Elephant in the (archery) room

Next time you’re in Dublin, take a walk around the Iveagh Gardens. They’re a beautiful, cool, green oasis right in the middle of the city, just a step from St. Stephen’s Green. They date from the 18th century but take their name from Benjamin Lee Guinness, the 19th century Lord Iveagh. In the early 1860s the Gardens were laid out in their present form by a noted landscape architect, Ninian Niven. 

It was Niven who is believed to have designed the large sunken area that you see in the centre of the Gardens. It’s the only purpose-built archery field in Ireland. The grassy field is about five feet below the top surface. The banked sides are sloped to catch overshot arrows. The width is just over 40 yards and it’s about 120 yards long. It’s perfect for target shooting, but no longer used, of course.

The scene now shifts to Dublin Zoo in the 1920s. The elephant sickens and dies. The University College Veterinary Department asks if it can have the corpse for dissection and examination. The body is duly delivered. In due course, a key question arises: how to dispose of the body? 

By this time, the Department is host to the implacable ripening of a couple of tons of pachyderm protein. 

And so it came about that the carcass found its way to a nearby open area: the archery field. The elephant was laid to rest. The green turf was replaced and the peace of the archery field was restored.  You’d never guess.

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Next beginner’s course dates!

Please note the dates for our next beginner’s course:

Sunday 1st Sept 2019 10am-12noon
Sunday 15th Sept 2019 10am-12noon
Sunday 22nd Sept 2019 10am-12noon
Sunday 29th Sept 2019 10am-12noon
Sunday 6th Oct 2019 10am-12noon
Sunday 13th Oct 2019 10am-12noon

Please let friends and colleagues know, and contact our beginner’s coordinator for more details!

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Not bad for a recurve

In 1794, the Secretary to the Turkish ambassador, Mahmoud Effendi, went out with some members of the Toxophilite Society of London to demonstrate the Turkish bow in fields just outside the city. With him, he carried his traditional recurved bow and arrows. He placed a twenty five and a half inch flight arrow on the string. To the amazement of the onlookers, he then shot it to a distance of 482 yards. Mahmoud Effendi expressed disappointment with the shot, saying he wasn’t a very good archer. In 1798, in the presence of the British ambassador to Constantinople, the Turkish Sultan is reported to have shot an arrow 972 yards. Not bad, really. Thank you to Michael for another interesting article

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Annual General Meeting

The Calling Notice and the Minutes from last year’s AGM, together with Nomination forms have already been emailed to you all. The Agenda will follow in the next couple of days. The meeting will be held at Marazion Community Centre 7.30pm on Tuesday 9th April. Please do your best to be there. You will be required to vote for the 2019 Club Management roles so please do come along ~ Your Club Needs You! There is a lot to discuss.

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The Secret Curse of Expert Archers

There is an affliction so feared by elite archers that many in the sport refuse to even say its name. Archery coaches who specialize in treating the problem are sworn not to reveal the identities of archers in its grip, even though they estimate that 90 percent of high-level competitors will fall victim at least once in their careers.

Target panic, as the condition is known, causes crack shots to suddenly lose control of their bows and their composure. Mysteriously, sufferers start releasing the bow the instant they see the target, sabotaging any chance of a gold-medal shot. Others freeze up and cannot release at all. Target panic is akin to the yips in baseball and golf, when accomplished athletes can no longer make a simple throw to first base or stroke an easy putt.

The results can be mortifying, and archery is filled with tales of those who have caught the curse, never to shoot again. The problem has spawned a cottage industry of coaches, books and specialized accessories that claim to cure target panic.

“It’s devastating,” said Terry Wunderle, a professional archery coach whose son, Vic, is an archer on this year’s United States Olympic team.

“For someone who has a good case of target panic, I could offer them a thousand dollars if they would just pull the bow back and let the pin float over the bull’s-eye,” Wunderle said, referring to the way archers let their arrows gently bob as they wait for the perfect shot. “I guarantee you, I would not lose the thousand dollars. They can’t do it.”

Few admit to being sufferers themselves. “Most shooters will deny that they have it,” said Len Cardinale, an archery coach who said he had treated “hundreds and hundreds” of cases of target panic since the 1970s. “It’s more convenient to say they need a new bow, they have to switch arrows or stand differently.”

Wunderle, who himself admitted to battling target panic from time to time, would not reveal whether any of the Olympic archers he coached had faced target panic. “I would not say it if I knew it,” said Wunderle, who also did not want his son interviewed on the subject with the Beijing Olympics a week away. “It’s like being an alcoholic. They don’t say much about it. They don’t fess up to it.”

Although few academic studies have been conducted on target panic, several sports psychologists said the condition was nearly identical to the much-analyzed yips in golf and other sports. Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino were notorious sufferers; so was Chuck Knoblauch, the former Yankees second baseman who discovered he could no longer throw to first base. Some say Shaquille O’Neal’s dismal free-throw record is due to a case of the yips.

While nearly everyone agrees that the problem is primarily psychological, the latest research suggests that, in some cases, the problem might also be neurological. Sufferers might actually have a disorder known as focal dystonia, a common affliction of musicians caused when the neurons that guide a particular movement — be it aiming a bow or sinking a putt — become worn from overuse.

