They say archery is 95% mental…well, if that is true, then I am a mental case.
Hi, my name is Cheyanne LaBarr, and I am a recovering archery mental meltdown extraordinaire.
I picked up a bow a few years ago at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Camp I attended…it felt good…I felt good using it…it seemed like me and archery were made to be together. I convinced my parents that I should leave my current sport of swimming and strike out into the seemingly small world of archery. I mean, how many people shoot archery anyway. I had the market cornered in this sport…or so I thought.
My first mental mistake was assuming that the world of archery was as small as my 11-year-old brain perceived it to be at summer camp. My parents bought me a Barnett Vortex, signed me up for our local 4H club’s archery team, and sent me on my way. I showed up to the first practice, thinking that the bow I had was awesome and I was a fairly talented archer (just ask my summer camp instructor). I was met with disappointment. My bow was wrong, my equipment was wrong, and if I had half the talent some of my fellow teammates had I may have been ok. I was determined to make it work though. I continued showing up to practices, I took pointers from everyone that was willing to share them with me and I practiced. I was getting better….until…a week before my first tournament, the bow (the one that was the wrong bow anyway) broke into many pieces. Talk about taking a mental hit…now not only was I just mediocre the only bow I had was in pieces. My parents rushed me to our local archery shop and got me the best thing they could afford, a Missions Craze 2, and we were back in business, but now I had less than a week to get use to the new bow, get it sighted in, and be ready to compete. I did my best, but going into the first tournament I can’t say that I had very much confidence. I was worried about how well I would shoot, the fact that my equipment was inferior to others, that I was a beginner, etc. I placed 10th. Could I have placed better??? Probably, but my mental game wasn’t there.
I continued to develop my archery skills over the next few months and the next few tournaments. I solicited help outside of my 4H team to further develop my archery skills. My mom even got a job at a local archery shop, got certified and started her own JOAD club to try and help me out. I practiced daily and me and my Craze 2 didn’t do so bad. I was getting a handle on this thing they call form. However, the mental game was a whole different story. I was seeing a pattern at every tournament…1 or 2 bad shots turned in to 4 or 5 bad shots and 4 to 5 bad shots turned into tears. Tears turned in to my inability to focus and shoot my best game, which ultimately would result in me shooting good not great and an okay placing but nothing to write home about.
My mom came up with a motto for our JOAD club….”Let em fly, let em die, cause once they leave your bow you can’t get them back!” I tried to work real hard on living by that motto but it is a lot harder than it sounds. I blamed a lot of it on my equipment, I mean, those kids with expensive bows and scopes didn’t seem to ever have bad shots. Maybe, just maybe if I upgraded my equipment my mental game would work itself out. So, between the money I had saved up and the discount my mom got from working at the archery shop I was able to purchase a brand-new Mathews Avail with all the bells and whistles. The new bow upped my game and my mental confidence seemed to improve a little bit, but it wasn’t a cure all. I still struggled with shot placement, target panic, and staying focused when things were not going my way. I was sure that I was doomed to be a mental case for the rest of my archery career.
Fast forward to July 22, 2017… I was standing on the shooting line at the Easton Newberry Sports Complex in Newberry, FL getting ready to compete in the 2nd leg of the Spider Cup Series, the Outdoor Round (also known as FITA Round), getting ready to take my warm up shots. I was nervous. FITA hadn’t been my friend in the past so my mental game was already taking a hit. I hated FITA. However, I had just gotten a scoped sight for my bow and I was counting on it to help my FITA game. So, although I was pretty nervous, part of me was kind of excited. My last FITA score was a 599 and my goal on this day was to break 600. I knew a 600 wouldn’t win it, but at least it would be a vast improvement from anything I had been able to accomplish so far. Warm ups started and to my surprise I hit an X and then another and by the time I had shot all 6 arrows I had shot the highest round I had ever shot in FITA. Maybe today was going to be a good day after all!! Warm up round #2 went much like warm up #1. I was in the groove, between the new scope and all the practice I had been putting in, things were finally coming together. The whistle signaled for scoring rounds and we were off.
Cue mental breakdown of mass proportions…..
Scoring round 2, arrow 2…nock, draw, anchor, aim, release…POP!!! The shot went off the arrow hit the X, but my bow was sitting in my hand in a mangled mess of string and limbs. My heart was racing. What happened??? I walked off the line and to my mom, who is also my coach, and handed her my bow. I told her I wasn’t sure what happened but I did know that my day was over. The tears were coming and I knew I couldn’t stop them, so I turned and ran to the nearest bathroom and there I let the tears flow. All the hard work, the new equipment, the practicing, and I still wasn’t going to see the other side of 600.
After what seemed like an eternity, my mom came into the bathroom, wrapped her arms around me and told me I had 2 minutes to cry it out, wash my face, and be ready to take the line with a smile on my face. She had found a bow press and somehow managed to get my bow back in working order. I was happy that my bow was fixed, but was pretty sure that I would never recover mentally from this and that my day was still pretty much over. I came out of the bathroom, tear stains still on my cheek, thanked my mom, took my bow, and headed back out to the line. Sympathetic friends and fellow shooters greeted me with hugs, smiles, and encouraging words. It definitely helped ease the embarrassment that I was feeling only minutes before. Upon inspecting my arrows, we found that the nock on one of my arrows had been widened just enough that it didn’t provide the resistance needed to keep the bow from derailing. I had missed 2 rounds at this point, but was told that if my fellow shooters didn’t have a problem with it I could make them up at the end. In true archery fashion, my fellow shooters unanimously voted for me to make them up.
Once again, I took the line. Scared and nervous was an understatement. I fired my first shot. It hit someone else’s target. Here we go again. I was sure there was no way I was coming back from this. Breath…focus…you can do this, I told myself. I fired the next shot it hit my target. Now we were getting somewhere. Each shot I took got a little better and before you know it I was hitting X’s again. My friends and family were cheering me on, I could feel the pressure lifting off my shoulders, maybe, just maybe, I was going to be all right. It couldn’t get any worse, right? We finished our rounds and now it was time for me to make up the rounds I missed. All eyes were on me. I shot one arrow after the next trying not to think about everyone watching me and before I knew it I was done. All my arrows had scored and scored well. Now was the moment of truth…did I break 600?
I DID!!! I shot a 641, a personal best. I was in 2nd place!!! I don’t think I had ever been that happy about a 2nd place finish. We went into elimination rounds after that and I picked up momentum. It even rained…hard…and I still shot well. The shoot ended up getting called due to rain and I was 3 points behind the leader with 3 arrows to go, but I gladly took 2nd place.
I may not have taken 1st place that day, but I had a true victory over my mental game. For once, I didn’t let it get the best of me. I showed it who was boss and finished strong. I am not saying I am cured of this mental disease archery has created in my life, but I am taking baby steps towards kicking its butt!!!
~ Cheyanne LaBarr
From the staff at The Young Archer
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