Dealing With a Poor Performance

In any sport athletes have good performances, better performances, and days they seem to be able to do nothing right.  Those poor performance days decrease as an athlete begins to excel in their sport. For the best athletes in any field a bad day can still seem amazing to most amateurs and fans.

It happens to everyone that toils away in hopes of perfection.  It happens across every disciple from sports to business.  Make a poor decision in business is can literally cost you.

One of my best friends is the CEO and President of a medical device company.  He has a personal policy that he never signs a contract when he is  sleepy, has had a drink or is angry.  It’s a good policy.  It helps avoid those bad day blunders.  He can hold off a bit signing a contract.  As an athlete, you’re not going to be able to push back a tournament, match, race or game because you may be sleepy or angry and certainly you’d not be competing with alcohol in your system.  But, sooner or later you’re going to mess up during competition.

Occasionally, we all find ourselves in a bind.  We’ve messed up a shot, botched a sprint, or struck out with bases loaded.  A friend of mine shared a lesson he learned from Jack Nicklaus, the golfer, of how he handles those moments where things don’t go as planned.

My friend, Tim Simpson, a senior golf pro that now plays the Champions Tour having aged though the PGF and other tours, shared what Nicklaus had said.

Tim at the 2009 Senior Pro Tour

Nicklaus was being interviewed by ESPN along with Simpson.  He said, “I know I’ll have an occasional bogey. What matters is how I play through it.”

Last year I watched a top archer do poorly on a 3D target during an important tournament.  It was a totally screwed up shot. Until that point he was leading.  After that target he’d dropped out of the money.

He moved on to the final six targets landing six 11s in a row. Another archer commented, “Man, that is the best recovery I’ve ever seen.”

The recovered archer didn’t win; the error had been too great among a strong field.  He ended up third by one point. But, that final run of perfection was amazing to witness.  Had the poor shot gotten deeply into his head, well he could have easily found himself off the podium.

Know that as an athlete you’ll have sporting moments that might be the equivalent of  “brain farts.”  There will also be times when you’ll come through an event golden.  Along the away, you’ll need to learn to work though those “brain farts”. As you improve you’ll see that those “farts” aren’t as smelly was they once were.

What Me Worry?

The range was pretty full of people practicing.  People were filing in to prepare for the big Lancaster tournament up in Pennsylvania. There were occasional bursts of profanities as shots got away from the archer aiming for perfection.  Coaches were coaching students about nerves, remaining calm, and not worrying what other people think.

Coaching Tip

What other people think? Does anyone worry about that? Sure they do and it a pretty dumb thing to worry about.  First of all, if you are worried about what it is other folks are thinking about you know this – those other people are not thinking about you unless you’re one of the super stars other people are paying to watch.  Since nobody pays to watch archery, you’re probably in the clear when it comes to other people watching you. Secondly, if someone happens to be watching you shoot, you’ll never know it.  Your back is to the audience.

Of all the thoughts that will go through your mind when shooting a bow, the thought that someone is watching you really is the least worry among all the worries that you don’t need to worry about.

Nap Time

Every day I try to get some rest.  Part of it comes at night.  By 10:00 PM I want to be asleep because I’m awake at 05:30 AM.  I don’t use an alarm, I just wake up.  I’m even awake before my dogs.  If I’ve gotten a full day of training and practice in I’m not waking up during the night.  Some days that’s not possible and I’m still more likely than not to sleep straight through the night.

Sleep is amazingly important.  In my opinion so are naps.  As an athlete you may find that you need a lot of sleep. More sleep can mean a better performance. Sleep is part of my training program.

Recently, a top archer was asking for advice to help with muscle soreness and joint pain.  He’d been ramping up his training and was paying a price  – that price being delayed onset muscle soreness.  Aside from many of the initial remedies that came to mind as he explained his ailments, rest was the first thing that came to mind.  Other than cutting back practice a bit, ensuring proper recovery time, the right amount of sleep is paramount for a successful training plan.

Sleep is good

I take a nap nearly everyday after lunch.  Not long, only about 30 minutes and most of that I just lay still with my eyes closed. I never go into REM sleep.

Over time, my dogs have joined in the naptime.  They nap a lot, but napping with me seems to make them happy.  It’s like the pack laying down together.

The pack settling in for a break

I lay on the floor when I nap.  I don’t want to get on the bed, I’m too dirty and it is too comfortable.  Thirty minutes on the floor is perfect. Afterwards, I’m up, reloaded for the afternoon workouts and have had a nice pause while my lunch digests.

