I’ve had numerous people ask me over the past month why I decided to switch to recurve. Most have received a very “canned” response from me; something along the lines of I was looking for a new challenge, etc. Although this was in some ways a very personal decision for me, I felt like it’s time to share with you all my thinking that went in to making my decision. It’s important to know that this was not a rash, overnight decision, but one that I contemplated and researched for months.
*One note of caution: this is going to be very long and detailed. Stop reading now if you aren’t interested in the FULL story!
Let me start with a little background. I grew up a swimmer, swimming was my life. I literally played other sports just so 1)I could stay in shape for swimming, 2)because it gave me a chance to represent my school, and 3)because I wanted to see my friends outside of the classroom since the rest of my time was devoted to swim practices. I was fortunate enough to get an opportunity to compete in Australia with swimming (we trained beforehand in New Zealand), but the reality growing up a swimmer is very very few make it to the Olympics. I know plenty of swimmers who were faster than me, and they never got a shot. Yes, I met a few Olympians at swim clinics and things, but unlike archery, you didn’t compete or train around past Olympians. They were people on a pedestal you would never reach.
The Olympics have always meant something more to me. I watched them every year from an early age, and I’ve always dreamed of becoming one, even if I knew it wasn’t realistic. Over the years I’ve joked about learning badminton or curling or some obscure sport that would give me a shot at the Olympics. Around the time my husband and I were first dating, he made a run for the Athens Olympics in rifle. After not making the team, I remember telling him we had to find a sport that was coed teams, so we could be teammates in the Olympics. He laughed at me, and while I was joking, a part of me wasn’t. As much as I’d always had that dream, I knew how much more it would mean to be able to accomplish it together.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012. I was, of course, glued to the tv during the Olympics, and I discovered a new sport this time around. Archery was something I never knew existed as a sport, and we both watched our men’s team beat Korea in the semi finals before losing to Italy in the gold medal match. At the time, we didn’t realize the significance of their win against Korea or really the silver medal in general. We quickly moved on to watching other sports, and archery didn’t cross my mind again until that fall. As many of you know, R challenged me to a dual one day in our backyard with an old hunting bow. It took me FOREVER to figure out how to draw back something like 35 or 40 pounds. I knew I was strong, but brute force wasn’t helping me get the string pulled back. In the end, I figured out how to properly draw the bow, and I ended up kicking his butt at probably 10 yards.
We were at a point in our life where we were looking for a new sport/hobby. We had been racing bikes (mountain bike and cyclocross), but it was taking it’s toll on us with intense training meaning we never saw each other, even though we were participating in the same sport. After beating him in the backyard, I was gung-ho about archery. I was going to buy a bow and go to the Olympics. It really didn’t help when I realized the person who sold me my first bow (Hoyt GMX), was a 5x Olympian! Wow, I thought, this really is possible! The one thing we were both really draw to, however, was the fact that no matter how good either of us got, we both could practice right next to one another.
Well let me just say, my weeks to month with a recurve were a complete disaster. I felt like a fish out of water with the recurve, and I kept begging for a compound since that is what I beat him with. Needless to say, living near a 5x Olympian means I was in recurve only territory. I was told a compound is just training wheels, its not real archery, etc. Finally, I made a deal with those at the shop. They told me if I won the local warmup with the Bass Pro special hunting bow I had (no stabilizers, hunting sight, etc), they would let me buy a compound (knowing full well there was no way I would win). Well, let’s just say I’m not one to back down from something I want, so I went out there and won the women’s division with that bow. Unfortunately, I had spent all my money buying a GMX with all the recurve goodies to go along with it, that I didn’t have the money to buy a competition target bow. R and my parents knew how badly I wanted one, so for Christmas they went in together to buy me a Hoyt Pro Comp Elite.
I got locally good pretty immediately, but I got my first taste of real competition when I decided to attend the 2013 Lancaster Classic (and by decide I mean the night before I realized there was a tournament within driving distance that some of the pros would be at so I signed up, went to bed and drove there first thing in the morning). I’m pretty sure I finished 18th, just 2 spots out of the shootoff, but that lit a fire under me to go home and practice seriously. Before that, R and I would go to the range 2 times a week and shoot for fun, maybe 50 arrows and go home. I had some pretty aggressive goals that year, and while I didn’t reach all of them, I learned a lot and definitely caught the bug for the sport. I had never felt like this about anything since my days as a swimmer.
The next few years were a whirlwind of setting goals, achieving them and setting new goals. Even though I am working a “real” job, archery had turned into what felt like a job for me. I traveled around the World competing, trained, kept up with social media and various speaking engagements. I’d reached a point where I was balancing too much, and I knew something had to give. The sport we loved because it allowed us to be together, was now keeping me from home (I was on the road 31 straight days this past Spring, and when I was home I was buried in playing catch up at work). Unfortunately, due to finances, I knew I’d probably have to take a step back from archery in 2017. It was probably early March last year when R first said to me, you should just switch to recurve. He knows I am too competitive for my own good and taking a step back would not sit well with me. I brushed him off, laughing at the thought of me shooting a recurve.
