A World Champion Talks About Winning

By Paul Fender

Paul Awards

OK, right off the bat here, I need to dispense with any false modesty for a minute. I win. Not every time. But let’s just say I win… A lot. At least for the sake of argument, OK?

A while back Nico shared some ideas with me from a book titled Why You Suck at Archery by Steve Ruis. From that book came the idea that one of the reasons why a shooter may suck at archery is because they just don’t know HOW to score well. This really bothered me. You see, I am able to shoot top scores. How I was doing it was a mystery to me though. Well, just a few weeks ago I had something of an epiphany, and came to understand what I was doing and how it enabled me to set myself up to win, to even occasionally shoot record scores.


First off I’m going to go a little mystical here, but it is important to me. I don’t pretend to be some sort of Zen master or anything, but many years ago I was introduced to the concept of the Dao. One possible definition of the Dao is that it means the path, or flow of life.

In Western cultures, when seeking to achieve a goal or a state of being, our Dao runs something like this:

Have – We have the things that make us what we want to be. In archery that would of course mean having the latest, greatest, bestest, equipment that we can afford.

Do – Once we have the stuff we think we need, then we do what we think we need to do. For us that means practicing, and getting a coach, and going to tournaments, and most importantly, becoming stressed and worrying about working harder when we don’t do well.

Be – Finally, after we have bought the stuff, and done the things that Archers do, then, and only then do we get to BE Archers.

Actually following the Dao in the pursuit of a goal was explained differently to me, from an Eastern perspective. It runs rather more like this:

Be – Simply be that which we want to BE. Would you like to be an Archer? Fine! BE one! Its OK!

Do – What do Archers do? Well silly, they shoot bows and arrows! Why don’t we just work on that for a while at first, OK? Take some matched arrows, a shootable bow, look at some plain basic form, and go shoot some arrows.

Have – Now, after a while we get have that which Archers have. Maybe it’s a sense of accomplishment, or recognition from others, or a successful hunt, or just plain fun from a cool hobby. It can be whatever you were seeking to begin with.

So how is this concept relevant to me and to scoring well? It’s just that for me, I knew years ago, before I ever even picked up my first bow, that shooting Archery was something that I wanted to try. Somehow I just knew that I would like it. When I picked up that first bow, I knew that I was an Archer, finally, at last, shooting bows and arrows. I was lucky, I happened to follow the Dao, without even thinking about it. Be – Do – Have.

OK, enough of the airy-fairy, mind in the clouds stuff. Sure, it’s nice and warm and fuzzy, and makes us feel good about ourselves, but it will take a person only so far. I think now it’s time for something a little more practical.

One thing that I had realized about myself is that when I shoot a tournament, once I get into the swing of things, I pretty much just tromp along. I work hard at just shooting my own game. Good shots, bad shots, good weather or bad, stiff competition or weak, distractions from other people, whatever. I just trudge along. It doesn’t sound particularly glamorous does it? Of course I am not always successful at it. Sometimes things get to me.

What does this rather boring approach amount to though? It means that actually I am relentless in my pursuit of a goal. At a tournament that goal is simple, just come out on the other side with the best score I can shoot that day.

There is more to it than just that, though. (I hope nobody is particularly surprised to hear that.) I am relentless in another important aspect. I am relentless in how I seek to be prepared. Some may consider me to be a little nuts in this respect. For example, for me take an IFAA world record, it took over two years of preparation, and even included building my own bow. (OK, so I’m a LOT nuts.) For each of us, the details of what it takes to be prepared will vary. It may include being certain of our aiming points, or having lots of extra arrows, or spare equipment like an extra rest, or bowstring, etc. etc. The list may be kind of long. One thing is certain though. Be relentless in ensuring that you are prepared. It just can’t be blown off. It’s important because it serves two purposes. For one thing it keeps you prepared. Perhaps even more important than that though is what it does to boost your confidence to know that what ever comes your way, you can handle it.

OK, after all that, can we just cut to the meat of the matter? Sure. Would you like to score well, or have a successful hunt? First off, know that you can go ahead and BE that shooter. Once you have your head around that, move forward relentlessly. I know that there may be no one single cookie cutter answer, but I do now know that this has worked very well for me.

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