A Refreshing Experience

As I made my way out of New Hampshire and into Vermont a light rain began falling. It was a typical spring day. Although I was in the car I could feel the damp chilly air settling into my bones. Being two hours from home I knew it was in my best interest to stop someplace to get a drink with caffeine in it. My eyes were heavy.

After stopping in Queeche Gorge I continued on my way. The stroll from the store to the car through the misty rain woke me up. There wasn’t a sound in the car as I drove through the Green Mountains. I embraced the silence and entertained some of the random thoughts that crossed my mind.

I was satisfied with the show I attended in New Hampshire. For the size of it I sold quite a few books. I never know what to expect at shows or book signings, so I try to go without any expectations. If  I approach it that way I won’t be let down if it’s a slow day.

As I made my way over Killington and down the other side onto Mendon Mountain I began thinking about the next day. I’ve been helping a 9-year old girl with archery. I recently showed her how to execute shots the proper way. It didn’t take long for her to understand what I meant when I told her to feel the shot. If you can feel the shot it more easily becomes a subconscious act. Once your subconscious mind takes over archery can become much more enjoyable. The next day some of the lessons would be put to the test. My little student would be competing in her first archery tournament. I told her all I wanted her to do was to make the best shot she could possibly make. If it went in the middle that was great and if it didn’t that was okay, too, as long as she had fun shooting. There’s no sense in doing things we don’t enjoy.

The next day came quickly. I got up early and took care of some things I needed to do before it was time for the tournament. I figured I would show up a few minutes before it started.

As I was getting ready to leave my phone rang. It was the girl’s mother. She told me her daughter was stressed out and wanted to go home. She was so nervous she couldn’t keep herself together. I asked if I could speak with her for a minute.

When she got on the phone I asked her if she was nervous. She told me she was extremely nervous. I asked why. I’m not sure what I expected for an answer, but the one I got clearly surprised me. She said, “I’m so nervous because I know I can’t win.”

I calmly asked her to tell me what we worked on and talked about earlier in the week when we were at the range. Since she was so nervous her mind drew a blank. I reminded her how she wanted to feel her shot and make the best shot she could. Winning or losing wasn’t important. I told her if she made every shot to the best of her ability she would be a winner. I told her that score isn’t as important as doing things the right way. If she felt her shot and performed as she had practiced she would get a good score.

When I got to the range she was just finishing up her two practice rounds. Her cute smile was somewhat reserved; she had her game face on. I was impressed how focused she was for a 9-year old.

After the tournament started I could see she was following her routine. She looked like a little robot. Everything we had talked about she was doing. She was following her shot sequence step by step and the arrows were finding their way into the two highest scoring rings on the target. It was a pleasure to watch. As I watched her shoot her arrows in the final end she looked exactly like she did in the first end. It was a compliment to her commitment. The kid is special. She has a big heart, she’s intelligent, she’s caring and she has the will and determination it takes to be a champion. She’s a true competitor. I don’t know if the motivation in archery will continue into her teen years. With everything else there is to do and with the adolescent changes she will encounter it’s hard to say what path she will take.  I have a feeling she will be an archer forever and a damn good one at that.

When the tournament was over all of the kids scurried around the range as they waited for their scores to be added up. There were happy kids, curious kids, carefree kids and sad kids, but one thing was certain; they were all awaiting their scores so they could find out who won.

When they started announcing the winners I saw my student’s face droop after they announced the 2nd and 3rd place finishers. Then first place was announced and the score was 5 points better than second place. When she heard her name called she couldn’t believe it. She had won the first archery tournament she ever competed in. I was proud of her. I shook her hand and gave her a hug.

I’ve been lucky enough to win a lot of archery tournaments in my life and some of them were really big ones. I’ve won some wonderful plaques, a few unique awards such as an inscribed clock and an arrowhead of excellence, some very large trophies and a lot of money, too.  I’ve written two books and traveled all over to book signings and shows. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt as proud as I did when she won the tournament and in all reality she’s the one who was responsible. I gave her a few of the tools and she built the house.

After she got her award I asked her how she thought she did. She gave me an answer I would expect from a seasoned veteran. She told me she made quite a few good shots and her goal next time was to decrease the bad ones.

Since that Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago I’ve thought a lot about everything that went on that day. I realized her competitive mental state is far beyond most children that age. I honestly believe the sky is the limit for her if she takes it upon herself to continue learning, listening and trying new things.

It also made me realize that many of us face similar situations in life. She wanted to quit before she started that day. She was afraid of something that hadn’t happened yet. After talking to someone she trusted she regained her confidence and gave it her best shot. We all have to do that from time to time. We have to trust our family and friends and hope for the best. We have to use the knowledge we have from what we have learned and apply it to the best of our ability. As long as we stay the course we’ll be okay. The only way we can build confidence is to find strength when we’re confronted by fear. It doesn’t matter if someone helps us find it or if we find it on our own. The secret is to keep moving forward and never turn and run because at that point you are defeated.

Sometimes it’s amazing how much children can teach us if we’re willing to step back and watch them from a distance. This experience was one of the most refreshing things that has happened to me in a very long time.  If you’re looking for something to do spend a few days helping a kid learn more about something they’re interested in. It could be rewarding for both of you.


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