HIT THE BULLSEYE
Olympic medallist Taylor Worth explains what an archer really focuses on.
T AYLOR WORTH is taking on the world at the Archery World Championships in October in Mexico City. The 26-year-old made history by winning bronze as part of Australia’s first medal-winning archery team at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Here, the Western Australia native talks us through getting competition-ready, shooting in wild conditions and how he is reshaping his game plan.
We go through two main training cycles. One is high-quantity – when you just stand there out on the range and shoot as many arrows as you can for as long as your body will allow you. For example, you could do 300-400 arrows for five-seven days a week in a big way to build strength and endurance throughout that phase. You would taper that into high-quality. You would reduce the amount of arrows that you shoot and the time you shoot for, but make every shot as if you were competing – as perfect and as best you can mentally and physically to try and get the best of out of your shot. To know exactly what’s happening around you, in your body and throughout
your shots as well.
KEEPING IT INTERESTING
I work with the national head coach; we train together three times a week. It’s helpful to bounce ideas back and forth about different equipment, techniques and any unique attributes. The other days of the week are more free training for me, where I go out there and do what I want at my own pace.
You can play games and drills while you’re shooting. Instead of mind-numbingly shooting arrows down range, you have small challenges throughout the day to keep you mentally stimulated.
One example is we would play the gold game – you see how many shots in a row you can hit the golds (targets); as you get higher and higher numbers, the more stressful it is to keep reciprocating the same outcome. I found there’s no real way to simulate the pressures and anxiety of international competitions in a domestic sense, particularly in a training environment. But there are lots of different ways to put pressure on yourself just like that to be on top of your game.
BALANCING OUT THE GYM
Because archery is such an isometric sport, depending if you’re left or right-handed, one arm holds a weight vertically and the other arm back-pulls the weight. We’re using our body in two very different ways throughout the whole shot, and our careers as well. In the gym, we try to even out our body composition, evenly distributing strength throughout our body.
SHOOTING IN THE RAIN
Because we shoot in almost any condition without fail or pause, the elements around us affect us in a huge number of ways. Rain is a really big factor – you have a projectile flying through the air and a force pushing down on it at sporadic intervals. You need to aim higher.
At the 2013 World Championships, the weather turned quite bad toward the middle of the competition in terms of wind. It was forcing most of the top archers to even miss their targets altogether. We would be aiming at the target next to ours – it was pushing us that far. People were thinking of any way possible to make themselves heavier to stand still, like putting full bottles of water in their backpacks to stop themselves from being pushed over in the wind.
IN THE ZONE
The concept of being “in the zone”, or being switched on, takes many years to truly learn in terms of understanding what to do and interpreting it. The first time I was in the zone, I had it for maybe half a session and then lost it for maybe two years. The second time I got it, it lasted for a day, then it was another six months before I got it again and understood what was going on around me. The zone is brief moments; the more you’re exposed to them, the moreyou learn how to adapt and make them your own.
THE PERFECT 10
It’s an individual sport, so I stand there and push myself to the absolute limit to see where I can go and how good I can be. It comes down to the day-to-day training environment where you can spend hours and hours at the range, just shooting arrows. It can get quite lonely and extremely boring. So you need to find ways to keep yourself motivated on what you’re doing and keep it interesting and the training environment as fun as you can as well. The sport is all about that one perfect shot, when everything just lines up and you execute your shot, and you don’t even need to watch it fly or watch where it hits on the target. You know it’s going to be that perfect ten. I think everybody in the sport loves that feeling and you chase it because it is utter perfection. You need to be a bit of a perfectionist in the sport; you’re pushing yourself to the absolute limit to what you can do to hit a perfect score every time.
CHANGING THE GAME PLAN
Post-Rio, I took six months off from the sport where I didn’t shoot at all, just to build a bit more of my personal life, be a bit more involved with my family and my fiance, instead of being overseas six to nine months of the year. I just gave the time my family needed – it just balanced me out, instead of charging through and burning myself out before the next competition.
I’m working to restructure my whole technique and shot cycle to make myself stronger for the next four years. I’m trying to play the long game, where I’m building myself to be as strong as I can for Tokyo in 2020, which means I’m sacrificing some performances for this year and next year for working on those structural changes.
RAIN IS A BIG FACTOR – YOU HAVE A PROJECTILE FLYING THROUGH THE AIR AND A FORCE PUSHING DOWN ON IT AT SPORADIC INTERVALS.