Org of the Week: Archery targets stress, clears mind

Cooper Ross ’19, an Archery Club veteran, takes aim at a target during their practice. / Courtesy of Cooper Ross

As college students, we know that tackling mounds of work can be daunting. In fact, tackling any big challenge can be daunting. That is why micromastery has been suggested as the key to happiness; we should all become gods of small things.

If you’re not a fan of orgs with lots of pressure to attend regularly and perform highly, Archery Club has the solution to your woes. In the words of the Org President Robert Lou- is ’18 in an emailed statement, “I really can’t overstate the levels of chill we have.” The club provides a relaxed, friendly atmosphere for first-timers and seasoned archers alike.

The board consists of president Robert Louis ’18 and vice-president Haydn Wall ’18. You will find them at practice on the field just past Kenyon Hall, blasting music and correcting newcomers’ grip. The club practices on Saturdays between one and four p.m., and on Monday and Wednesday between two and four p.m.

Archery, like any technique sport, is easy to learn but hard to master. Archery Club member Maret Gable ’18 pointed out that archery is not so much difficult as just outright different than other sports: “I don’t know of any other sport that requires you to pull your shoulder blades together against 20+ pounds of resistance.”

After all, archery is an Olympic sport! Louis and Wall will run over essentials for first-timers, but as you get more practice in, the sport reveals its nuances, which the presidents, both seasoned archers, dispense in the form of little pointers throughout practice.

Louis also clarified in an email, “Everything I teach is from the standards used by the U.S. organization that includes the Olympic team, but there are numerous other disciplines used at all levels.” Archery is not just about following the rules, and there is plenty of room for individual flair. Louis believes, “[My personal style] is a little divergent from this standard, relying more on instinct and using a somewhat unconventional draw that…mirrors, accidentally, some Russian archers.”

Archery may provide a stress-free alternative or accompaniment to your existing hobbies, but that does not mean it is without its challenges. Gable commented in an emailed statement, “[I like the challenge,] the skill it takes to hit what you want and the fact that there’s always another level of skill to gain.”

For a non-athlete, archery provides a nice, non-demanding amount of physical work. The actions of drawing, aiming and shooting require her to use her body in a satisfying way, but, she added, “[It] doesn’t require any great strength or speed or agility.”

Louis draws satisfaction from the fact that archery has remained unchanged throughout recorded history. There’s a level of focus present in the moment of the shot that clears the mind as very few other things can, which is perhaps why the basic formula has never changed. Archery can provide meditative calm and a moment of total comfortable emptiness that Louis finds very advantageous for stress relief.

Wall agreed and elaborated on its soothing aspect, stating over email, “[It’s the repetition] of nocking an arrow and then firing over and over again,” Any experienced meditators may find the Archery Club a real benefit to their practice. In some branches of Kyudo, traditional Japanese archery, Zen and archery are intertwined. In Kyudo, the archer’s goal is achieved through both their shooting technique and their spirit, which contributes towards a thoughtless state.

Speaking on what keeps drawing him back again and again, Gable stated, “[It’s] the satisfying thud of an arrow sinking into the target.” Building up your skill level is important, but it is not necessary to obtain a high level of performance or in order to have a good time. You don’t have to attend every session and you don’t have to take it too seriously. Gable can hit the bullseye from 10 yards, while Wall can do the same from 20 yards. For Louis, 30 yards is achievable after a warm-up. For some mem- bers, they may never hit the bullseye at all!

Archery Club, in all its incarnations, understands the value of novelty. Louis commented, “Halloween had meant zombie targets for as long as I’ve been around,” and it is a tradition he intends to continue. Weekend practices can include target balloons, colored powder and exploding targets. As he put it, “[It all] makes for a very satisfying bang!”

Although zombie practice has been around for a long time, the board is keen to change

things up. In the history of the club, this semester is the first time a new practice schedule has been introduced. It’s a great time to be involved, as this semester has been called one of change by members of the club.

Even without the innovations on the horizon, Archery Club provides an opportunity to learn or refresh a skill with limitless possibilities. Wouldn’t it be nice to master something without any pressure to perform? If your eyes are strained from staring at the pages of an over-priced textbook, or studying on your computer, a spot of micromastery in the great outdoors may be the solution.

As well as socializing during practices, the club also holds dinners and parties. Everyone is welcome to these, as membership of the Archery Club is informal. If you have attended a session once, you are automatically a member; there is no requirement and certainly no expectation. Mastery of your new-found hobby can occur at your own pace. You can shoot every round with the precision of the assassin in “Seven Samurai,” or you can take a step back and simply watch.

Gable was keen to provide a few words of friendly advice for aspiring archers: “Wear sunscreen and bring plenty of water. There is not a lot of shade and it gets very hot. Also, if you haven’t shot before or haven’t shot in a long time, pick a lower poundage bow and take it easy the first time. Your fingers and back need a chance to get used to what you’re asking them to do.”

Louis may have shot his first arrow at the age of 10, but that doesn’t mean you need to have had any practice. Wall didn’t start practicing until college, although they had shot a few times at a summer camp. Sound familiar? If you also have fond memories of holding your bow and pulling an arrow from your quiver, it may be time to dust off those closed-toe shoes and join Archery Club.

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