Thursday, March 20, 2008

5 Questions With An Expert Archer

I knew there had to be more than meets the eye when it came to archery. As someone who does not believe in hunting in any form, I suspected there was a broader application of the sport that didn’t involve bloodshed. Rather than passing judgment, I decided to find out more. I enlisted the help of Rena Michele Mascaro, or Shelly, as she is known to the world. Shooting for eight years now, Shelly is a National Field Archery Association Certified Master Coach that shoots compound, Olympic recurve, and traditional archery. Also the Florida NFAA Representative, she is the secretary/treasurer of Everglades Archers in Homestead, Florida.

Working in a civil appellate law firm by day for over sixteen years in Miami, this mother of three has one grandchild in Italy with her daughter that serves in the Air Force. She’s won her fair number of tournaments, including setting the state record in shooting Olympic recurve this year. Quite skilled in her sport, she even crafts her own equipment and was the only woman to do so at the Traditional Bowhunters of Florida contest in February. She placed second at this event which was an impressive accomplishment as she was unable to shoot much in 2006-07 due to an unrelated injury. She put the bow down long enough to be my guest for these five questions:

1. I've seen archery billed as a "family sport" - what is it about this activity that makes it family oriented? Is this really a sport for anyone? How young could someone participate?

It is family oriented because anyone – male or female can compete, or just shoot to have fun. You do not need to attend competitions or go hunting to enjoy this sport. It is the fun of making an arrow fly down range to hit the target that makes it terrific.

We have had kids (with their parents, of course) as young as 3 years old come to the range. They usually have a small bow, hardly any draw weight – barely enough to go 5 yards as a matter of fact. But, they can actually do it. As a coach or parent, you have to realize the attention span of the person you are working with. A 3 to 5 year old has about a 10 minute span within which they can focus. So lots of breaks and putting balloons or other things on the target face is done. I do not advocate lessons of any sort for a child under the age of 8 or so, and have only coached one at 5 (very, very unwillingly). Before that age, they really just need a few pointers or hints, but not lessons. It puts to much pressure to succeed (placed usually by the parent, not the coach).

2. So what are the necessary ingredients to be proficient at archery? Do you need exceptional patience, balance, etc? What are the biggest benefits to participation?

To me, the ability to focus is the most important ingredient. Tournament archery is a sport of consistency and practice. You practice to repeat the same shot over and over again. In essence however, you are just shooting one arrow, repeatedly. So you practice to make that one shot as perfect as you can. In order to do that, you have to focus on your target, your physical self, and your equipment. I also mean focus in the sense of blocking out all extraneous noises and things. It is you, your bow, and the target. When you focus like that, no one can beat you. When you don’t focus, it’s anybody’s game.

The biggest benefit is being able to be outdoors, with good people, doing something that is fun, keeps you sharp, and allows you to beat men at a sport. I like camping and hunting and other such outdoor type activities.

3. What are the different types of archery events/activities/variations? Are there limitations on who can participate in particular variations of the sport?

Target archery, 3D, Olympic, field and hunting would be the primary types of archery. Target archery is an archer standing in the same spot, shooting a set number of arrows at a target face. It can be shot with any type of bow. 3D is shooting a single arrow at a set number of targets which are actually foam shaped animals, with the scoring rings representing the primary “kill zone” for various type of animals. Lots of traditional archers really enjoy this form of archery. At our club, the traditional archers are sometimes the biggest group. I have an osage long bow that I made from a stave (a ¼ or 1/8 part of a lengthwise split of wood). I also shoot wooden or cane arrows I made, with turkey feathers that I received whole, and split to become the feather/fletching for the arrows. Olympic archery is very much the same as Target Archery. However, all participants in the Olympics shoot an Olympic recurve-type bow. Compounds are not allowed at the present time. Field archery is set up similar to a golf course. You have a minimum of 14 targets, set on a course at various distances from approx. 10 yards to 80 yards. You shoot 4 arrows at each one, score, and move on. Most ranges have a 28 target field round. This event is shot at 2 different target faces [white with a black center (field face), and black with a white center (hunter face)]. FITA Field is very similar, only it’s done in meters and not yards and a black face with a yellow center and ½ of the targets are set at unknown distances. Hunting is just that.

4. What is the most common misconception people have about your sport? How are you able to win them over? What would be the best way to get started in archery?

That most archers are hunters. My experience has been that more archers like target, field, or 3D. The other one is that it’s very difficult or hard to do. Just as with any sport, you need to practice, have a decent coach, or join a club where they will share information, and be willing to put some time behind the bow. Another is that you need to be strong in the upper body to shoot well. With archery, you start with a lower poundage and work up to higher pounds. You don’t need to be shooting a draw weight of 55lbs! 25 to 30 is more than enough to get you started. There are a fair number of disabled archers – some without an arm, leg, or whatever, or paralyzed from the waist down.

We win them over by being good people and making archery available to a wide variety of folks. The best way to get started is to come to either a demonstration (how I got started), or contact your local range. In addition, we do community programs where we take a target and lots of bows and let the folks there shoot. It is usually one of the best attended booths at every event we attend.

5. Who are the most prominent professionals/medalists in your sport? What are the major competitions throughout the year? What has been, in your opinion, archery's biggest contribution to the sports world?

Prominent athletes are Victor Wunderle (won silver in 2000), Bruce Johnson (lots of Olympics), and Jenny Nichols (tops for the women). Karen Scavotto and Khatuna Lorig are current Olympic hopefuls. Darrell Pace and Rick McKinney are known for excellence in the past (both won medals). Brady Ellison and Lindsay Pian are up-and-coming talent. Others include Dave Cousins, Braden Gellenthien, Dee Wilde, and Reo Wilde. One of these guys is just about always on the podium for Compound. For the Compound women’s events Jamie Van Natta, Kelly Ward, and Jahna Jurenka are well-known.

There are tournaments all over the place. Here in Miami we host the North American Field Archery Championship the 2nd week of December every year. There is the Gold Cup in New Jersey; the Texas Cup (in Texas); the National Championship (in Colorado Springs); The Vegas Shoot; Indoor Nationals; The Arizona Cup; The Redding Shoot; and various ASA (Archery Shooting Association – strictly a 3D organization). In addition, Europe has started televising various shoots and bringing more interest to the sport. I hope the US can follow their lead since archers are held in high regard as athletes over there.


Lindsay said...

Very cool. I don't know very much about archery, except for a few days of it in ninth-grade gym class!

Apryl DeLancey said...

Thanks Lindsay - I didn't know much either so I decided to find out. Thanks for stopping by!