The Hunger Games undoubtedly played a huge part in my urge to start shooting long rods of metal at increasingly distant round target faces. While I’m no Katniss Everdeen, my first year in archery has been a great experience and it should be no surprise that I’m significantly better at shooting than I was when I picked up a bow for the first time.
I’m no longer a “novice archer” (Archery GB identifies archers in their first full year of membership as novices, even if you’ve been shooting 15 years in some other part of the world) – I feel great being able to replace the word “novice” with “recurve” and leave it at that. Despite only shooting 2 hours a week on average, I’m really happy (and proud) with my collection of shiny things:
- White, Black, Blue and Red Arrow Award badges (these are the beginner badges you achieve when you’re progressing through the initial “learning phase” of the sport. There’s a Gold Arrow Award badge as well – I missed out on the score by one point on the last outdoor season session in 2016. I’ll probably complete it at some point this summer just so I have the full set.
- Indoor “E” and “D” classification badges.
- Silver medal from my first tournament.
Hopefully I’ll extend said collection over the course of this year – I have a specific goal in mind, although given my personal circumstances right now I won’t be upset if I don’t achieve it. I mean – a year ago I couldn’t stick arrows in a target consistently from 10 meters. Now I’m hitting gold 25% of the time at a 40 meter distance. Nice.
Participating in the sport has been, and continues to be, great fun. I get to meet some great people and enjoy something completely different from my other, less outdoors-y interests. Truth be told, archery has had a positive impact on my career as well. “How?!” I hear you cry. Well…
Software developers are stereotyped as being machines that sit in front of a desk for more hours in a day than actually exist, running off of an unlimited supply of pizza and caffeine. I’ll be honest – I haven’t yet found a developer who doesn’t like pizza and coke – but ultimately, our health risks are much more likely to be associated with the fact we’re sitting at a desk, staring at an array of screens and typing many words. So. Archery gets me outside with Mother Nature (and I do shoot in all weathers – wind, rain, hail, snow, etc). There’s plenty of walking (which adds up) and as you progress in the sport you can guarantee your walking distance will, too. You need to collect your arrows at some point…
Position feet. Composure. Set. Rotate. Set up. Relax bow hand. Draw. Check anchor point. Check string picture. Draw through clicker. Release. Follow through. Maintain bow arm position. Let bow fall.
All of those things happen within seconds. Literally. “Set up” to “Let bow fall” (and I don’t mean fall to the ground – you would have a “finger sling” to stop it) are a process you refine as you improve, and should eventually become a smooth, repetitive action.
As a software developer (and increasingly through career progression) co-ordination is one of the key skills leading to success. Without co-ordination, there is little hope of being able to run a team, or manage a project. In order to execute a good shot, you need to be able to co-ordinate all of the above steps – and keep doing it.
My coaches have previously talked about “distraction training” – some people will actively choose to shoot with someone standing inches from their face shouting at them. I’ve heard people at waiting lines jokingly saying they would purposely make their bow noisy to put other people off at tournaments. A good archer will learn to tune out distractions, which allows them to focus on their form (body positioning in relation to the steps mentioned above) and release their bowstring consistently.
It goes without saying that improved focus at the shooting line can improve your ability to focus better on your projects, and my state of mind when “in the zone” is much more “zommmmmm” and less “ahhhhhh!”
Helps you relax
Everyone gets stressed. It’s a part of life, and in software development stress is there. Round every corner. Behind every door. “That’s a bug… that just took me 6 hours to fix… because of a missing semi colon! <insert expletives here>.” As a dad of four, and one of whom is autistic, our household is pretty chaotic at times. So, two hours away each Saturday, focusing on a small circle 40 meters away helps me relax. It’s just me, the bow, and the arrow. Wooosah.
Helps improve confidence
Now this is a big one for me. Many people have commented that I come across as a really confident being – and that’s fine. The main aim (pardon the pun) in my career is to progress, be a valuable and knowledgeable asset in my field and provide quality work and service to customers. On a personal level I have suffered with really low (rock bottom) self confidence and self esteem levels for years. Most people question themselves and I think it’s healthy to do so at times but I really struggle. Archery is helping me build confidence in myself – if I can pick up a bow and a year later be competing at almost half the distance of an Olympic archer, then it proves to myself that I have the ability to do almost anything if I set my mind to it and focus.
I seem to pick hobbies and interests that require similar traits – namely a refined skill, repetitiveness, focus and strength. One of my other big interests is karting – sadly it’s too expensive for me to go and do all the time – but over the years I’ve picked up several podium finishes in races. Maybe my subconscious is picking them to help benefit my professional abilities!