Setting Sights on Success, The Road to Olympic Archery

Setting Sights on Success, The Road to Olympic Archery

By: Danielle Foley & Shannon Coleman

A role model is someone that can be learned from, their commitment to excellence and their ability to help others realize their own personal growth is something to be admired. As mentors and role models they inspire those around them to strive for greatness and to see the best in themselves. There’s no doubt that professional and Olympic athletes are some of the most popular and influential role models for young athletes in the United States.

As the sport of archery has grown and flourished in the past decade, young archers have been introduced to role models of their own. Olympians and professional archers alike have taken the world by storm. They are seen as role models and coaches to help young archers in their own pursuits for success. However, they didn’t start out that way, like many others, their success began with an inspiration and a dream.

Photo Credit: USA Archery

Photo Credit: USA Archery

“I originally was a swimmer, I wanted to go to the Olympics for swimming. I was then introduced to archery through NASP®, [The National Archery in the Schools Program] when I was 10 years old. I stopped swimming because I enjoyed archery more” Olympian Mackenzie Brown states, “I went to my first NASP® tournament in 5th grade and I ended up winning my division”. This was just the start to Mackenzie’s success. “I then got involved with JOAD [Junior Olympic Archery Development] in Tyler, Texas. It was then that my dad had me choose between compound and recurve, but he told me recurve goes to the Olympics, compound doesn’t. That’s when I decided to shoot recurve, because I had that dream and desire to go to the Olympic games.” Through earning the JOAD achievement pins and winning smaller tournaments, Mackenzie then attended JOAD Outdoor Nationals in 2008. “It was a big and awesome experience,” says Brown.

She continued to attend large, national qualifying tournaments, eventually setting her sights on success in the 2016 Olympic games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brown secured her spot on Team USA by attending required Olympic Trials tournaments such as the Gator Cup and Arizona Cup.

Photo Credit Mackenzie Brown

Photo Credit: Mackenzie Brown

“I had an amazing experience in Rio, it was truly unlike anything I had ever done. Of course, I wish I had done better but it was a huge learning experience for me, I’m now better prepared and looking forward to Tokyo 2020. I am determined to medal.” Brown explains.

Training and preparation for the Olympics continues year round, with many tournaments in between. One of those tournament being the Lancaster Classic held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Mackenzie expresses her thoughts going into the tournament, “I came [to Lancaster] with high expectations. I wanted to do my best. I didn’t shoot as well in qualification but elimination matches are really my strong suit.”

Photo Credit: Lancaster Archery

Photo Credit: Lancaster Archery

Mackenzie took the gold at the Lancaster Classic for the Women’s Recurve division. She admits that her motivation and support is rooted in her family. “My parents are my greatest support. People will tell you that you’re crazy wanting to go to the Olympics, but if you believe in yourself, you can do anything.”


“Don’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the further you get.” —Michael Phelps

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit: DUTCH TARGET

“I was first introduced to archery when I was 4 years old. My grandfather built me a string bow that I used to fling arrows around in the yard,” Olympic Medalist Zach Garrett states. “I began shooting through 4-H when I was 14, that’s where I was introduced to Olympic Recurve.” Zach continued to practice and perfect his skills in the years to come.

“I met Steve Cornell [USA Archery coach] and he encouraged me to start shooting in USA Archery tournaments. I shot my first national tournament at Outdoor Nationals in 2010. I shot [a score of] somewhere around a 1080 [out of a possible 1440 points]. I enjoyed the tournament but I wanted to do better. So I continued to go back year after year and my scores got higher and higher.” In preparation for the Olympic trials and team selection, Zach remained confident in himself. “I went in [to trials] with an open mind. I expected that I could continue to move forward and make the team,” and he did.

Photo Credit: World Archery

Photo Credit: World Archery

“Having an aim is the key to achieving your best.” –Author Unknown

Photo Credit: Dutch Target

Photo Credit: Dean Alberga 

“I was around 6 or 7 when I began bow hunting. It then progressed to me shooting 3D and targets to improve my hunting game,” Olympic medalist and World Record Holder Brady Ellison explains. “I first started shooting 3D, ASA [Archery Shooters Association], and IBO [International Bowhunting Organization].”. In order to fulfill his Olympic dream, Brady then made the transition from compound to recurve in 2006.

“I shot in Vegas, which was when someone told me to start shooting USA Archery.” After having great success in tournaments through USA Archery, Brady was selected to be a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center. “I was around 16 or 17. It made me really grow up quickly so I wasn’t really a kid anymore. When you are there training with people in their 20’s and 30’s, you must take training seriously.” The time that he spent training paid off once he was selected for his first Olympic team.

“I was ranked #1 in the nation at the time, so I knew that I had the ability to make the team and could continue to make it. I kept pushing to get better and better. My first games was a huge deal for me.” Ellison expresses.

With many tournaments, titles, and achievements under his belt, Brady looks back on his memorable moments. “I love to compete. Winning a medal at the Olympic games and winning World Championships were great moments, but honestly no particular moment stands out more than another. I love it all!” In addition to being successful in World Championships and the Olympic games, Brady recently took home the gold from the Lancaster Classic. “I have never won this tournament. I have placed second a couple of times so winning this one was very important to me”.

Photo Credit: Lancaster Archery

Photo Credit: Lancaster Archery

If you dream and allow yourself to dream, you can do anything.” —Clara Hughes

A true role model recognizes the influence they have over those around them and does their part to encourage and foster success in others. Remember, don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality. “Always do your best, don’t go halfway. If you try your best that’s all anyone can ask of you” Mackenzie Brown explains. “Find a good coach, work on your form and work on your mental game. Mentally prepare yourself.” Zach Garrett expresses. “If you want to be the best, find a good coach who you can trust 100% and work on your mental management” Brady Ellison advises, “Have fun with it. You’ll have good days and bad days, but let the bad days go and focus on the good. Archery is all about fun!”

From the staff
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