Shoot Fast, Circumvent Near Disaster

Often I hear archers discussing their version of target panic.  Generally, their woes go in one ear and out the other. I don’t try to chip in a remedy.  But, at the last Georgia Cup I earned a panic that I didn’t accept.

I needed a bio-break.  Of course, my target was number 2, the only target further away from the rest room was target 1.  Four minutes to make the hike, about 80 yards total, get some relief and return is plenty of time. I’d actually measured the time it took prior to the tournament starting.

Half way through the 72 arrow tournament I needed a break. The A/B line was next up and being on the C/D line no problem.

Things can go slow during an archery tournament where children are competing. Arithmetic is their downfall.  I’ve suggested before if your children are at an archery tournament to practice math skills you have them at the wrong venue.  Judges:  it would really speed things up if children have adult volunteers to help with adding. Assuming the adult volunteers are better at math than the children.

It often takes so long I rely on the official timer to remember which line is up.  I’d watched the timer when I decided to make a dash to the bathroom. On the timer A/B was illuminated.  I asked, “Is A/B up next?” The response, “That’s what the timer shows.” No problem. I kept my eye on the timer until I entered the restroom.

Walking out of the restroom I noticed there was 187 seconds left on the timer, which read C/D.  I knew I’d not been in the restroom more than a minute.  All I could do was not panic, jog to my bow, walk to the line and shoot 6 arrows, which by the time I arrived on the line read 127 seconds.

Getting ready I said to the person I’d asked regarding A/B display, “What happened to A/B?” He said, “They changed it.”

Sometimes I practice for just such an event.  I’ll shoot 10 arrows as fast as I can.  Generally, it is at 40 yards, not 60 meters. It takes arrows longer to go 60 meters than it does 40 yards.  But, 6 rushed arrows are better than 6 misses  – which would be my score if I didn’t try.

My first arrow flew at 117 seconds remaining on the timer.  My last arrow, the sixth landed with 33 seconds on the timer.  I wasn’t even the last archer on the line!  I scored 45 points out of 60, my worst end.  Six arrows in 84 seconds or 14 seconds per arrow. (My average to shoot 6 arrows in 26 seconds per arrow)

Having had practiced for such an occasion paid off.  No panic.  Just do what I’d practiced.  At the end of the day I won.

Move That Sight

At the 2016 NC ASA State Championship, in Mt. Airy, shooting a compound bow my arrows were all shooting to the left.  In my group was the eventual winner of the division.  He’s won a lot of tournaments, been a National Champion, Shooter of the Year, and has a stack of other championships.  In fact, I competed with and against him numerous times.  He offered me some simple advice, “Move your sight.”  I didn’t listen.

I figured the off-shots were me and that I’d gain control then begin hitting 10s and 12s rather than 10s and 8s and any moment.  I never did and walked away 5th. If I’d only listened.

During that NC ASA State Championship I was still very new to archery. I’d been shooting for 32 months.  I wasn’t at all comfortable fidgeting with my sight during a tournament. Today, that is different.

Time to twist a knob

I’ve also put down my compound bow for an Olympic recurve bow. Using that bow I’ll twist the sight knobs without a qualm.

That’s better

Adjusting your sight isn’t something that needs to be done on every shot.  If you fling a bad arrow it really might be you not the sight.  But, shoot enough and you’ll feel when it is you versus the need to make an adjustment.

Measure and Manage

On a weekly basis I use one day to replicate an archery tournament. For example, the next event on my calendar is the Georgia Cup.  I’ll shoot that tournament in the 50-year-old division at a distance of 60 meters.  That’s the practice tournament done this week – 60 meters.

During the week I’ll shoot hundreds of arrows ranging on a daily basis from 60 arrows to 200 arrows.  The maximum will eventually work up to 300 arrows per day.  The most I’ve shot in a day is 400 and I may go for a 500-arrow day this year.  For now, however 200 is my daily maximum.

Flinging arrows is good for stamina and control.  It aids in working on specific matters of form.  The practice tournament is a way to measure progress. The outcome further helps in determining adjustments for the subsequent week’s training plan.

