An Archer’s Journey: On the Shelf for a While 1:6



This week passed quickly, but the archery part of it dragged. I’m fairly certain that the dragging action is going to make its presence known as I look toward April. Although I spent Monday and Tuesday working on some bows, the pain in my elbow wouldn’t give in and allow me to shoot. I realized that I need to leave my bow in the corner when I look at it and thoughts of shooting it cross my mind. The elbow has not improved at all and has steadily declined into an area that made me realize that I need to make an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. I’m going to get on that tomorrow.

This winter has walloped me with unanticipated problems. Unfortunately, I haven’t been healthy enough to make any forward strides involving the changes I’ve made. It’s rather discouraging, but I guess it’s one of those things that I must face now that I’m headed toward the senior class. Things don’t heal as quickly as they did in the past and paying attention when your body talks to you is important. I’ll keep you updated on this as time moves forward.

Although I wasn’t able to shoot this week, I did talk to a lot of people about many different things that relate to archery. Recently, I’ve followed a few things on the internet that make me laugh a little and realize how long I have truly been at this game. Many people who are relatively new to the sport don’t have a clue about the past and the people who helped to bring this game to higher levels. It’s amazing to see and listen to the people who admire people who have never won anything. I guess it’s all about how you carry yourself. When it comes to archers who aren’t professionals, I’ve noticed that I usually gain the most from the quiet ones, the ones who don’t have to pump themselves up for the rest of the world to see. Humble people have a tendency to draw me in. I like them because they act like they’re one of me. I’ve always tried to do the same. Although I’ve never won a professional event, I’ve won some pretty big money tournaments in which professionals participated, and I’ve won in the SPM class as well as all of the amateur classes I’ve shot in. Most people wouldn’t have a clue, and it reminds me of a few things that I’ll share that I’ve never been able to forget.

I can remember being in the top one or two peer groups going into he last leg of the IBO National Triple Crown on three different occasions. Since I’ve never worn a collared shirt or a shooter shirt — unless I was told I had to — I can usually fly under the radar, which is exactly what I like. On more than one occasion, I’ve had people look at the score cards after receiving them and do a double-take at me before saying, “You’re Todd Mead?”

I usually look around, raise my eyebrows and say, “Yup, I guess I am if that’s what the scorecard says.”

Then I get, “Wow, I always imagined you were a tall guy.” I still haven’t figured out if that’s an insult, but I always think it’s funny. It brings me to a point I’ve thought about this week and I know it happens to other people. Sometimes shooters get intimidated just by a person’s name, even without knowing the person. If you find out you’re on the same bale as one of the big dogs or if you have followed a person’s success and realize you are now in the same group as that person, it can quickly deteriorate your mental game if you aren’t prepared.

In all of my years of shooting, I’ve always performed my best in peer groups, and I think that’s because I feel mentally stronger than my competitors. I think that many amateurs get intimidated or they worry about the outcome. They become overly nervous and the train can run off the tracks if they don’t get everything in check. Although I’ve never been great when I shoot in peer groups that have some of my friends in them, I usually excel when I don’t know the others that well. I think it’s because all of my concentration and focus is in one place, and that place is where I put everything I have into finishing the job. I will never forget the time I rolled off 9 11s on a 10-target loop at the IBO National Triple Crown while in the top peer group. One guy looked at the other guy in my group, shrugged his shoulders and put his palms out to his side and held them upward while he mouthed, “WTF” after I shot an 11 on the last target of the loop. I saw him do it when I turned around, which made it even funnier. It was probably because my equipment looked like I had dragged it through the mud, with my 20-year-old sight on it and rusted bolts from not having moved the stabilizer connectors in as long as I could remember. When you’re in a peer group, all of your energy should be focused on getting the job done, not trying to avoid the pressure. I think it’s a learned skill and I feel fortunate to have gained that knowledge along the way. Although my equipment looked like hell, my mind was centered. When I was done that day I was mentally drained.

I’ve realized that you have to have that killer instinct when you have a chance to win. I’m never happy with an “also ran” ¬†congratulatory hug when I’m done with my round. Our chances to win are so few, that when you have once of those chances, you had better be mentally prepared to take full advantage of it. The chances are fleeting in the amateur divisions, otherwise you wouldn’t find yourself there. Instead, you would be somewhere in the pro ranks.