 

 

 

Distractions, A Stink Bug, and a Little Luck

Last week, on an indoor range, I was practicing at 18-meters.  There weren’t many other people there at that time.  Steve was there. Steve’s a coach and was working with a student.

I’m accustomed to practicing while coaching is happening around me.  I listen to what is being said between ends.  I’ve picked up more than one free tip from Steve while he’s coaching.

Anyway, I was working away at 18-meters. I’d been shooting pretty good. Then, on one shot I hit a 9.  Now a 9 isn’t bad but I’d been hitting 10s. Here’s what happened – Steve walks over to grab arrows from a ground quiver about 2 inches from me.  The distraction was all it took to miss the 10.

I laughed and said, “Thanks, Steve!  That 9 is on you.”  He, too, laughed and added, “You need to learn to block distraction.” Of course he’s right.  Who knows, I may have hit the 9 regardless of Steve nearly knocking me over.  (Yes, Steve that’s how I telling it) I mean, it wouldn’t have been my first 9.

Distractions happen. They really can’t be allowed to mess with your shooting.   The other day I had another distraction.  A stink bug.

This stink bug hopped off my bow after the shot. He stayed around for a photo opt.

Practicing at 18-meters on my outdoor range I was again doing pretty good.  At full draw, all focused, letting my brain relax, finding silence, being one with the arrow and channeling my inner Yoda, this stink bug lands on the lens of my scope. Yep, the arrow was off in the millisecond of bug to glass impact.

I heard the arrow hit the target.  I was expecting to find it some where in the white and glad it didn’t sail off into the woods.  I lifted my binoculars to find the arrow.  What I found was a real surprise.

100% luck

The shot turned out good. Sometimes luck is a good thing to have.

Rain, Rain and More Rain During Practice

A rainy night in Georgia
A rainy night in Georgia
I believe it’s rainin’ all over the world

It’s been more than a rainy night.  We’re on pace to break a record for annual rainfall here in Georgia.  The weather report two days ago said we only needed another 1.5 inches to set a new record.  It hasn’t stopped raining since that report.

Rain is not an archer’s best friend.  If you’ve done more than a few outdoor archery tournaments you’ve probably been caught in the rain.  Shooting in the rain is a mess.

It wasn’t a downpour, but it was coming down

I just left my outdoor range.  It was raining while I was practicing.  It is December and the rain and cold are a miserable combination.  Luckily, the temperature isn’t bad, it was 54°F – nice for December.

Still after an hour I stopped.  I was wet and the rain was getting worse.  The paper targets were disintegrating and my scope was covered with beaded drops of water.

It wasn’t the practice I hoped to get completed.  I’d hoped for a pause in the rain.  Being wet at 54°F isn’t bad if you’re running, but it is bad when you’re trying to stand still. There was, however, specific work needed to be done.

Didn’t want to run my little heater in the rain

Today, practice wasn’t only about hitting the X.  It was about getting a feel for 2 minutes.  Often, I’ll use the timer on my phone and practice against the clock. What I want to do is maximize my arrow shot process flow, see that I have ample recover time between shots, take my time on each shot, and have some time left over.

Practicing against the clock does a several things: 1) You learn how long it takes you to shoot 3 arrows, 2) You become comfortable with a timer counting down the seconds, 3) you learn not to rush your shots, and 4) you learn about how much time you have to regroup after an error like dropping an arrow off the rest.

Dropping an arrow off your rest during a tournament is going to happen.  For me it has happened when I was letting down.  The arrow had slipped off the rest while I was drawing. Rather than take my finger and put the arrow back on the rest I prefer to start over with the shot process.  Once or twice the arrow came off the string during competition as I was letting down. If that happens to you, don’t lean over and pick up the escaping arrow – let it go.  Collect the arrow after the whistle blows to stop shooting. A simple drill get comfortable if this situation – rather when this situation – occurs:  Using a clock, time 3 minutes, shoot 3 arrows, but have a 4th and intentionally drop an arrow so that up must use the 4th arrow within the two minutes. It’s an easy exercise and you’ll get a good understanding of the timing for when you do drop an arrow.

An arrow on the floor or ground doesn’t get under my skin.  I know that when this happens and I draw another arrow to start over I’ll still have time remaining to calmly get off all three shots. Generally, I have around thirty seconds remaining on the clock after I shoot three arrows.  That means it takes me about 30 seconds per arrow. So, I can easily get four arrows off in 120 seconds or 2 minutes.

When one arrow is dropped, I’m essentially adding a 4thshot.  It’s happened to me a few times during an event. I have gotten that 4tharrow, including the on the floor, fired leaving a second or two on the clock when I released the final shot.  But, I’ve never lost points for shooting after the whistle blew.

