America’s top archers consistently rank among the best in the world, in all divisions. What are some of the things that we can learn from them? Should we mimic what they are doing to see if it works for us? Over many years of shooting with Americans (I’m Canadian), I have taken note of some constant practices of Team USA’s archers and think that some of what they do is very interesting, and even helpful.
Thinking Outside of the Box with Equipment
One of the great things about American archers is that they are not afraid to try new and innovative things with their bows. As an example, something that changed both the recurve and the compound worlds were the amounts of stabilizer weights that U.S. archers were using. Up until about the year 2010, archers did not tend to use a lot of weight on their stabilizers. Enter Brady Ellison and Reo Wilde. These two archers started stacking ounce upon ounce on their stabilizer bars to get their bows to settle down while aiming, and it worked. Not only did they win numerous tournaments with these new heavy setups, but other archers across the globe started copying them with great success. It is now common to see heavy weights on stabilizer bars on recurve and compound bows, as well as stabilizer companies manufacturing bars that can hold as many as 40 ounces (5 pounds) of stabilizer weight without breaking. And who could forget Jacob Wukie and his unique side rod stabilizer setup … look it up.
On the recurve side, shooting form has seen advances using technology and biomechanics to achieve the most efficient and repeatable shot. Americans have embraced this and devised their own styles for shooting a recurve bow. Some notable shooting styles come from Dick Tone (personal coach for Olympic champion Jay Barrs) and USA Archery head coach Kisik Lee. Using some unorthodox methods, Coach Lee has been able to develop young archers into international phenoms in short amounts of time. These methods, however, require good flexibility and strength to execute the shot. Learning this shot takes many hours of repetition and constant strengthening. In contrast, Tone’s style is more “old school” in that it is a more linear shot with more movement after the arrow has left the bow, as demonstrated by Casey Kaufhold. Her coach, Heather Pfiel, learned this shooting style directly from Coach Tone, and Casey has truly mastered the technique.
Rigorous Practice Routine
Practice. That’s the name of the game if you want to achieve great results at any USAT or international event. Most of the archers who shoot for Team USA have a rigorous training schedule that involves hundreds of arrows per day, five or six days a week, and some archers have made this easier for themselves by building their own archery ranges on their residential property. For example, top female archer Casey Kaufhold does not live at a training center but does have a 70m range in her backyard – no sitting in traffic for her on her way to the archery range. Reo Wilde built an 18m indoor range into his basement in his quest for indoor domination. Everybody has a busy schedule, but making sure that you can get in your regular practice routine will ensure better results.
Traveling to different countries for competition does not always work out in terms of dietary needs. American archers tend to bring their own food from home because of dietary restrictions, or for personal food preferences. When Cindy Bevilacqua was a team manager for the USA traveling to World Cups, she would bring a separate piece of luggage full of her archers’ comfort foods—everything from jerky to peanut butter to Twizzlers was packed into this suitcase so her archers could perform at their best without worrying that the local cuisine might not agree with them. And speaking of sharing, the Americans would usually ask me at the end of a week of competition if I wanted any of their unopened snacks, which was a definite treat.
Pride in Team USA
This topic isn’t really something that helps with form or shooting but helps with achieving a team mindset.
Rain or shine, you’ll always see the Americans cheering as one of them is competing, especially for a medal. They show up in numbers, and they help their comrade feel comfortable on the field of play, which contributes to the team’s enormous success on the world circuit. You can’t miss them in the audience because of the sparkles, stars, and plethora of red, white and blue. Besides supporting their fellow archers, the competitors from the U.S. turn out to cheer on other American athletes, especially at multisport games. This creates a sense of family, and a state of relaxation that I can only speculate helps them in performing with a mindset of national pride.
Team USA has a reputation of having a great support system for traveling teammates. On trips where coaches and support staff cannot attend, you’ll always see the American archers with a teammate in the coach’s box on the finals field. And this isn’t restricted to their own discipline; compound archers have been in the coach’s box for recurve archers, and vice versa. For example, when Kris Schaff and Brady Ellison travel together, you’ll often see them in the coach’s box for each other. In fact, American archers don’t only support one another through coaching but by helping with equipment. On more than one occasion I’ve witnessed archers from the USA at competitions lending their equipment to other unfortunate archers whose equipment did not arrive. I’ve also seen them lending out equipment to other international archers at World Cups. This is something that any competitor could do, but American archers are always quick to lend a helping hand.
If you’re shooting competition and think a new routine could improve your game, you could take some inspiration from America’s top archers.