Aside from recording the score I record the time remaining on the shot clock.  Reviewing those times versus the end’s score is important to ensure relaxed shooting during an event.  It eliminates needing to watch the clock.  It is much like an NFL quarterback who knows there is 25 seconds to receive the hike. It is a method of comparing time versus score.

If I add calories, such as a sport drink or some solid calories I record that as well.

Having a solid understand of performance during a mock-tournament will help during the real thing.

Your Brain and Fitness

During my working career I did lots of interesting things.   All of my work was cognitive. I used to say, “I think, therefore I get paid.” I did of lot of thinking, figuring things out.  So, my brain has been and remains an important tool for me.

Aging is an area where I have an interest and I’ve done a little research. As a result I have a fair grasp of what to expect as I age and how I’ll perform in sports.

I stay is pretty good overall fitness as much for my physical abilities as for my brain. I like my brain – it entertains me. It turns out that fitness does a lot to help my brain. It can help your brain, too.

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When you consider archery, there is a lot of brainwork going on to make a good shot. Primarily, you need to have an active brain that converts to a meditative brain (alpha waves –described here in an earlier post) to get that great shot time after time. In order to accomplish the brain process, a healthy brain is a significant advantage over an unhealthy one. And it turn out that exercise, not archery exercise, helps make the brain healthy.

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In a systematic review a group of scientists concluded that a sedentary lifestyle led to impaired cognitive function. In their conclusion they wrote, “Our systematic review provides evidence that limiting sedentary time and concomitantly engaging in regular moderate-to-vigorous physical activity may best promote healthy cognitive aging.”

I would not rank archery as moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. In fact, the less vigorous we are when we shoot the better. But, to be really calm, it may be beneficial to be fit and healthy. Being unfit and in poor health would make it hard to for the brain to relax – an important component to making a good shot.

Archery is one of the two sports where an athlete over 50 can be or become an elite. Making it to over 50 in good health takes a bit, not much – you don’t need to be an Ironman or marathoner – of exercise. I highly recommend a routine and somewhat structure plan for exercise. If you’ve never done any exercise, it is not going to be easy at first. Heck, there are times when it is never “easy”. Easy is a sedentary life style. Over the decades an easy lifestyle will catch up with you. So, do a bit of exercise, in the long haul you’ll benefit from the effort.

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A bonus is, you get to keep your brain operating at a high capacity. Which in turn will help you with your archery.

Reference:

1.) Falck RS, Davis JC, Liu-Ambrose T. What is the association between sedentary behavior and cognitive function? A systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2016 May 6. pii: bjsports-2015-095551. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095551. [Epub ahead of print]

A Big Trophy!

At the Georgia NFAA State Indoor Championships there are awards, belt buckles and patches for winning your division. There are trophies for other high scores such as the overall men/women’s high score with a compound bow and recurve bows.

For the past two years I’ve won the recurve division.  My wife prefers I leave the trophy at Ace Hardward’s range in Social Circle, Georgia where I practice and am a member of the archery group.

This is surprisingly heavy

 

Well, this sucks

Two major tournaments in two weeks.  Going into both events I’d been shooting well.  Practice was moving in the right direction. Then it all fell apart.

I understand that in sports we all have good days and bad days.  I track practice and do intermittent practice that simulates tournaments.  I record all the shots and scores.  Those results are added to a spreadsheet.  From that I can see my progression.  I can further look at statistics.  Those give me high and low scores, mean scores and clusters of low, medium and high averages.

18-meter 3-spot scores since picking up a recurve 18 months ago. The dip at the end of the line represents the USA Indoor Nationals and Georgia Indoor Championships

Generally, I have a good idea of how I’ll shoot going into a tournament.  In the case of the USA Archery Indoor Nationals and the Georgia State Indoor Championship I shot outliers that were significantly away on the wrong side of the bell curve.

