An Archer’s Journey: Shooting Well and Having Luck on your Side, 1:5

Well, the past week had a lot of highs and lows in it. I was looking forward to going to Turning Stone casino to participate in the Wintercam Classic with my buddy George. Unfortunately, George fell on some black ice and did some damage to his knee. Without being able to put any pressure on his leg, he was unable to make the trip with me. The incident kind of reminded me of what happened to my good friend Scott Tozier last year. He was peaking and shooting some of the best scores of his life when everything went out the window due to an unforeseen injury. It’s always disappointing when this happens, because you never know if you’ll get back to that level after rehabbing a serious injury.

The week started off incredibly bad as far as scores go. When I headed to the club to shoot in my Tuesday night 450 Vegas league, I didn’t feel well and knew I shouldn’t go. Instead, being bullheaded, I hopped in the truck and headed to the range. My energy was at the lowest it had been in a long time, and my body ached. Without very much energy, I didn’t know how things would pan out.

It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off the bus. Instead of pulling over into the breakdown lane, I kept the throttle on the gas. When I help people, I always tell them to carry it through until the end, even if it’s one of their worst days of shooting. You never learn much on your very best days, but you can learn a tremendous amount on your bad days if you pay attention and write it down in your performance journal. Yes, everyone should keep a performance journal if he or she truly wants to track problems and find solutions to fix the problems. If the same things keep showing up in this journal, you will know that you’re not working hard enough to correct those issues. If new problems arise, it gives you faith when you look back at your journal and realize that you can figure out methods to combat your problems and confront them head on.

Well, when I was done for the night, I had shot the lowest score I’ve ever shot on a Vegas round since around 1992 if my memory serves me right. I shot a 430, and I even totally missed the target one time. Being tired, I lost back tension and couldn’t save the string from lunging forward. The end result was an arrow that hit the bale on top of the target. Yup, shit happens. When the night came to a close, I didn’t need to write anything in my journal to analyze at a later date. Instead, I identified that I shouldn’t go to the range when I’m that tired and my body aches. Sometimes, even if you’re committed to a league, you just need to stay home on certain nights. I won’t put myself through that again. Without having any energy, it was impossible to function at an acceptable level. That was the lesson of the week as far as leagues go.

I spent some time outside since the weather was so nice. I worked on my long-range shooting. It felt really good, and I shot some good groups. I don’t have much to report on that front, other than I had really good marks heading into the indoor 3D Wintercam Classic.

When I got to the Classic, I was able to shoot a handful of practice arrows, but I’ve never been much for shooting a lot of practice arrows before a 3D round, so that didn’t bother me a bit. When I came to full draw for my first scoring arrow, I was surprised with the wave of nerves that hit me. I didn’t really expect them, but they were definitely there, front and center. With the nerves going full bore, I was unable to hold well enough to shoot at the bonus rings, so I tried to hold as good as I could in the 10-rings and execute the best shots I could. As with any tournament, I calmed down as the shooting progressed. By the seventh target, I felt like I was holding well enough to start aiming at some of the bonus ring. I hit my first 12 on shot number eight and ended up shooting six 12s and a few eights in my last 12 shots. I considered that a really successful round.

As with any tournament, I didn’t know what to expect when the bell rang for the second shooting session. When I hit full draw, I was surprised to have no extra pin movement. It didn’t take me long to understand what was happening, and I knew I had to take advantage of it. I put the pin on top of the 12-ring and executed a great shot. The arrow found it’s mark. The same thing happened to the next two shots, and I barely missed the 12 on the fourth one. I knew I was rolling. I had a few long shots on the next end, so I played relatively safe and aimed where the 11 and12 rings connect. One arrow found its way into the 12 and the other just missed. With confidence building and sitting at a solid 12 up, I decided to go for it. Unfortunately, I had a little bit of a bobble on the next shot, and it hit a hair below the 14 ring and in between the 12 and 14. The arrow scored as a five. The next arrow barely missed the 12 ring and landed in the eight-ring. Between the two arrows, they probably missed by a combined total of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch.

That right there brings me to my next topic. Think about this……….there’s a lot of luck in this game. If I had about 1/8 of an inch on a ruler, I could have accumulated 13 more points, putting me at 424. But then I have to think about all of the ones I got lucky on, too. I had two arrows that were on the bottom side of the 12 and were barely licking the line. They are four points that easily could have gone the other way, which would have put me at 420.

