Team Life: Behind the Scenes
with USA Archery Team Life: Behind the Scenes with USA Archery

One might wonder: What’s it like to be part of a national athletic team? How do they interact as a group? What goes into team life? We spoke with Team USA archers Casey Kaufhold, Brady Ellison, Matt Stutzman, Jack Williams and Eliana Claps to find out. 

A360: Do you have any traditions/rituals as a team?

CK: My teammates on the USA World Cup Team are very supportive and upbeat. We always hype each other up before a match.

BE: In archery, every team is a little different, so there’s not like a legacy or a tradition that develops from team to team, since our teams can change every single tournament. I think when we get on the Olympic teams, we try to practice a lot and truly become a team, and if anyone has any problems we work them all out, buckle down and try to win medals.

MS: We do a pretty good job of sticking together and riding together. We do our best to eat at the same time, be on the same bus, just try to be together so that we know we’re a team. It’s an individual sport but also a team. We want (the other members) to know they have support. We also prank people. Timmy (Timothy Palumbo) has been shooting for a long time, but we still claim him as the new kid.

(Eric) Bennett loves Cheez-Its and always brings them on international trips, and I always bring a candy bar that I never eat. I’ll buy it, stick it in my bag and never take it out. I had like a three-year-old candy bar and when he wasn’t looking, I mixed it in with his Cheez-Its.

We’re still good friends. They get me back so it’s all right.

JW: With the RA (resident athlete) program, I’d say we go out to Korean barbecue as a team quite a lot, a couple times a month as a whole team dinner.

EC: For the people in my club, we have at least one team dinner and talk about the tournament, let loose, relax and play card games, more so after (the tournament). It’s archery family time. … My club has a number of archers so it’s good to not think about archery, good to just kind of exhale. It’s a really good opportunity for some of the younger archers who’ve just started to learn how we function and how we compete. … Now that I’ve grown up, in archery and in general, it’s good for me to be a mentor. It’s full circle. … When you keep doing it you realize there’s always going to be something else. Just hit the “next” button. It’s good for people to see that and for me to remember that.

A360: What are your best memories?

CK: One of my favorite memories is when Brady and I won the mixed team event in the Pan American Games 2019. He challenged me to a “match inside of a match” and claimed that he would score higher than me in the last set. It motivated me and I ended up shooting two X’s, winning the actual match and our little personal competition. 

BE: I think in Rio the media created so much drama about different things … that it was nice as a team to push that aside and say, “This is nothing like how anyone said it was going to be.” It was nice to focus and block all of that out as a team.

MS: (One day) we had some downtime, so we went to a movie. (Eric Bennett) had to go to the bathroom. I told the guy at the counter to keep the ticket and that when he comes back to tell him we won free tickets. There was literally nobody there, so he posted about it on social media, so excited. 

JW: Traveling around with Brady. … Every city is special in its own way and I like to see the sights and what makes that city famous in its own right and experience the city. … At World Cup you usually have at least one day where it’s just a half day or the whole day off, so I try to take that day and do a sightseeing tour or go and do a particular activity I know is cool.

EC: I’ve got my own club team memories, those team dinners or those nights where it’s just younger archers at the hotel, young kids just daring each other, playing games. That was always a lot of fun and helped bond us.

And with the world teams there have been some really fun trips. There you have to rely on each other, especially when you’re in a foreign country. Getting to know my teammates through games or different adventures in whatever city we’re in — that’s a lot of fun. Inside jokes, nicknames, all of that really helps to heighten the experience.

A360: What’s on your workout/practice playlist?

CK: I really like oldies music. It usually surprises many people that a teenager likes older music. My favorite artists are Paul Anka, Frank Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Patsy Cline and Elvis Presley.

BE: Whatever’s on the radio. I don’t really have a specific playlist. We listen to anything from Disney to hard rock and old country, to hip-hop and new hits; pretty much anything you could think of, we listen to.

MS: Five Finger Death Punch, Godsmack, AC/DC and country. Country and rock basically. And Mötley Crüe. I grew up Mennonite, which is kind of like Amish, very conservative. When I moved out my friend was like, “Hey, have you ever been to a concert?” and by now I’m like 30ish and I’m like, “Sure, I’ve never been to one,” and it was Five Finger Death Punch. It stuck with me. They play music I can relate to.

JW: Pretty much anything fresh and with a beat that you can have a productive, energized session with. Variety is the key. I switch it up all the time.

EC: I listen to a lot of different music. Sometimes I listen to a podcast, other times I listen to typical workout stuff. Right now, it’s The Weeknd, Frank Ocean, Ella Mai and Billie Eilish. Other times, it’s classic rock like Billy Joel or Elton John. And, of course, many others but those are what I think of on my workout playlist.

A Bond

Each Team USA archer’s experience has been different, but they all agree that in some way, being part of a team has had a great impact on them. Whether it’s hanging out as friends, coaching each other, or simply sharing the same experience, being part of a team is its own unique experience. Archery is a solo sport by nature, but it still remains a large community of people who are ready and willing to help you achieve your goals and share their passion with you.

Watch the Action

At the Olympic Games, Kaufhold will compete individually and on the women’s team, and Ellison will compete individually and with Williams on the men’s team. Check the schedule on the Olympic website and watch the action July 23 to July 31.

At the Paralympic Games, Stutzman will compete in the compound men’s division. Check the Paralympic archery schedule and tune in Aug. 27 to Sept. 4.

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