The Mental Game in Archery

Don’t look to me for answers. Still, I am offering what I’m going through.

All my life I have been an endurance athlete. Without doubt it was my mental toughness that got me through runs and triathlons. During every run and every triathlon I hurt. My legs hurt, my arms hurt, it hurt to breathe, and my heart was pounding. I never quit a race I’d started. Once, I didn’t show up for a race that I felt prepared for because I was sick. But, I never quit.

During any race when I really started to hurt I go through phases of anger and frustration. There was never doubt. I’d trained and I trusted my training. I could turn anger and frustration into the generation of effort. That led to calm energy and forward momentum.

Archery simply does not work that way. Scoring nines when I’m aiming for tens is amazingly frustrating. Hitting an eight makes me down right angry. I cannot channel those emotions into a calmness needed to shoot well. There’s no conduit to pound it out. The best I’ve come up with is blowing it off and restarting everything anew on the next shot.

For example, say I hit a nine a bit above the ten. Before the next arrow I pause and think about what I did that caused me to land in the nine-ring (aside from the ten ring being the size of a penny). I don’t think, “Don’t do that again.” What I think is, “Okay, your follow though was off, now follow though on this next shot.” Many times, that next shot remains a nine.  Often in the exact same hole was the prior arrow.  Sometimes, the next shot is a ten.

Let’s say, I know from a miss that I screwed up the follow though on a  shot. I know I need to remain calm and have a good follow though on the next shot. On the subsequent arrow, I slow down, and go though each of my shooting steps in my head, then I repeat them as I perform them. Sometimes it works.

It does not work 100% of the time. That well thought out next shot might be another missed ten. If so, I repeat the mental exercise and shoot the next arrow.

If I hit too many nines or an eight frustration becomes anger. Unlike a triathlon where I could channel anger into power I can’t exactly grab my bow harder, squeeze the grip tighter, and draw an arrow more viciously. What works for me is a quiet, under my breath bit of profanity. Then, I blow off the shot (after I figure out what I did wrong.).

During either the frustration or the anger moments I work to not let those emotions turn negative. I also don’t deny the emotional impulse. I feel it, experience it, and let it pass in seconds. That ability comes from shooting a lot.(I am still learning.)

If you shoot a lot you will have the opportunity to miss a lot. You’ll experience the good and bad shots and learn how to best deal with them in your own manner.

With every shot, I go through a process of setting my body to shoot.  Once, I’ve got the dot in the center, I try to go blank (hoping for brain ‘alpha wave’ clarity) and let the shot happen. Thus far, I’ll say my brain gives out before my arms and back during practice.

Certainly, a year from now I could have a different point of view. For the moment, this is pretty much how I try to keep a mental focus on the next shot.

It’s cold and raining – happens every year

Training in the cold and rain is not on the top of my list for enjoyment. I can take the cold or I can take the rain, but cold and rain sucks. Despite the less than wonderful training conditions most of the time I will train though it. Sure, if the weather is seriously bad I stay inside, but unless it’s truly awful I work to get outdoors.

Today the temperature was 49°F while I was running. Not at all bad for running. By the time I was shooting it was still 49°F and was beginning to drizzle. Since I was standing in a shed and shooting out toward the target the rain wasn’t a real burden. The wind, however, was a real hassle. Not so much the wind pushing me, but it was strong enough to impact arrows even at 18-meters. Such is training in the fall here on the coast of North Carolina. We are going to get wind, rain, and cold.

I have to admit, I am glad to have this shed where I can stand. Without it, I’d be driving into Elizabeth City to shoot indoors and get totally out of the weather. The rain has gotten worse, so this afternoon I may need to take a pass on archery.  But, I can hop on a bike and ride the CompuTrainer.

PS.: The rain actually lightened up a bit for the afternoon shooting.

Buttermilk Creek Archery, Burlington, NC

I travel a lot to attend archery tournaments. During those travels it is often necessary to stop at a local archery shop. You can image, not all archery shop’s staffs are created equally.

Certainly, any archery shop where you might stop will be happy to sale you something. There are times, however, when it is just fun to go in and look around. Who knows, you might even find something that you can’t live without.

A couple of months ago I was on the road preparing for a competition. Loading up my gear in the dark I made a mistake and left my quiver, loaded with arrows, leaning against the side of my truck when I backed it away. I heard a crunch. I needed more arrows in a hurry.

The closest archery supply shop had arrows. I bought them. The person I bought them from was so full of himself that I had to bite my tongue, get the arrows and get out before I said anything that might lead to problems.

Other times the experience of a new archery shop and it’s employees or owners is fun. That was my experience in Burlington, North Carolina at Buttermilk Creek Archery.

