I've been practicing Olympic style recurve archery in the SF Bay Area since late 2016.
I am guided by the words of wisdom and stern talking-to's from award-winning archer, coach and spirit guide Nico Gallegos, the owner-operator of fantastic Ohlone Archery. More than just a range, Nico has created a close, supportive community of local archers in an environment where you get better proportionately to the ends you're willing to lob at targets for hours at a time.
As a competitive archer, my aspiration is to become what poet Stephanie Burt calls the sport’s “…elevated counselors / of the air, which will not take / anything but our most forceful advice.”
Archery has been the ultimate practice of mindfulness and I have the aching arms and shoulders to show for it.
...and let the glove move where we draw the wire,
scared that the machinery
will misinterpret us,
that we may not stop trembling, that we may lose
our belief in ourselves
before anything is released, or shared, or sent...
-Stephanie Burt, “Archery”
Through a little more practice, watching videos of my form and shot sequence, and tuning my setup, I finally broke through the 70 yard wall and have started shooting comfortably at this competition distance. It’s an exciting milestone for me as an athlete but just entry-level table stakes for the competitive archery world.
// THE 40 YARD LINE
Getting more consistent (and overcoming stage fright) at longer distances now. Shooting forty yards for the first time, I started with two primary goals (a) don’t lose any arrows and (b) hit the target butt. Anywhere at all on the target butt.
With some slow and steady practice this day, I ended up with solid three-arrow ends consistently hitting paper, including a luck-induced X-bullseye.
// HAVE BOW, WILL TRAVEL
While traveling through Raleigh-Durham I was given the opportunity to take a lesson from NTS Certified coach John Kristoff at his range, Lifetime Archery.
While I had been training on form for over a year, working with Coach John was my first lesson formally under the NTS methodology. After a morning of private instruction, I left with a notebook scrawled with new ideas and practice points. My fingers were raw, my spirit was lifted. Bonus that this all happened against a 1990s music playlist featuring The Crash Test Dummies.
// TBT: EARLY DAYS AT OHLONE
// BO KNOWS…ARCHERY
Just watched an incredible documentary on the late 1980s powerhouse that was Bo Jackson in the fantastic ESPN series 30 for 30.
This Heisman Trophy winner at Auburn University would become the only pro athlete to become an All Star in two sports: football with the LA Raiders and baseball with the Kansas City Royals (and later Chicago White Sox). He was a superhuman in both, for his strength (breaking baseball bats over his leg), speed (tearing through walls of linebackers in real live, being Super Mario star level invincible in Tecmo Bowl on the Nintendo NES), and agility (running up an outfield wall to catch a baseball). In the 1980s, you could't get more viral a video than being featured in your own Nike commercial.
Jackson also worked out his compound bow skills throughout his pro career and his personal retreat is into his man cave, where he builds arrows under the gaze of all of his game hunting trophies.
Just so inspired by a person who pushed himself to dominate two tough sports so handedly, using his grit and determination to sharpen his preternatural athletic gifts. And then finding peace with a bow and arrow.
// "NIL DESPERANDUM..."
"Despair in no way," says Teucer (via Horace), to inspire continued journeys and self-discovery. I take this to mean, "Don't worry, you'll finally master your shot sequence and raise your average six arrow end score into the low fifties."
// NIGHTS WITH YONDO
In the professional quality assurance world we already known that being consistent is not great if you are only ever consistently bad. Don't despair. Practice.
// TBT: BEFORE I KNEW WHAT “SHOOTING SPLIT FINGER” MEANT