Have you always shot archery? When did you start?
I didnít shoot my first arrow until I was 10 years old. I was at a Cub Scout camp and was excited for three activities; swimming, shooting a BB gun, and archery. I remember the first arrow I ever shot out of that old, beat-up recurve went sailing way over the target. I was anything but a natural. We shot at about 10 yards, and I was impressed by the ďbigĒ kids consistently hitting 8s and better on a 122 cm face. Even though I wasnít very good, I enjoyed the battle with myself to try and improve. After camp was over, I began nagging my parents to get me a bow so that I could keep shooting. Luckily, after several very convincing conversations with my parentsÖ letís be honest, I was 10, so it was more like whiningÖ they gave in.
I started shooting locally in a JOAD program and began competing in state-wide shoots. After winning a few state championships by the time I was 14, I started thinking I was a top-gun. In reality, I was a trigger-punching fool who couldnít break 290 on an NFAA round; but I didnít know any better. Then, I reached a turning point in my shooting. I heard that Terry Wunderle was holding a seminar at our local range, and decided to go to it to show him what I could do. Within the first 20 minutes of the seminar, he had us up shooting so he could see what he was working with. As he came up behind me, I bear down and focused on hitting the X. Ok, hit my anchor, pin was in the middle, I placed my finger on the trigger, and WHAP! It went right in there and I thought, ďway to go! I bet you impressed him.Ē He shrugged and said, ďYouíve got limited life, youíll be done in 3 months.Ē I thought, ďIíll be able to do this forever, he doesnít know what heís talking about.Ē
Sure enough, 3 months after the course, I had the worst case of target panic and was about to give up shooting. One of the local pros gave me an old back-tension release to try, and instantly, the target panic was gone. Soon after, I called Terry on the phone to apologize for the way I had acted at his seminar, and asked if he would consider coaching me. Luckily, he was quick to forgive, and by the end of the week I had sent him a video tape and was making changes to my form. Within a few weeks, I was shooting 300 with 52-55X and had a trip scheduled to visit him at his house.
We worked on my mental game before ever shooting an arrow, and when I finally shot my bow at his 20 yard indoor range, my first 60 arrows landed in the X. That day, I realized that archery was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
What made you decide to turn pro?
There was no real, single, moment where I consciously decided that I wanted to be a pro. During my second year shooting FITA, Terry and I had a discussion about USAT. I decided I wanted to try and become the youngest male to make Senior USAT, so I started shooting all of the tournaments in the Senior division. In my second FITA shoot, the Texas Shootout, I won the Olympic Round and realized ďhey, I CAN hang with these guys.Ē I started practicing harder and more often, and went out to the World Team Trials with hopes of gaining experience to help me in the future. At the end of the tournament, I found myself to have made the final spot on the team and went to compete in New York City in the FITA World Championships in 2003.
I guess the World Championship week could be when I realized I was able to compete with the pros. I spent the week practicing and shooting with Dave Cousins, and we had a day on the practice field for the record books. We went down in the morning and decided to shoot a full FITA before it got too crowded. We started off at 90, and rocked it; 343 for me, 346 for Dave. We went to 70 and found a bale with a guy from the Phillipines. End one; 60-60. End two; 120-120. End three; 180-179. That guy left the bale so quick! 70m went even better than 90m did; I scored a 358 and Dave shot a 357. The momentum I gained from this single day of shooting helped carry me to placing 3rd at my first World Championship.
This could be considered the turning point in my career when my thoughts went from ďit would be nice to shoot for a livingĒ to ďI COULD shoot for a living.Ē
What does being an archery pro mean to you?
Being an archery pro means a lot more than just shooting impressive scores. Looking back, I remember meeting several pros who were just hot-shots and didnít give other people the time of day. Even though I was jealous of their shooting abilities, their attitudes left me rather unimpressed. I try and make myself as available as possible at the local range to help people with their equipment, form, and any other questions they may have. I also see myself in a role-model position, so I do the best that I can to relate to the youth archers and keep them interested in the sport.
One thing about being a pro that sometimes gives us a bad rap is when weíre at a tournament and someone comes up to talk and we act coldly. Most often, weíre not trying to be a pain, itís just that weíre focused on what weíre there to do and we need to be in a state like this to do our best. Itís our job to perform while weíre at the tournaments, and sometimes stopping to have a conversation or answer an equipment question can be very distracting.
What advice do you have for upcoming shooters who are on the fence to becoming pro, or think that they are not good enough to shoot with the pros?
Youíre never going to know youíre not good enough unless you try. The main thing that separates the top level pros from the average shooter is their drive and control over their emotions. Thereís a fine line that every one of us needs to toe in order to balance our focus and intensity. When an archer finds this balance, thatís the moment they find themselves ďable to hang with the pros.Ē And of course, there is no substitute to competing in professional level tournaments. Get out there, give it a try, and if things donít work out for the best, use that experience as extra drive to train for the next challenge.
What is your ďtake homeĒ from archery competition? Why do you do it?
At the end of the day, I shoot because I like the challenge. Every day I challenge myself to be perfect in my shot sequence and execution. When I succeed in tournaments, thereís a monetary incentive. When I succeed at the range, I gain confidence in myself and my form that will help me the next time I find myself in a real pressure-filled situation. On a more personal note, the most amazing feeling Iíve ever had in archery is after winning a World Championship or World Cup event. Standing up on that podium, and hearing the Star-Spangled Banner playing while the USA flag is being raised to the top is something that always brings a tear to my eye. That moment is why I shoot.
Can you give us a short rundown of your wins and most favorite accomplishments in archery?
3rd place at the World Championships in 2003 (New York City)
1st place at the Lancaster shoot in 2004
1st place at NFAA Nationals 2006
1st place at the Indoor World Championships 2007
Cleaning all 3 NFAA tournaments in 2008
You dad isnít a competitor, but he is always there backing you. What role does he play in your archery?
Early in my career, he was definitely my enabler hahaha. He helped me fund tournaments and maintain my equipment. Even though he doesnít shoot, heís learned quite a bit about archery over the years and, until recently, has been my ďarrow technician.Ē Heís traveled a lot with me because he enjoys watching me shoot and I needed his help renting cars and booking hotel rooms when I was younger.
What shoots are on your MUST ATTEND list? Why?
NAA Trials, Lancaster, Vegas, NAA Indoor Nationals, Indoor Worlds, Arizona Cup, Texas Shootout, Outdoor Trials, Dakota Archery Classic, Gold Cup, NFAA Outdoor Nationals, Outdoor Worlds, NAA Outdoor Nationals, and the World Cup shoots.
Iím sure there are a few more that Iím missing in there, but this is a quick run-down of all the shoots that I donít plan on missing this coming season. They include the stuff for NAA, NFAA, and also FITA, which are the three major circuits that I shoot.
You have a great bow arm. Did you emphasize that during training or did it just happen?
Thatís the one thing that Terry emphasizes most about form. The bow arm is the most important aspect (other than the aim) of the shot. If you break left, youíll hit left. If you collapse, that arrowís going low and right. I emphasized strengthening my arm and the actual bow arm during and after execution to make it the most forgiving and accurate that I could. After that, itís all about shot duplication and I created my form around the bow arm so that itís the root of my shot.