There’s plenty of crossover between archers who shoot well indoors and those who shoot well out of doors – but look down the results sheet, and you’ll notice that some names you see around the middle of leaderboards in the summer months suddenly jump to the top when shooting FITA 18s.
I’ll reiterate, as a disclaimer, before I go on: A good archer is a good archer – take Brady Ellison for example, who has done well in every type of competition he has entered, whether there’s a roof over his head at the time or not.
So why, then, do recurvers like Magnus Petersson and Sebastien Rohrberg contend far more international indoor tournaments than they do outdoor? No right-minded archer wants to spend their entire life shooting 18 metres, so it can’t be that it’s what they practice all year round – besides, you’ll see them on the outdoor circuit in the summer.
While the rest of the field is adjusting to indoor shooting – and some do it very quickly – there are a certain few who can take to indoor archery every year like it’s the most natural thing in the world.
What is it that allows this comfort to successful recurve archers? And why do some struggle indoors?
In my personal opinion, you can break the bunch down into two distinct categories. Those who are supremely confident in their technique – and those who are mentally strong, and just altogether
Most are either one or the other, some are both combined – and it’s worth assessing your own shooting to see which you should work on, because without either, I guarantee you will find indoor shooting more difficult.
Good technique is not the same as strong technique. A good shooting style is one that makes all the shapes, is smooth and fluid – and when executed as intended, sends the arrow flying perfectly from the bow. Strong technique, however, is all of that and more. An archer with a strong technique will have an unbelievably solid front arm, will reference firmly against their face – and tend to make releasing the arrow a bit more of an event. Not an explosion, mind you, but a strong and determined execution after a focused aiming period.
Many good indoor shooters, or those renowned for their prowess indoors, are also field archers. Nearly invariably, I’d put these competitors into the ‘strong technique’ category.
A lot of archers have good shooting styles, but there is a distinct difference between making the shapes of that style and fully understanding the movements your body requires in order to make the shot. Field archers tend to know the shot, even if they don’t always have the most perfect of styles – and that’s because of the variation in shots they have to perform when shooting around a course.
While target archers make roughly the same shape when shooting at different distances, with a little more or less elevation between the ribs and hips, field archers must shoot from many stances at many angles. They can’t just make the same shape, and follow that blueprint of shot style, they’ve got to know how their body moves if they want to pull off a strong shot in whatever position the target they’re shooting demands them to be in.
I’m not saying you’ve got to shoot field archery to understand your technique – it’s just a feature that many field archers do have. And it translates well to indoor archery as the problems that can creep in due to the target being close, low down and extremely small (compared to most FITA targets) don’t bother that strong, understood technique. Keeping the shoulder low, and the shot strong, these archers perform well indoors.
It’s an irony of the sport that despite the FITA 18 10 ring being so much smaller than what most target shooters are normally used to aiming at, it often feels a lot larger in our minds.
Since there are no outside distractions, no wind – and nothing to hit but that tiny 10 just 18 metres away – it becomes something that we try not to miss, rather than try to hit, if we let it.
And it’s not a healthy way to let your shooting go. Whatever the distance, whatever you’re aiming at, you should always be staring at the aiming point with the dull appreciation that you’re aiming to take out the exact point in your vision. There shouldn’t be a range of space you can hit, no ‘ring’ of points for you to try and hit – but one particular spot you want your arrow to land. Just as in any other form of archery, indoors it’s the X.
Don’t forget this. Archers with confidence in how they can perform will never settle for anything less than hitting the middle of the target. Why should they? They’re not trying to do anything else, not trying to hit a particular score level, or beat out an opponent – just drill every shaft, carbon or aluminium, onto the centre of that cross.
Keep your mind focussed on that idea, and any distraction that might creep in – such as the enclosed space and proximity of your opponents – and clarity of every arrow that you’ve shot before, glaring so close in the target will wash over you. Shoot strong for the middle!