“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.
Archery is so much more than bows and arrows. It is what helps us get through our day. From being able to accomplish a goal, strive for that perfect group, or finally getting that prized trophy you’ve been looking forward to all season. Life teaches us quite a lot, but it is archery that helps give direction in our lives. Here are five life skills that you may, or may not, have realized your favorite sport gives you to succeed in life.
It might sound cheesy but it’s true. Many archers find themselves striving for that one last shot at perfection before going home each day. We develop this passion over time for the sport and it becomes so ingrained that it spills into other areas of our lives; in school, finding a job, proposing a plan, coaching a team, and so on. As it is with archery, you want to strive for excellence in all that you do. Applying that determination to multiple aspects of one’s life can greatly increase the chance for success.
Simple, yet very necessary for today’s fast paced world. As with a lot of sports, you understand that your practice time is precious. You want to spend it wisely and have enough time for it. So what does that lead to? Making sure everything else in your life is, to a degree, planned out. You can only get better at archery through practice, but this is also true for other things in life. Like planning a speech for a class, or getting a presentation ready for work. All having to deal with time management. Who knew archery could be so helpful, right?
Remember that time when you had to spend a few hours re-tuning your bow? Or maybe even figuring out how to get your bow working after travelling to a tournament and TSA seemed to break an important piece of your equipment? You had to think your way around the problem. Tinkering, if you will, with the possibilities of what could work or not work. The same is applied to other areas in life. Since archery has very specific problems that are associated with it, one can make even the most difficult of problems become easier with “out of the box” thinking from having to deal with archery problems.
Some of you might be thinking, “well I certainly am not as patient with shooting a bow as some people.” And I will agree with you. It’s ok to not have the greatest patience in the world. No one is perfect. But that is exactly what is happening when you practice archery. Everyone learns that they are not perfect. Some might take a little longer than others to figure out this revelation, but nevertheless it happens. After which, a new change starts to emerge. Patience brings about the willingness to improve, ask questions, trust, and wanting to help others succeed too. As much as people would not like to admit it, this is the key to help others become aware of… others. To help think about, and care, what others are doing in life. To live is to share in the struggles and triumphs with one another. One of the biggest attributes to being a part of this world. That’s right, we got pretty deep there. But it’s true.
Lastly, archery brings us the ability to look at the details. Since there are so many thoughts going on in our minds at the peak of the shot process, this is something that can’t be overlooked. Not many sports or activities can provide the same amount of information flow and detail orientation that archery can. You can have 10 things going on at once inside your head and they all have to do with the one action that you are about to take. Shooting an arrow. This can lead to us being able to multitask in several different environments. Some people have to make a checklist for the day’s duties. However, sometimes your archery brain can take over and give you a sense of direction for the day without having the need to write it down. It’s like having a brand new super power!
So whichever your case may be, let it be known that archery can have a seriously helpful influence in your average day to day activities. Strive for perfection, but also know that archery is fun too. So no matter what bow you are shooting, remember that you are ingraining new skills for all parts of life.
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