Just Keep Swimming…With the Gators

After leaving AZ Cup disappointed, I came home ready to work even harder to be ready for Gator Cup. I had roughly 5 weeks between the two tournaments, so I was determined to figure out how to fix some of my form issues, so I could be more consistent with my shot.

If you follow me on facebook you know, yes, I did work my butt off between the two tournaments, but that doesn’t mean I was progressing. As I tried different things, each time I felt like I was moving backwards and getting worse. About a week before Gator Cup, I had lost 4 arrows (3 in 3 days!), and I was so frustrated I decided to quit. I felt like no matter what I did, I just got worse, so why bother. Luckily my “quitting” only last about an hour, and I was back outside determined to figure things out.

I ended up reverting back to my shot before the changes, finding that although it wasn’t 100% correct form, it allowed me the most consistent shot. I spent hours the next day in my basement with an iPad, just taking video after video, from every angle possible, trying to find my shot again. Once I got where I was feeling a lot better about my shot, it was time to tune my arrows. In the process of doing this, I realized my arrows were way too weak, so with just days before the tournament and no time for new arrows, I was forced to turn down the weight of my bow (from about 42 pounds to 38).

As I headed to Gator Cup, I had no expectations. I knew I had made huge strides from just a week earlier, but I wasn’t yet confident in myself and my shot. I was feeling pretty good about my timing though, compared with AZ, where I was having to let down and reset too many times. My goal for the tournament was to just shoot as good of shots as I could and not care about the score.

I lucked out big time, and the women got to shoot in the morning, which meant I wouldn’t have to deal with the crazy hot temperatures that Florida loves so much. Practice day I didn’t shoot a ton of arrows, but I was shooting way better than I expected until the last few ends. I was pretty much holding 8 ring, which for me would be a huge accomplishment at this stage. I reminded myself no expectations for the next day, however, and tried to just focus on my form.

Qualification started well for me. Besides a 6 in my first end, I didn’t shoot anything lower than an 8 in my first 5 ends. I’m told I was in around 4th place through 4 ends and around 8th at the half (my last end was a 44!). I don’t follow scores while I am shooting, so I had no idea at the time, but I was pretty happy to hear this later. It gives me hope that I am making progress, even though it doesn’t always feel like it. I finished with a 303 for 36 arrows, which gave me my goal I had set for the second quarter of this year. Even though I felt like I had definitely thrown some points away (shot a 3, had one end with all 6 arrows in an X ring size group on the 8/9 line, etc), I was happy to break a 300.

The second half started well, with me picking back up where I had left off for the first 5 ends of scoring. I was able to forget about my 6th end, which I knew was important mentally. My groups did start getting larger left and right, as I was misjudging the wind just enough to widen my groups. In the 10th end, I shot my arrows and when we went down to score we realized I only had 5 arrows in the target. I began to panic, checking my quiver (thinking I had forgotten to shoot one), but then the bale next to us asked if an arrow in the edge of their bale was mine, which it was.

At this point, I was not upset with the miss and losing 10 points. I’ve shot misses in compound and still qualified in first. I’ve never been one who is afraid of missing. If it happens, it happens and I move on. However, this was the first time I’ve shot a miss and had ZERO idea why. I started questioning things and when I stepped up on the line to shoot the next end, I was overthinking my shot, trying to be perfect. I was so worried about repeating whatever mistake I had made, that I wasn’t just shooting. This left me with ANOTHER horrible end, and I didn’t score much better on the final end of the day either. I dropped about as many points in these final three ends as I had in the entire first half!

I was upset with myself and frustrated. One thing I had always done well in compound was shooting very consistent. Just like AZ, my second half was much worse than my first, finishing just 2 points better than I had there. I know consistency will come with time, but after feeling like I was starting to get it with my first 9 ends being pretty even, I was just disappointed. At this point I knew that I hadn’t made World Trials, so I decided it was worth spending the afternoon trying to make some changes. In my mind, this tournament really didn’t mean anything, so I would rather start fixing problems now and be more prepared for the next one. It’s hard, but I keep trying to remind myself my goals are long term, not immediate.

I was lucky enough to get to work with the new women’s coach in the wonderful ac inside the easton center that afternoon. After a few changes with my setup/loading, we realized I had lengthened my draw length and needed to move back my clicker (it kept clicking before I was all the way back). I knew the next day would be interesting with the changes, but again I decided no expectations, just work on feeling the new form and testing it outside at 70.

The wind was definitely stronger during eliminations then it had been during qualification, and I found that it made it a little more difficult for me to stick with the new form. My brain kept wanting to revert back to “what it knew” in the wind. It also took me into the first scoring end to get sighted in, as my sight definitely had changed with the new form. I wasn’t too worried, knowing that it was set system, so I could give up points on the first end and still be fine in the match. I finally found yellow on the last arrow of the first end, so I knew I was ready to go moving forward.

I won that match 6-4, with really only one end (and one arrow) that I wasn’t happy with. Essentially, I had shot an arrow I knew I shouldn’t have, so I paid the price down range with a 3. My next match, I was the underdog, and I had seen her 6-0 her opponent in the previous match (we had been shooting all 4 of us on the same bale), so I knew I needed to be smarter and make strong shot. I ended up winning this match 6-2 (my career first less than 15 arrow match!), with again just one end I would have liked to have back.

At this point I went on to face LaNola, a good friend and one of the top US women. I felt no pressure, and just wanted to shoot good shots. The wind had picked up a little more, and I unfortunately started to break down with my changes. I felt like I was fighting myself (between the old and new) AND the wind. Unfortunately, when I made good shots, I seemed to miss judge where to aim, costing me points and then when I did correctly judge the wind, I didn’t make clean shots. I know any time you make changes to your form, you are going to struggle with consistency in the beginning, so even though I lost 0-6, I wasn’t upset (especially when she went on to win the tournament!). I had some amazing feeling shots, with better timing then I’ve had since picking up the recurve, so I knew the changes were positive, I just need to give them time.

Don’t shoot a 9 if you want to make me happy 😉

I now have 2.5 months until my next competition. After being on the road constantly last year, I think I might lose my mind during this stretch. I plan to do some local tournaments, to keep myself ready for competition, but overall I’m looking forward to improving my form and getting back to the score I shot at the indoor 70m shoot, even if its windy. I know I am moving in the right direction now, but sometimes it’s hard to not be moving at a faster pace. I want to thank everyone who has shared kind words with me. Sometimes it’s hard to see how far I have come in 6 months, with the light at the end of the tunnel seeming so far away. Your encouragement helps more than you realize, so THANK YOU!

One thought on “Just Keep Swimming…With the Gators”

  1. Hi Cystal,
    It’s me again, Carlos, one of your biggest fans. Upon reading your article regarding frustration, well, as a psychologist I want to share something with you. Remember, frustration and mental exhaustion often deplete our self-control and it may lead to an impulse without realizing the consequence. In an unpleasant environment take a moment to clear your mind because when one has experienced the inability to concentrate or focus it becomes harder to complete a task. That is when you will find it difficult to make rational decisions; therefore, take a mini-break, or set aside 15-30 minutes. That open time can give you a mental reprieve but also allows room for unexpected opportunities to develop.

    Regards,
    Carlos

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *