By Mark V. Lonsdale
There is a well known maxim that, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” This speaks to the fact that there are some natural athletes who seem to pick up new sports with ease, but that natural athleticism only goes so far. Eventually, even the gifted athletes need to knuckle down to a serious, progressive training program.
From personal experience in Judo, practical pistol shooting, and extreme long range ELR shooting, while I had a passion for these sports, it took time to dominate in the arena. My process was to focus on an individual who had just beaten me in the competition, and then train to beat that person. This stepping stone process continued as I fought my way up the ladder over a year or two of daily training. In most cases I have found that it takes about two years of serious training and regular competition to see results at the national level in precision shooting sports. Longer for sports such as Judo that require significant physical development.
For precision shooting, the first year is dedicated to learning the sport, learning the rules and match formats, watching videos of the champions on YouTube, practicing diligently focused on form and process over results. The results come when the process becomes part of the neuro-muscle memory though thousands of repetitions.
Applying this to target archery, I took up Barebow at the end of 2020 but training and competitions were hampered by COVID restrictions. My initial focus was on tuning my Hoyt Xceed and Easton arrows, daily backyard training, watching archery championships on YouTube, and trading emails with my out-of-state coach, Don Rabska. I tried to shoot three times a day, 6 days a week, totaling 3,000-4,000 arrows per month. So 2021 was my first year of shooting every match in California and becoming comfortable with the match formats, ranges, rules, and distractions. While I was able to exceed my personal goals and win all my Masters division competitions, the longer term goal is to win at the Senior level where the strongest Barebow archers play.
So while 2021 was my first year of Barebow, the realistic goal is to see steady progress in 2022, now that I have shot all the various competitions once. This included 50 meter Barebow 1440 format; 50 meter OR ranking & elimination format; and 20 yard/18 meter 900 indoor. Similarly, don’t settle for being an 8.5 average shooter for indoor Barebow, when all the top shooters are 9 average or better on a 40cm target.
Now it would be easy for an individual to rest on his or her laurels by just winning their division, but if there are archers in other divisions shooting higher scores, then that should become the next training goal. Don’t settle for being a 1100/1440 shooter when others are shooting 1200+ in Barebow.
Another understanding common to any form of competition, is that when one athlete chooses to slack off on training or miss a few days, he or she can be assured that the other competitors are not. If the champions are training three to four times a day, then you need to be matching that training routine. Dedicated training requires discipline, and that discipline calls for a total focus on archery training and personal improvement. And it is not just about physical training and arrow count, the mental preparation and visualization is also critical to the process.
Finally, one useful tool for the aspiring athlete, at either the state or national level, is to ask yourself each evening, “Did I do enough today; could I have done more; what can I improve on tomorrow?” This is one reason a written training log is essential. It gives you and your coach a clear picture of your training, arrow count, and scores each day, each week, each month, each year. If you are not winning, or at least improving incrementally, then you may need to discuss this with your coach and step up your game.