Georgia State Indoor Championship

It started badly.  The first arrow – 7.

In all honestly, I can’t recall the last time I shot a seven.  That is, if I don’t think about last Sunday at the Georgia Southern University Sport Shooting Center. And there it was as big as life, arrow 1, end 1, points 7. (The next two arrows were fine)

Shooting one bad arrow doesn’t necessary mean you can’t manage a good finish in an archery tournament. Nope, now that I’ve written that sentence, no –if you shoot one bad arrow you’ll pretty much be done, at least against the boys I compete against.

If you shoot a bad shot, your only reprieve is hoping: 1) you don’t do it again, and 2) everyone else in our division returns the favor.  You really only have control over item number 1.

There are quite a few fellas here in Georgia I know will be stubborn with their points. We all get 600 point to start; it becomes a matter of how many you can keep.

Sure enough, neither did much to return my favor. On the line that morning there was one guy that I knew would be tough – Bob.

Sure enough, Bob was tough. He tried to help me a couple of times and we finished tied.  He beat me on the X count.  As we were turning our scores in he asked about the other shooters in our division. (Bob was looking at a Gold medal)

There was still a whole bunch more shooting before any victory could be claimed.  I answered Bob’s inquiry about the other archers, “There’s David from over in Atlanta,” I told him, “He could easily outscore us.”

I’ve been watching David at other tournament.  He’s hard to miss; he’s about six feet and seven inches tall.  The rumor is he was a competitive archer for 27 years, took a little time off, and started back training last year.  Or he was a competitive archer 27 years ago and has picked up the sport again.  Either way he can shoot a bow. Sure enough, he shot on the last line of the day and took the Gold.

I know David and Bob are great archers.  I’ve seen them shoot, looked at their past scores and realize that giving them any points isn’t smart.  Despite every other arrow I shot being either a nine or a ten, I ended up third.

Congratulations to David and Bob.

Getting Lost

This was a time-trial I had in the bag.  A time-trial on a bicycle is where each cyclist races individually against the clock over a set distance.  The distance for this race was 40 kilometers.

I’d started 3rdfrom the last, a good position.  Typically, cyclists are placed in the race line-up based on prior times. The faster cyclists start near the bottom of the order.

There was a light rain when the race started.  The rain increased and was coming down pretty good by the time I was off.  Many of the riders ahead of me were being cautious to protect against crashing on the wet roads.  Because I’d trained and raced often in rain I was more comfortable and it wasn’t long before I was passing other riders.

During a race on the roads there are often arrows spray painted on the pavement to alert riders that a turn is ahead.  This race was no different.

Continuing to work my way past the line of other cyclists that had started before me I’d spot one, overtake him, and move to the next.  Then, I ran out of other riders to catch.  It was, by now, pouring rain.

Approaching an intersection, which I felt was near the finish; I looked for the arrows on the pavement to know where to turn. The rain had either washed them away or they were covered by water.  I made the wrong turn.

I got lost for a while. I lost the race finishing so far behind that the officials were preparing to come search for me when I came to the finish line from the opposite direction.

At the IBO World Championship several years ago it poured rain.  Being in the first group out we had no idea that the tournament has been postponed until the storm passed. There was no horn that sounded. Apparently, the officials had forgotten our group was on the range.  We got turned around because the storm had blown away trail markers. You never want to find yourself walking out of the woods between a stake and a target.

I’ve been lost on training rides, runs, once in a race, and briefly during an archery tournament. Think it’s hard to get lost on a bicycle?  Go ride 100 miles and see how winding roads over unfamiliar ground seems then think again. Or do a 20 mile run in an unfamiliar city.  That can be especially nerve racking where English isn’t the local language.  Believe me, completing a 120 kilometer bicycle race in Italy and afterwards being unable to find the way to your hotel is extremely frustrating.  Heck, I had to ask for directions here in Georgia just a few weeks ago when a road construction site put me off my planned route.

Getting outside and doing things can sometimes present a directional challenge. You can find yourself having a little unplanned adventure.  But, in the end, you’ll probably find your way home.

Ageless Guidance for Athletes

Of all the athletics I’d done in my life, the training part has always been the hardest and the most fun. Training and practicing with a team was wonderful.  From high school football to cycling being part of a group was an experience that helped mold me.  Sharing the experience and the path teaches athletes selflessness.

Coaching tips shared a long time ago (1,2)

As life begins to creep in sport can become a more solitary activity.  There isn’t always time to meet the schedule mandated for team activities. Running, cycling, duathlon, triathlons and archery can all be practiced alone.

Training or practicing solo helps clear your mind.  There is a peacefulness that comes from training discipline that has been recognized for centuries. (1) As we improve in our chosen sport we seek a peacefulness that can assist our advancement and in cases of competition help find that zone which leads to our best efforts.

As an athlete you may learn that training is a time where you too reach a certain quiet or mental silence.  During those moments you’ll get a feel of what you want to carry into competition.

In competition there will be times when you’ll be the victor. Victory is not as important as the process or how you reveal yourself as a winner.  To win someone must lose.

The true winner is that champion who is able to remain humble.  Know that when you are a champion others will look toward you as an example.  It is nice to win, but winning isn’t as much the goal as the disciplined process that brings you to the podium.

