“I play tennis for a living even though I hate tennis, hate it with a dark and secret passion and always have.” – opening line of Andre Agassi’s autobiography.
I don’t hate doing archery. For the first time in a long while. The self-doubt fog is lifting. Lucky, lucky me. I have time to go and shoot, although it’s being fitted around a million and one other things. And things are going…. OK. I mean…
… you know, I’m not going to be worrying Brady Ellison come Saturday week, but they’re all landing on the face, right? Which makes a marked change from my last international tournament. It’s like, I have some kind of a shot, and can deliver it down range, but I’m still a bit short of the reserve strength to handle it and get that kind of consistency towards the middle.
But it’s looking better than it has, ever. Archery Fit in Greenwich, who I’ve written about before, have been helping me down the road with some amazing coaching, as usual. I sense I’m keeping occasional pace with the better club recurves, rather than being a few minutes behind the peloton as usual. I can smash up gold paper with the best of them at 18m.
I start eyeing up the fun bits of Vegas on the internet, wondering what I’m going to do when not destroying the middle. This is gonna be goooood.
Of course, this all goes well for several sessions, until a relatively stressful Sunday and a long and tiring Monday leaves me arriving at the range feeling empty and rattled. There’s a often repeated maxim, apparently attributed to Fred Bear, which goes like this:
I’m really sorry, but this is complete and utter bullshit. Unless old Fred shot blank boss all the time. Your mileage may vary, but for me it’s literally the opposite situation; nothing reveals and reflects a troubled, tired mind quite like shooting a bow at a target, amplifying the struggles and marking out distraction with numerical clarity. There’s loads of things I love doing to clear a troubled mind: walking on a beach, cooking risotto, listening to Eliane Radigue – but archery isn’t one of them. It increases my stress levels if they’re up there already.
What’s wrong? I can’t hit a barn door today. I rip the Vegas three-spot down and put up a piece of golden yellow A4 paper folded in half (an Archery Fit trope, apparently originally borrowed from rifle shooting drills). Today, I can barely hit that either. I have no energy and precious little willpower. I want to throw the bow across the room. Of course, I should just stand at a blank boss, but my ego – the one that was doing so well last week – won’t let me. Eventually I give up and put it all back in the case and stomp off to get a beer and the train home.
A couple of hours later, I’m thinking: maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. And I didn’t eat properly, or plan the day right, or stop for a moment and breathe. It’s part of being human, though, right? Huh.
God I hate archery. Tomorrow will be different.
It has to be.