Getting Started in Competitive Archery: Preparing for a Tournament

If you’re going to enter the world of competitive archery, come prepared. Like with any sport, the amount of preparation you put in before the tournament will determine your performance.

Casey Kaufhold knows a thing or two about what it takes to prepare for a tournament. At just 14 years old, the high-school freshman is one of the best archers in the world. She won the senior women’s recurve division at USA Archery’s 2018 National Target Championships and is a top prospect for the 2020 U.S. Olympic team.

Looking for some pro advice on how to prepare for a tournament? This national champion shares some of her secrets to success.

Shoot, Shoot…and Shoot Some More

Practice on blank bales to keep your technique sharp. Photo Credit: goHUNT

Before an archery tournament, plan to shoot as many arrows as possible leading up to the event. Kaufhold practices almost every day after school for up to five hours. That’s the training schedule of a national champion. Most people can’t commit to that amount of time. But shooting often is the only way to build the stamina, strength and focus needed for competition.

Kaufhold shoots blank bale once or twice a week. Blank bale shooting is when archers shoot at a bale or other large target without a bull’s-eye. Some archers shoot with their eyes closed. This practice allows archers to focus on feeling their form, instead of the bull’s-eye. Blank bale removes the aiming element of the shot. It doesn’t matter where the arrows hit the target – this practice ensures athletes are following the right process.

Keep Score

Kaufhold shoots at least a full round of 30 to 60 arrows and tracks her score every time. “It’s important to keep score because you want to practice for what you do in competition,” Kaufhold said. Understanding your scores is one of the keys to improvement. Kaufhold keeps a record of all her practice scores and compares them to look for changes and patterns. For example, if she scores lower than average she may notice it’s because she didn’t eat before shooting, or she also did a workout that day. Kaufhold says understanding why she had lower scores can help her better prepare in the future.

Prepare Your Mind

Exercising your brain is just as important as your body. The world’s best archers use mental training to sharpen their shooting skills. This mental preparation can include visualization, setting goals, distraction games and positive thinking.

Set aside time for mental preparation before the tournament, such as before bed or on your lunch break. Visualize making perfect shots at the tournament. Set a goal of achieving a certain score or ranking. Practice tuning out the possible distractions by turning on loud music and counting to 100. These are just a few ways to mentally prep for the big day.

Kaufhold also encourages archers to record video of their shooting to look for areas of their form that need improvement.

Train Your Body

Running and strength training will keep your body tournament ready. Photo credit: Unsplash

Many pro archers use endurance and strength training. Kaufhold focuses on building endurance by running 2 miles, twice a week, with her archery coach. Cardio will build the stamina needed to shoot for several hours, or walk through a field or 3-D course. Specific strength training exercises will condition the muscles needed to execute the shot.

Rest and Relax

“I get nervous, it’s a natural thing for everybody during a high-pressure situation,” Kaufhold said. “Don’t treat the day of the tournament any differently – you want to feel comfortable and normal.”

It’s OK to be nervous when you start competing. Even national champions get the jitters before a tournament, but you’ll shoot better if you feel your best.

In the days leading up to the event, take steps to stay healthy and hydrated during tournaments. Eat nutritious foods and drink plenty of water. Also, get plenty of sleep the night before the event.

Remember to Have Fun

Tournaments can be a great way to meet fellow archers. Make the most of it. Photo Credit: USA Archery

“Just have fun with it,” Kaufhold said. “If you don’t have fun, then you won’t enjoy competing, and we want archers to enjoy the experience.”

Archery competitions are meant to be a great time. Don’t let nerves spoil your score or the opportunity to enjoy everything the day has to offer. Making friends with other archers is one of the biggest reasons Kaufhold fell in love with the sport. “Even if you don’t have a good day of shooting, have fun and meet some new people,” Kaufhold said.

For more information on getting into competitive archery read:

Getting Started in Competitive Archery: The Gear

Getting Started in Competitive Archery: USA Archery Rules

Getting Started in Competitive Archery: Field and 3-D Rules



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