Masters Athletes

If an archer over 60 is performs well, in his or her age group, unless they’ve got connections it seems unlikely any of the archery organizations or manufacturers are going to identify that individual as a potential athlete.  On the other hand is an archer is younger than 18 and shoots well that archer is more likely to attract support.

It is nice that the young people get support as athletes.  It is less of a compliment to the governing organizations and manufacturers that they reduce the support for the older population.  The support provided to older folks is feeble.  That’s  dumb  when in archery the largest segment of competitive archers are over 50!(1)

In a study, representative of USA archers, the investigators found that 25.5% of the archers in the US are under the age of 18, 30.4% are between 18 and 49 years old, and 35.2% are over 50. (1)

Now, the math is off. The total population should equal 100%. The total in their breakdown of age segments comes to 91.1% (opps). The researchers do point out that nearly 40% of the archers are over the age of 50, where their data shows that percentage is 35.2.  Arithmetic aside, the study suggests there are a lot of older archers.

USA Cycling and USA Triathlon put significant emphasis on older athletes.  The same is true with USA Track and Field.  Those organizations have figured out that the maturing population isn’t simply growing old and dying.  A huge amount of older folks are extremely active.

During my 50s I had corporate support to compete at the Ironman World Championship on Kona, HI. (2)   The same was true for the ITU World Duathlon Championships and the USA Masters Track Cycling Nationals. It really helped.   Perhaps, I was a better swimmer, runner and cyclist than I am an archer, but I wasn’t alone in having support in the other sports.

A fellow I used to train with in Atlanta was a professional triathlete in his 50s.  He wasn’t winning the major events.  He did well enough to continue to have corporate support as a age grouper.  Older athletes make up a market that corporations should be highlighting.  Being older and staying or becoming athletic is important for the general health of our population.

Todays 63 years olds – not the grandparents of the 1960s
“64 year old Grandaddy’s Pot Belly” Today’s seniors are often in better fitness than youngsters

Recently, I heard a news piece that suggested, with modern medicine, our bodies are out living our brains. Let me state, I do not believe it. The report cited the rising cases of dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment associated associated with aging.  I believe our modern sleep patterns, lack of restorative sleep, poor nutrition, poor use of cognitive function (watching television versus reading a book for example) and decline in physical exercise contributes to various dysfunction of the brain over time.  Essentially, as a population too many people seek easily available and instantly satisfying rewards rather than putting forth too much strain for an achievement.

Being active and staying cognitively engaged can improve fitness, health, decrease cognitive impairment and the risk of cognitive impairment. (2,3) To age well people need to stay both physically and cognitive active.  Archery is an ideal sport for that combination.  People seem to be figuring that out for themselves.

In the US there are 21.6 million people that participate in archery.  Nearly half of them, 46.6%, say they are competitive in the sport.(1) Serious practice is a lot of work.  Certainly, it isn’t as demanding from a cardiovascular standpoint as training for an Ironman, but you do not need to train for an Ironman to be physically fit.  There’s a lot of walking in archery and walking is good. Archery also helps with upper body strength, core strength and balance.

There’s also the mental element of the sport.  Archery is as much a mental discipline as a physical one. Of the 9.8 million people that claim to be competitive archers there are 3.5 million of them over 50.   Of those over 50 years old the majority are over 60. The combined health effects of archery, mental and physical, is a beneficial to this athletes.

The 50+ year old archers equal about half the total population of US athletes involved with triathlon. Believe me, if you are over 50 and winning triathlons in your age group, winning state and regional triathlons and ranking high nationally some sports corporation will notice.  In archery, not so much.

Charles Eugster, 96 years old, posing with his World Rowing Masters trophy. All photos courtesy of Charles Eugster

That’s too bad.  The older population can achieve both physical and cognitive benefits from archery.  It is a sport that is ideally suited for a more mature audience.  In fact, it is one of two sports where an athlete over 50 can become an elite – the other is shooting.

I think archery as a hole is missing the boat considering this segment of the population.  Nowhere do I find aggressive marketing or competitive assignments directed to the older archery population or the recruitment of older individuals to the sport.  Even at a recent  World Archery Championship for Masters the organizers limited the World Championship  award to the 50-year-old age group.  The 60 year olds would be shooting against the 50 year olds or for fun.  I know, I got an invitation to go last year. I considered entering until I read the fine print.  Similar with the Gator Cup – I could not find a 60+ class to enter.

Sister Madonna Buda – The Iron Nun
Sister Madonna Buda, 85 years old.

There was a time in Ironman events when there were no age groups for 75, 80 or 85 year olds. Sister Madonna Buda changed that.  Nike dubbed her, “The Iron Nun” and triathlon celebrates her for her unyielding success. Archery is a much older sport than triathlon.  When it comes to promoting the older athlete archery is way behind triathlon.

85 year old Ibone de Belausteguigoitia.

I am not alone in my assessment  regarding the lack of concentration on the older athlete by US corporations and organizations. “In the U.S., masters athletes receive little or no corporate, governmental or organizational support to attend competitions. This is not true in France, where Renault sponsors masters athletes, or in Germany, where Mercedes Benz offers support…..on a more mercenary level, I hope to get corporate America to recognize that it is good business to offer sponsorships to older athletes. Baby boomers do not buy products from 20-year-old spokespeople.” Rob Jerome.(4)

Ron Ortiz, 52 years old

I understand Jerome’s position, I don’t care what a 20-year-old spokesperson is trying to sale – especially in archery. I expect that 20 year old archer will be gone from the limelight as soon as he or she needs to earn a living.

Reference:

  1. hitting-the-bullseye-reel-girl-archers-inspire-real-girl-archers-full
  2. Karssemeijer EGA1,Aaronson JA2Bossers WJ3Smits T4Olde Rikkert MGM1Kessels RPC5. Positive effects of combined cognitive and physical exercise training on cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment or dementia: A meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev.2017 Nov;40:75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2017.09.003. Epub 2017 Sep 12.
  3. Wang C1Yu JT2Wang HF3Tan CC1Meng XF1Tan L2. Non-pharmacological interventions for patients with mild cognitive impairment: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of cognition-based and exercise J Alzheimers Dis.2014;42(2):663-78. doi: 10.3233/JAD-140660.
  4. https://www.asaging.org/blog/older-masters-athletes-just-do-it-shatter-stereotypes

Home in the nick of time

If you do a sport that’s an outdoor activity you have probably be caught in the rain. If you’ve been there, then you will understand:

Run looks pretty good. There are some clouds coming in, but seems okay
It appears to be getting darker rather than brighter as this morning runs progresses. Maybe its going to rain earlier than predicted
“River, here” – feels like a good point to start heading home
Barely a drop on me

Sure, some folks might have continued on their morning run.  I admit, I turned around shortening the run.

The Pro/Staff Sponsorship Facade

If you’ve read this website for long you may remember there was once a page for sponsors.  I took it down.  Before I removed it I politely said good-bye to those companies that had once supported me.  They were all good companies and I used their products.  But, overtime I became tired of their game. The products on this site, now, are mine.

The sponsorship game was essentially this:  I promoted their gear, I got a discount, I submitted quarterly updates, if the company had a booth at a tournament where I attended I was expected help at the booth, I’d only use the company’s gear, and I’d pay for the gear out of my pocket. There would be a discount on my purchase of 25% to 70% depending on the company.  To be fair one company never charged me for their products.  Nevertheless, I parted ways with them, too. Two of the companies were carry over sponsors form cycling and triathlon (those were the ones with the big discount and free goods.)

The whole archery deal felt off to me. Actually, the whole deal is a marketing program where those sports companies use amateur athletes to help promote their products.  I understand, I was in business most of my working life.

During that time of my life, before I retired, I did all sorts of business activities including product development, marketing, and was Vice President of Marketing.  I was also an Executive VP & Chief Medical Officer, and VP of Compliance and Regulatory Affairs.  I wore all sorts of hats.

I, too, ran marketing programs aimed at promoting my products.  One thing I always did was paid attention to the folks helping me with their expertise.  In my area the expertise wasn’t 100% an athletic skill it was mostly brain skills. Essentially, the academic/clinical environment was where my work and products were placed – for the most part.

