Instinctive Archery World Champion: Peter Garrett Interview

In September 2011, a friend of mine Peter Garrett, shocked the World and became Canada’s First World Champion in Instinctive Archery capturing Gold at the World 3D championships in Austria. Recently, Peter agreed to participate in an interview describing his experience and what it was like to reach the top of the podium for Canada.

Jordan: Congratulations again Peter, first can you give our readers a little information about your shooting background. What got you interested in archery and at what age?

Peter: When I was 49, I moved to Kitchener and joined the Elmira Rod and Gun in 2004 so I could continue my pistol shooting that I had been doing for 25 years. My 11 year son saw the rubber 3D animal targets there and wanted to shoot at them so I bought us each a bow and started archery. After 3 years my son lost interest but I loved it and shot my first provincial championship in 2005.

Jordan: As you are aware North America is dominated by compound bow shooters, what made you want to shoot bare bow and instinctive?

Peter: I started out with an unsighted compound bow but there was hardly any competition, so I switched to a recurve bow as there was lots of competition and I could always put sights on it and make it an Olympic style bow.

Jordan: What inspired you to “take it to the next level” and compete on the national and international level?

Peter: I won my first provincial championship, something I had never accomplished in 25 years of pistol shooting and it really inspired me. The next year the 3D Nationals were held in Ontario so I attended it and won as well. As there was nowhere to go in unsighted compound, I switched to an instinctive bow and have been enjoying it ever since.

Jordan: What is your typical practice routine & how often do you practice?

Peter: My typical practice was to shoot 60 arrows about 3 times a week

Jordan: How do you prepare both physically and mentally for an international match such as the World 3D championships?

Peter: I won two 3D National Championships and had a chance to represent Canada at the World 3 D Championships in Italy in 2009. When I got there I realized how poorly prepared I was. They had different rules, most of the other countries had full sponsorship and they trained 2 to 3 times a day. I was so nervous I missed 3 of my first 4 targets, I hit the next 36 but it was too late and I finished 2nd last. I decided if I went again I would be properly prepared. The 3D worlds are held every two years, so I learned all the rules and started training twice a day in September 2010. I was shocked in December 2010 when World Archery announced a rule change that banned my 3 finger under the arrow grip and made a split finger grip mandatory. I had to change my bow and relearn the way I shot in order to meet the new rules. I got a loaner riser from Lancaster Archery and started practicing 2 to 3 times a day in early January and kept that up until the end of August when I went to the worlds in Austria.

Jordan: I hear that bare bow and instinctive are far more popular in Europe, what was it like competing in the World 3D championships?

Peter: In Canada in 3D, there are about 15 compound archers for every non compound archers. In Europe there are 5 non compound archers for every compound archer, a huge switch. On our Canadian team 6 of 8 archers shot compound bows but their practice area was ¼ the size and number of targets as mine for non compound archers. There is a lot of prestige associated with the non compound archers and the best of the best were in attendance. Both French and Austrian archers told me about 100 archers tried out for their countries 3 Instinctive positions at the Worlds. Canada only had myself in Instinctive and Brock Patton in Longbow.

Jordan: Here in North America, the landscape for archers is different from that of Austria how did you prepare for shooting on hills, valleys, etc…

Peter: I practiced hills by occasionally going to a ravine near by and shooting at any club I knew had a lot of hills. The Flying Feathers Club in Madawaska had the overall best variety of shooting conditions so I tried to go there whenever they had a competition or I was allowed to practice there.

Jordan: Who are your coaches and how did they help prepare you for this journey?

Peter: I did not have a coach for 3D Instinctive archery for a variety of reasons. I did receive help in the spring with general bowman ship and dealing with distractions from Kathy Millar. Larry Smith set up my new bow, figured out the best arrow to use and gave me some great training tips on judging distances.

Jordan: Do you have any sponsors that have supported you through this adventure?

Peter: Lancaster Archery had lent me a 17” Trad Tech Titan riser to try until their 19” was in full production. As the new riser was not released in time I used the 17” at the world championships. Since then Goldtip arrows and Trad Tech have helped me with my equipment as I used their product to win the World Championships.

Jordan: What was the most memorable part of the whole experience?

Peter: The most memorable moment was hearing my team mates and wife sing O’Canada from the stands as they raised the Canadian flag and played the National Anthem. I had great support from my wife and team mates throughout this event that made it extra special.