Today, in the rain my cell phone timer was getting pretty wet.  I have a protective case on the phone that is supposed to be water resistant. The protective case might work but a soaked phone was another reason I called the morning practice to a halt.  Additionally, it is New Year’s Eve and we’re having a party here this evening.  It was time to cut practice short.

Coaching tip

The rain may or may not let up.  If it does and I have time I’ll get in another practice.  For now, I did get some practice during the rain, which is good. I got to work against a clock and that too is a good.  I’ve been rained on bin the past during competition and it will certainly happen again. Having practiced in rain teaches me how to perform during inclement weather.

Win It All – At Least Knowing The Numbers Creates a Goal to Win it All

18-meter practice over the past eight weeks has been an up and down business. It feels mostly down because I hit a peak early on in a six-weeks cycle.  Naturally, going into the final two indoor tournaments of 2018 I was rolling around in the mire of a down turn in performance.  Still I won one of them.  The second, competing against the 21-49 year old men, it was all I could do not to embarrass myself.  Nevertheless, I finished respectably and used the tournament for an “educational” session.

For 2019 I am still working out in which tournaments to compete and the goals for those events and the year.  I keep coming up with an all-encompassing goal of ‘win everything.’  While it might sound brash the data suggests it might be possible.  So, why not have the foremost goal for 2019 to win everything.

2019 has major tournaments early in the year with two state championships in February.  In 2018 January and February were moving months.  For eight weeks I barely got in any practice.  The lack of training showed up with three consecutive second places.  Once I got back to practice things improved and I won the next three State Championships setting a record in one.  Then, I took a second place, at the Georgia Cup, competing against a younger crowd (thanks, Paul – he knows what I’m writing about).  Few more wins and a few more seconds, the younger guys still knocking me down after the Georgia Cup.

So, why would I have a goal to win everything?  It is because my data suggests that’s possible.

Here’s an explanation for 18-meters: In 2017 the top two places in my age group for the indoor Nationals finished with scores of 1155 and 1154.  Over the past eight weeks my lowest two scores totaled 1130 – not so good.  My highest two-day score is 1183 – a winning combination.  During this eight weeks cycle my average score for two-days is 1150, one point above the 2017 3rdplace finisher.  But, when I delete scores associated with a new release, new arrows, changes in stabilizers the average score is 1156. 1156 isn’t the best score; it is an average without variables that impact performance. It also places me one point up over the prior winning score.

You might think that 1150 is the likely finishing point puts me outside of a first place finish. You’d be correct.  The lowest two-day scores of 1130 knock me way down the line. That would place me in 9thplace.

Here’s the thing, a goal must be established.  The overall goal of winning it all is then broken down to achieve specifics in form, training cycles, and 30 arrow quantitative scores.  In each of those elements I am currently below my 2019 goal.  Now begins the cycle to work toward achieving each element of each goal.  When I do that, well I’ll win.

Done with 2018

The 2018 competitive season is over for archery. 2019 is just around the corner.

I didn’t get to compete as often or where I’d planned when I’d first laid out the 2018 season on paper.  But, I did achieve one major goal – I finally made it back home to Georgia.

2018 turned into a hodge-podge of events.  There were constant adjustments to practice and competition to meet the requirement of our relocation. I competed is all sorts of tournaments in age groups from the Senior (21-49), Master (50 – 59) and Master (60-69).  I ended up winning six, taking second five times, and got a third and forth place finish.  I set one state record and earned, for the first time, a bunch of USA Archery pins (I hadn’t done the USA Archery pin thing before 2018)

Those events were in  just about everything from 18-meter indoor, 50-meter outdoor, 3D and FITA Target. As entertaining 2018 was it was a bit chaotic trying to figure out how to prepare for the variety of events. Still, it turned out okay.

Oh,  I ran through three pair of running shoes in 2018.  These Newtons (in the photo below) are the last to go on December 28th. (I only did two races in 2018, both 5Ks.  I won one and got third in the other.)

So long old friends

Putting It On The Line

When I began this website it was a chronicle of what I’d go through when I began shooting a bow in November 2013.  I remember the date, November 1st, because my father died the same day. It was a bit if a surprise he died.  But, dad was 86 and he was no longer a young man.  Dad never did see me shoot a bow.

When I made the decision to take up archery and retire from a prior career it wasn’t one of those moments. You know, one of those: your father dies and you decide to make a life altering change.  Nope, I was ready to retire.

I could have continued in my profession.  I could still be working in the medical or legal fields.  But, I’d had enough and saved enough.  I was 57 years old.  I’d been working since I was 14, not including earning money cutting lawns around my neighborhood before I turned 14.

