Ever since Louise Kim (9) decided to join the SW Archery Academy last year, the sport has served as a haven from the stress of school and her daily life, she said.
Growing up, Kim followed renowned South Korean archers, such as Ki Bo Bae and Lee Sung-Jin, who eventually inspired her to try the sport. “I never envisioned that I would become an archer, but at one point I just thought, ‘Why not? I’ll try it,’” she said.
Within just four months of training, Kim competed at the U.S.A. Archery Indoor Nationals and ranked first in her division. The competition was her fourth of 13 thus far, and, like all in the indoor season—which spans from October to February—involved shooting 60 arrows at a target 18 meters away. The rest of the year falls under the outdoor season in which archers shoot either 72 or 144 arrows from a 60 meter distance.
Despite the inherently competitive nature of the competition, Kim said that she enjoyed herself. “My stress and anxiety about shooting well or missing an arrow was juxtaposed with this support that I got from family and teammates, and this happy, or cheerful even, environment.”
The competition also reminded Kim of how far she had come, she said. When she first joined the team, Kim focused on the basics, such as learning how to hold a bow and shoot arrows. Over time, though, she began to work on the specifics of her shot process, which includes deciding on the exact location of her arm, the angle of her face, and which eye she should keep open. Knowing that her shot is well-balanced is a source of excitement and joy for Kim, she said.
As an archer constantly working on her own shot process, Kim is fascinated by the physical and mental prowess that most professionals have. At the same time, Kim thinks that it’s difficult for anyone to be perfect; an archer’s confidence may be down one day and their left arm may hurt the next. “I do try my best to limit those differences, but it’s inevitable that one of those aspects isn’t there on the day of your practice or competition,” Kim said. “Managing those differences is a skill every archer needs and aspires to have.”
To counteract these slight shifts in her form and her confidence, Kim tries to strike a balance of practice, rest, and mental training. This mental training includes visualizing her matches, which takes all five senses into consideration and is critical for success, Kim said.
Kim typically trains three times a week at the Academy, which is in Paramus, New Jersey. Prior to intense competitions such as the national indoor competition, however, she will add another one or two practices per week. These practices are split between training alone with her coach and together with other members of the team: one-on-one time is necessary since archers compete alone, but group training is beneficial as well, as it allows for friendly competition, she said.
Her favorite competition so far has been the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) National Target Championships, which took place last July in Raleigh, North Carolina. The competition has a style Kim described as similar to March Madness: after an initial Qualification Round, archers from each of the four age groups, spanning from ages eight to 20, receive a ranking. The top 64 archers of each group then advance to the Olympic Round, during which pairs (starting with first and 64th, continuing with second and 63rd, and so on) face off. Kim placed within the top eight, which she hadn’t expected, as she had been training for only eight months. “Every round that I won, I never expected to win, as all of my opponents had years of experience over me,” she said.
Kim attributes her extraordinary success to her coaches’ teaching style and her pure love for the sport. Furthermore, the ability to stay incredibly focused, which she has developed from continuous training, has proved effective in competitions, she said.
Though Kim has made major improvements in her shot through practice, she knows she still has a long way to go. “Keeping my shot consistent and sometimes experimenting with how I can change it to fit my body or style better is something I’ll work on continuously for many years,” Kim said. She hopes to continue the sport competitively throughout high school, and potentially recreationally afterwards.
The group training has improved her sportsmanship, and the sport as a whole has also helped her grow to see the world from a more well-rounded point of view, Kim said. The relationships she has had with her club members and coaches along with other club members from other countries make her see this world from a different perspective. “It isn’t really all about competition or ranking, but about the friendships or connections that I make along this journey of archery.”