Far too often we get overly concerned about the score. We talk about other people and say, “what the hell happened to so and so………..or I can’t believe so and so shot that well.” In the end, should we really even look at anyone’s score and pass judgment? No, we shouldn’t.  I shot really well this weekend considering all of the changes I’ve made. I’m thankful for Mike Price offering to help me, and I’m trying my hardest to work on the things he told me I needed to work on. It has been tough.

In my adventures on the tournament trail, I’ve been really lucky to have won some really big things. I’ve learned one thing that is constant in these wins; you definitely have to shoot well. But you also have to get a little lucky. That’s why we are Joes and not pros. Many pros don’t need the luck because they repeatedly pound the same holes and have no flaws in their execution. I’ve won some things in which I definitely didn’t shoot my best, and I’ve lost many more things in which I couldn’t have shot any better. You should always keep that in the back of your mind. I’ve also learned that if you put yourself in the position to win and you’re not winning, eventually your time will come, but when that time comes, you need to be mentally prepared to drop the hammer on your competitors. That’s why you can’t lose confidence and consider yourself the first loser when you don’t win. I barely missed the cut with my new shooting form this weekend, and the main reason I did that was because I had too much tension in my release hand. But I did put myself in a position to have a shot at it, and I couldn’t ask for more than that. You should never forget where you came from if you start winning. In my opinion, the best winners are the humble ones. If you’re a Joe, or even if you’re a pro, you can quickly go to that arena of fallen bull fighters. It only takes getting poked in the ribs one time by the bull to knock you out. Some people recover, but others never find a way back to podium.

I’ve also learned that many of my friends battle the same things. Paul Bertrand shot a great score, but he said tension in his release hand held him back in the beginning. It happens to everyone, so don’t think you’re the only car on the highway when you’re driving through the place in your mind that can become really scary at times. There are others who are on the same road that you’re traveling. Take a step back, look around, see the shooters on the line and realize that 98% of those guys are on the same exact road that you’re on that you think nobody else is traveling on.

I apologize for being so long-winded with this one, but many things came up over the weekend that made me think about a variety of things. I did realize that I really need to find a way to work on relaxing my release hand while setting up and executing. I’ve always battled with finding the perfect amount of tension to have in my hand while holding the release. It feels as if it’s too tight or too loose at different times. I’m fairly certain that if I can figure out how to beat that demon, I will be able to be much more consistent.  Here are my cards for the weekend. Although I would have liked to have done better, I’m really satisfied with it. It could easily have been a 424 with a hair tiny bit of luck.

After seeing Jon Brown post his staff shooter profile appreciation things lately, I’ve decided to do the same thing on here. Every week, I’m going to try to say a little something about certain people who have been a part of my journey and have had an effect on my game. The first one to get the nod in this is Shawn Couture.

I think I met Shawn when he was still in the youth class. Although he’s not much younger than me, he’s young enough so that I’m glad I never had to compete against him in the youth class. Shawn has always been one of those people in New England whom I respect the most. It’s probably because he’s  humble. The guy is a phenomenal shooter and has posted some pretty impressive scores in target archery and on the 3D range. How many people can never judge yardage and still show up at a regional 3D event and run with all of the big dogs? Well, Shawn has done it on more than one occasion. I can’t remember if it was when I was shooting in the Open B class or if it was when I was shooting in Semi-Pro, but I was the last one to show up at my stake at the ASA Pro-Am in Roanoke, Va., and I was glad to see that Shawn was on the same stake. I’m not sure, but that might have been about 20 years ago. Shawn wasn’t the only lefty in the group that weekend. Rob Luke, from Pennsylvania was the other one, and Rob ended up winning the tournament. Over the years, Shawn has always listened to me as I exhale all of my issues I’m battling. It’s pretty hard to find someone’s ear who understands my language, but Shawn has always been that guy. Next time you see Shawn on the range make sure you give him a nod. He puts a lot into archery and always has a good attitude. He also works toward making the sport better in our region. I’ve even heard that if everyone keeps their ears tilted, he might be working on a project that we will all appreciate. Anyhow, thanks Shawn for always listening to me babble and giving me the vote of confidence that I need from time to time. It has never passed by me without being appreciated.

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