There was a segment of my work that dealt with sports.  There I worked with professional and amateur athletes.  That work ranged from professional football players, track and field athletes (pro & am), triathletes, cyclist, runners, and event mountain climbers.  One of our key athletes was Jerry Rice who you may remember wearing a “Breathe Right” Nasal Strip.  Our segment of that market was medical but it was still cool to see Jerry Rice making amazing catches while wearing the “Breathe Right” Nasal Strip.  We even had a nearly life sized cardboard ‘standee’ of him in our boardroom.

With both venues, the brains and the brawn, one key function of our marketing department was to stay close to these thought leaders and athletes.  As a result we built a community or network of individuals that benefitted from our support and we benefitted from their support. The goal, of course, was to benefit people. I can honestly say we succeeded.  There are people alive today that might not be had it not been but for the work we all did.

Furthermore, that combined group had crossovers, brainy people can be athletes and athletes are smart, and those people worked together on projects.  It was a pulmonologist that inspired me to become a triathlete, Dr. Nick Hill a tremendous athlete. One of the toughest cyclists I ever trained with is an anesthesiologist, Dr. Chuck Law. Another close friend, a World Championship level cyclist, later became a toxicologist earning his degree from the Medical College of Georgia, Dr. Howard Taylor. These are just a few examples that come immediately to mind as I type this post.

Sometimes our company supported a project for the scientists or athletes and other times we did not.  Those times we didn’t provide support, financial or equipment, we did provide our help, if only to bounce ideas around, when it was needed even if the project held nothing for our benefit beyond the friendships we developed.  Years after retiring (We sold the company, I took my piece of the pie and called it quits.) that network still functions as a social group where ideas are exchanged.

The sponsorship or “Pro-Staff” arrangements I’ve been associated with thus far in archery have been extremely one sided.  There does not seem to be a commitment on the part of sport industry to create long-term associations with athletes beyond the young and the few. Personally, I could care less which bow a 17 year old is shooting.  Odds are that 17 year will be putting his or her bow down during their freshmen year of college.  A very few will continue with their advancement in the sport.

If you are fortunate enough and good enough that you are at a minimum getting free gear in return for donning that factory archery shirt good for you. If you paid for the shirt and get a 25% discount on products that has a  70% margin – well that’s your choice. If you see me wearing a company logo, you can bet that the arrangement has both benefit and detriment for both sides. That and I believe their gear helps me perform better.

Trying to Get Ready for Field Archery

In preparation for the Georgia State Field Archery and NFAA sections, coming in a few more weeks, I’ve been studying how to shoot a Field Archery Tournament.  I’ve read the rules, watched a tutorial on how to shoot them and the scoring, and purchased the targets used for the event.  It is a lot to remember.

Practicing on Hunter style targets for field archery

I’ve already booked a campsite and signed up for the tournament.  Too bad there aren’t any closer similar archery contests near me.  I’d feel better having a more solid foundation with the venue.

In the meantime, all that can be done is to prepare as best as possible. Part of that preparation means having a bow on which everything works properly.

80 yards if a long shot

My target bow is still AWOL.  It’s been gone, sent back to Elite, for months. I’m shooting an older back up bow. That bow needs a new rest.  The QAD rest clicks and rubs and feels like it could enter a complete meltdown at any moment.  I’ll give QAD a call for help tomorrow. They’ve been helpful with the problem in the past.  It happened to me before.

Had to pause during practice to trim some long hanging tree limbs to reach the target at 80 yards.

The back up bow is a 2014 Elite 35.  It has a lot of mileage and the limbs have been replaced once.  I upgraded to the Elite 37X in 2018.  That bow never did seem to shoot right.  After a while I noticed cable guard pitting which clearly isn’t right.  The bow was returned in March. Over two months later and Elite has the bow and the money.

Shooting 4 arrows at the same 35 cm target can be costly

I’ve also gotten my hands on an old Mathews Conquest Apex 7.  It was my first bow and it was sold to get the Elite 35.  The second owner returned to me that Mathews bow.  I shot it for 3D last week and won competing in the Hunter class (ASA) at a local competition. I’m considering making that the bow for the Field Championship.

