By Anessa Williamson
Archery is one of those sports that you don’t hear much about,
like, say, water polo or rugby. It’s there; but most people just don’t pay attention to it. And that’s okay, because we’re not looking for fame. Archery is part of our lives; I’m not sure where I would be without it. But to get this far, you need every ounce of dedication because there will be times when you’re not sure if you can go on. Trust me, I know. It’s a long journey up a hill that grows steeper the further you go. But everyone starts somewhere, right?
I started when I was around 9 years old. My dad, who is an outdoor sports enthusiast, enjoyed shooting the compound bow. He went out to the range every so often, and one day I decided to go with him. As soon as I saw him launch one of his arrows, I was hooked. Later that month, my dad gave me a compound bow of my own. He taught me the basics, and I shot in a few local tournaments. Looking back, I’m not sure what would have happened if I had chosen to stay at home that day. It was fun; just me and my dad shooting at field tournaments and practicing in our back yard. I realized that I was relatively gifted in the sport; I won almost all of the tournaments I participated in and even placed well at the State level. That’s when I decided I wanted to become more competitive.
“To this day, I still love the compound bow”.
Like all aspects of archery, the compound bow requires great discipline and dedication to shoot competitively and ethically hunt game. Recognizing that I would likely have a larger competitive stage in Olympic-style shooting, I took to the Olympic recurve in 2014. I also believe that at the time, I wanted to try something different and challenge myself; recurve was the next step towards a more competitive route. At first it was odd and a little scary since I’ve never transitioned that abruptly in anything else; compound and recurve are so different from each other. When I first started, I became so frustrated with the new techniques; recurve didn’t come easily to me and I soon realized the level of work required was way more than I thought. I was seriously thinking about giving up on recurve and going back to compound, but I decided against it. I took lessons from a private coach, and he taught me much of the basics. Soon enough, I was ready to move up the line. My next coach, who I am still with, is a level four coach. What she taught me opened my eyes to the entire archery world. I’ve currently spent about a year and a half with her and I don’t think I could have a better coach. Rather than the mechanics, she specifically exaggerated the “feel.” She doesn’t just treat me as a student; she treats me as a fellow archer.
During my journey as a learning archer,
I’ve completely immersed myself in the art form that archery is. To any archers reading this, you know what I mean. This is not a light commitment. This art form, when taken to a competitive level, is extremely difficult to master. Assuming complete mastery is realistically achievable, that is. After hours of working on just the smallest aspect of my form, I’ve only moved the arrow the slightest bit. But that is what is necessary because this is a sport where a millimeter can determine the score, high or low. Learning archery isn’t always hard. Just like other sports, in the beginning, the learner will always make significant improvements, but as time goes on, these changes grow more minuscule and difficult, though equally crucial to the shot. Again, the hill that keeps growing steeper the further you go!
As of now, I have competed in local, state, national, and international tournaments. Like everyone else, I have my good days and my not-so-good days. Which days taught me better is still in question. Through my more difficult days, I’ve learned how to overcome my emotions and cope with those reckless nerves that ruin even the best of athletes. But most of all, I’ve learned to never give up no matter how hard it gets. That includes the days where it isn’t the tournament that’s messing with me; it’s my emotions. I’ve been on the verge of complete breakdowns, but I was still somehow able to pull myself together and keep shooting. I didn’t just leave and quit like I’ve seen so many people do because it’s “too hard.” Granted, many of those times I had help from fellow archers. In the archery community, people help others. And now, having some experience, I try and help other beginners who simply need a little support. One day, I hope to be one of the archers that inspire others. I see amazing archers shooting at tournaments, and it’s a perfect showcase of the art form. Every time I look at them, I remember why I love archery.
Archery doesn’t just teach the archer how to shoot;
it has many life lessons as well. I have learned discipline, responsibility, perseverance and respect for those around me. My entire view of life has changed; how I lose, how I speak to people. In the case of winning or moving to the next round, I’ve learned how to act humbly. I didn’t personally notice these changes, but my parents have noted them. Like any kid, I believed they were just being kind like any other parent. But then others have noticed too. During a recent tournament to raise funds for those in need, I received one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. A coach there had told my parents that I was a prime example of sportsmanship. I had shot very well that day and received a medal, but that was nothing compared to that coach’s words.
At the moment, I’m working towards the Junior Development Team (JDT), though in the future, I will be striving towards the Olympic team. My dedication has brought me far in life, and those are the values instilled in me by my parents, coaches, and competitors. I will not give up, no matter how hard it gets, because that is who I am. I chose archery because it as an art form that challenges me in ways that will make me a better person. I love the sport to my utmost capacity, and I’m not sure how my life would be if I didn’t. This is my story.
From the staff at The Young Archer
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