I hadn’t competed in the Georgia Games in decades. The last time I did it was in the sport of cycling. This time it was archery.
The Georgia Games archery was held at Quest Field in Kennesaw, Georgia. During the prior Georgia Games we lived in Kennesaw. We now live in Good Hope near Athens, Georgia. The drive from Good Hope to Kennesaw weighted on me. The past three trips to Kennesaw, an hour and 45 minutes, ended in a 4-hour return trip. Atlanta traffic sucks.
The Georgia Games was an International Round, meaning 30 arrows at 60 meters, 30 at 50 meters and 30 at 40 meters. Training I shot 1000s are arrows at each distance. Each week I’d do a test, shooting the distances as exactly as possible to what might be event conditions. Over weeks of training my test scores ranged from 775 to 846.
For statistical analysis I removed the 846 score and the average score for an International round is 783. Not top tier but understandable with less than a year under my belt with a recurve bow.
The day of the event I felt just fine during the warm up. I was surprised when we got to warm up at 60, 50 and 40 meters. Usually, it is just the longest distance. That was good since it allows an archer to verify sight marks for a new range. Throughout the warm up I never hit less than an 8.
Including that warm up we had two ends of 6 arrows at 60 meters for an official warm up. All twelve of those pre-score arrows landed in the yellow – either a nine or ten.
I wasn’t nervous, I felt good and for the first 30 arrows at 60 meters I shot the arrows everywhere on my target. There were no groups. The wind wasn’t an issue, the lighting excellent and nothing was amiss with my equipment. Still, I barely broke 200 finishing with a 207.
It seemed a good idea to pack up, go home, then sale all my archery equipment. I was losing badly. Heck, on fellow I was shooting against shot one of his arrows into the wrong target and he was beating me. (That happens and isn’t rare – it costs 10 points for that bit of excitement. Archers shooting the wrong target have beaten me in the past.)
I didn’t quit. I thought about what someone like Tiger Woods might do in this situation. I thought about his last Master’s win and something Jack Nicholas once said, “ I know I’m going to mess up, I won’t be perfect, nobody is – it is how you recover from your mistakes that matters.”
When I practice I do make mistakes. Admittedly, I’ve never shot 30 arrows at 60 meters and shot as low as 207. As far as mistakes go this was full of whoopers.
Three of the athletes shooting in my division are well known to me. Anyone of them can be the winner on any day. The other archers ahead of me I didn’t know. I stood behind one for a bit and watched him pull away from everyone at 60 meters. It seemed he’d likely be the winner. This event was rolling up to a great big bust. The most logical thing to do was head home and out of the Atlanta traffic before the afternoon traffic become it’s own nightmare.
But, I thought about Tiger Woods and Jack Nicholas and stayed. The worse case is it would be good practice. To win, being at the rock bottom, I’d need to shot some really decent scores for the final 60 arrows at 50 and 40 meters.
As we changed from 60 meters to 50 meters I went through my shot process and tried to review the poor shots at 60 meters. What was I doing wrong. A number of things stood out: dropping my bow arm during my follow through, my grip had felt off and my back tension didn’t feel right – but why?
At 50 meters I don’t use a sighting scope between shots to view my arrows. Lately, I rarely use it at 60 meters during practice. At 60 meters when a shot feels off I check the arrow placement down range. Typically, I find a shooting grove and stay in it. On the day of the tournament I was checking ever shot.
The problem checking is that with multiple archers shooting the same target it is hard to spot your arrows especially if more than one of you shooting that target has the same color nocks. I was spending too long trying to find my arrows and losing the feel for the shot. Plus, I was sharing a spotting scope.
I don’t mind sharing a spotting scope. Sharing a spotting scope helps keep the archers’ box clean. But this particular scope wasn’t as ergonomic as mine. It was off. Each glance into that scope meant leaning up and over to look down whereas mine has an eyepiece which rotates so that you simply tilt forward a little to see the target. With every shot I was returning to a slightly different position for the subsequent shot.
At fifty meters I skipped the using the spotting scope. At that point I’d determined it was doing more harm than good. I think that if you use a spotting scope you should use it on every shot so it becomes part of your process. However, when the use of the spotting scopes gets your shot process timing off maybe you should trust your training and forget the scope. This is especially true if the scope you’re using isn’t yours and the use of it throws your timing off.
Fifty meters was a new game. Then, forty meters was a slam-dunk. For sixty meters, I’d scored an all time low. At fifty and forty, while I didn’t achieve a personal best I came close. Not only had I dug myself out of a hole I ended up pulling into first place besting the 2019 winning score by 44 points.
Those 44 points isn’t what was turned in to the judges. One of our scorekeepers received a call as he was scoring that amounted to an emergency. The scores were quickly tallied and handed to the judges. I didn’t double check, my concern related to the emergency over riding any score.
At home I double checked my scorecard and discovered my total was off by 9 points. My official score, the one turned in, was 9 points lower than my actual score. Even with that my score was 38 points below my average for an International Round and 101 points below my personal best.
Honestly, I do not know what happened at 60 meters. Skipping one-day post-Georgia Games for recovery I started practice warming up a 40 meters. Everything seemed fine. I shot 60 arrows at 40 meters and averaged 9.5 points per arrows. Then, I moved back to 60 meters. There it wasn’t fine. For whatever reason my average per arrow score at 60 meters has dropped 0.6 points. I used my scope to view arrow placement and I was still off.
Must figure this out before the USA Outdoor Nationals in a few weeks.