Before I retired, I’d have just gone and bought a new bow. Since retirement, seven years ago, I’ve become a bit tighter with my cash.  But, the best bow out there is always the one in your hand.

Going into the next State Championship, everything is not ideal.  There are still a few weeks to go and in the meantime, I’ll do all I can to get ready. And hope I’ll get in a group of friendly archers that won’t be put out having me tag along.

Finding a bow for 3D

3D archery has pretty much fallen off the list for 2019.  At the beginning of the year I had high hopes for the 2019 3D season. Sadly, a few months into the year I no longer had a 3D bow.

I do have a bow.  But, that bow is configured for target archery. I tried shooting 3D with it using those skinny outdoor arrows and a lens.  It simply didn’t feel right to me.  In 3D I prefer using a hunting rig.

It wasn’t as if the skinny arrow arrangement barred me from shooting 3D.  In my mind it subtracts from the spirit of 3D, a discipline developed to simulate hunting.  I’d never hunt with a long stabilizer, scope and sight other than pins.

Of course, I could switch the bow over to a 3D rig and go back and forth with the gear arrangements before practices.  I’ve done it in the past.  But, it isn’t simple and if it isn’t simple it often times simply won’t get done.

I had two bows at the beginning of the year.  One was returned to the manufacturer in hopes they’d either resolve the problem or exchange the bow.  Since the bow was returned there’s been no reply.  Oh, I’ve checked on it. The response has been silence.

Then, I discovered an old bow that shoots.  It is an old Mathews Conquest Apex 7.  It was my first bow, purchased the year before it was discontinued.  I’d sold it.  The person that bought it wasn’t shooting it.  He told me I could “have it” when I asked to borrow it.

On the Friday before a local 3D competition I took the stripped bow to a local shot.  There they added a PEEP (one I had in a tackle box) and I’d already added a pin sight, it still had a D-loop on the string, and I attached a short front stabilizer. I also had an arrow rest; the one removed from the long ago returned malfunctioning bow, and it bow was ready to shoot.

Before leaving the shop the bow was paper tuned and tested.  It shot fine. During the afternoon I sighted the pins against known yardage so that the bow close to being ready to use in a tournament.

When I arrived at the local 3D shoot, Mathews Conquest Apex 7 in tow, the first words anyone spoke to me were from a PSE representative.  He asked, “What is that you’ve got in your hand?”  I explained the situation and he suggested I try on of his products.  I’ve already tried that bow.  It is nice. It doesn’t come for free.  The Apex 7 came for free.

Now, I am certain that over the years since this Apex 7 was developed there have been advances in bow technology.  I know marginal gains are available with advanced equipment.  Since I’ve not been shooting 3D, it doesn’t matter.  I was just looking to have some fun on a 3D range with the bow in my hand.

There’s always that awkward moment with I show up to shoot at a local 3D event.  I’m new here – still – by archery group standards.  As such, I have to do that milling about hoping to find a group with which to shoot.  I really hate that part and miss the group I shot with in North Carolina. Before every 3D event we get in touch with each other the night before to make our plans for the tournament.

My first attempt to connect with a group failed, as did my second. I got lucky and group of two invited me to join with them.  Having only shot about 30 arrows with the Mathews bow, where I was finding the pins and range intersections, I’d hoped to finish sighting the bow before I actually went to the range.  I got 6 shots and was off. The group that offered the invitation was ready and as the leader put it, “I’ve got things to do today.”  I appreciated her sentiment and invitation; beggars can’t be choosers.

Thanks for inviting me (Photo courtesy of Robbie Surface)

The windage was off a bit and the first target was wide to the right.  Wide enough to earn a 5.  No one complained as when I made my only adjustment.  A few cranks to the right and I’d do the best I could with the arrangement.