When this happens whether in practice or competition I work to find the root cause.  At the National Championship I felt the root cause was warped limbs. I knew I had them going into the tournament.  They were all I had so I went with it. There, despite feeling good I landed my lowest scores.

Prior to the Georgia State Indoor Championship new limbs arrived.  In practice all was well.  During the three ends warm-up, at the tournament, all was well. All nine arrows landed as 9s or 10s.

That’s as long as it lasted.

An archery tournament is a bad time to have eye-floaters.  I get them occasionally.  Everyone has them.  Our brain is able to see past them – most of the time. As we age eye-floaters can increase, usually we see an increase between 50 and 75. (I’m 67 soon)

In this case the floaters were particularly bothersome.  The floaters were right inline with the target and floating about in direct sight with aiming.

Never during a tournament have I missed the target.  At the Georgia State indoor championship I did it twice.  I simply could not get a bead on the target.

In this case pathophysiology trumps preparation.

 

 

Compound Bows In the Olympics

It isn’t going to happen.

Shooting a compound bow is fun. There are loads of competitive venues. Loads of people shoot compound bows.   Why on Earth aren’t compound bows in the Olympic games?

An upper level archery coach told me, “Oh, compound bows will be in the Olympics.”  He added that compound bow competitions would be part of the Winter Games and would be contested at 18 meters. It sounded good a the time.

The coach sounded as if he had insider knowledge.  Thus far his prediction hasn’t come true.  It won’t.

Experts in archery as well as those folks on the International Olympic Committees (IOC) have pointed out that compound bow archery isn’t mainstream in all countries. There isn’t the same merchandise available globally and this would place some countries at a disadvantage.  That was a rationale years ago.  This isn’t a solid argument today or is it? (It is a reliable fall back.)  That isn’t the only reason why compound bows aren’t in the Olympics.

Here are some of the reasons we won’t see compound bows in the Olympics:

Too many perfect scores is the problem.  What – that’s crazy you say.  Nope it’s real for 18 meters and would bust the Winter Olympic 18-meter potential.

Take a look at the 2022 Vegas shoot.  There you can watch some of the best ‘recurve’ archers in the world with ‘a’ recurve archer scoring a 300 on the opening day (Brady Ellison). (1)  On the same day 3 young adult compound bow archers scored a 300 and a total of 85 compound bow archers scored a 300. (1)

How would the IOC even develop qualifying levels for a sport where so many athletes achieve a perfect score? Where is the drama of the competition for viewers not familiar with the sport?  Sure there are methods for checking closest to the ‘X’. And while judges pull out calipers, flashlights and magnifying glasses television viewers are changing channels or clicking over to stream snowboarding.  Tight measurements might be exciting a time or two but the non-archer Olympic game viewer, the one that needs to get a new cell phone, new truck, buy some beer, requires legal help, or needs to control their medical ailment with the latest big-pharma release, is going to miss the commercials instructing them to buy here. They’ve changed the channel instead of waiting for the judges to perform their duties. Watch a downhill skier crash means sitting through those commercials to learn the gruesome outcome.

Nope, indoor 18-meter as a potential venue for compound bow in the Olympics isn’t going to happen.

Then there’s compound bows competing at 50-meters.  Why would the IOC care to have compound bows shooting at 50-meters when they already have recurve bows competing from 70-meters.  Sure the compound bow target’s diameter is smaller than the recurve’s but that isn’t enough to make it worth an IOC change.

The idea of compound bow archery at 50-meters is further dashed when you take a look at the scores of compound bow archers at 50 meters.  For example consider the 2021 USA Archery Outdoor Nationals. Specifically review the qualifying scores for compound at 50- meters versus recurve at 70-meters. (2)

The average score of the top four male archers shooting compound bows was 1410 points out of 1440.  They achieved 98% of a perfect score.  The top four recurve archers, which included three Olympians at 70-meters achieved 94% toward a perfect score with an average of 1350 out of 1440.  Nope, the IOC isn’t going add a sport where perfection is already close at hand and there’s no risk of a spectacular crash to engage the viewer. A compound bow archer makes a mistake then scores a 9, a ski jumper screws up and that’s a broken leg. Everyone is talking about the accident the next day at work. That night after work viewers are tuned in – waiting for the next Olympic emergency. In this case the IOC would fall back on the argument that the compound bow advantage will fall towards western European and US athletes.

