Diminishing Returns in Archery

One of the very frustrating aspects of archery is that the more skilled one becomes, the more difficult it is to gain more skill.  I find that the better I get, the more frustrated I become with smaller and smaller errors.

I tried to find a way to quantify this, but even though accuracy is an easily defined value, there’s no simple way to measure the effort one puts into practice.  To simply state the number of hours per week that one practices is misleading.  If one practices badly, then there could be little or no improvement.  On the other hand, HdP (Hours of Practice) is easy to measure.

Looking back, I can remember specific events that could be used as markers in my progress as an archer:  There was the day when I was thrilled to be able to put all the arrows in the straw bale backstop.  Then there was the day when I could put 4 out of 6 arrows in the target.   There was the day when I could be fairly certain of putting all six arrows within the five point ring (on a 10 ring target face.)  Each of these milestones represent an exponentially greater amount of effort measured in HdP.

Readdressing the statement in the first paragraph of this entry: The better I get, the more frustrated I become with smaller and smaller errors.  This is because with greater accuracy, small errors become more significant.  I won’t go into the math of this unless somebody responds and writes, “Hey!  Let’s talk accuracy, precision, standard deviations and all that statistics stuff!”

The best archers I personally know tell me that they launch between 250 and 300 arrows a day, every day.  And here’s the zinger: if they stop practicing, if they stop the daily reinforcement of muscle memory, their accuracy drops off precipitously.

I have to ask myself: Do I want to dedicate that much time and effort to loose 300 arrows every day?  That’s the equivalent of having another job.  And the answer is, No.  I don’t want to make archery into a job.  I want to enjoy it.  I want to keep it fun.  I’ll never be an archery superstar (is there such a thing?) but at least I will have a life that includes more variety.

2 Responses

  1. This is common to just about any endeavor worth pursuing – sports, arts, life. One always wants to see progress. But it’s worth keeping in mind that no matter how good you are at anything, there’s someone who’s better. Find peace with that. As far as how much effort to expend improving, look for the point where it’s no longer an enjoyable activity and back off that a little.

  2. I think there is also the problem that as you get better the things that remain to be improved upon are the most difficult ones. The adjustments which do not come naturally, perhaps because they work against some postural imbalance we have developed, or because one has used up all the existing non-archery skills and the next improvement would come only with developing entirely new ones (I feel I am at this stage now).

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