“Eighty percent of success is just showing up.” -Woody Allen
First arrow: Miss. Or as they drew on my scorecard, a sad face
I did not even get the arrow back through the clicker and it felt almost like a strange spasm in my hand, my arrow was not even close to the paper, but luckily still on the target butt. My nervousness was caused by energy leeches who I suspect purposely brought up the one subject that would be sure to accelerate my heart rate within the last minute before the tournament was to begin. Otherwise I would have been just calm and excited enough to shoot my best. My coach had warned me beforehand that women were the worst at this head game. And upon hearing my tale, he believes that it was no coincidence. So beware energy leeches. Walk away. Put your fingers in your ears if you must but don’t let them get in your head.
Well, the miss was a blessing in disguise, I was now free to not try but simply focus on technique. I could hear Don’s voice in my head, when I asked him what my goals should be. “You only have technique goals. Once you achieve those, then you can have scoring goals, even though you’re already scoring.”
Also, I find that sometimes anger gives me just the right amount of energy needed to enhance my focus. The very next shot was an X, although they don’t count X’s in this tournament so just a 10, and then a 9. I managed to shoot a 248, I had 8-10’s and 4-9’s. The second round I shot 249 with only 2-10’s but upped my 9 count to 12, for a total of 497, which Janet Dykman, three time Olympian, kept told me was really good. She was shooting on the same line as me on the next target and after that first end she told me to just let go of the miss, it happens. Phil, Janet’s students, who was sharing the line and the target with me, told me the most important thing, to just have fun.
My beautiful bow and I
As the tournament progressed I realized that there was a certain tacit etiquette to shooting and I was lucky to be taught simply by the actions of Phil and Janet. If I was at full draw and either one had finished shooting their arrows, they would wait for me to shoot before stepping off the line. I also learned not to raise my bow when either was at full draw. I was very fortunate indeed to be shooting between these two women because they were also very positive, uplifting and fun. At one point they included me in passing the gold coin to wear on our quivers for whenever someone shot a spider. I only had it for two ends before Janet shot another spider. Phil joked that Janet had a habit of only letting others hold the coin for about two ends.
Phil was indispensable for my having a smooth first tournament experience. She suggested that I should only keep 3 arrows in my quiver and to keep one upside in my quiver in case I needed an extra right away in case I accidentally dropped an arrow too far over the line or blew out a nock, which I did at one point. She also taught me that you must have all the same color nocks once she noticed that I had two different colors on my arrows but luckily I had been shooting the tournament with just one. She also gave me crap for marking all the arrows toward the center, a trick taught to me by someone who I should have known was doing something that would possibly get me scolded by the judges. I also learned the hard way to have your initials on your arrows during equipment check, but luckily they let me come back to the front of the line once I had marked my arrows. I prepared the best I could but there is no substitution for experience.
Everyone had warned me how cold it would be and even upon the first moment I said hello to Phil, she handed me some hand warmers and said it’s cold in there. Actually I was quite comfortable. Also, many people warned me about how horrible Tulare smells. I didn’t notice at all because I grew up in the cow town of Manteca, which also had chicken coops and a sugar beet factory and was nicknamed, Manstinka. It simply reminded me of home.
The evening of the first night Jill, Douglas, Karen, Phil, Malcolm, Rose and Kirk, my parents and myself went out to La Piazza. It was a lovely dinner, talking archery and enjoying new found friends. My mom commented on how it felt like when I was in high school and she would attend my track meets. Ha! I never thought at 35 I would have my parents coming out again to watch me compete in sports.
That night I spent some quality time with the television in the hotel room (I don’t own a tv and don’t have internet capable of streaming TV online, so it was a luxurious indulgence), watching episodes of 30 Rock, which had a mention of The Second City, where Tina Fey studied and where I am currently a member of their conservatory program. Improv has taught me a lot that I have taken into the mental game of archery: Commit to what you’re doing. Get inside your body and out of your head. Trust yourself. Warm up. Be present. There are no mistakes. More action, less thinking.
I had met Mel Leach and she asked me how I got into archery and I told her it was because of acting and the book “Zen in the Art of Archery” and how archery seemed like a very fun way to learn how to meditate. She rewarded me with an anecdote about how once while shooting she noticed a very tall woman dressed all in while who captivated her attention because of her utter focus and concentration, nothing would have disturbed this woman who turned out to be Gina Davis. She figured that the acting aspect gives one a mental focus advantage in archery. In my experience the two activities go hand in hand.
Early in the morning of the second day I spent it preparing mentally. I looked at Jenny Nichols’ scores from last year and I saw that her scores improved 20 points on the second day and I had that number in my mind as to how many points I would like to increase my scores by. To my delight I increased my scores for the second day by exactly 20 points.
Here’s a mental game tip: never watch anyone else shoot. Ever. It’s a skill in itself but unless you’re watching someone with impeccable form, it’ll only mess you up. Don’t look at others’ targets either. During a traditional 3D shoot I discovered this mental game trick. Our subconscious tends to want to shoot the same as the arrows we’ve just seen in the target. So, unless you’re looking at someone with all X’s or 10’s, don’t look. And when pulling your arrows, pull the lesser value ones first and the 10’s last so that your mind sees the 10’s and says, “Oh yeah, that’s how we shoot, 10’s,” and you reinforce the 10’s and are more likely to keep shooting them. That’s why I prefer to shoot a 3 spot. However for this tournament the likelihood of dropping arrows because of hitting a five was more of a probability than losing a point for a kiss out, which I did lose a point because of a kiss out on the last end of my first round of 30. It should’ve been 3 X’s but I heard the last arrow hit one of the other two in the X’s and then it landed in the 9 perfectly in line but at a strange angle up into the target. Overlooking my scores I would have actually saved that point if I had shot a 3 spot because except for the one miss, I didn’t shoot below a 6. Next time.
The second day of the shoot I was much more focused and less nervous. Someone teased me while I meditated outside on the bench, asking me, “Does that work?” And another person tried to tell me there was such a thing as trying too hard, but I swear by Jason Selk’s “10 Minute Toughness.” So the answer to his question is, “yes.” The first 30 arrows I managed to shoot a 259, a personal best out of 300. The next round was a 258, which considering that before the tournament my pb was only 257, I like to count that as a personal best, too. I upped my 9 count to 26 and my 10’s remained at a consistent 10 total for both rounds.
I was very pleased to have shot so consistently and to shoot at the top of my game without any extra effort. I felt very confident about my shooting, just focusing on technique and doing my best to not get sucked into aiming. All the while learning how there is that moment, after the clicker has gone off and I’m still ever so slightly pulling back, when I steady my bow arm to near motionlessness and aim at the bullseye.
Overall I shot a 1014, which according to the preliminary results has me at 18th. Unfortunately (since I have taken so long to post this blog), the final results came in and I ended up in 24th. I must remind myself, I’ve been shooting for less than a year overall and FITA only since November. I’ll get up there with Miranda Leek and Jenny Nichols and Khatuna Lorig. As my coach says, “patience, you have a long archery career ahead of you.”
The next tournament is just around the corner, the AAE Arizona Cup in Phoenix, AZ. I am preparing. I average 300’s at 30m and have only shot 50m once and never 60 or 70m. I’m not daunted at all. It’s all about technique and getting my bow tuned – I have new Hoyt Gold Medalist 30 pound limbs on and a new string from Guy Krueger on its way from Chula Vista, the feather fletchings will be stripped and spin wings added – and allowing myself to shoot at the top of my game during each practice and then shoot the tournament like I practice, so 60 and 70, should be shot no differently than I would my 30m. I am a consistent archer.