What about 3-D?  I think that would work for compound archers especially if rangefinders are not allowed, the maximum distance is 45 meters and hunting style bow configuration is the standard. In other words no long stabilizers and sight pins only.   Archers in the “IBO” Pro-Hunter Division do this from 45 yards rather than 45 meters. If I recall when the IBO (International Bowhunters Organization) opened this class the maximum distance was 50 yards (roughly 45 meters).Whether the distance is 45 yards or 50 yards the measure would be meters so folks outside the US would understand. However, the western European US advantage argument still applies. This objection also applies to field archery using compound bows.

There is also the logistics of adding another sport that requires a large field of play for an outdoor activity.  Adding a 3-D range or field archery range for compound bows is possible but in too many cases it may limit the countries and their cities from trying to win an Olympic Game.

Both 3-D and field archery would mean fitting them into the Summer Games.  Imagine trying to compete in 3-D or field archery during February in Salt Lake City, Nagano or Beijing. (As I write this it is 31° F or-0.5° C in Yankton, SD, the same as in Athens, GA)

The pool of athletes is another consideration.  Certainly there are some expert compound bow archers outside the US.  The US has a population of 335 million. Of the US population 18.9 million people over the age of 18 are active in archery. (3)  That is more people that make up the populations 70% of the world’s countries. (4) Four US States have a greater population than 70% of the world’s countries! (5)

And the US has by far the best companies manufacturing compound bows. Plus we are the 13th wealthiest country per capita. (6) Can you image the money our country could put into archery if compound bows were in the Olympics?

If the IOC permitted compound archery in the Olympics the US would dominate the sport to a greater degree than swimming, track and field or even basketball. It simply isn’t going to happen.

Reference:

1.) https://www.thevegasshoot.com/post/86-shoot-perfect-scores-on-day-one-at-the-vegas-shoot

2.) https://www.usarchery.org/events/results

3.) https://www.archerytrade.org/news/survey-says-18.9-million-archers-are-active-in-u.s

4.) https://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/population-by-country.htm

5.) https://www.infoplease.com/us/states/state-population-by-rank

6.) https://www.infoplease.com/us/states/state-population-by-rank

Archery and Aging

As athletes age performace has been noted to decline. Archery and shooting provide greater longevity in sports competitions than all other sports. That is to say an archer over 50 years of age has a higher probablitiy of remaining in elite competition. To test this three age groups of male archers were compared using the top 15 scores from the 2017 USA Archery 18-meter indoor competition. The selected groups were the men’s seniors, men’s masters and men’s masters 60 – 69 year old groups.

The author at age 62 and member of the 60-69 year old test group (not a recent photo)

In the men’s seniors the top score was 1189 points. (1200 is a perfect score) In the men’s master the top score was 1184 points and in the 60-69 year old group the top score was 1155. By comparion the men’s masters winner would have placed third in the men’s senior category. The winner of the 60-69 year group would have finished 7th in the men’s masters but would not have been in the top 15 of the men’s senior group.

The top three scores were 1189, 1184 and 1155 for the senior, masters and 60-60 groups, respectively. The average for the groups, in like order, were: 1179, 1152 and 1126. The data was collected from the USA Archery’s website and data does not include how long each archer had been in competition. That information may have weighted the groups differently upon examination of the averages but is unlikely to have impacted the top 3 scores of each group. For example, the number one pastime for retired men is to become involved in sports. The 60-69 year group likely contains more retired men than the other groups. As such, there may be archers in the 60-69 year group that have, by elite sport competition, been shooting less than 5 years. (There is one known example in the class, shooting less than 48 months at the time the scores were recorded.)

