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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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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Dabbling in Compound Bow Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Instructor/Coach

Yes, I’m a confirmed, dedicated Barebow competitor and traditional archer, but since I’m doing more coaching I figured that I should at least be competent with compound bow technology and function. To begin down this road of hi-tech gadgetry and more complex tuning I’ve invested in a Hoyt Invicta.

Hoyt Invicta gold medal winning target compound bow

When trying to decide on which bow to go with, I followed my usual process. I first narrowed the field to target compounds since I doubt I will ever hunt with a compound (but not out of the question). From there I looked at what the champions were shooting and then talked to the pros at Hoyt. Doug Denton was particularly helpful with his recommendations on bows and accessories for both target and hunting. I also value “Made in the USA” and have been more than satisfied with my Hoyt Exceed competition barebows.

Since I’m tall and have a 30.5″ draw, this brought me to the Hoyt Invicta 40 DCX at 55 pounds (adjustable 45-55#). I’m still waiting on the arrow rest (AAE), scope (Shrewd), and release (TRU Ball) so more on this as the parts come in.

Checking out a couple of Hoyt shooters at the 2021 Vegas Shoot

Stay tuned for more as this project bow comes together with the help of the local Hoyt Pro shop.

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A little Star Wars motivated compound bow humor

Barebow Competition in California

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Barebow competitor

It’s official. Barebow is alive and well in California. The recent California Outdoor Championships included Recurve, Compound and Barebow categories. Barebow, alone, had eight divisions including Men’s and Women’s Cadets, Seniors, Masters 50+, Masters 60+, and Masters 70+. Juniors also shot Barebow on Friday.

State Archers of California Outdoor Championship in Sacramento: 25-27 June 2021

This was the first State Archers of California (SAC) event to roll out the new Barebow 1440 format. All four rounds are shot at 50 meters, with two rounds on Saturday and 2 on Sunday. Rounds 1 and 2 are six ends of 6 arrows. Rounds 3 and 4 are 12 ends of 3 arrows for a total of 144 arrows / 1440 points. The 50-meter distance was adopted to conform with the US Open and other international outdoor Barebow match formats with the thinking that State events should be a training ground for National and International events.

The hope, now, is that the Barebow archers attending the SAC California Outdoor Championships will go back to their clubs and spread the word that Barebow is back and with a new format.

Barebow bales at 50 meters

For those not familiar with Barebow rules, a target Barebow is essentially an Olympic recurve bow without the sights, clicker, or stabilizers. That said, any trad recurve, long bow or stick bow can be shot in the Barebow divisions. For the most part, Barebow archers shoot three fingers under and set up their bows to be point-on at 50 meters, or “lollypopping,” holding 6 o’clock on the 9 or 10 ring.  So dust off that Barebow, or go out and invest in a new one.

Barebow Masters 50+ division

Last but not least, big shout out to the SAC board, match coordinators, judges and volunteers who made all this possible.

See you on the field

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Attainable Goals in Archery

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.

122

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.

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A Rookie Guide to Competitive Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

“To compete or not to compete, that is the question…,” to paraphrase Will Shakespeare. But then old Will wasn’t a competitive archer.

I can state categorically that formal competitions will make you an all-round better archer. But in reality, it’s the preparation and coaching for competition where the real heavy lifting takes place.

Once you make the decision to try your hand (and eye) at competition archery, you will be at the beginning of a long and very satisfying journey. Emerging from the humble beginnings of a backyard stump shooter, you will rise to the level of “competitor” beginning by quantifying your skills through a series of metrics.

Archers warming up for a west coast tournament

To aid in this journey, the following is a road map to competition success:

  1. Decide which form of competition you want to shoot. This will often be driven by the types of bows you like shooting, or by the availability of local matches. The choices range from Olympic style target archery to roving 3D matches with either recurve, compound, barebow, longbow, or traditional. With a good bow, recurve or compound, you can compete in both indoor and outdoor target shooting and 3D.
  2. Check your budget because top flight competitive archery is not cheap. First there is the cost of a $1,500 to $3,500 bow, complete with rests, sights, stabilizers, and release, plus another $160 to $450 for arrows. For example, a Hoyt Xceed with Velos limbs for barebow retails for $1,500. Olympic grade sights can run another $400-$500. A Hoyt Invicta is a $1,800 compound bow, but then you can add another $200-$300 for a target arrow rest, $300-$400 for sights, and $200-$280 for a top shelf mechanical release.    
  3. Apart from equipment costs, there are also the time and costs involved in traveling to out-of-state matches. Flying across country or driving 1,000 miles to a match, laying down a $200 entry fee, and spending 4-5 nights in a hotel gets expensive, plus the time away from work. Travel, by far, is the biggest recurring expense for a serious competitor.  
  4. Do some research on what the top ranked competitors are using in the way of bows, sights, rests, releases, arrows, and related accessories. Take the time to reach out to some of these folks for sage advice. My personal mantra is, “Buy the best and you will seldom be disappointed.”
  5. Study the match format and learn the rules. For example, a Barebow must fit through a  122cm circle gauge and sights and stabilizers are out. Similarly, some matches have velocity limits for compound bows.
  6. Practice the match format, including distances and time limits on your local or home range. You need to become comfortable with the format to be relaxed and shoot well.
  7. If you have the opportunity, go and observe a match without actually shooting so as to become familiar with the format, whistle commands, and procedures. The onus is on the competitor to know the rules and format before entering a major tournament. This will also be an opportunity to talk to top ranked competitors and collect info on their equipment and accessories.
  8. Jump in, but don’t expect to do well in the first match or even first few matches. It usually takes about a year to become a seasoned competitor, so set your sights on doing well the second or third year. But this all depends on how serious you are about training and if you can practice six days a week. Most top archers are shooting 240-300 arrows per day in training.

Now, as Nike says, Just Do It!!

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The Road to Greatness

By Mark V. Lonsdale

While the purpose of sports is to make better people, not just champions, there have been many greats in the sporting world. As with any endeavor or sport, there is a simple but difficult road to greatness. Simple because there are only a few things the athlete needs to know, but difficult because of the blood, sweat, and tears it takes to truly master these simple truths.

So here is the easy part:

  1. Find inspiration in the achievements of those who have gone before you
  2. Make a commitment to your chosen activity or sport
  3. Set goals that are a series of attainable steps
  4. Study the skill-sets required for your chosen activity
  5. Become brilliant at the basics and work to master the fundamentals
  6. Enjoy your achievements but learn from your losses and mistakes
  7. Work every day to improve your performance, fitness, stamina, and strength

Now the difficult part: Follow the above plan six days a week for at least four years to enter the world of the elite athlete.

Training Goals in Barebow Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale

Every sport has metrics for improvement, whether it is greater distance as in shotput or javelin, reduced times as in running and swimming, or greater accuracy in shooting sports. For archery, the metric is improved accuracy and score.

Where compound target archery is an almost repetitive series of 10s and Xs, barebow is considerably more challenging and no one is shooting perfect scores.

The first goal for the novice Barebow competitor entering the arena of outdoor competition, is to simply stay on the target bail at 50 meters. From there, a reasonable next goal would be to not throw any blacks (3&4) or whites (2&1).

This outdoor Dura-Mesh 122cm target sees a lot of action at 50 meters. In this image the archer is comparing 85 grain points to 100 grain points. While the 85s are close to point-on, the 100s are hitting low.

The goal that takes a little longer to achieve is not throwing any blues (6&5), also known as Smurf shooting. For the novice new to archery, this could take several months, and even top archers occasionally drop an arrow into the 6.

Once you have conquered the blue zone, the next metric is establishing an average score of 8, 8.5, and 9. The goal here is to get to a 9 average or 54 out of 60. This would be a winning score in most Barebow divisions.

In this image the Barebow archer has reached a 9 average, scoring 54 out of 60 with 5 out of 6 in the gold. But there is still that one arrow that hates you 😉

In 50 meter Barebow competition, the archer is aiming with the arrow point and string blur. This could place the point at the center of the X, or low or high on the gold, depending on arrow weight and bow poundage. Most serious Barebow shooters will increase bow poundage or reduce arrow weight until they can hold 6 o’clock on the 10 or 9 ring. But keep in mind that from the shooters perspective, the width of the arrow point can cover the entire gold zone, so not exactly the precision aiming afforded by a bow sight.

With a 9 average, the archer can still drop an arrow into the red zone (8s & 7s), so the next goal is to be able to hold the gold (9s & 10s) at 50 meters. I have yet to see a Barebow competitor shoot all 10s so simply holding gold may be good enough to win the day.

Finally, keep a daily training log, either in a journal and/or in your computer. This will keep you honest, track your improvement, and give you goals to shoot for.

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