Jordan: Now that you have succeeded in becoming World Champion, what are your new archery goals for the future?

Peter: This is a great question, I stopped shooting completely for 3 months as I needed a break. I thought I might quit but I love to shoot archery and I have started again. In January World Archery changed the rules again so now I need to use a wooden bow and other significant changes that at this point I am not planning to relearn so I can shoot at the world in 2013. I am just having fun shooting right now and with retirement from work ahead in the near future I am not sure what I will do.

Jordan: Would you be interested in doing a periodic blog now and then for our readers?

Peter: I would be happy to and answer any questions someone may have.

Want to get better at Archery?

I have been asked by many people, how do I get better at archery? The answer is simpler than you think. Practice properly with expert guidance. Target archery is all about consistency since the target is not moving and you are in the same spot. The more consistent you are the better your scores will be.

If you want to get better then there are five areas of archery that deserve your attention.

Equipment

Ensure you have the right equipment for you. Find the right bow, proper mass weight and draw weight for you and your size. If you are unable to hold or draw the bow you are not going to be able to practice very long. Also arrows need to sized according to your draw/bow weight and draw length. Shooting arrows that are incorrectly sized will not perform well and will be very frustrating.

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Mark Twain

Form

Focus on consistent archery form, pay attention to the minor details such as your exact stance, exact hand position, your exact anchor point, etc. Replicating the exact same form every time will improve your performance and accuracy. Some people blame their equipment for malfunctions which can be true however more often than not it is your form. Focus on to your form not your equipment.

“There is no spoon … Then you’ll see, that it is not the spoon that bends, it is only yourself.”  Spoon Boy. The Matrix

Practice

Practice, Practice and when you are done practicing, practice some more. It takes thousands of arrows to make a difference.

“Practice is the best of all instructors” Publilius Syrus

Remember when practicing adjust one thing at a time until you have corrected it, and then work on the next thing.

Guidance

Nothing can replace proper guidance from a good certified coach with years of experience. Coaches are another set of eyes with knowledge to help you make those adjustments that will improve your shooting. So find a local archery shop and sign up for regular lessons.

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.” John Wooden, basketball coach

Fun

Remember the reason you got into archery in the first place; it is fun.

“Just play. Have fun. Enjoy the game.” Michael Jordan

Mission Accomplished

No one can experience things for you. They can describe them in detail, draw pictures, give you a slide show, but you need to be there to truly understand what it’s like. That describes my trip to World Indoor Archery Championships in Las Vegas, NV.

I have been back for a week now, and thought I should blog about my experience. My goals before leaving were very simple; learn and enjoy the complete experience. If all I bring back is the knowledge of what it takes to compete that the World level, I will succeed.

Well mission accomplished, I gained the experience I was looking for and I now know what it takes to compete at the international level.

Although, I really enjoyed the learning experience and met several new friends from various other countries, it was extremely nerve racking. Prior to the competition beginning, I was shooting extremely well right up to the minute the announcer came on and declared “Welcome to the World Championships” and this set the wheels in motion. I was finally here competing for my country, and the whole world is watching.

My coach, Kathy Millar, tries to prepare us for this type of thing. Every couple of weeks in class we practice with distractions however nothing can prepare you for that level of distraction with loud fans, multi-lingual teams, and the constant commentators. It started with the introductions, world champion here, junior world champion there and me. Then the distraction of the commentator constantly announcing scores and who is shooting and what they did or needed to do. He even declared the winner in our of the bronze medal match even before we shot our final arrow.

Although individually I finished tied for 17th in the recurve junior women division; my junior women’s team set a new national record, even though we lost in the bronze medal match on the final end to the host Americans. Also congratulations to all my Canadian team members, although none of us medaled in this competition, we all preformed well and showed the world that the Canadians can compete at any level.

