STAY UP TO DATE
By Guy Krueger, USA Archery Education and Training Manager
As the Olympic and Paralympic Games approach, many are inspired to chase the dream to represent our country on the world’s greatest stages. However, it’s important to understand the reality of the performance level of international competition and what it takes to get there. There are many factors that affect an athlete’s ability to reach this level that include selection to the team.
First the athlete and coach need to know and understand the selection procedures for the specific international team. Selection procedures vary for all events and the point system used to select the team can be complex. All USA Archery team selection procedures can be found here. Every archer who is competing for a team should print out a copy of the procedures and study them. Coaches and athletes should even strategize on the best opportunities to make points to increase the chances of making the team. Selection procedure criteria is usually determined based on the skills necessary to be successful at that international event and focuses on a combination of ability to score high in qualification and elimination rounds and the ability to win matches. Sometimes teams are nominated based on standings in the national ranking system, and others have a separate Trials process.
Before setting out to make an international team, archers and coaches need to understand the performance level it actually takes to be successful internationally. International performance levels have continued to increase over the last 20 years and will continue to increase.
Performance levels can easily be examined by referencing qualification round scores from previous international events. Some would argue that archers only need to perform in elimination matches; however, upon examination of past events, the archers and teams that are consistently successful are shooting high qualification round scores on average. For example, at the 2019 World Archery Championships, the average women’s recurve team that qualified for the Olympics averaged a 664 per person and the average men’s team that qualified averaged a 676 per person! The average individual medalist was even higher with the women averaging a 678 and the men averaging a 685.
Similarly, other divisions have seen big jumps in performance and in the number of archers performing at those levels. Here are the average scores of the top 4 finalist from the last World Archery Championships, World Archery Para Championships, and World Archery Youth Championships:
These increases in performance levels and the quantity of archers shooting these scores are largely due to an increased professional approach to developing archers and coaches worldwide. Many of the top countries in the world utilize intentional, focused youth development programs, resident programs and national team members train full time. This is why our high- performance development programs are so important to our current and future success in the sport.
It’s important to not lose sight of how to achieve these scores. Athletes that are performing at these levels internationally are doing so through proper training. They are shooting a large quantity of arrows each day. For most this is well over 300-400 arrows each day (even high school archers). For example, I trained in South Korea almost 20 years ago and spent most of the time with a high school archery team. Those high school archers shot between 500-700 arrows each day! It may not be possible for every archer to shoot that number of arrows given their school schedule or work schedule. We need to understand this is what our competition is doing and there is an opportunity to learn from their successes too. If you want to compete at that level, it’s important to analyze whether you can increase your training amount gradually while maintaining high quality shooting. The USA Archery Athlete Development Model provides appropriate guidelines for training volume for different age groups. It is very important to note that when archers are increasing training volume, they need to make sure their shooting technique is biomechanically sound, or they could risk injury. Archers should always consult a qualified coach prior to adjusting their training volume.
These internationally successful archers aren’t just working hard, but they are also working smart. Their practice sessions are very focused on developing specific skills and improving performance. So, it’s not just about shooting a lot of arrows, but shooting a lot of arrows with focus, intention and quality.
There are obviously many factors that contribute to being a successful international archer such as coaching and even individual talent levels. If you want to be a successful archer whether internationally, nationally, or locally, start understanding what it takes to perform at that level. Gather data, facts, and input and take a look in the mirror and ask yourself if you are truly doing everything you need to do to be successful. Useful resources for gathering information include the USA Archery Athlete Development Model and World Archery Results.