I was there for the NC State 50-Meter State Championship. Buttermilk Creek has an outdoor range and was hosting the event.

One of the first impressions I had was ‘this place is big.’ It was also cool, I mean it was hot outside and they had great air conditioning. I wasn’t there for the AC. In fact, I was there the day before the tournament. I wanted to be certain I could find then range before I needed to be there.

The shop was a shooter’s paradise. Their products were well displayed so that you didn’t need to rummage about to find things. They are a complete outfitters store.

I was also impressed with the bows on display. Not just compound bows, but also they had a large display of recurve bows. If the bow shop where I bought my first bow, a compound, had had recurves, I’d be shooting a recurve today.

Buttermilk Creek had recurves. There were several clearly not new recurves hanging on a wall next to their indoor range. On the second day of the tournament I asked if those bows were for sale, they weren’t. The bows all had owners. Still I wanted to try out a recurve. All I had to do was ask.

CJ

CJ, one of the store’s staff, had one of the bows hanging on the wall in my hand before I knew it. He might have been trying to sale me a bow. It seemed more like he was happy to let me shoot. Before long CJ was shooting as well. Nathan, another shop employee was providing instruction and I was enjoying the shooting. Remember, I’m there for a tournament, I’ve got more shooting planned and not with a recurve. It did not matter, it was too much fun.

Nathan

Finally, I put down the recurve. Shooting is still shooting and well shooting so I figured I might need to stay focused. In the long run it didn’t matter. In the short run I nearly left with a recurve in my hand. It was seriously tempting to buy one. In fact, I’ll probably buy one soon. When I do, I’ll likely call Buttermilk Creek and order one from them.

I left Buttermilk Creek wishing I could have stayed longer. I made one purchase, Viper arrow lubricant. Thus far, of the dozens of archery shops I’ve visited they are one of the friendliest in addition to having a nice range of equipment and supplies.

Cutting it Short

Work wears you down. It wears me down, maybe not you. But, I know when to take a break. This morning it was time to give it a rest.

I wasn’t shooting poorly, I was shooting tired. The fatigue and tiredness were not solely from shooting. It was a combination of shooting four -five hours per day, running and cycling every day, and in between doing a massive amount of lawn work.

Lawn work includes about 7 miles of mowing. Yes, I measured it with a GPS, it is 7-miles. Those miles are just the ones covered on a John Deere LA 105. It does not include the miles of weed whacking, handling a push mower to get the areas where the tractor doesn’t reach and going over it all with a backpack leaf blower. See the lawn includes my 3D range, so it is a lot of work. Today, it caught up with me.

The morning archery practice started after skipping a run. It went okay, not great. Using a 5-spot, hoping a change in targets would be refreshing; I ended up 300 and 50X. Not getting 60X on a 5-spot was a warning.

It was time to take a break. I might skip practice this afternoon.

Wind, Wind and More Wind

Wind chopping up the river

It has been windy the past couple of days. The wind is not a friend to cyclists or archers. Practicing 18-meters outdoors is tough when it blowing. At least on a bike there is usually a tailwind.

Today, not only was it windy, again, but cool. While out for a morning run, I wore a sweatshirt during the 60°F workout. The temperature felt really nice for the archery practice, but man the wind was a hassle.

These numbers could be better

Hopefully, I can blame the low X count on the wind. Well, I can place blame there whether or not is was the offense to shooting.

Bottoming Out

Ever leave your best shots on the practice range?

Seemed like s start for a good day of shooting.

This past weekend was likely the final 3D tournament for me for 2017. The IBO World Championship remains a possibility however low. It’s not that I can’t go, it’s that the expense might truly not be worth it. I’d have to really be on the mark to place in the top 5 and shoot better than I’ve done all year to be in the top 3. Still, it is a possibility.

From last week: That’s a skunk at about 28 yards. I thought I’d hit the 10 ring. Wrong, it was a 5. Seriously, felt good for a few minutes. And so went the day

I’d go if my practice average hits and remains about 10.4 points per target. The guys that have been winning the IBO World’s I’d shoot against have been winning in the small class for a few years. At this point, they’d beat me – statistically speaking.

My friend, Mike, max’ing out on real estate.

On the other hand, there’s the North Carolina Outdoor State Championship in a few weeks. To win that, I need to focus on 50-meters.

After the 3D tournament, I shot for awhile at 50-meters. Needs more practice.

Plus, despite an important 3D win two weeks ago, I shot my lowest 3D score of the year this past weekend. The results haven’t been posted so I don’t know how I ended up. In any case, regardless of how tough a shoot might have been, I know when I am not shooting in tournaments as well as during practice.