I started a real job using a child labor work permit at Memorial Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. I worked in the lab.  Memorial has since changed it name, but it will always be Memorial to me.  I essentially grew up at MMC.

I’d go to school, junior high school, now called middle school, go to whatever sport practice I had after school, my mom would pick me up and take me to work at Memorial.  Over time that part time job became a full time job.

The school, academic sports, and work routine stayed pretty constant until I finished high school. Then, in college the routine of work took priority over school since I needed the money to pay for school.  I dropped a lot of classes to accommodate work. Sport continued to be a major part of my life.

There was a brief time when it appeared I could have a job as a professional cyclist.  I was invited to Europe by a team in 1973 and offered a small salary and place to live.  I turned it down – a good choice in hindsight.  I turned it down because I feared the move would be too much.  Basically, I chickened out.   Eventually putting more focus into education and less on sport was a way to compensate for being to afraid to move to Europe at 18 years old.

Education became my competitive driver.  Each degree I completed meant it was a point to extend the education.  I thought I was done when I earned a doctorate.  That lasted six years then I went after a law degree. Law school fried my brain for a while.

Instead of seeking other degrees after the Juris Doctor, I enrolled in graduate programs and professional development courses.  Those where very satisfying.  Then, I felt I needed more and took a fellowship in sleep medicine.  After that point, I decided that each year I’d pick a new academic project to immerse myself for the next 12 months. In 2019 it will be Georgia History.

Throughout it all sport remained a passion. I raced bikes, ran races, and did duathlons and triathlons. Just competing wasn’t enough.  I went to Nationals in Cycling, Track and Field, and World Championships in cycling, duathlon and triathlon.  I did sports science research publishing papers based on that research.  But, I’d never hit the big time in sport as an athlete.  I was good, just never the best. Then, came archery.

Never would I have thought I’d be an archer.  I stumbled onto the sport by reading that archery and shooting are the two sports where someone over 50 can become an elite.  I am not an elite. But, I am trying to become one.

I figured I’d be near the top of the sport between 5 – 8 years.  I decided archery was an area where I could transfer talent to shorten the learning curve.  Sadly, this sport is so different from the others I’d done that I see very little advantage from decades of training and competition.

The website, Puttingitontheline.com, is where I keep my form of an archery training journal minus all the data. There is a lot of other stuff, not always here, from coaching to science that collectively amount to what has come to pass to reach this point in this archery adventure.

I have no idea what my father would have thought about all of this.  It’s more likely he’d have never read any of it. What does surprise me is that over 26,000 of you are now reading about this adventure every month and the number is climbing.  Perhaps, there is a pearl or two of archery wisdom you find every so often that helps you in some fashion.  I hope so.

Thank y’all for reading and landing this website in the top 1.6% of all active websites.

The Other Dog

River doing her thing

You know, if you’re a frequent reader here, that I have a Labrador retriever, River.  She’s with me a lot, most of the time actually.  But, you may not know we have a little buddy, Nixie.

Nixie returning on command. A rare skill among dachshunds.

Nixie is a wire-haired dachshund. She’s a bit to low to the ground and short legged to keep up with River and I when we run.  She never gets the stick that’s been tossed for River, but she never gives up trying. Nixie will even jump off docks to swim after sticks tossed for the big dog.

Checking to be certain River is following

In the evenings when we take a walk through the woods it is a highlight of the wiener dog’s day. She comes along and for a short while she’s a big dog.  Well, in her mind she’s always a big dog.

Christmas Morning Run

I try to run every morning. It is rare I miss it.  Christmas was no exception – I ran.

Running the backroads

We, Brenda and I, were in Tignall, Georgia for a Christmas celebration with Ray, my father-in-law and Wade, my brother-in-law. All the kids and grandkids where out to town either at Disney World or visiting in-laws in Pittsburgh. (Girls, should you read this and if given the option include Brenda and I next year in Pittsburgh. Just kidding – Disney World will be fine.)

Whether at home, on the road, in Pittsburgh or Orlando I’d run.  Many times I run and ride a bike.  And, if you’re a frequent reader and an archer – I do have a bow with me and Ray has a range here in Tignall.

Coaching tip – athletes run (even archers)

Running is the simplest way for me to exercise aside from stretching.  It is inexpensive, you can move along at your own pace, and running is fun.

This morning as the sun was rising I able to run near to and on the shore of Lake Strom Thurmond – Clark Hill for Georgians.  No cars, no dogs (other than River, my lab and constant running partner) and had a wonderful run.

End point of this Christmas morning run