Could I control my nerves competing in a new sport?

I’ve been traveling for work, so I didn’t have time to write this up sooner. I wanted to share with all of you a recap from my first ever indoor archery match.

Just a quick overview of how the match works.
-archers choose a start time and day (ex: fri 7pm, sat 1pm, etc)
-there are two people that shoot in the same lane (line A shoots top target, B shoots bottom)
-practice consists of 2 rounds of 3 arrows
-first half of match is 10 ends of 3 arrows, followed by a 10 min break
-second half is another 10 ends of 3 arrows
-scoring is done by the 4 people in 2 neighboring lanes (2 scorers, one caller and one extra)

So originally I had been planning to do a cyclocross race this past saturday. It’s a pretty local, smaller key race that I had done last year. I realized at the last minute, however, that saturday was TOMORROW and I had still not been on my cross bike since it had been re-put-together. I decided that probably wasn’t the smartest move, so when Rich and I heard about this archery tournament relatively close to home, I jumped at the chance.

We signed up for the 10am Saturday slot, figuring we would be done by lunch time. This would give me most of the day to work on everything I needed to prepare for my work trip. We were also able to sleep in, which was a definite change from all the bike races we have gone to. We ended up getting to the range about an hour before the competition started. As we were putting our bows together, a woman and her daughter must have been able to tell we were new (or they were regulars and didn’t recognize us). Either way, they were both very nice and offered to let us use their sharpie to mark our arrows, since we didn’t realize we needed to do that.

I thought we would then be allowed to warm up before the match, but that is when I learned everyone would “warm up” together at 10am to start the match. This meant we were there with nothing to do but wait…yes my favorite thing in the whole world. Luckily we had to have our bows inspected by the officials, which ate up a little of the time, and we were able to collect our score cards and find our lane, etc.

I was bummed to learn I was 6B, which meant I would be shooting the bottom target, as I much preferred shooting the top. Luckily, the nice woman we had met was 6A, and she preferred the bottom, so she asked the officials if we could just switch. They said if we both agreed that was not a problem. At this point, however, I got a little nervous as I realized As went first, so I would not be able to watch others to make sure I followed the rules correctly.

We were told the practice would begin in 5 minutes and would consist of 2 ends. This also made me nervous, as I was worried I would not be able to get my sites lined up in just 6 shots! Next we went down range and hung our targets, and then it was time. We had 20 seconds to get to the line and set ourselves up, then a we heard a beep and had 2 minutes to shoot 3 arrows. I let some others shoot first, just to make sure I was following proper protocol, and then I proceeded to shoot one at a time in just under a minute.

I then left my lane and put my bow down, as the two minutes winded down. The same process was repeated for the Bs and once their two minutes was up, we all made our way down range. We collected our arrows and came back for the 2nd and final round of practice/warm up. I made some adjustments to my sites and shot again. Once we had gone through the entire process it was time for the real deal.

At this point my heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest. I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I had been this nervous for something. I knew I had to keep my heart rate in check and remain calm if I was going to be able to shoot consistent shots. I told myself that this was my first archery competition, so it didn’t matter how I did. This would just be a baseline to use in the future. So I adjusted my sites a final time and when I heard the beep I went to my shooting lane, nocked my arrow and once the 10 seconds were up, I lifted the bow, pulled back and shot.

The shot felt perfect, and when I looked down range I knew it was in the yellow. Now my heart began to race even more, but I still had two more arrows to shoot. I tried to stay calm and finish. After the B line had gone, we walked down range to score the first end. I couldn’t believe my eyes. My first shot was not only a 10, but it might be a center! I was so excited. I ended up with a 10,9,8 for a score of 27, which made me smile from ear to ear.

I think I even surprised the woman sharing my lane, as she was shooting a compound bow and had only gotten a 20, with nothing in the yellow. This time, the Bs when first, so I had to stand nervously waiting my turn to shoot the second end. I saw Rich was struggling, shooting above the target, but I tried to block it out and focus on me. After 3 more shots, we walked down to where I knew all 3 of my arrows were in the yellow. Sure enough I had a 10,9,9 (28), probably my highest ever set of 3 when scoring.

