Guest author Sarah Fuller provides some tips to make sure that you're ready for your first tournament!
Practicing during Covid has had its silver lining. It has made you stronger and given you an advantage over others who have not had the chance to shoot. Next year the competitions will start again. Are you ready?
You've done all the practice and you know your routine, but what happens when you get to your first competition? Here a little checklist you can go through now to make sure you will be ready!
Every competitive archer will have two finger tabs. Both identical in shape and feel, both worn-in equally so you can pick up one or the other with ease. Why? If it rains and one gets wet, you can pick up the other and keep shooting. A wet tab will give you a different result as the string leaves your fingers, so why not be consistent and have a dry one ready to go. Also if you have an equipment failure with your finger tab, rules mean that the competition won't stop for you, having the second one means you won't miss an end or an arrow.
Always have at least two. Your finger sling length is unique, so if your very favorite one breaks during competition and you don't have an identical spare, anything else you use may affect your shot, how the bow reacts, and how it feels, possibly even affecting your mindset. Not good! So, buy a couple of your favorite finger slings or make a few out of shoe laces and keep them in your quiver.
Going into a tournament, you will likely want to take a minimum of 8 arrows with you, ideally a full dozen. This will give you spares if a nock breaks or a fletch comes off. There are some days where I just don't like the look of an arrow, so I'll put it back in my bow case to keep my mind at ease.
You will need to mark your arrows with an identifying mark such as your surname or initials. In international competition it must be a minimum of your surname.
In the days before you should be checking the fletches and nocks on your arrows. You won't want to get to the competition and find that your fletches are ripped or nocks are cracked. If you have the opportunity and your arrows need it, refletch them all so they are new, fresh and shoot consistently. Check the nocks for cracks, if there are any cracks, pull them off and throw them away. Don't keep them, they are at risk of breaking during the shot, causing your arrow to miss the target. Always have spare fletches and nocks with you at a competition in case you need to change something quickly.
Setting up your equipment:
By now you should know how to set up your bow quickly and correctly. Get into a routine of doing it the same every time so when you get to a tournament its second nature and no part gets missed. Imagine getting to the line for the first arrow and not having your pressure button on your bow. You wouldn't be the first person to forget, but have a routine so you don't end up in this awkward scenario!
It's a good idea to get into the habit of checking your tiller, brace-height, nocking point height, arrows, clicker position, sight, plunger, tab and stabilisers before every training session and competition.
Know your pre-event routine:
Get to the tournament early, find which target you are on, set up your bow behind the line, then relax. Find the bathrooms, find the water station, find the registration tent, things like that. You may have your own pre-event routine, so it's helpful to plan this out to minimise your decision making energy on the day.
Nutrition: You know what food you like to have every day and what your body needs so don't pick a tournament to get creative with your meals! If you're going to an overnight tournament make sure you take your normal breakfast, drinks, lunch foods, snacks etc. If you normally have eggs, don't change it to cereal, I guarantee your body won't enjoy the change and with the nerves at your first shoot, you may end up spending a lot of time in the bathroom! Stick to what you know.
Travel: If you have to travel to a tournament how early should you arrive? Well that's all up to you, I personally arrive at a local tournament at least 1hr before the first arrow is shot. So I know that I can set up my bow, find everything, register, do bow inspection, check my arrows, set up my little camp (chair and lunchbox) then relax and watch the world go by before I warm up. I'm not much of a chatterbox, so I'd prefer to sit and relax.
Some people use tournaments as social events and like to catch up with friends, so if that's you, make sure you leave yourself enough time before entertaining others. If its an out of state shoot or long drive away, I stay overnight close to the range at least 1-2 days prior to the start, so that I can practice on the field, but have the same routine as normal.
Internationally, for world cups I arrive at least 3-4 days prior so that I can shoot on the practice days, blowing the cobwebs out from the long plane ride, familiarize myself with the environment, figure out food, and get used to the routine of being driven around at certain times, eating at certain times, and sleeping when your body thinks you should be awake.
Clothing: Pack clothing for all types of weather. In a competition, you're standing in an open field, with no protection from sun, wind or rain, so make sure that you look after yourself. You will regret not having a dry change of clothes at the end of a very wet day. I will even change clothes at half time if needed to make sure that my core body temperature stays nice and warm. Shooting with a cold body is neither enjoyable or productive.
Pack a beanie and gloves for the cold. Pack sunscreen and a hat for the sun. Long sleeves, thermals, extra socks, shoe covers or boots (or even plastic bags for your feet), shorts, long pants, spare dry shoes, towels, raincoat, basically a whole bag of stuff.
During practice at your home range, get used to shooting in a raincoat, sunhat / visor / bucket hat, until it becomes like a second skin. Find what works for you, know that you can be comfortable in it when it's needed. The sunscreen I use is a spray. I use it as part of my routine. I use spray so I don't have to wipe it on with my hands and have a greasy grip to hold on to. Others put sun cream on before leaving home. What ever works for you.
One more thing I always have is a small towel on my quiver. For hot days I can dry my palms, on wet days I can cover my finger tab pouch and dry my grip prior to each end.
Hydration! So important, especially on a hot day. For a 6 hour tournament don't be surprised if you go through at least 3 liters of water. During the 2018 Aussie open it was 42 degrees, for the 6 hours we were out there I drank 3 liters of water and 3 liters of electrolytes solution. Even if its cold, don't forget to hydrate your body. Cells need fluid to work.
Good luck, and we hope that these tips help you prepare for your upcoming competitions!
Leave a comment below, and tell us your top tips for being competition ready...
By Sarah Fuller