Preparing to take on the World

The 2012 World Archery Indoor Championships in Las Vegas, Nevada are less than a month away, and I am equally excited and nervous. This will be my first experience at the World level and I am trilled about enjoying it with my junior recurve team mates, Virginie Chenier of Quebec and Caitlin Northey of Saskatchewan. I am sure that we will gel as a team however since we all live in various provinces we will develop our team round strategy at the hotel on practice days. Speaking of the Hotel, the South Point Hotel and Casino, where the event will be held, is located in the heart of the premiere southwest Las Vegas valley, just minutes away from the famous Las Vegas Strip. According to their website, some of their many amenities include a 16-screen Century Theatre movie complex, 64-lane bowling center and a handful of restaurants that cater to all appetites and tastes.  Their distinctive hotel features spacious rooms and suites with 42-inch plasma televisions, Point Plush mattresses and Wireless Fidelity throughout. A unique feature to this property is its Equestrian Center, which is the finest horse facility in the country. South Point also has a fabulous 400-seat showroom that features headliner entertainment and dancing to live bands on weekends. Although the hotel offers plenty to do, even for those under age of majority (21 in Nevada), I am not sure I will have a lot of time based on the posted schedule for the Championships. The practice venue will be open for both official arrival days, Friday and Saturday, and I plan to get there early on Saturday. The rest of the week looks like the following…

  • Day 1 Official Practice & Team Captain Meeting
  • Day 2 Qualification Rounds
  • Day 3 Individual Eliminations
  • Day 4 Team Eliminations
  • Day 5 Individual and Team Finals

Immediately following the championships from February 10th to 13th is the World Archery Festival, stage 2 of the Indoor Archery World Cup. However, due to the amount of school I would have to miss, I have decided not to participate, instead I will fly home on February 10th. I look forward to meeting so many new friends from all over the world, and participating in one of the archery world’s premier events. Until then, my focus will be on eliminating all distractions. First and foremost, finish this semester and exams the week before leaving. So rather than setting expectations to high; my goals are simple. First, focus on shooting and ignoring bells, whistles and the bright lights of Las Vegas. Then, give it my best effort each day, focusing on each shot and ignoring any mistakes. Lastly, learn and enjoy the complete experience. If all I bring back is the knowledge of what it takes to compete that the World level, I will succeed. I have been asked a couple of times now, however it is unknown at this time, if they will be streaming a live feed of the competition however results will be posted on the World Indoor website.

Scoring

Eventually, all target archers need to learn and understand how to score an end, a round and a tournament.  Target archery has a number of types of target depending on the governing body (FITA, IFAA, NFAA etc…) and the types of tournament you are participating in.  There is the standard multi-coloured 10-ring target that is synonymous with Olympic archery however there is also 5-ring field targets, 2D and 3D animal targets, clout targets or flags and even novelty target such as dartboards.

Aside from novelty targets and flags, archery targets are basically comprised with a series a rings. Although 2D and 3D animals targets are fashioned typically in rings based on the animals “kill zones”, all archery targets are comprised of a series of concentric circles were the higher scores are achieved closer to the center.

When scoring, typically for official tournaments you are required to have at least two scorers and one caller. The caller will read out the scores for each archer in descending order such as 10-9-9-6-3-1. The value of each ring will depend on the type of competition and the rules governing the tournament. For simplicity, I will cover just the basic scoring for FITA Target and IFAA Field targets.

FITA Target

The FITA Target is the most commonly known archery target and is used in the Olympics. Also called a 10-ring, the target face is comprised of five colours including Gold, Red, Blue, Black and White.  The highest value are the inner gold rings worth 10 and 9 points respectively followed by red ( 8-7 points ), blue ( 6-5 points ), black ( 4-3 points ) and white ( 2-1 points ).  If an archer misses the target or is outside the 1 ring it is scored a miss or “M” and worth zero points. However any arrow “inside” of another arrow, called a “robin hood” is scored with the same value.

The number of arrows shot are dependent the type of tournament and whether they held indoor or outdoor. Typically indoor tournaments are 60 arrows and outdoors are 72, 144, or 288 arrows. During tournaments, archers shoot within a time limit, two minutes for 3 arrows ends or 4 minutes for 6 arrows ends. If an arrow is shot before or after the time limit, the highest value arrow is scored as a miss.

When scoring, the caller determines if an arrow is between two lines to call the score. However if an arrow is “touching” a higher value line, the higher value is awarded. In the center 10-ring, is an additional ring called the X ring. For recurve archers, an X and 10 are worth 10 points and the number of X’s are tallied and used for a tie-breaker.  For most compound archers the X ring is worth 10 points and the 10 ring is worth 9 points along with the 9 ring.

IFAA Field (5-ring) Target

A Field Target is traditionally comprised of two colours, blue rings and a white center and governed by IFAA international or NFAA in the United States. The inner white ring is worth 5 points and the remaining 4 blue rings are worth 4, 3, 2 and 1 point respectively as you move further away from the center. Similar to the FITA Target, with the inner white is an additional X-ring that is worth 5 points for both recurve and compound archers and is used for tie-breakers.  Conversely, arrows must touch the next ring to be scored as the higher value, simply touching the line is not sufficient.