From target two until target eight there were no problems.  The old bow has minimal let off so I had to really be in the shot. That helped and I was shooting par. Target 8 was a trick.  A javelina sitting down a hill at 38 yards.  As a rule that isn’t too difficult.  But, today, I knew 38 yards was an in between two pins as best as I could guess.  I guessed a bit off and shot another 5 – a tad high just off the eight ring.  Beyond those two shots I ended up with all tens other than two 12s and two 8s finishing with a 190 in the senior hunter class.  (20 targets no bonus target)

It felt a little like a recurve. (Photo courtesy of Robbie Surface)

For the first time in years shooting a bow without a significant let off and shooting a bow for the first time of any merit I wasn’t too upset with the score.  Now that I’ve got this bow maybe I’ll be able to finish the 3D season with a few more competitions. One thing for certain, the arrows float off the bow and there’s little room for yardage error.

Designing Practice and Training

In our USA Archery Level 3 NTS Coaches course we were given a ‘Weekly Training Plan’ template.  It’s a basic template that provides coaches with a simple tool to plan an athlete’s weekly training activities.  It is important to have a plan for training. Otherwise, you’re just shooting arrows.

You’ll improve by just shooting arrows.  However, you’ll reach a point where you either decide to go to the next step or enjoy shooting arrows. The latter approach can make to a better archer,  a formal plan might make you excel.

Beginning a new practice plan

I use six weeks cycles for training. It is a method I’ve used for decades in other sports.  The volume of work and type of training floats with the plan. The plan itself is a rotation of six-week intervals that incorporates a year or years.

The plans revolve around specific tournament goals.  Those goals and tournament are further categorized into ‘A’, ‘B’, and ‘C’ events. Those events can change based on performance and other factors.

Performance changes might be based on how an archer is shooting.  An event may be removed from the schedule and another added in its place. One ‘other’ factor, for me, can be shown in the example of the Gator Cup in Florida.  That event was dropped due to the cost as well as my most recent performance at 50-meters. I won the tournament, but felt my score wasn’t competitive enough to spend the money on the Gator Cup.

Based on 2018 results, my recent 50-meter tournament’s score would have landed me in 5thfor the Gator Cup Qualification round and my elimination score would have earned me a 4thplace in the Masters 50 year old group. Spending over $1000.00 for not earning a top 3 finish isn’t worth the expense.  So, the Gator Cup moved out of the 2019 rotation.  Because there doesn’t seem to be a 60+, 70+ or higher age group, in order to keep the Gator Cup in the rotation for 2020, knowing if I go I’ll need to compete against archers potentially 15 years younger, I need to stay fit. My plan incorporates significant time for fitness.

These don’t come about without a plan. (Ironman Lake Placid, Louisville and World Championships on Kona, HI)

A weekly training plan should include fitness training, strength training, and a general idea about nutrition.  Nutrition is important in that learning to eat like an athlete supports athletic endeavors. (more on nutrition in the future)

Some of the archery hardware collected over the past 5 years using a specific plan

My personal training plans are long range.  There’s an ‘A’ tournament on the horizon, 6 weeks out.  That plan includes others for 2019 and one tournament already in the queue for 2020 with specific goals.

Having a plan, not just in your head (that’s a dream), which is formal, on paper and reviewed daily will help you improve as an archer and athlete.

It is like work

In the early 1990s we were putting together a cycling team.  The team would have our sponsorship.  For the first year, there was a total of $35,000 in the budget. Not much for 10 cyclists.

If the team did well the second year’s budget would increase.  The first year, with only $35,000 to spend, all the cyclists would need to be high-level amateurs.  Those amateurs needed to be of a quality that would allow some of them to turn professional in year two.  At the onset of the program we had several such cyclists.

One in particular was an athlete we predicted would be a top level pro, a cyclist we’d be lucky to keep for a couple of years.  Then, he just quit.  When asked why he answered, “This is too much like work.” In any sport to become an elite performer there will be a lot of work involved.

At every tournament, during most practices, there’s always someone advising others to “Just have fun,” or “Remember to have fun, “ and “Did you have fun?”

When I asked elite athletes what it took to become a champion being able to have fun was not among their responses.  In fact, the number one response was determination and number response two was work.

