Practice can be Fun

In the seasons between indoor and outdoor, it is time to practice. In an individual sport like archery, practicing can be boring, for target archers we are spending a lot time doing the same thing over and over again.  It can be hard to track your progress since all athletes experience growth and development like the NASDAQ industry average with lots of peaks and valleys.

Practicing is an absolute must if any athlete wants to improve however you can help yourself keep focused and motivated by changing things up, working towards the future and adding a little fun.

Different Distances

It is always a good idea to practice all the distances that you need to compete in for a tournament; however, there are several reasons why an archer should practice at longer distances. First, practicing to shoot longer distances will automatically improve shorter distances.  Second, it helps develop strength and endurance since you need to hold your arm up higher and longer. Lastly, especially for younger archers, it prepares you for the future, since every older age category moves further and further back.

Change Targets

For target archers, the smaller the grouping of arrows the better. You can help develop tighter groups by shooting at smaller target faces. Indoors, try a 3 spot target or 5 spot field face for target practice. Try novelty target faces or make your own target using an old catalogue. To this day, my favourite is to shoot balloons, much like a carnival. You can set up different sizes and shapes. Small balloons are great for accuracy and long thin ones help with groupings since you often need 3 arrows to pin and pop the balloon.

Noise

In most individual sports, like archery, athletes practice by themselves which allows them to focus without distractions, however tournaments are rarely completely quiet. A lot of archers end up shooting lower scores simply because of the noise, so why not have some practice with noise and distractions. Invite friends over to shoot with you, play loud music or have friends TRY to “safely” distract you while shooting. Since you cannot predict or avoid distractions at a tournament; prepare for it.

Scoring

A lot of young archers get stressed out at tournaments when they have to score OR when they are score watching. When you are young and still developing your math skills, it can be very stressful to keep score with everyone looking over you.When you are at home, practice quickly adding scores together to become good at it. Score watching is can be very stressful no matter your age or experience, sometimes you get caught up in the score for each end, how far behind you might be, or even focusing on one bad arrow.  Practice focusing on consistency and grouping ; ignore the score because if the group is good you can always move your sight.

By keeping focused, practicing, keeping it fresh and fun and being prepared for all types of tournaments you can enjoy the sport for the long term and reach your goals with a smile on your face.

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Weather Conditions

For outdoor tournaments, it has been my experience that organizers only cancel archery tournaments for lightning and tornadoes.  Therefore, as an archer, you have to shoot through a wide variety of weather conditions. Although wind is a common troubling weather condition for all archers there are many other types of conditions can also adversely affect your shots at any given tournament.

SUNNY

 “A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” Steve Martin

Most people would think that a bright sunshiny day would be the ideal conditions for shooting outdoors and this is “usually” the case. However, it depends on how the target field has been setup. If the sun is behind the target, then you can have the sun shining directly into your eyes, which it not that ideal. If the sun is directly behind you and the target has a reflective surface you have the same effect.

Sun reflects off everything, so if it is bright in your eyes you need to protect your eyes with a brimmed hat or sunglasses.  Although most tournaments try to abide by the rules about direct and reflective sunlight it is not always possible.

WINDY

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”  Jimmy Dean

The wind conditions are something every archer needs to watch. They are completely unpredictable and can quickly change speed, direction and location.  Windy conditions can be a nightmare for young archers who have a lightweight bow or low draw-weight for different reasons.  Lightweight bows sometimes can become a sail, catching the wind, creating a constant fight to keep it steady and aligned. Low draw-weight bows usually force the arrows into a greater arch to reach the same distance; therefore, they are in the air longer and more affected by strong winds.

Quick Tip: Check the trees, grass, and flags to understand the wind through your shooting plane.

Most archers need to be patient when shooting in high winds and wait for as long as possible for low winds. Remember, the more you practice in different kinds of winds the more you learn about how they affect you.

RAINY

“Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain”Unknown

Unlike wind, which can blow your arrows off the target, rain only adds weight to the arrow and causes the arrow to fly a little lower.  Try to remember to keep strong through the entire shot and aim a little high. If your shots were weaker than normal, the rain will make that mistake 10 times more noticeable than it would be in clear weather conditions and produce lower scores.

HOT AND HUMID

“I like to play long matches and in hot weather. Those are my conditions. I like it hot because it’s bad for other players. A lot of them don’t like it hot.”Yuliana Fedak

Most new archers do not think about humidity affecting their arrows however, if the air is heavy it can cause varying effects. If it is very humid, it can cause your arrows not to spin as quickly leaving your shots grouping lower since they do not gain as much distance.

The heat affects the archer too with hot and sweaty hands. Sweaty hands affect your grip on the bow possibly changing your point of power and the heat causing your hands to swell which in turn affects your feel for the string in your fingers. Another possible affect is quicker dehydration resulting in loss of energy that is extremely bad for any endurance athlete. Therefore, in the heat it is important to know how you react in the heat and humidity and know how to keep cool.

FOGGY

“It is not the clear-sighted who rule the world. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm fog.” Joseph Conrad

Shooting in the fog can be one of the most difficult and dangerous weather conditions. Whenever you are unable to see the target or able to review the shot and compensate it can be extremely trying on your patience and self-esteem. Some archers absolutely refuse to shoot in the fog with associated dangers and for fear of loss of arrows and the associated costs.  If you choose to continue to shoot in the fog focus on hitting the target and understand that tight grouping of your arrows can be a real problem.

Quick Tip: Numbering your arrows and tracking your arrows can help so you can adjust your shots.

COLD

“It doesn’t matter if the water is cold or warm if you’re going to have to wade through it anyway” Teilhard de Chardin

Although outdoor tournaments are rarely held during frigid weather with conditions of snow or hail, it can be very cold in the morning at the start of a tournament in the spring or fall.  Muscles tend to tighten up and you can injury yourself if you do not properly warm-up or wear appropriate clothing. Make sure you are appropriately dressed in layers that can be shed as the day warms up.

“I don’t see pitches down the middle anymore – not even in batting practice.” Hank Aaron

It takes time to figure out what happens to your shots in the different types of weather conditions; therefore, it is important to practice a lot, in all types of weather, to prepare for not so ideal weather conditions.

 “Practice is the best of all instructors.” Publilius Syrus

Thanks to Luke Pacholski for the use of his web images

Practice, Practice, Practice

One of the main reasons people shoot is because it is just plain fun and there is a certain adrenaline rush that you get from making the perfect shot. If however you are planning to dip your feet into the competitive pool, you need to practice more and it needs to be GOOD quality practice not just the quantity of arrows.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, PERFECT practice makes perfect”.  Kathy Millar, my coach

Working on your form even at a short distance of 5-10 meters is better than no practice at all. During the summer, it is easy to find a place to shoot if you have space in your yard, however during the winter, it can be difficult since you may need to travel to shoot at an indoor range.

You may want to try and find some place inside your house, garage or basement where you can set up a target butt to shoot. Find an unobstructed area you can shoot in and measure the longest SAFEST distance.  I am able to practice shooting 18 meters by shooting through the house, through the garage door and onto the back wall of the garage.  Next securely setup a target butt at a good height and attach a target face. For an easy and inexpensive way to create an archery backstop check out my Build an Inexpensive Indoor Target page. Lastly be sure to setup your safety rules when shooting,  close doors or put up a temporary barrier to remind people not to walk-through. Make up a call phase for everyone such as “Hold the arrow!” to warn the archer to stop and make sure all is clear.

It is easy to practice, the hard part is getting started.  I encourage all young archers to practice regularly if you want to get better.