The difference between the senior and master’s winner was only 4 points whereas the difference between seniors and the 60-69 year old archers was 34 points. The latter difference is a meaningful outcome while the 4-point difference is rather insignificant. Each group had similar subsets, equal scores, where rank was determined by X count. The greatest variance in subset clusters was between the seniors and 60-69 year old group. In other words, the widest variance in skill, based on scores, was among the archers occurred in the 60-69 year old group.

The process of aging may have played a role in this wider shift of scores. As humans age there is a loss of muscle mass that can contribute to fatigue during a 120-arrow contest. There is another factor, recovery time, where muscles don’t perform at peak levels without the longer recovery interval needed for the older athlete. There may also be a decreased ability to maintain a mental focus in the older athlete. Or it could be as simple as the older athletes do not invest comparable times training as do the younger athletes. There is also the impact of aging on eyesight and light absorption making targets more difficult to see. Finally, there might be generalized decrease in overall health of the older population that contributes to lower accuracy.

A survey of more than 4,200 participants in the National Senior Games, the largest multi-sport event in the world for men and women 50 and older, showed that the senior athletes had cardiovascular fitness that effectively makes them younger than their chronological age. The survey also found that the senior athletes had an average actual age of 68, but the exercise they were doing translated into a “fitness age” of only 43. (1)

In archery, athletes that are in their 50’s can perform in similar fashion to those from the ages of 21 to 49. Beyond 60, while the variance of scores are larger, there may be contributing factors that led to the lower scores during the 2017 USA Archery Indoor competitions. Mitigation of those factors where possible could correspond to elevating the scores of the 60-69 year old group. These factors include taking steps to maintain overall health at an earlier age, adding weight lifting to training to decrease the loss of muscle mass, adding cardiovascular fitness plans to improve endurance, and taking measures to prolong good eyesight. Where eyesight diminution is unavoidable corrective optothamic approaches may be helpful. A technical solution might be to decrease the draw weight of the bow and where possible lower the stabilizer weights. Thus, making it easier to draw the bow and support it during aiming.

In archery, aging need not be a limitation to elite performance.

(1) Richard Chin, Contributing Writer, July 10, 2015. “What Keeps Older Athletes Going. http:// www.nextavenue.org/what-keeps-older-athletes-going/

It May Take Practice, But Confidence Rules

I was shooting with one of the top archers in the world. On this day, it was the second time less than 6 weeks (in two states)  I ended up on the range with him. Between the two tournments I met a coach that said to me, “Archery is all mental.” That comment had me reflecting and thinking.

Those thoughts and reflections ended in a post at this site, “It Takes Practice.” (1) In that writing I examined other physical development aspects of shooting. Wanting to learn more about science behind the coach’s claim I turned to research.

After reading an article in a peer-reviewed journal the top archer I’d recently shot with came to mind. In particular, the second tournament is what I most clearly recalled. It was an event where we had 40 3D targets to shoot during two sessions of 20 targets each.

During the first half of the event the popular pro was shooting good. He was leading but not by an amazing margin. The first shoot had been early morning and the targets were dark and hard to see. By my estimate, I felt he was struggling just a little. During the second half of the event things began to change, then things really changed.

In the same group was another archer, a two-time world champion. He was obviously struggling.(He actually commented about his struggling)  He was consistently shooting high. (Just high enough to lose a couple of points here and there – he still beat me.) There was a noticeable difference: the first elite archer began to appear more confident than the second elite archer.

In a study by Kim, et al, they examined  11 elements of archery that archers determined were needed for top-level performance. These elements where isolated though meetings with 20 elite archers. Then, the scientists confirmed those elements with 463 different archers and created an analytic hierarchy process that was verified by addition 36 archery experts.

The results of this revealed three sets of performance factors: mental, skill and fitness categories. Fitness factors affecting performance included “drawing a bow without an arrow,” “lower-body weight training,” and “upper-body weight training.” Skill factors affecting performance included “extending by maintaining left and right shoulder balance during aiming,” “shooting skill over a regular clicker time,” “maintaining pace and direction at release,” and “drawing skill by maintaining left and right shoulder balance.” Mental factors affecting performance were “confidence,” “concentration,” “emotion control,” and “positive thinking.” (The 11 elements are in quotes from reference 2.)