As a champion, remember to care about those that finished out of the top place.  Your ambition isn’t to win out of selfishness, but to win because you followed a path that can be shared by others. (2)

Reference:

  • Hebrews 12:11
  • Philippians 2:3
  • (Yes, these references are correct, hence this post’s title)

Doubling Up On Coaches

You know when you’ve taken your skill as an athlete as far as you can alone.  You are probably self-coached, like most athletes.  The top pros in most sports have coaches even though they are at the highest levels.

Last year, I was entirely self-coached.  Prior to that I’d retained a level 4 USA coach for help.  In hindsight he wasn’t much help. Personally, I think coaching physically challenged him.  He wasn’t in good health and I think he’s expired.

When we moved to Georgia, there has been no coach until now.  Now, I have two coaches. One coach is for archery the other is a mental coach.

I’ve got this friend that won the Ironman World Championship a number of times without a coach.  I know another Ironman World Champion that relied heavily on coaches.  I don’t really know any World Champion archers on the same level.  I’ve met some fellows that have won archery World Championships and have trained with one.  But, the acquaintances are all superficial.  As such, I don’t know if they use coaches although I’ve heard one of them had his coach move in with his family early in his career.

In fact, I am a coach. There’s a wide gap between being the athlete and being the coach.  In my head I understand what to do to hit an X.  In coaching practice I can watch an archer for a few minutes and have an idea of how they’ll perform.  But, I can’t see me.

As a result, I’ve gotten pretty good with a bow.  Still, I think I can be better, hence doubling up on coaches.  I’ll give this a year and see how it goes.

Notes Mental On Peak Performance

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, “Confidence” is you number one mental factor needed for peak performance.(1)

Coaching Tips

Achieving a state where you feel the confidence takes some work.  You train and train.  When you train, build some matrix to monitor your progress.  Set a goal that relates to your matrix.  If you don’t monitor your work you can’t manage it.

Concentration is another important factor in archery performance.  Being able to stay on task is a must for accuracy.  If you’re at full draw and your mind drifts to the conversation behind you from the non-shooting line, well you’ll more likely put an arrow into the red than the yellow.

The mental factors that impact archery are more than confidence and concentration. Archers must have emotional control.  That nine you just shot can’t be the value that prevents the next arrow from landing in the ten ring.  If you’ve been having a tough time off the range in non-archery related matters, thoughts on those matters need to wait outside until you’ve finished shooting.

Throughout it all you need to remain positive.  You’re shooting reach your best, not someone else’s best.  Stay positive; find ways to delight in your experience and you’ll end up achieving your optimal scores.

Oh, and don’t worry about the score – the score will take care of itself.(2)

Reference:

1.)Kim HB, Kim SH, So WY: The relative importance of performance factors in Korean archery. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 May;29(5):1211-9

2.) Coach Bill Walsh, NFL Head Coach*

* I met Coach Walsh once. We were speaking in Chicago at the same hotel but to different audiences.  It was a totally unexpected meeting.  When we learned we’d both been invited to lecture we decided to exchange brief comments to each other about our talks.  His talk was essentially motivational mine was physiology.  Among the things I recall was the Coach’s interest in the physiology and how focused he was on learning what he could during my explanations.

Life, or a Service Disconnect Box, Gets in the Way

The morning practice went as planned.  Two hours on the range being coached for an hour of it.  Being coached is harder than regular practice.  As lunchtime approached it was time for a break.  My brain was full.

The plan was to get home, eat, wait for the HVAC guys to come and check my furnace.  Then practice again in the afternoon. Things had seemed off with our heating system and it needed to be checked. Things were off – in fact when I got home from practice there was no heat.

The HVAC repairman showed up right on schedule.  (Imagine that!)  He begins checking things in the attic. Rather than using a screwdriver or some other tool to initiate his deliberations he starts sniffing. Sniffing?  (Is his nose running?)

His nose knows.  He opened the service disconnect box to discover the thing has burnt slap up!  (Can’t say enough good about the smoke detectors in our house.)

Luckily, we didn’t catch fire here.  Even luckier, the electricians that cover our warranty were here within a few minutes after I called.  (Wouldn’t you be if you’d installed something is a house that caught fire.)

Repairs were made at no charge.  But, the afternoon practice when up in a blast of electrical components.

(When the electricians were leaving I showed one of them my target bow.  He didn’t have it in his hand 3 second before he rears back on the string and draws the bow.  Nope, no arrow.  Yep, I was yelling, “No, no, no..”  Thankfully, my alarm suggested caution and he eased back on the bow string.  This is the last time anyone touches my bow other than a bow tech)

Distractions

Two scores – vastly different.  Each practice was against a Vegas style 3-spot scoring the inner ten.  There was a drop of 4.12% between the scores. One day resulted in 42 tens, the next 21 tens.  That’s huge drop. What happened?

Day one the good day – zero distractions to take away from archery.  Day two – music, a timer, and a break to play with dogs.  Although, the dogs aren’t much of a distraction, they’re good dogs and mostly remain quiet during shooting. The music and the timer, well that’s another matter.

During USA Archery tournaments there is music and a timer.  Without a doubt both can be distractions.  A good song comes over the air and it floats through your head.  You glance at the timer to see you first two shots took longer than usual or less time than usual.  It distracts.

Coaching tip

“Practice the way you compete,” says my coach Big John Chandler.  Adhering to that policy during many practices there will be music playing and a timer ticking. Both of these elements of competition are distractions until you learn that they’re not.

We know that there will be a distraction or two during competition.  If you don’t “Practice the way you compete” little things like a timer and music may impact competitive performance.

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.