The number of arrows shot are also dependent on the type of tournament and whether they are held indoor or outdoor. Typically indoor tournaments are a single day 60 arrow event and outdoor tournaments are 120 arrows shot over two days.

One of the side benefits to archery is it gives younger archers a chance to practice their math skills. Often experienced archers do not want to score because they do not want to know how they are doing throughout the match. So, if you plan to participate in any type of tournament you should practice scoring while practising at home and avoid the stress of learning to score during a tournament.  For experienced archers,  they NEED to remember scoring can be difficult for young archers still developing their math skills. While they are totaling the scores, you may be very anxious to know the end results, however you may be putting undo pressure on young archers causing mistakes if you are hovering over them.

Consistency and Change

Consistency, Consistency, Consistency, now I want you to work on…

I can not stress enough that consistency is the number one factor to the success for any target archer. I have witnessed kids and adults alike with horrible archery form that continue to be somewhat successful because they are very consistent.

However, as an athlete starts to explore the depth of their abilities in a sport, there are things they will need change and improve, for various reasons, to achieve the next level, no matter who you are.

In 2003 Tiger Woods, after his second consecutive Masters and Fourth consecutive Player of the Year award announced he needed to make adjustments to his swing to help reduce wear and tear on his surgically repaired knee. Arguably the greatest golfer in history needed to make changes as part of his development and therefore so will you.

Archery and Golf have a lot of similarities; standing a great distance away you send a projectile through the air towards a small target with the goal to put it into the middle.  The main similarity is you only compete against yourself; no one is stopping you from being your best. It is as much mental as physical.

The only constant is change… Isaac Asimov

In your early development as an archer, you can work on a couple of things at the same time however as you develop you need to focus. There are many different approaches to consistent good form and therefore there will always be a certain amount of trail and error involved. Once an archer reaches each level of development they will experiment and need to try various things to find out what works for them. The higher the level of development, the smaller the level of change, and it is often more difficult to implement. Therefore it is important to work on only one thing at a time so that you are not confusing which change is working to your benefit and which is not.

In my own development, I struggle with staying focused on just one thing at a time which is the double edged sword of wanting to achieve perfection. So focus on one thing at a time because you do not want to be second guessing whether it is one change or another that are affecting your shots.

Simple Archery Exercises

One misconception about archery training is you need to do a lot of heavy weight training to reach the next level, and this is simply not true. In fact, heavy weight training can actually hinder you archery career. If you develop very large biceps it can hamper your form since you may have problem creating straight lines from the arrow through your anchor point and the back of your elbow.  Since long, lean, strong muscles are preferred over large muscle mass, it is important to do exercises with less weight and more repetitions rather than heavier  weights.

For younger archers, that are still growing, you do not want to hurt yourself or get ahead of your natural body development. Any type of weight training before your body is ready to accept it can do more damage than good long term.

Below are a couple of simple exercises to help increase you upper body strength for archery.

Open Door Push-outs

Anyone can develop some muscle and endurance without heavy weights, by using your body weight. Open Door Push-outs are a safe and easy way to train your back shoulder muscles for archery.

  • Using an open doorway, standing with your feet flat on the floor and slightly less than arm-length away, place your hands on either side of the door frame
  • In a very controlled manner, lean towards the door, similar to a push-up
  • Once your arms are at least 90 degrees, push yourself back out again.
  • Repeat several times.

Once you have mastered the above without any problems, you can vary it by standing further back or doing deeper push-ups.

Ball Exercise

Since it is almost impossible to be completely still for any amount of time, it is important to develop a fine controlled approach with shooting. One simple training exercise that will help develop a strong and controlled bow arm is the simple ball exercise.

  • Standing perpendicular to a wall and using a volley or soccer ball
  • Hold ball at shoulder height at arm length against the wall with a flat hand.
  • Using only your arm move the ball in a figure eight motion
  • Set a timer for 30 seconds.
  • Turn around and repeat with the other arm

Once you have mastered the above without any difficulties, you can increase the time by 30 second intervals to help build control.

Although, these exercises should be safe for just about everyone, it is important, especially for young archers, to consult a qualified archery coach before you add any type of training to their regular program.