“Thwack”, the arrow hit dead center of the target. My heart fluttered. I turned around and shouted with a smile on my face, “I know how to do this now!”
My name is Anna Ribbeck. I am a 24-year-old competitive archer. I am originally from Louisiana and I have been shooting for three years now. My archery journey began while I attended Louisiana State University (LSU). I was an avid basketball player, but my sophomore year of college I underwent two craniotomies for a disease called Superior Canal Dehiscence Syndrome. (I am missing bones in both my ears and it causes severe dizziness.) After my surgeries I made the tough decision to quit playing basketball so I wouldn’t get hit in the head. I’m a very competitive person and I felt incomplete without my sports. Growing up I had expressed interest in archery, but my family knew nothing about archery. Well my junior year of college rolled around and a guy I was dating at the time had an old bow. One day I shot that bow, the moment the arrow hit the target I knew I was hooked. I bought myself a compound bow online. A small confession; I had very little knowledge about archery and I literally bought the bow because it was purple! This bow was called the Bear Cruzer and it turned out to be the perfect beginner bow; fully adjustable and great let off. Little did I know this bow would be my start into the competitive world of archery and eventually lead to a sponsorship…..
I took my Bear Cruzer to a local bow shop to get set up. The bow techs taught me the basics of shooting and suggested I try 3D archery competitions. My ears perked up. “A competition??” I had never heard of an archery competition. I attended my first local 3D tournament and whoa was it nerve racking! I didn’t know any of the rules and I was still developing my shot form. The archers I shot with were really helpful, they explained the rules and reassured me it gets easier the more times you shoot. I accidentally missed one of the targets on the course, shot a tree, and got a zero. The archers told me to never be embarrassed about missing a target. That is how you learn and everyone has missed at one point or another. After that tournament, I got the fever for competitive archery. I had found a sport that I could compete in even with my disease!
Hard core practicing had begun.
I wanted to be the best. I began practicing on my own five times a week and of course keeping up with my horticulture homework in school! (Yes, I am a plant nerd.) I practiced at a local range, but I had a problem; every time I went other archers would try to give me advice because I was a beginner. It was really overwhelming. Each person gave different advice. A great bow tech told me, “Anna, find two knowledgeable archers that you trust and only stick with their advice.” I took that to heart. I also learned that everyone has their own shot form. You can be taught the basics, but you develop your own shot. After much practice and hard work I developed a consistent form. During my first year of shooting, I attended many local competitions and I won state for the women’s hunter class!!! I won a buckle and it made me feel like a badass. I thought to myself, “Ya know I really love this sport and I am going to get really good at it!”
That same year, I traveled with my mom to my first national 3D competition, the Archery Shooter’s Association (ASA) Classic in Fort Benning Georgia. The minute we pulled up in the parking lot, I was amazed! Thousands of archers walking around with bows in their hands. I was also really intimidated. Most people were shooting large target bows and many were sponsored shooters. Everyone seemed to know where to go and what to do. I felt like the new kid on the block who knew absolutely nothing. I thought to myself, “Can I actually do this? Can I compete with these people?” Well I didn’t let fear get the best of me. I shot the team shoot where I was paired with more experienced shooters. They were awesome! They didn’t laugh at me for being a beginner. They encouraged me! After shooting with them I felt a lot more comfortable. The day of the real competition, I walked to my range and was impressed to see so many women archers competing. Where I come from I am one of the only women competing. Turns out to compete you don’t have to have fancy equipment or be sponsored to do well! I ended up shooting the best scores I had ever shot at a competition. I didn’t podium, but I was proud of myself. I had faced my fears! During the classic, I went to the Pro Shoot Off where I saw professional women archers compete. They were incredible! I will never forget that experience. When I saw them, my new goal was to one day become a professional archer and compete with them. That is a goal I strive for every day.
