By Mark V. Lonsdale
To advance in any sport, it is important to not only put in the training time but to have a training plan. Part of that plan is a series of attainable goals.
While an aspiring athlete may have dreams of making the US team or competing in the Olympics, it takes considerable time, effort, and planning to turn those dreams into reality. So while most elite athletes work on a quadrennial training plan to coincide with the summer Olympics, the rookie athlete will begin with an annual plan with monthly metrics.
These metrics are the methods of tracking progress through improved performance and improved scores. In other words, attainable goals. These are tracked daily and and weekly, but it usually takes a month or two to see progress in precision shooting sports. It is also important to track if the improvement is a fluke higher score or a consistently repeatable higher score.
Keep in mind that the time it takes to attain these goals is directly related to the amount of time spent in well structured training. For archery, this is a combination of working on form and shot process, professional coaching, and putting in the time on the range. That said, the quality of training is more important than quantity of arrows. Shooting a lot of arrows with poor form just reinforces bad habits, while every arrow shot with good form builds the neuro-muscle memory for consistent precision and accuracy.
For the novice archer who has a grasp of the mechanics of archery and is committed to improvement and ultimately competing at the national level, the attainable goals and metrics, may look something like this.
The first goal will be to focus on technique and shot process while working to keep all the arrows on the target at 20 yards. Why 20 yards? Because indoor competitions are shot at 18 meters / 20 yards. At this distance, competitions are shot in a series of 10 ends of 3 arrows, for a possible score of 300.
For the Barebow archer, the next goal is to progress to 50 meters and be able to keep all the arrows on the 122cm target, since this is the standard distance for outdoor Barebow competitions. Considering the size of the target, you would think that this is no great challenge, but you will see more than one archer looking for his or her arrows behind the bale at competitions.
From there, the goal in training is to improve your score by first eliminating any arrows in the white (scoring 1 & 2) and black zones (3 & 4). This doesn’t even require keeping track of the actual score, but simple training with a focus on form and staying inside the black rings. Be patient – it may take a couple of months to stay inside the black and to develop consistency and repeatability at 50 meters .
The next goal is to get out of the blue “Smurf Zone” – scoring rings 5 & 6. This may take another couple of months of diligent practice – but still an attainable goal. Concurrently, if there are opportunities to compete in archery competitions, these are good practice and experience even for the novice archer. Just don’t expect to shoot the same scores in formal competition that you shoot in training since you will be contending with match nerves.
The next goal is to track how many arrows you can get into the gold zone (Xs, 10s and 9s.) At first you will be getting 2 or 3 out of 6 arrows in the gold. Then the occasional 4 out of 6. Since competitions are shot in six ends of 6 arrows, your possible score will be 360. So you can also begin working your way up from 250 to 260 to 270, etc. Again, you are looking for consistent improvement not just the occasional high score.
By the time you are getting consistent 3 or 4 out of 6 arrows in the gold, you will also be scoring 48-50 out of 60 and 280-300 out of 360. But you will probably be over six months into your training program. This is assuming that you are shooting upwards of 150 arrows per day and 900 per week. Again, the focus should be on good form and a repeatable shot process. With these, the scores will improve. However, you will also have bad days or bad ends where you are throwing low 5s and 6s in the blue zone, usually because of a weakness of collapse in your form. That is when you have to concentrate on good form, a repeatable shot process, and holding hard on the 10 ring.
The next goal will be 6 out of 6 in the gold at 50 meters, which is not that easy with a Barebow and no sights. The point of the arrow can completely cover the gold 9 and 10 rings if you have to hold high. This may also take 8 months of training 6 days per week, but you are now a contender for the nationals.
A score of 56/60 with 6 out of 6 in the gold 9 & 10 rings.
Another metric is to track your average arrow score. For example, if you shoot 48 out of a possible 60 your average is 8; while 300 out of 360 is 8.3. But if you shot 1100 out of 1440 your average is only 7.64. For most Barebow archers, the goal is to become a 9 average shooter, 54 out of 60, or 324 of a possible 360. For the Olympic Recurve and Compound archers shooting sights, it is all about 10s and Xs and perfect scores separated only by X counts.
Finally, just to keep yourself honest, write your training goals in a training log and then track your daily performance in a training log or in your computer. Track the date, the time, number of arrows shot, best scores for 6 arrows, best scores for 36 arrows, and the running total. My personal outdoor training program calls for 48-60 arrows four times a day, or 72-84 arrows three times a day at 50 meters. But I will periodically shoot several sets of 36 arrows with breaks in between to simulate a 1440 match (4 x 36 arrows). In the winter, the focus is on indoor training at 20 yards shooting 60 arrows three to four times a day.
Word of warning – as you increase the number of arrows being shot each day, it’s critical that you’ve established good form so as to avoid repetitive motion injuries. Good form with good skeletal alignment, with adequate conditioning and rest periods, will protect you from injuries, but poor form can result in painful tendonitis.