What is clear from the athletes, archery is not all mental. What is paramount is what the archers selected as the most important of the 11 elements of importance to performance: confidence – that is mental.

Recall the elite archer I’ve competed against twice who I mentioned the opening? During the last shoot with him I noticed a change in what I perceived as his level of confidence. There was a clear change in his demeanor. His final score for the day reflected the change: one 8, ten 10s, and nine 12s for a score of 216.

Regarding the comment, “Archery is all mental” – well it’s not, at least according to archers. Archery is part mental, part skill and part fitness. The trio of performance factors developing together and not necessary at the same pace.  I believe, after the skill and fitness performance factors of the sport have been satisfied, then the mental aspects of the sport are primed to take control. Confidence, built on practice and fitness, was the most important, according to this study, mental category – as judged by the athletes.

Reference:

1.) http://puttingitontheline.com/archery/it-takes-practice/

2.) Kim HB1, Kim SH, So WY. The relative importance of performance factors in Korean archery. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 May;29(5):1211-9. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000687.

“Who’s Ready for some 3D?”

A fellow I know posted on his Facebook page, “Who’s Ready for some 3D?”

He’d purchased his annual new bow and new arrows.  He signed with an archery equipment company as a “Pro Staff” member and made a public, Facebook, announcement of his elevated status. He’d posted a competitive schedule and pointed out he’d be traveling to compete on a specific tour. He is a top dog.

Shortly afterward he showed up at the local  indoor range and exclaimed excitedly his eagerness for upcoming 3D season to everyone within hearing distance.  He’s loud so the audible parameter was large.

While standing at the 18-meter line of the range someone took a smart phone picture of him for Facebook application. Within hours of his departure that photo would land on Facebook with a caption announcing his newly acquired gear was launching arrows to perfection.

While on the range his new bow and arrows in hand he began flinging arrows 18 meters down range. He’s chosen a vertical three spot to destroy.  He was wearing out the eight rings.

After thirty minutes he’d shot about 24 arrows.  (6 ends of 3 arrows) He collected his shinny gear and departed the range. Eager to post about his superior equipment.

Mr. “Who’s Ready for some 3D?” isn’t really a top dog.  In fact, I don’t recall him winning any of the local 3D events.  He spends a lot of money at the shop and the workers there treat him like royalty.

Pro Staff doesn’t mean professional archer.  Mr. “Who’s Ready for some 3D,” is a perfect example.  He wears a pro staff shirt but is far from a professional level archer.  The archery shop is allocated a number of positions to fill with local archers as promotional marketing plan for the manufacturer’s gear.  The shop selects archers that are loyal, spend money and will promote the shop to complete those “Pro Staff” allocations.  Mr. “Who’s Ready for some 3D?” is well liked spends an abundance of money at the shop and wins an allocation.  Don’t be fooled, Mr. “Who’s Ready for some 3D?” isn’t a pro.  If you paid for your manufacturer’s kit and gear neither are you.

To be a true top dog it takes a lot of commitment. Practice is a focal point in your life. Training is always ongoing. A hundred arrows per week won’t cut it. Practicing on the weekends won’t work. Do the work and win.  Then, the manufactures will come looking for you.

In 3D where you only have 20 to 30 targets you can get through the shots with minimal practice.  But, with all the variance in targets getting through them is the best to hope for.  Getting great at 3D means knowing the variance in target view at all the potential distance you will see for that target.  It takes a lot of time and thousands of arrows to become excellent at finding those 12(ASA) or 11 (IBO) circles with an arrow.

If you are practicing a little bit for a few months out of the year you are not really ready for some 3D and you should plan on digging around for that lost arrow on the range at your next event. Still, it is fun to be out with your friends.  Heck, consider golf.  You can put in the same amount of effort only with golf you can drink beer with your buddies while you play.