 “It’s like a hiccup in the wrist,” said Aynsley M. Smith, research director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center, which has conducted three studies on the yips in golf since 2000. Her research, as well as that of a team from New Zealand, has concluded that there are two types of yips — one that is purely psychological and another that is primarily neurological. In both cases, two opposing muscle groups contract at the same time, leading to what Smith and other sport scientists call a “double pull.”

Even those with a neurological disorder can develop anxiety that makes the problem worse, said Robert Bell, a sports psychologist at Ball State University who specializes in golf. “It kind of gets into the mind that this could happen, and that’s where the anxiety and the stress come in,” he said.

One of the worst cases of target panic that Wunderle treated was in 16-year-old Joey Hunt.

Hunt, who has been shooting archery “just about my whole life,” competes with a compound bow, which uses pulleys and levers to flex the bow back compared with the recurve bow used in the Olympics.

When Hunt was 9 or 10, he discovered he had lost his preternatural ability to send arrows thunking into the target’s gold center.

“I would start to bring the bow down, and as soon as it got anywhere near the target, I would click it right off, right then and there,” said Hunt, who lives in Minot, Me. “It just takes over your mind, and it’s hard to concentrate on other parts of shooting.”

Target panic, also known as gold fever because sufferers become obsessed with hitting the gold center, is rich in lore, and online message boards are filled with cautionary testimonials from those who have had the disease.

 “I could draw the bow without the arrow and had no trouble holding on the dot at all,” wrote a victim on the message board at archerytalk.com, referring to aiming at the center of the target. “But put an arrow on the string and Satan himself was holding it off … strange stuff some of us endure to play this game!”

Lanny Bassham, a former Olympic rifle shooter and mental coach whose clients include the Olympic archer Brady Ellison, said the archery community had a peculiar obsession with target panic, which he noted had a horrifying ring.

“The words target panic have induced an unnecessary amount of severity and concern about this condition among archers,” he said. “I think if they had a better word for it, they’d have a lot less problem trying to cure it.”

Many archers and their coaches refuse to say target panic. Those words are forbidden around the Nichols household, which is home to the Olympic archer Jennifer Nichols and her younger sister, Amanda, also a world-class competitor.

 “We try to stay away from the labels that are put on things by people in the archery industry because once you feel you’ve got that label, it’s hard to stay away from it,” said their father, Brent Nichols. “We don’t want to hear those things.”

Theories vary on how to cure target panic. Some switch their shooting hand, or change their grip slightly — techniques that have also proved successful in golf. Others use visualization techniques and positive reinforcement.

Wunderle advises his clients to imagine seeing and feeling what a good shot is, without focusing on aiming the arrow.

“Do not focus on results,” he said. “When you focus on results, it builds anxiety. And anxiety is the kiss of death.”

One of the most popular cures is to entirely remove the target. Sufferers instead practice shooting at a blank target, sometimes for weeks at a time, to retrain the mind.

“The empty bale restores your confidence in your subconscious,” said Bernie Pellerite, author of the book “Idiot Proof Archery” and a self-described expert on target panic. “Nobody flinches or punches or chokes on an empty bale.”

Hunt spent weeks shooting at blank targets, but he also purchased a special release for his bow, which helped retrain him when to shoot.

“It’s trying to engrave in your head when you should shoot,” he said. “You just pull it back, let the safety off, and pull it until it decides to go. Then you get used to every shot being perfect.”

Hunt placed second in his age group at the Junior Olympic Archery Development national championships in Oklahoma City earlier this month. His target panic, he said, had been cured.

For now.

Thanks to Michael Leach’s daughter for the tip on this article which features in the New York Times.

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252 Challenge

As we enter the outdoor season we have a series of challenges which will allow you to progress to the longer distances.

252 Award How it Works

You get 6 sighter arrows You shoot 3 dozen arrows on a 122cm face at your chosen distance.

You score the round using the 5-zone scoring method [so 9 for a gold, 7 for a red etc]

For each round that you achieve the required score or better (see Table below) you can claim a badge that you can then proudly display.

The aim of the round is to get a score of 252 or better – keep in mind that the maximum score for 36 arrows when using 5 zone scoring is 324, so achieving a score of 252 (an average of 7 per arrow) even at the shorter distances is quite a challenge.

Your chosen round can be shot at the following distances…30 yds, 40 yds, 50yds, 60 yds, 80yds & 100yds. ……commencing initially at the shortest distance that you feel comfortable with shooting.

To achieve the award, you must shoot the 252 or above 3 times on your chosen distances.

Progressing to the next longer distance after each badge has been claimed. Subject to availability, 252 Badges will be awarded at Club Meetings.

Good Luck!

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Classifications are important to all archers because they are the best indication of where you are in terms of scoring ability and provide a benchmark for levels of improvement. There are six classification levels: the lowest is third class, then second class, first class, Bowman, Master Bowman, and Grand Master Bowman at the highest classification level.

As your scores are entered on Golden Records for a round, it automatically calculates your classification.  To gain a classification you will need to shoot 3 scores which are higher than the set scores.

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New Website Under Construction

To everyone visiting the site whether you are a member of Mounts Bay Archery Club, a passer-by or someone who is interested in our great sport, it is with immense pleasure that I introduce you to the new website for Mounts Bay Archery Club – the oldest Cornish archery club!

Please bear with us while we move things around, change things and add new things – it will serve us all well once the raucous is finished, I promise!

If any member has a suggestion for items to cover on the website, then please feel free to raise these at our next meeting.

Mounts Bay Archery Club Webmaster

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