River offering encouragement or using dog telepathy to get a cookie.

Maybe a nice break shooting 50-meters exclusively will liberate my 3D shooting.

Going Long

Of course, the day started by running with River. We’ve been disappointed for the past few days since Coco has not joined us. Coco has an injured leg and been absent during her infirmary.

River and Coco checking things out on a trail. River has missed her friend over the past few days.

And certainly, next on the list was a bike ride. Riding a bicycle remains one of my favorite activities.  Cycling is as close to flying as we humans can do under our own power.  Yes, I know there are one or two experimental human powered flying machines, but you and I aren’t going to be climbing into one of those things. We can get on a bicycle and ride.

People pay to take tours to view scenery like this. I see this everyday.
More of the swampy areas I passed on my ride

Then, it was down to business – archery. Yesterday’s practice informed me of where I need to train. Long shots. To be specific, long 3D shots. Knowing a big blue, red and yellow ringed level target is 50-meters and hitting yellow is easy. Not know the distance, having all the targets a different color and size, then wedging them among trees over uneven terrain is more difficult. So, today, I didn’t shoot any foam target under 35 yards.

45-yards seemed long enough on this coyote. I don’t care who you are – this is a long shot at a small target using fixed pins. And it feels real satisfying to hit 10 or better.

I shot 10 arrows, two sets of five, at 35, 40, and 45 yards at a lot of fake animals. I didn’t make it to all my targets. I’ll finish them tomorrow and will skip the bobcat and rabbit. Not that I wouldn’t like to try them at long distances, their not positioned to be shot longer than 35 yards.

There’s not enough cleared woods to back off from this target more than 35 yards. I doubt I’d ever see it at that distance. I doubt I ever see it in a tournament. But, I will see a gator and that target’s center ring is lower than this bobcat’s.

It was tempting to shoot from fifty yards. But, I’m not real sure about my 50-yard pin. If my foam animals were larger I’d have tested that bottom pin. It seemed wiser to examine the fifty-yard pin later against something larger than a cinnamon bear. Of course, where the ten ring is on the cinnamon bear there’s a leg below it. If I’d shot low the arrow would probably have ended up in the leg. A high shot and goodbye arrow. I wasn’t up to shooting $18.00 into the woods.

Fifty yards was tempting. I stopped here at 45

What I can say is that after an hour or so, 35 yards seemed close.

Met up with this critter on the run home this morning. The wildlife I see every day here in rural North Carolina is amazing.

Another Wet, Cold, and Windy Day in June

Coco coming to say hello to River and I while running

Before I went out to run and ride my bike I put on warm-up clothes for running and a jacket and leg warmers to ride. It was cold and raining. This is some very unusual weather we’ve been experiencing here on the coast of North Carolina. The rain is not uncommon, the temperature is low for this time of the year.

End of this road while cycling

I spent a few hours out on the 3D range in long pants, two shirts and a sweater. Things weren’t so bad once I was out of the wind. But, it was raining a little and still cold.

The rain eased off a bit during 3D practice

What remains incredible to me, it is June, near the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and the low temperature has been in the low 50’s with a high in the upper 60’s.

Walking past my 50-meter target, sure it is impossible to pass without shooting it

By tomorrow it will be back into the upper 80’s and we’re expecting low 90’s this weekend. That will be more like it.

Unusually Cold Here On the Coast of NC

I’d ride this on my mountain bike, today I was on my road bike

The past couple of days have been intense 3D practice. Tuesday was repeat shots, 25 at each distance, from 20 to 40 with 5-yard increments. For that exercise I used: two bear, a badger, a turkey, two deer, a mountain lion, coyote, and a javelina. Today, so far (the weather has chased me indoors) was a mock tournament. Before shooting I had a nice, cool, damp, run and bike ride.

These boards were slick – you don’t want to slip off the edge here.
It’s pretty cool looking at the end of this pier

For the mock tournament I shot 20 targets from about 18 yards (a mosquito) to 35 yards. I was hoping to break even maybe even shoot a little up. I ended up 15 down.

I hoped this would be the start of a run of 11’s. It wasn’t

Sure, the weather was nasty. It is 63°F, windy and there’s a misty rain falling. Yep, that’s right, 63°F on the coast of North Carolina in June. It was ‘colder’ this morning when I went for a run and bike ride. It was also breezier when I was on the bike. To ride I had to put on cycling tights and a jacket. We missed setting a new low temperature last night, when it dropped to 55°F, by 2 degrees.

This Eastern-Eyed Click Beetle – (Alaus oculatus) – didn’t seem to be enjoying the weather. I did get him to click and hop for me.