So what have I done to allow me to get it done when the time comes? I always mentally rehearse the scene. I do it for every tournament I go to that I might find myself in a peer group or on a top bale at the end. I take the time to think ahead and see myself shooting winning shots over and over and over. I also write in my performance to remind me that I’m a winner. I also focus on things I need to work on. If the same item keeps showing up, I know I need to nip it in the bud and get after it. For anyone who wonders what my performance journal might look like, this is an entry from 2015, one of the years I won the IBO World Championship. When I drew the bow on the last target, I knew I needed a 10 to at least secure a tie. Amazingly, when I drew the bow, the pin settled and the arrow hit a lick below the 11. I made a perfect shot when I needed it.

Here’s a journal entry from late May of that year, and I’m referring to one of the New England IBO state championship tournaments:

“I started off OK today but hit a few speed bumps on the way out of the gate. I was tense most of the day and found myself stagnant at times. I need to work on my shot timing in the coming days. I need to continue working on letting my subconscious mind shoot the shot. Once again, I proved today that I can grind out a good performance when I’m struggling with my shot. I made some fantastic shots, including one on a strutting turkey, one on an antelope, one on an alligator, and one on a walking black bear, along with many others. Overall, I shot a lot of good shots. I earned the win today because I was mentally stronger than the field. I’m a finalist at the IBO World Championship because I know to perform well at big tournaments. I don’t over emphasize the importance of any shot. I’m a champion because I shoot one shot at a time. I shoot my best under pressure. I’m the IBO World Champion because I’ve shot the same winning shot thousands of times, whether it was in my backyard or on the tournament trail.”

Yup, it might sound corny when you read it, but that was in May of that year and the IBO World Championship was in August. I wrote this down every day in my performance journal after I practiced or shot in a tournament. Then, when the time came, the shot I needed to make was incredibly easy.

I won’t carry on about this, but you get the idea. If you want to achieve goals, you need to write them down and put yourself in the place to win them before you get there. Otherwise, you won’t be mentally prepared and the moment could suck you up and swallow you. I’ll be the first to tell you that most of the big tournaments I’ve won in the last 25 years weren’t because I was the best shooter. Instead, I won because I was mentally stronger than the guys I was shooting against. It pisses people off when they get beat by a person whom they don’t consider as good as them. People talk shit and say, “Oh, the best shooter didn’t win.” Yup, you got that right, but I was the most mentally prepared and my shooting was good enough to beat the so-called best shooter. Instead of saying stuff like that, people should take a step back and realize that maybe, just maybe, they should spend more time working on their mental game because great shooting will only get you so far. The winners do things that others don’t see and that is how they know how to win. That is also why you see the same people return to the winner’s circle or always be within sniffing distance of it. Do yourself a favor this spring/summer and be diligent with writing in your performance journal and working toward goals. A goalless archery will never achieve a goal……….and isn’t it everyone’s goal to do something? Isn’t that why we shoot?

Well this week’s shooter recognition award goes out to the person who has driven me to be better since the early ’90s. I can still remember reading about him in 3D Times, which was a big publication at the time for 3D archery. Everyone read it and everyone subscribed to it. Everyone hoped to see his or her name in it from a big finish at a national event. I read all about how Scott Tozier had won the IBO Indoor World, which was a big tournament at that time. He took down some of the big guys in doing so. When I read about it, I realized that this guy lived in New York, and I wanted to meet him to see what kind of game he had as compared to my own game.


That’s when I decided to head out to Active Bowhunters in western New York to shoot in an IBO qualifier. I wanted to see where I stacked up against this guy. Putting too much pressure on myself to do well, I shot a 5 on the first target, a strutting turkey that was down off from a steep bank. The next target I got an 8 on a ram. I figured I was done, so I just started shooting my bow. By the time the day ended, I had a score of 289, with 10-8-5 scoring. I only shot one more 8 on the next 28 targets, and it was a tough course. When I got home and saw the scores, Scott Tozier had beaten me by 2 points, meaning he also shot a 5. That was the kickstart to my competitive nature in the 3D world. Since that time, we have both been in and out of archery, and we have both found a lot of success along the way. Scott also has that killer instinct. Sometimes both of us have a hard time getting going, but when we do get it right, we usually finish the job. I’ve lost track along the way, but I think Scott has won four or five IBO World Championships in at least four classes.

Having said all of that, one of my most memorable times is when Scott beat me by an X to win our indoor state championship, and he and I shot together in the team event and only dropped one point between the two of us on ¬†a Vegas round, which gave us a win. That’s what I love about archery; it gives people some unforgettable moments.

I’m glad that I’ve been able to call Scott one of my best friends over the years. We spend a fair amount of time talking about different things, and I know that it has helped both of us. I’m appreciative of his ears and his knowledge. If you surround yourself with knowledgeable people who shoot well, you will definitely get better. Having this guy in my corner for 20-s0me years has worked wonders for me.

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