During my senior year at LSU, I practiced, worked hard, and competed at a few national ASA events. The more events I attended, the more archers I met. I made a lot of great lifelong friends. It’s like a second family. When you travel to the national events you get to see your archery family! I even met a sponsored Bear shooter who was so kind that he gave me a collared Bear shirt to wear at the shoots. I was elated. I felt like a real professional. I knew I wanted to become part of the Bear family. During these events, I also learned that the pro archers are down-to-earth people. Levi Morgan was kind enough to take a picture with my mom! I got to meet Emily McCarthy and she told me that I should always be proud of the class I shoot in because it’s an accomplishment. She told me that she started out in women’s hunter too!
I graduated in 2016 from LSU, summa cumme laude, with a degree in horticulture.
One of my career goals is to become a horticulture extension agent, so I decided to pursue a master’s degree from the University of Florida. It just so happens that the Bear Factory and Pro-shop is located in Gainesville, Florida. I moved to Gainesville in the summer of 2016 and the minute I got there I visited Bear! I met the bow tech at the pro-shop and he is awesome; knowledgeable and doesn’t make me feel stupid if I don’t know something. He encouraged me to apply for a Bear pro staff position. I applied and in October of 2016 I was officially on staff. A dream come true.
As a sponsored archer, I promote product, compete in competitions, and get to be the face of the company. I have a Facebook and Instagram dedicated to what I do; facebook.com/AnnaTheArcher & @anna_the_archer. Being on staff has been one of the greatest opportunities of my life, but it also requires great dedication. Not only am I promoting product and constantly competing, I am working on my horticulture master’s degree. It is quite the balancing act, but I truly love what I do and would never give up archery or horticulture. During the fall, I was the Bear representative at the Bass Pro Shop grand opening in Gainesville. I talked with people from all walks of life and introduced them to the Bear bow line up. I have and continue to compete at many of the national ASAs and my scores are rising!! This year I am competing with Bear’s new target bow, the LST. My goal is to get on the podium.
Through Bear Archery, I had the opportunity to attend the Archery Trade Association (ATA) trade show which is the archery industry’s largest trade show. I worked the shooting lanes for Bear Archery’s booth. Through this incredible experience, I met the top professionals from the leading businesses in the archery industry. What struck me the most was that each person I met had a passion for their job. I realized I wanted to become a part of the industry. I’m extremely passionate about archery and being able to work with people who are down- to- earth and love what they do is very important to me. Being a horticulture major, has given me a wide array and flexibility of job opportunities. One day I would like to combine my two worlds, archery and horticulture. If I want to become a part of the archery industry, I needed to educate myself. I recently bought a bow press. I am learning how to work on my own bow. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. Being able to do it yourself, there is no other feeling like it.
Breaking into the archery world can be intimidating,
especially if you are doing it on your own. Don’t be afraid to take the leap. Archers really want to help others join the sport, myself included. I joined the world of archery by myself; I took the leap, and I will never look back. For me, archery has been more than a sport. Shooting makes me feel empowered. Archery has taught me to get over my fear and try new things, it has taught me to go after what I want, and it has taught me patience. I have made lifelong friends through this sport. Archery is an amazingly adaptable sport that people with disabilities can do too (including me!)
Since I have been around the industry and so many archers, I have recently become interested in bow hunting. I do want to add in here, as a person who has never hunted, never feel pressure to go hunting if you don’t want to. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to hunt, but understanding why other people hunt is very important. Hunting is a big part of conservation and the money hunters pay for hunting licenses also goes towards conservation efforts. I have always supported hunting, but I had no interest in going. My family never hunted. The more I learn about hunting from other archers, the more I want to go! This fall I will be going deer hunting with one of my avid bow hunting friends whom I met through the industry. I am over the moon. If I do kill a deer, he told me that he will teach me how to skin and quarter it, as well as how to cook it properly. This is what I call the real organic. The meat is not processed and you know where it came from! Being a horticulturist, I have learned how to grow some of my own food. This has been a very rewarding process. Learning how to harvest my own protein source is the next step in becoming self-sufficient.
I have to say a big thank you to all my fellow archers.
Since becoming a competition shooter I have met many knowledgeable people who want to share their wisdom and experience with others. My advice to new archers and experienced archers; don’t be afraid to try new things and learn from others. It will get you far in life.