Jesse Broadwater is a world-class professional compound archer with three children: Molly, 12, Gracie, 13, and Tristan, 15. Archery and his children have each had a hand in shaping his life and career and greatly contributed to making him who he is today. We talked with him about the tandem relationship between archery and fatherhood and how he navigated the process as his children grew up.
A360: What was your initial journey into archery like? Were you immediately drawn to the sport?
JB: I was 6 years old when my dad got me my first bow. It was an old fiberglass longbow. The reason why I got into archery was because I wanted to go hunting with my dad. So, he got me that bow, and I started practicing so I could go hunting with him and try to take a deer myself. I stood in the yard for hours shooting that bow at a pie plate. I could not put it down. About six months later my dad saw that I really had an interest in it, so he got me my first compound bow. That’s when I really started getting into it with sights, releases and different arrows. I started learning things on my own about how everything worked and what it took to shoot good consistently. I was hooked and was shooting that little bow very effectively out to 30 yards, and that was what I needed to show my dad before he would take me hunting.
A360: What would you say helped you reach the professional level you’re at today?
JB: I would say the No. 1 thing, without a doubt, that helped me get to where I’m at today was joining a good bow club. My whole family joined the Cumberland Bowhunters in Cumberland, Maryland, and it was full of world-class shooters who were always willing to help newcomers. We started shooting Friday night leagues there and practicing through the week and getting to know everyone. Everyone was so helpful and provided tips that helped us all shoot better. There were quite a few (archers there) that were shooting on the national level and traveling around to all of the shoots at the time, so after about a year of shooting there at the club, we jumped in with them and started traveling. … So, without a doubt I never would’ve shot one tournament in my life if it wouldn’t have been for us joining that bow club.
A360: How does archery benefit your everyday life? What mental and physical benefits would you attribute to practicing archery?
JB: Archery has played a huge part in sculpting me into the person I am today. It has taught me such discipline and mental strength. I pretty much apply what I have learned from the mental side of archery in my everyday life. And archery has also made me really pay attention to my diet and physique. So, yeah, archery is ingrained in me and helps me in every area of my day-to-day life as an individual, father and husband.
A360: What has your experience (training, practicing and competing) been like since becoming a father? What have your children taught you?
JB: When my kids were younger, it was a little harder to find the time to practice like I did before, but I just made it happen. It was usually many late nights of practice after the kids went to bed, into the wee hours of the morning — and then I was up through the middle of the night a lot of times with them, and then up early. So, there was quite a period of time where I had a lack of sleep and really had to push myself to go practice, but I knew that I had to (do that) to be competitive. And I feel like that only made me stronger as a competitor.
It was rough … being on the road a lot away from them. And it was also hard to push myself to practice when they were younger, because I really wanted and needed to spend time with them because of the attention that they required. But I wouldn’t change any of it even if I could. I made it happen and I feel like it made me a stronger person. And after a while the kids got used to me leaving and that wasn’t as big of a deal anymore.
I feel like there are a lot of values that relate to one another between archery and being a father. I’ll be honest, I also used certain types of mental imagery to reflect back on my kids at home when I was on the road and (in) a high-pressure situation and I needed to get my mind off of being nervous. So, I would always think about my wife (Lisa) and kids back at home and certain memories that I had made with them, and it was something that just helped ease my mind. I still use it to this day. It puts things into perspective.
A360: What advice would you give to other archers who are new fathers or are thinking about becoming a father in the future?
JB: I mean, seeing my child born will always be the highlight of my life. No matter how many world championships or titles that I may win, nothing holds a candle to seeing your own being born. And the best thing about it is, you have a whole life to look forward to spending with them and teaching them and raising them. And I’m sure at some point they are going to pick up a bow just like dad and want to give it a try, and they may become your new practice partner. They may become the next world champion archer — who knows what they may become. Life is a journey, and I couldn’t imagine my life without archery or my kids in it!
A360: What advice would you give your children if they are also interested in archery?
JB: The main thing is to have fun with it. If they want to do it, fine; if not, that’s fine also. I would never push them into doing anything. But the No. 1 thing in my opinion is you have to make it fun for them, especially at first. And then once they see that it’s fun, they are going to want to do it more often and eventually they are going to want to get better at it. And that’s the point where you start taking steps to improve your consistency and that’s where all the real learning starts. But there always has to be a level of fun involved … in the beginning it has to be mostly fun.
A360: What are the most important things you’ve learned during your career as an archer?
JB: I have learned that the archery community is a very loving and accepting group of people. Some of my best friends I have met through archery, as well as my wife! So, the people in archery are great. I have also learned a lot about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses. I have learned so much about dedication and what it takes to win at a high competition level. So, I have learned a whole lot about myself. There are no shortcuts, and just like anything else, if you want something bad enough and you put your head down and dedicate yourself to it, you will achieve your goals.
A Harmonious Balance
Broadwater detailed the struggles of being on the road when his children were young but also acknowledged the bigger picture: that practicing archery and being a father provided him with valuable life lessons and gave him insight into himself. “Let’s just say I am a happy human being because of my family and archery and once again, I couldn’t imagine life without either of them,” Broadwater said.
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