Now all I could think of was, I could actually win this thing. I suddenly felt calm and was no longer nervous. Well, unfortunately that was my undoing. As my nerves wore off, so did my score. I ended up with a score of just 221 for the first half of the match and was really bummed (hadn’t shot below 230 since getting my stabilizer). I had some good shots, but I also had some bad ones. Ultimately, I was mad at myself bc I had seen my potential with how well I started. It was time to regroup (and wait around for the 10 min break to go by).

I found it hard to focus the first couple ends of the back half. I was starting to get tired, hungry and even a little bored. I like to just go and shoot and the waiting around was really starting to get to me. I also was having trouble with my third shot each end. Consistently, it was going up and to the right every time, yet it didn’t feel any different to me (release, etc). I had been shooting my arrows in the same order every time, so I finally decided to try an experiment and shot that arrow second around the 4th or 5th end. This time the 2nd shot was high and right. I quickly asked Rich if he thought it could be the arrow and he said, definitely try a different one.

Sure enough, as soon as I switched out that arrow I started getting 3 consistent shots, without the outlier. I had started the second half with some VERY low scores (the woman with the compound bow that I had crushed in the first half was ahead of me with a miss!), so I was upset knowing I would have to battle back to even break 200 at this point. Well on the 6th and 7th ends I had a 10,9,8 and a 10,9,9 (just like my opening 2). This gave me the confidence I needed to finish strong.

My last end of the day I had shot 2 mediocre shots. I thought to myself, come on you can’t finish like this. I took a deep breath and let the last arrow fly, and guess what? It was a dead center, literally taking out the x. At this point I was happy to have finished strong, but I was also nervous to hear how bad my score was. Turns out I had shot a 230, so I finished with a 451. This definitely was not my goal, or even what I knew I could shoot, but it was already almost 2pm and all I cared about now was getting out of there and getting food. As we left, I turned my score card in and the man collecting scores told me, nice job and said I was winning the women’s recurve.

I knew there was a lot of archers left to shoot, but I was still excited. Once we got home, I checked the scores from the previous year and saw I would have gotten 3rd place. Even though I wasn’t happy with my score, this gave me hope that maybe I wasn’t bad as I thought AND maybe I would actually podium in my first match. Fast forward a couple days and results get posted, and I learn I was 5th out of 9. Now I’m bummed again, as I guess my scores were as bad as I thought. Rich reminds me that I was only 7 points out of 3rd and 2nd was a score I had shot in practice (meaning it was within my doable realm). Overall, I decided to take it as a learning experience. Also, I KNOW I can do better and my score should only go up from here. It’s all about improving, right?

What I Learned
-bring something to eat (& drink)
-i need heavier limbs
-women’s recurve is much more competitive then compound
-lots and lots of waiting around
-targets are hung at precise heights (a wooden stake is marked and used to measure distance from top or bottom, so everyone is consistent)

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About Crystal

I'm a professional archer who also enjoys participating in mountain biking, cyclocross, swimming and running races. I race more for the fun and excitement than for top places and awards (or at least I try!), and my true passion is coaching others. I have a weakness for ice cream and a good espresso. I love being outdoors, and my dream is to one day own 100 acres.

Posted on September 26, 2012, in Archery and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Oh my gosh!!!! U do archery?!?!? NO SIR!!! My parents own an archery shop and business that they built from the ground when I was two! I competed all through my childhood and teen years traveling to Virginia, New York, and all over Pa! it’s a crazy way of life for my family and so rare to find others out there! How’d u get started and how long have u shot?! Do u belong to a club? This is way exciting!! Lol spa love!

  2. Wow, what a small world! I’ve had a hunting bow for about 4 years, but my husband and I just got into recurve a little over a month ago. I have soooo much to learn, but I definitely feel like I am making progress (could barely pull the string back first time and now it’s way too easy to pull). We joined USA Archery, but we aren’t members of a specific club. We found a place that has a thurs night league, so we will be doing that this fall. Now I know who to go to when I have ?s, thanks for the SPA love!

    • thats so cool!! i grew up learning on recurve and have only shot a compond a couple times. how exciting!!!!! it definitely takes a lot of practice, and the thursday league would be awesome for you! my parents have a league each night at their shop. its really cool!! yes! feel free anytime to ask questions!! :o)

  3. That is seriously cool! I’m sorry you didn’t get what you were hoping for, but how exciting that some of those shots were so good. I have ever done archery, and I am seriously impressed!

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