As the months went by, and I had another successful year, I began racking my brain for a way to be able to do World Cups again next year. I love competing against the best in the World, and I have so many friends now from other countries. Plus with a World Cup next year on US soil, I couldn’t imagine sitting at home instead of being there. Throughout this time, R had put the recurve bug in my ear a few more times, but I never even considered it an option. And then there was the day I was preparing for a seminar I was giving to a JOAD club on goal setting…it was my lightbulb moment!
The reason I was struggling with what to do with my future in the sport was because my goals didn’t align with what I was willing to sacrifice. I had come to a point where there were certain things that I didn’t think were worth giving up to reach further goals. It was at that point I realized, would I feel better about myself as a person if I was #1 in the World vs #2? Would I be happier if I won 30 medals instead of 14? Was I willing to go in to debt to reach my goals? It was at this time that I went through the list of things I’d accomplished in a few short years, and it was then that I knew. I had done everything I wanted to do with compound, under the current realities of the sport. Yes, I HAD a goal of making a living with archery, being able to permanently quit my job as an economist, but I’ve learned if you are a woman in this sport that’s not going to happen unless you have someone supporting you (parents, husband, etc). It will always be just a hobby, not a full time job (I’m going to save my discussion on whether I think that is right or fair for another time, I just know that currently that is the reality). Would I have loved to win a World Championship title instead of getting 2nd? Of course, but it wasn’t going to define me and my future. I knew there was one thing in my life I had still not accomplished that WAS worth sacrificing for, and that was the Olympics.
For the first time, I actually considered switching to recurve, but I still couldn’t sell myself on it. I was afraid of the risk. I knew everyone said it’s easier to go from recurve to compound than the other way around. I remembered how bad I was at recurve when I had first tried it. R and I talked about it some, but I then just let it go because I was scared. Lucky for me, R kept on pushing the topic and encouraging me to think about it. He finally suggested I talk to some coaches or someone like Brady who had successfully made the switch and get their thoughts. So while I was at the World Cup in Turkey, I was able to sit down and have a long conversation with someone I trusted about making the switch. I returned home feeling like yes it may be possible, but unless I could move away from R and quit my job, it wasn’t an option.
It was shortly after this that I FINALLY won my first USA Archery national title, after 6 straight silver medals! I expected to be super excited and feel like I had accomplished something big in my career. Instead I was happy for the first few minutes, and then I just didn’t really care. It was then and there in that hotel room in Alabama that I knew I would be making the switch to recurve. I wasn’t ready to vocalize it yet, but I knew deep down it was the next step for me. I’ve always told people I coach or speak to that when you get to the point that you aren’t having fun and excited about the sport, its time to step away. I always tell them that might be a temporary break or a permanent break, but ultimately archery should be fun and you should enjoy yourself. I realized I wasn’t excited about compound anymore, and I needed a new challenge. I still loved the sport of archery, so I knew I couldn’t leave it, even for a short time. That’s when I knew the answer was switching to recurve.
As I watched the Olympics, I grew more sure of my decision. Not because I was sure I would one day be there, but watching our men win another team silver medal and then seeing Mackenzie there as the lone women from the US, I knew I would do everything in my power to help make sure we had a full women’s team in Tokyo. I saw the teams competing in Rio, and not to take anything away from any of them, but I felt like the US has enough resources and talent there is no reason why we can’t qualify 3 spots for women. Will that mean I am on the team? I’d love to say yes, but ultimately, I just want to help drive and motivate other women to be successful on the international stage.
Even though I was sure of my decision, it was very hard to tell people. As I began to tell those I respect, I began to get a huge swing of thoughts and opinions, many telling me I was making a big mistake. Some said I’d be throwing away all my hard work the last few years, others said there is no money in recurve archery, and some even said I wouldn’t be successful so why bother. For me, archery is not about the money (yes, I’d think differently if it was my job), but its about the competition and the friendships and desire to get better. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t question my decision after all the negative responses, but deep down I knew it was the right one for me. Everyone has different motivations, goals and paths, and I think it’s very hard to know what is right for each person at that exact time. Ultimately, as scared as I was, after a month of shooting recurve (blank bale anyone?), I know without a doubt I made the right decision for me at this point in time. Does this mean I regret shooting compound in the first place? Definitely not. I learned so much about competing in this sport, met so many great people, and I honestly would have never had the opportunities to help me get started the right way with recurve if it wasn’t for my connections from shooting compound at a top level.
So that my friends is my why in all the glory details. Some of this isn’t the easiest to put into words, as its a feeling or an emotion. I obviously wish I had time to have an hour long conversation with each of you in person to explain everything, but I tried to convey the best I could to help you all understand and hopefully that’s enough.