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ARCHERY

There is no substitute for diligent practice

“…an hour’s earnest practice each day for a month will make one begin to feel like a bowman, and three months of such work will make him a fair shot at thirty or forty yards.”
— Maurice Thompson, The Witchery of Archery, 1879, p.157

Shaft Shooters was launched in 2000 to document research and findings related to athlete development and high performance training with a focus on archery. It has since grown into a platform to share information of everything from traditional barebow archery to Olympic recurve competition development.

“The history of the bow and arrow is the history of mankind.”

Fred Bear
Black Widow PSR-II takedown recurve

Barebow Archery

Shaft Shooters Archery

Yep, Barebow archers are a breed apart. We definitely seem to have more fun at championships than your typical Olympic recurve of compound archers.

Left to Right, Michael Ricacho, Mark Lonsdale, and Greg Wiatroski at the 2021 CA Indoor State Championships

The 2022 CA Indoor State Championships will be at the Tulare International Agricultural Center in January 8&9.

The Tulare International Agricultural Center. We couldn’t ask for a better facility for indoor archery
The dedicated match officials for the CA Indoor State Championships.

No sights, no stabilizers, no clickers, but Barebow competitors can still drill the 10s and Xs. Arrows are Easton RX7-23s

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CA State Indoor Archery Championships – 2021

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Instructor Trainer /Coach

The CA State Indoor Championships are going on this weekend at the International Agricultural Center in Tulare, CA. Big shout out to the Stan Creelman, his volunteers, and the State Archers of California (SAC) organizers for putting on a great event.

Day 1 at the International Agricultural Center in Tulare, CA.
Barebow archery is growing in California with 30 to 40 Barebow archers at most events.

The 2022 CA Indoor Championships will be at the same venue in early January, 2022.

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Indoor Barebow Archery Season

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Well, with the CA 2021 Indoor Championships this weekend and the Vegas Shoot in the New Year, it’s that time of year. As we move from summer into fall it is time to begin getting ready for indoor archery season.

While some archers have two Barebows, one setup for 50 meter outdoor and another for 18 meter indoor, others will be retuning their bows. The first choice is, “Do I stay with my skinny outdoor arrows, or opt for fatter indoor arrows?”

Some mornings just start better than others.

There are advantages to both. By staying with the skinny arrows such as X10s, A/C/Es, or A/C/Cs, you don’t have to change your tune but simply increase your crawl. But you may be pulling added poundage that is not needed for 18 meters. The advantage of going with fat shafts, such as the popular Easton RX7-23s, is cutting the line and getting the higher score. If two arrows were to hit the same place, one skinny and one fat, the skinny one may not cut the line for the higher score, while the fat arrow may pick up the added point. In the picture above, you can see where two of the RX7s cut the X ring, while with skinny arrows only one may score X.

My choice was to go with two identical Hoyt Xceeds – one with 38# limbs for outdoors and the other with 34# limbs for indoors. For 50 meters I’m shooting Easton A/C/C 3-28s with 60 grain points; and for indoor, Easton RX7-23s with RPS inserts and 125 grain screw in points (162 grains total).

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Dedication to Training in Archery

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.

29/30 with Easton RX7-23s

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.

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Coach Yoda

Mental Preparation & Sports Psychology in Precision Sports – A Primer

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Sports psychology helps athletes control their minds and bodies to produce optimum sporting performance. It is also a critical part of coaching, communications, and team building. Sports psychology is all about mental toughness, focus, confidence, stress management, optimal arousal, motivation and commitment.

In any sport, including archery, the mental aspects of competition are every bit as important as the physical aspects, but often neglected. These mental skills are not just for the high performance elite athletes, but also for the recreational competitor struggling with the stresses of training for competitions. As Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you’re right.” In other words, if you do not wholeheartedly believe in yourself, then you will probably fail. Thinking or, more importantly believing that you can, is the first step towards achieving a goal or winning a tournament.  

At the international level, it is assumed that elite athletes are all at a similar level of physical fitness, endurance, technical proficiency, and experience. Look at the winning results in almost any Olympic sport and you will see that races and competitions are won by a hundredth of a second, tenths of an inch, a few millimeters, one or two points, or X count. So in looking for that winning edge, it often comes down to mental preparation and mental toughness.    

In addition to fitness, technical skills and experience, winning requires desire, determination, dedication, and sacrifice, all of which require mental toughness. Mental toughness is the psychological edge that helps an athlete to perform at a consistently high level.

Mentally tough athletes commonly exhibit four characteristics:

  1. A strong self-belief (confidence) in their ability to perform well
  2. An internal motivation or drive to be successful
  3. The ability to focus thoughts and feelings without distraction
  4. Composure under pressure

To aid in mental preparation, there are a number of skills to be studied, learned and applied to training and competition. The six mental skills for successful athletes are:

            1. The ability to concentrate and refocus

            2. Visualization and mental rehearsal

            3. Energizing

            4. Relaxation & breathing

            5. Maintaining a positive attitude

            6. Self motivation and being goal oriented

In training, the coach and athlete need to set a series of attainable goals and markers. Mental attitude will improve as these markers are achieved. Successful athletes set short, mid-term and long-term goals that are realistic, measurable, and time-oriented. You and your coach should be aware of your current performance levels and be able to develop specific detailed plans for attaining the next level. You must be highly committed to your goals and to the daily demands of your training programs. Knowing that you have trained harder and smarter than your opponents will put you in a positive frame of mind.

Pre-competition, an athlete must eliminate all personal issues and problems well before the championship. You cannot afford to be distracted by financial debts, rocky relationships, or personal conflicts. Your weight management routine must be on track to make your fighting weight category. From experience, you should have established a pre-tournament routine that begins the afternoon before the event. This may include a light workout, sauna, massage, stretch-band drills, or just relaxing, resting, and packing your gear bag for the next morning. Pre-tournament rituals are an important part of mental preparation. 

On competition day, be prepared to arrive early, rested and focused on the event. Allow time for equipment set-up, stretching, warm-ups. Know any changes to the match format, expected weather changes, shooting order, etc. Keep thinking positive – this is no time to be having doubts.

On game day athletes will perform better at optimum arousal, the mental state that puts an athlete “in the zone.” This is also known as the Individual Zones of Optimal Functioning (IZOF) since the model suggests that the zone of optimal emotional and physiological intensity varies for each individual athlete. Anger, as one example, is a double edged sword since it can increase drive, energy, and power, but clouds thinking and decreases thought processes necessary for environmental analysis and game strategy.  

When you enter the arena or step up to the shooting line, do so with a positive attitude. Recite your mantra, “This is my day, this is my purpose….,” and maintain the proverbial Eye of the Tiger. Focus on shooting each arrow perfectly, not thinking about the finals or the medal ceremony.

Successful athletes know what they must pay attention to during each game or sporting situation. They have learned how to maintain focus and resist distractions, whether they come from the environment, other athletes, or from within themselves. They are able to regain their focus when concentration is lost during competition, and have learned how to play in the “here-and-now,” without regard to either past or future events. In archery, conscious thought process can actually interfere with smooth, efficient and confident shooting. The entire shot sequence, from stance and nocking to release and follow through must come from well rehearsed conditioned response. Archery is about confidence and feel – the confidence that comes with well structured training and the feel that comes from repetition and experience.

Dominating and winning in any sport requires that the athlete functions almost on auto pilot. What is often termed muscle memory is in reality conditioned response to external stimuli. It is also not wise to worry about the opponent’s strategy or tactics. Once you are on the shooting line you are competing more with yourself than with your opponents. Let the others worry about you.    

To conclude, just as the following apply to most successful athletes, they could work for you:

  1. Choose and maintain a positive attitude
  2. Maintain a high level of self-motivation
  3. Set realistic and attainable goals
  4. Deal effectively with other competitors and officials 
  5. Use positive self-talk (mantra)
  6. Use positive mental imagery (visualization)
  7. Manage anxiety & emotions effectively (coping mechanisms) 
  8. Maintain concentration (focus)
  9. Shoot each arrow and then move onto to the next one
  10. Manage your time and energy wisely between rounds or matches

Finally, love what you are doing and you will do it well.

