“I want to be an Olympian.”
“I want to go to the Paralympics.”
“My daughter could be a World Champion.”
What exactly does it take to compete at the top levels of a sport? In many sports, it’s about speed, strength and agility. But in archery, the ultimate sport of precision, it might take just three things: work ethic, true passion for the sport, and the ability to quiet the mind.
“Work ethic” means different things to different people, but when it comes to top-performing competitive archery stars, it’s about finding the winning balance between quality and quantity. While many top archers are known for their impressive daily arrow counts (think 300 or more arrows per day for some of the world’s best recurve shooters), the sport’s champions make each of those arrows count, and carve out time for other important activities, like visualization, cardio, strength training and equipment tuning.
It’s especially true in archery that “perfect practice makes perfect.” Just being able to release hundreds of arrows isn’t enough to win – and in fact, shooting for practice numbers, without regard to technique, could actually cause an archer to form bad habits. Thoughtful practice during which the archer concentrates on each arrow is far more likely to result in success.
Passion for the sport – such an important quality in competitive archers – can’t be taught or coached into an athlete. Regardless of how much potential a coach or parent sees in an archer, if they don’t truly love the sport of archery, they’ll eventually struggle to compete at a high level.
For an archer to get to the level of a compound world title or an Olympic team placement, they’ll shoot tens of thousands of arrows per year – maybe more – often alone in a field, or in front of their target, rehearsing the perfect shot over and over again. They’ll struggle in competition, shed tears of frustration and joy, and hopefully, eventually triumph – but only because they had a true love for archery and a willingness to shoot arrows even when they felt a little lazy – because they had the drive to win.
I once heard a coach talking about an athlete who was competing at a very high level – a World Championship team member, Olympic hopeful and international medalist in archery. The coach said the archer was successful because she could “quiet her mind” and focus on what she needed to do.
The ability to “quiet the mind” is the same thing as getting in and out of the zone; it’s the mental strength to shut out distractions and have a laser focus on the task at hand until it’s finished, and not allow the mind to wander. If you’re an archer, how many times have you known you had something to work on – perhaps your release, for example – and then become distracted because you realized something was “off” about your bow hand, your grip or your stance? In the end, the archer who can quiet their mind is able to focus on what must be fixed, and focus only on that one thing until it’s a good habit. And that same archer can shut out distractions – wind, rain, heat, and other competitors, for example – when the competitive pressure is high.
All of these qualities are critical to competitive success, and all of them are interconnected. With work ethic must come the passion for the sport required to put in the arrows and hours needed to succeed. And the archer who has a quiet mind will be able to get the most out of every arrow they shoot, fueled by the love of shooting a bow and arrow, and the desire to win.
Have you ever wanted to actually feel like you’re a part of the Olympic moment? Walking alongside the athletes and experience the Games from their perspective? Well, here is a small glimpse into what that is like. Social media platforms of the 2016 Rio Olympics are, more than ever before, trying to capture every moment to share with you what the Olympics are like. Here are five things you might not see through Snapchat or an Instagram filter.
Medals, are of course, a big reason as to why we all watch the Olympics. We want to see our favorites do well, or our home town heroes perform at their best. When they do, we see all the excitement on TV. However, there’s even more to the fun when you earn a medal for your country. Your medal is added to the total count and everyone could not be happier. The athlete, or team, will then go through many various interviews on multiple different outlets; which can also be very draining on the athlete’s mental state for the day. Athletes can get asked multiple times throughout the course of the games if they have medaled and when that answer is yes, usually everyone near them is ecstatic and wants to celebrate with you. Thus, you have quite a few parties to go to later.
As an athlete, you will fly into the host country with your sport’s team; archery, badminton, rugby, etc. You will then be directed towards where you will be living inside the Athlete’s village. From the view we have received of the village in Rio, athletes seem to be dispersed all over the towers. So nothing like, “USA is in building number 12”. Having that in mind, mingling between other athletes and sports is quite a unique and wonderful experience for any Olympian at the Games. Mingling with other Olympians and cheering for your team in the common rooms is an amazing time in itself and cherished for years after.
That’s right. Athlete processing. Just to name a few items, athletes receive uniforms for almost any occasion they might be met with. Media clothing, competition clothing, podium clothing, lounging clothing. You name it, they have it. Most athletes who attend for their first time are told to bring only your essentials like toiletries and underwear… because they get a whole suitcase devoted to a month’s worth of wear for the Games anyway. Pretty sweet, eh? On top of this they get shoes for all occasions, a personalized Olympic Watch, sized for their Olympic Ring, and tables upon tables of signing their name on posters, and other memorabilia for USOC designated items.
Any Olympian who wins a medal, of any color, has a ceremony to award the coach they select for the one that has helped them along their journey the most, basically. It is to recognize not only the athlete’s journey but the person who also dedicated the time to help another person selflessly in their pursuit for an Olympic dream. Very emotional and very cool to experience. Hands down.
Probably saving the best for last. You know those swimming tickets you just couldn’t get your hands on? Or maybe women’s beach volleyball which is known to always be sold out. Well, don’t be too sad but any athlete who wants to see an event…gets to see an event. There is always a section for athletes from other sports to come and spectate any other sport. Why? Well wouldn’t you want to cheer on your teammates as they went for the gold? It shouldn’t come as a surprise that all athletes are always in support of other athletes and their dreams. This is a great way for them to show their patriotism and root for their fellow athletes without being burdened to go buy the tickets themselves. Awesome!
So which one are you jealous of? Wish you could be a part of the action? We are pretty sure everyone does at this point. Rio does hold some hope for showing us common folk what it’s like to be at the Games through any form of social media. News stories and personal videos get blogged about every day, every minute, and every second of the games whether it’s from athletes or other spectators. So don’t fret! Sneaking a peak at your phone at work every now and then couldn’t hurt. ;)
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