Practice, practice

11 Mar 2013

It’s spring break week for many school districts in the Twin Cities. Who needs warmth and sunshine? We’re staying in Minnesota for cold and snow!

While away on a quick trip to Winona for some time with family I’ve managed to sneak away to a nearby archery pro shop for some concentrated practice. This is a sport of repetition. To be successful you must develop a shot routine which is absolutely consistent from arrow to arrow. I spent the first 45 minutes of both two-hour practices “blank baling,” that is, shooting into an archery target (the “bale”) without any target face attached. The point is to focus on developing a consistent routine without the inevitable pressure of trying to shoot a bullseye. Rather than boring I find it to be a fascinating exercise. There are so many independent components of a repeatable shot routine to be burned into muscle memory. Too much focus on one component can result in regression on another. I try to turn it into a step-wise routine, and it’s working pretty well so far.

One of the challenges of practicing without a coach is missing out on the third-party critique of your form. At today’s practice I went back to my trusty tripod and iPhone, this time positioned high above me shooting down so I could get a view of my draw arm and release.

At the end of my practice I decided to try a scored game. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea actually. I was quite curious to see how I’d do, but I didn’t want to distract myself too much from working on my technique. In the end I couldn’t resist the temptation to see how I measure up to some of the other archers I know.

The game is called a “300 Round” and consists of a total of 60 arrows shot into a “5-spot” target in 12 5-arrow “ends” or rounds. That’s 12 arrows each into the five small targets. The inner 8-cm white circle scores 5, the dark blue 16-cm circle scores 4, and anything else is 0. The innermost 4-cm ring is scored an “X”. It still generates 5 points, but the X’s are scored separately to act as a tie breaker if necessary. A shot that touches a line always gets the higher score. A perfect game, therefore, is 300 points with 60 X’s. That’s a rare feat for any amateur archer.

I tried to stay relaxed and focus on my shot routine. In the end I scored 294 with 33 X’s. I’m really pleased with that score. Here’s what the target looked like when I was done.

Target showing 294 33X score

]1 My target showing a score of 294 33X in a standard 300 round.

A look at my scorecard reveals that I shot most of my 4′s at the beginning except for my final arrow! Argggh!

My scorecard from today's 294 33X practice game.

]2 My scorecard from today’s 294 33X practice game.

I shot 29 5′s in a row at one point. Not bad. I observed that my sight was floating around less at the end of the game than at the beginning. Whether greater concentration, more relaxation, or some semblance of “flow” is responsible I’m not sure. It was a good feeling though.