This type of weather for June was typical when we lived in Pittsburgh. Here the average is 76°F. Still, the conditions didn’t warrant shooting indoors, not even with a light rain that was not constant. The rain did pick up just as I shot target 20 of my mock tournament.

The rain has eased off (again), so I’ll head out and shoot some more – maybe things will improve.

A Good Guy

One measure of a man’s character, is how he regards his family, and my friend, Guy, held his family in the utmost regard.

Early Army photo of CWO3 Guy Giella

A small conversation about meatloaf is a good example of his affection.   During our last visit, a couple of months ago in Georgia, I told Guy that I make the best meatloaf. He debated my claim saying, “No, Shirley (his wife) makes the world’s best meatloaf.” I told him, “We’ll see.”

Brenda, my wife, prepared the meatloaf. Then, I cooked it over several hours in a smoker. It is my opinion, that is the best way to cook meatloaf.

Shirley, I have no doubt, makes a delicious Southern style meatloaf in the same manner as did my Grandmothers, my mother, and my wife – before I started smoking them. That is, baked in the oven with a ketchup glazed across the top surface of the meat. It’s good.  However, a smoked meatloaf is, in my liberated Southern cuisine, amazing.

Hours after the challenge, of whose meatloaf is the best, mine or Shirley’s, we sat down to eat dinner. The main course smoked, glaze-free, meatloaf.

To get a fair measure for objective analysis Guy ate half the meatloaf. After the meal I asked, “So, Guy, which meatloaf is better?”

He responsed, “Well, your’s is different, but Shirley’s wins; her’s is the best.”

Shirley and Guy

There was no way, whether he believed it or not, would Guy have ever admitted any meatloaf might exceed the treat of his wife’s. He was just that kind character.

Guy passed away unexpectedly May 30th.

I’ve known Guy for 37 years, there was simply no condition where his family wasn’t number one. Whether it be meatloaf or something more relevant. This applies to wife and children.

I have always stated, you can gauge how good a job parents do easily, just take a look at the children. Guy and Shirley’s two boys are among the finest men I have ever known. Those men, Steve and Chris, have families of their own, and their children are the type people that anyone would enjoy meeting.

Chris Giella, Guy, and Steve Giella

After spending any time with Guy’s sons or grand children, you leave feeling good. All of them have a knack for making others feel good about themselves. That is a gift. A gift taught by parents, beginning with Guy and Shirley.

Shirley, Guy, Steve and the tall fella in the background Guy’s grandson and Clemson Tiger lineman, Zack Giella

I met Guy through my father-in-law, Ray. He and Guy, both retired Army, had been friends 50 years. Their camaraderie is impossible to capture in the space and time allotted.  Let’s just say, it was boundless, fraught with bickering, but connected by mutual respect and love.

This isn’t the first time Guy has been mentioned on this site. There’s are article about “Old Lions” that highlights a little about Guy and Ray. Some readers will know Guy personally, some of you don’t. But, what all should know is that Guy Giella was a real bona fide American Hero. You never know it by talkling to him.

Ray and Guy

So, here is a little I’d like to share in memory of one of those true Americans. Read this and you’ll agree that in his case the term Hero is not an over statement:

Guy was born October 6, 1939, in Mount Vernon, New York, and retired from the Army in Savannah, Georgia, in 1976 after 20 years of active service which included tours overseas in Germany, Korea and two tours in Vietnam. His duties included paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne, drill sergeant and he attended flight school in Fort Rucker, Alabama, to become a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

He then went on to become a Rotary Wing Examiner and Supply Officer, with the 120th Aviation Company, 222nd Aviation Battalion, Fort Richardson, Alaska. His comprehensive knowledge of Army Aviation instruments and flying procedures contributed immeasurably to the operation efficiency and combat readiness of the U.S. Army. In addition, he was instrumental in developing and teaching flight techniques and doctrine for helicopter operations in an Artic environment. His outstanding performance resulted in him receiving the Meritorious Service Medal. During his career, he received these other following citations: the Bronze Star Medal, Army Commendation Medal,  Air Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Army Aviator Badge, Republic of Vietnam Service Medal, Republic of Vietnam Campaign Ribbon, Republic of Vietnam Cross of Gallantry w/ Palm. From 1983 to 2003, he was in the civil service as a helicopter flight instructor at Hunter Army Airfield.

Guy was an avid hunter and bass fisherman and passed on his love for the outdoors to his sons and grandchildren.

Guy’s affection extended to Brenda and myself, and I’m going to miss coming back to the “Lake House” in Georgia and sharing some aspect of archery, hunting or fishing with him. But his love for his children, my father-in-law, and Shirley exceeded all others.