Certainly, work can be enjoyable.  You can also enjoy doing something that might not be fun.  Or, at least, you will do the activity, that isn’t so much ‘fun’, because you’re determined to succeed in a sport and are willing to put forth the work. If you hated it you’d probably not do it.

Coaching tip

Flinging hundreds of arrows a day for years is work.  It is also practice.  Designing your practice session to be interesting and challenging does reduce the monotony of the activity.  There are no short cuts and it isn’t always fun.  Sometimes it feels like work. If your determined and do the work there will be a reward.

Getting ready for the next tournament

With the Georgia Cup behind me it is time to concentrate on the Georgia Bowhunter and Archery Association’s (NFAA) State Field Championship being held in Savannah, Georgia. The event is about 6 weeks out as I write.

Having only once before competed in a NFAA style field tournament I’ve spent some time reading over the rules, scoring, targets and such.  It is also the time to switch to a six-week cycle of training.

Right back at it after a day off

At a week before a tournament I don’t go to the gym to lift weights.  Aside from that there are other modifications of time spent shooting and fitness training. At six weeks out I am in the gym.

The gym where I train never ceases to amaze me in that the vacuum cleaning is always underway when I arrive.  Of the noises in the world the sound of a vacuum cleaner is one of the foulest in my opinion.  It doesn’t matter if I am at the gym morning or afternoon, I’ve tried both, there’s some attendant pushing a vacuum.  Worse is they always migrate to whatever weight station I’m using.

Time to head to the gym

Sure as Southern Summers are hot, in the gym today, there was the attendant with his vacuum cleaner sucking up unseen particles within inches of me.  Perhaps, unknown to me, I’m like Pigpen from the cartoon ‘Peanuts’, and when then gym’s employees see me coming they start up the vacuum preparing to follow me around.

 

It’s Only 10 Grains

Ten grains sounds like a lot to me especially when is comes to arrows.  I needed an arrow update, the ones I’ve been shooting for outdoor events have really gotten hammered.  Calling around I found a shop that could get me more of those arrows.  I’d learn if they were up to meeting their promise.

Heading over I brought several of the old arrows with me to the shop as examples.  The question was could they duplicate the arrows. Heaven knows having a quiver full of assorted arrows leads to poor scores.   The shop manager promised they could duplicate the arrows based on the examples.  Furthermore, the arrows would be reading in about two weeks.  Later, he phoned to confirm the tip weight and the process was underway.

Sure enough within two weeks the arrows were available for pick up.  Eager to get the arrows I drove to the shop to collect. Before paying for them  I weighted them.  The new arrows were 10 grains heavier.

This is about the size of the groups he indicated. I had to move my elevation down two clicks (I also changed the paper before these arrows)

The shop manager held up his hand, made a circle the size of a quarter using his thumb and forefinger then said, “Unless you’re shooting groups this tight 10 grains won’t make a difference.”

I put his claim to the test. Results – 10 grains equals two clicks!

I pulled two arrows before I thought about taking a picture

I like the new arrows okay even though they don’t match all the other arrows. I won’t use them for practice along with all the other arrows, the 10 grains is too  much of a difference. But, I’ll drop my elevation by 2 clicks and use them in tournaments.

What Does it Take to Be a Champion?

There’s another article based on this research. It is written in a format for a journal.  Boring to most people. On the other hand, here’s the data shared in a friendlier format.

The data comes from real athletes and coaches.  Within the population is a cluster of World Champions, National Champions and Olympians.  To even out the group there are good athletes, top level weekend warriors who are truly dedicated to their sport.  These weekend warriors are excellent in their sport, but are not elite athletes.

There is also a group of coaches that work in high school, college and at the professional levels.

No, this isn’t free.  I tried to set the price at one dollar; Amazon wouldn’t allow that price. It is $2.99, which is less than a nickel per word.

The essay was edited by a bonafide editor and friend, Diane L.  No matter what I’ve written when she gets a hold it the writing  becomes a fun readable document.  Here she has turned what I sent her into an essay that is well beyond my ability.

This is for you to enjoy.  Sorry I couldn’t get the price lower.  The version for scientific publication, when it comes out will be at no charge other than the subscription or membership price.