I’ll try (just about) anything once. Of course, the added ‘just about’ is a necessary clause. There are plenty of things I would never do. Most of the things I am less enthusiastic about trying involve athleticism, sports, and groups. Solo running? Sure, love it. Yoga? You bet. New team sport or activity for me to try? NO. FUCK no. A bunch of sober people getting hyped up to sweat together, run around like un-neutered dogs, and “be super silly?” Maybe even engage in a “friendly competition?”
Having to deal with people who puff their chest out because they’re the BEST at kicking a ball or swinging a bat? All of this is my definition of torture. If I’m ever held captive and my captor is looking for information, don’t prod me with a hot medal iron, just make me play kickball. I’ve been tempted to kick the teeth in of the people who invite me to these types of activities for even asking me to join. That is the only possible way for them to understand the pain that group sporting events brings me. I loathe group sports.
With that being said, it was surprising that I opted for responding “HELL YES” to an invitation to try a new sport with a group of friends…Gotham Archery in downtown Brooklyn.
I’m unashamed to say that I am a history nerd. Any day of the week I can do a deep dive into learning about how the people before me used to live. (You too? Then click here!) Therefore, the idea of trying my hand at shooting a bow and arrow, as people used to do centuries ago for both war and hunting sent a grin across my face. The endeavor felt more like a historical one, and not as much as an athletic one. In some way, I felt that by taking this lesson, I could better understand and appreciate the ways of those who came before me. Lured in by this sentiment and the promise of drinks afterward, I went.
BUT, I was a touch nervous about safety. Turns out there was no cause for worry as the staff at Gotham Archery in downtown Brooklyn truly makes safety a number one priority. They never slip on this mission and pay meticulously close attention to the guests to make sure everyone is following proper protocols.
When we first arrived we received a wrist guard which we agreed was “bad ass” right from the jump. I did feel a few pangs of apprehension because of the newness of the activity. Typically, when I try a new sport or athletic activity, I feel that everyone around me looks as though they’ve been working out since the day of their birth. I was really relieved that archery looked a more approachable sport where all types of people are welcomed to participate. This definitely helped take the edge off.
As a group of nearly 12, we were given our own private room was secured for a private lesson. The room was huge, brightly lit, full of bows, and smelled like eighth grade wood shop. We stood in a row and prepared for a safety demonstration. Austin, a slender kid in a baseball cap greeted us and immediately made me feel at ease. He was both friendly and funny and a great representative for Gotham Archery in Brooklyn.
We started off by learning the difference between the two types of bows and got to pick which one we preferred. We were given extensive instruction on how to load the bow and shoot after an even more extensive safety lesson. I paid very close attention and watched closely at the steps needs to load the bow effectively. No way was I going to be the only idiot who couldn’t make it past step one.
It was surprising that I was able to load my bow so efficiently on the first try. It was very simple. The edge of the bow has a small clip that loads right on to the string. I pulled back the string, closed my left eye, and pulled my hand to the upper corner of my lip. When there is a strong, snappable string right under your eye and on top of your lip, your natural inclination is to feel that simply letting go will injure your face.
In many ways, it feels as though there is an outstretched rubber band ready to snap right into your eye. The proper way of proceeding is to simply open your fingers and let go. It feels frightening, but is not dangerous at all. I followed instructions and couldn’t believe it. My bow landed on the paper! While many people probably aim for bull’s eyes or probably the fucking target at the very least, I was just happy that mine hit the paper in front of me and not the wall or the floor.
Each archer received four bows to shoot in a row. After running out of arrows, the bow goes back on the wall, and no one can retrieve arrows until the instructor says “all clear.” At one point, my bows would repeatedly land on my husband and brother in law’s targets. Yes, I’m apparently that clingy. With practice and an adjusted scope, I finally hit my own target. Focusing on my own success and improving with practice made this a sport that I really began to enjoy. There was so much opportunity to improve and to become better with each shot. It was exciting to see where my arrows hit and I (inwardly) grew ecstatic at the few times my bow hit near the bull’s eye.
All sense of confidence and joy halted when our instructor announced that we would halt practice to begin a “friendly competition.” I felt my blood pressure drop and my legs buckle. Our targets were no longer needed, and a board with multi colored balloons replaced them.
The instructions were as follows: Austin would call out a color balloon we had to be the first person to hit the color. Whoever hit first would win. We were split into two teams and one person from each team was to move to the front of the room. Surprisingly, I volunteered to go first from my team. Evidently, my hand had a mind of its own. I constantly had to remind myself that I was not walking into a battle, and this was not the middle ages. I was among my friends and none of us were archery experts.
Comical competitive music played, such as Eye of the Tiger while we began. What a relief. “Hands up!” We had to put one hand in the air and hold our bow with the other. “Go!” Austin shouted quickly. I loaded up my bow quickly and twice I did not come even close to hitting any of the balloons, let alone the green color Austin called out. This is going to shock the audience, but I lost the friendly competition. I was MORE than okay with that. It was over with and I was never to perform for everyone again. I really enjoyed watching everyone compete, and I felt better while watching that this was a fairly new sport for everyone in our group. We were all there to have fun, enjoy each other’s company, and learn something new.
The guys in our group decided to practice on the range for 30 minutes. All of the girls in our group sat out, but the guys were eager to participate. Typically, I would sit out if that’s what all of the other girls were doing. However, it was important to stick with the mentality that this was about me learning something new and no one else. I wasn’t the best in our group, but I certainly was certainly improving since my first shot. This was also the case when I first started taking vodka shots.
Our group could not stop talking about how much we enjoyed the archery experience. The staff at Gotham Archery is impressive. I’m especially thankful for the safe, welcoming, and helpful environment that they cultivate. I don’t feel that I was as good as my friends, but I definitely got better at shooting toward the end. This is the first time in my life that I genuinely worried about my own progress. I did not try to compare my performance to those around me.
Although I did feel a touch uncomfortable knowing I was not one of the top archers in our group, I was able to make peace with that fact more quickly than I think I typically would. By telling myself that it was OK not to be the best, I saw my performance improve. Focused on using the feedback that Austin gave me and tuned everything else out helped me improve. I can’t wait to see what happens when I apply this strategy to other parts of my life. As a non athlete, I highly recommend Gotham Archery in downtown Brooklyn for people from all walks of life. Click here for more information.