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You Reap What You Sow – Training and Determination

Mark V. Lonsdale, Shaft Shooters Archery

As the old adage goes, “You get out what you put in,” or the one I like, “without effort there is no progress.”

Precision sports such as target archery, that are built on well developed neuro-muscle memory and repeatable motions, require tens of thousands of repetitions. So be assured, there is no substitute for daily training.

So when someone is not doing well in a competition and asks for my advice, my first question is, “how often do you train and how many arrows per week?” The last individual responded that he was shooting 300 per week.

Now, if he or she was a former world class archer, then 300 a week could be enough to maintain basic skills and proficiency. But this is definitely not enough for the archer who is serious about progressing in competition.

There are four reasons for increasing your arrow count and frequency of training:

  1. To develop the strength to manage the bows draw weight comfortably
  2. To develop the stamina to be able to shoot back-to-back 360s for a total of 720 plus 3 ends for warm-ups, all in a two hour period.
  3. To work on the form and shot process critical to precision shooting.
  4. To develop the confidence and mental toughness to repeatedly shoot championship scores.
50 meter Barebow practice. Score is 56/60 which would be a winning score if you can do this repeatedly.

The following is an example of a daily training routine beginning at 0700 in the morning:

0700 – 3 warmup ends then 6 x 6 for score. Total 54 arrows

0800 – 6 x 6 for score. Total 36 arrows

1000 – Back to back 360s for score. Total 72 arrows

1800 – 1 warmup end then 6 x 6 for score. Total 42 arrows

The total for the day is 204 arrows, but still well short of the 240-300 arrows that national team members are shooting daily. However, 160-200 a day or 900 – 1,200 per week is adequate for a serious up-and-coming archer to progress at the local and state levels.

Caveat: If you are not conditioned to shoot 200+ arrows per day without pain or discomfort, then it’s important to start slow and work up to this level. Sixty arrows a day on alternate days would be a good starting point. It is also important to start with a bow draw weight that you can handle comfortably and then work your way up to a more competitive poundage. Shooting indoors at 18 meters / 20 yards can be done with a very light bow, but to shoot 50 and 70 meters requires at least 35 pound draw weight, depending on arrow weight. 38 to 44 pound draw weight is more common for outdoor competition shooting.

Train Hard – Train Often – Train Smart

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Finishing Strong in Barebow

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Instructor-Trainer

Whether your plan to shoot 60 arrows, 100 arrows, or just 36 in a practice session, you should always try to finish strong. If you shoot your last end and throw one in the blue, then keep practicing until you can go 6 for 6 without throwing a bad arrow. Or if you have a minimum acceptable score, such as 50 out of 60, then shoot until you score 50+ so that you finish strong and with confidence.

50 meter Barebow training; 5 out of 6 in the 9 and 10 rings for a score of 56/60

When I first took up Barebow practice my first goal was to not throw arrows into the blue 6 & 5 rings. Now my goal is to shoot 8 or better on every round at 50 meters.

Remember, how well you shoot is directly related to how often you train, plus a little coaching.

Hoyt Exceed with Velos limbs and Easton A/C/C shafts

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Team USA – Tokyo Olympics

Go Team USA and MacKenzie Brown for her 4th place finish at the Tokyo Olympics

TOKYO, JAPAN – JULY 30: Mackenzie Brown of Team United States competes in the archery Women’s Individual 1/8 Eliminations on day seven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Yumenoshima Park Archery Field on July 30, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images)
MacKenzie Brown, Team USA, 5th in the ranking round on Day 1, Tokyo Olympics

Olympic Archery Matches Postponed for Typhoon

If you are following the Olympic Archery, you will see a shift in schedule for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday

The Olympic archery schedule has been altered for Tuesday due to expected high wind and rain from a forecasted typhoon.

The morning sessions involving first- and second-round matches are officially delayed until noon local time at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field. But the afternoon session has been postponed.

The plan is to make up the matches Wednesday and Thursday. The individual finals for the men and women at the Tokyo Games are still scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

It’s the first time the Olympic archery scheduled has been majorly influenced by weather, according to World Archery. At the 2008 Beijing Games, there was an hour delay.