In the afternoon, before shooting I ride a bicycle. On one to two days a week, depending on the training cycle there is time allocated for lifting weights.

Nearly everyday includes a morning and afternoon archery practice. On days when there is an evening league shoot I might shorten the afternoon practice allowing for the additional time spent on the range at night.

The chase is on

The training plans are associated with specific goals. Improving, as an archer is best accomplished with exact plans in play for each practice. Incorporating general fitness is an important adjunct to being a complete athlete – even for archers. By following written training plan archers can increase the likelihood of accomplishing their goals.

Wait Before You Buy

A few years ago I was shooing in a tournament next to Roger Willet, Jr. Willet is a seriously good archer and has been ranked number one in the world. (1) We talked a little, mostly about fishing.

I did overhear him giving a piece of advice. Someone had asked him a question, which I didn’t hear. His answer to the unheard question was, “One of the biggest mistakes I see amateur archers making is buy new equipment too often.” That seemed to me a solid bit of advice.

If you shot professionally you may get a new bow every year. Chances are the bow comes as part of your contract with a sponsoring bow manufacturer. As a professional archer many amateur archers watch you. You shoot well and that new bow in your hand becomes the envy of many.

Hundreds of amateurs that have witnessed that professional’s skill at hitting the mark and many of them will rush out to purchase that amazing new bow the pro is shooting. Here’s the thing, the amateur would be better off investing in more range time than a new bow.

Last week, a student archer, one that is pretty good, had performed poorly on a few shots. Her immediate reaction was to suggest she needed new equipment. Her equipment was fine.

I asked, “How long have you been shooting?” She answered she’d only been shooting competitively for a year but had been doing some recreational archery for the past few years.

Coaching tip

Remembering Willet’s advice I echoed it and offered that she not invest into more gear until her groups were tighter. See, it wasn’t her bow, it was her.

There are a lot of excellent bows on the market. Put any of them in the hands of an elite archer and that archer will shoot it like an elite archer. Elite performance, simply put, comes from practice.

If you are considering a new bow in an effort to improve, stop and question that decision. Are you practicing 900 to 1200 shots per week? Are you groups tight? Are you looking for marginal gains? Are you shooting an entry-level bow with a lower level sight and inexpensive stabilizers?

There is a point where equipment can provide marginal gains. But, for most archers, more practice will provide the greatest gain.

Reference:

(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodger_Willett_Jr.

The Bugs and Me

If an insect has a stinger I seem to be, to them, the fun thing on which to use it. I’ve been stung so many times I rarely even worry about it. At our old home, in North Carolina, there was a campaign between yellow jackets, wasps, and me. At times I wondered whether the wasps and yellow jackets were keeping score. Here in Georgia, I remain the target for a sting.

Getting close

During practice two days ago some stinging bug landed on my bow hand just as I was aiming. I didn’t let down – I shot a nine. I also, did not get stung just then. Rather than sting me on the hand, the bug came back for a dive bomb and attacked from the back piercing me on the shoulder. I never saw it coming. I heard it buzzing.

Getting closer

Buzzing no longer bothers me. No longer do I dance about searching for the source of the buzz. I know, sooner or later, when the buzz stops that will be the moment to react.

Contact (These are snake boots I am wearing – not for concern about yellow jackets)

The sting of a yellow jacket doesn’t hurt as badly or as long as that of a wasp. Wasp stings burn then itch. Yellow jacket stings simply burn and after a few minutes the burn stops.

It seems everyday, while I am outside practicing, there is a squadron of insects searching. They find me. Most days, they just buzz about. Some days I get stung.

And this is why I wear snake boots. My neighbor holding this timber rattler shot as it approached my lawn. This makes wasp and yellow jacket venom mild by comparison.

Again, thanks for reading

In July 22,187 visitors read 40,185 pages at Puttingitontheline.com. Over the past 11 months 200,221 visitors read 505,486 pages here.

Looking over how long folks stay on this site most people are here for 3 minutes and 18 seconds, which is about how long it takes to read a post or two. There are (which surprised me a bit) 2.4% of readers that are on this site for 30 minute to one hour. Hopefully, these are folks that have found the site through some search and are catching up. Maybe you’ve read here and uncovered a pearl or two.

Something I really appreciate are your comments. Thanks for reading.

David