I took the 4 older girls (Liberty, Grace, Hope, and Mercy) to shoot in the NASP Minnesota South Region Tournament this past weekend.
There were tears.
It. Was. So. Hard. To. Watch.
I stressed, going into this weekend, that we were in it to have fun, that we were in it for the love of archery.
But Hope is used to being on the podium.
This is a girl who placed 3rd at Regions last year (2017) and went on to place 2nd at State. Those 2 finishes would be something for most kids to be over the moon excited over. But those were disappointing finishes for the girl who took 1st at both Regions and State the year before, and then went on to place 2nd at Nationals and 4th at Worlds, along with numerous other podium finishes throughout the season each year.
All four of these girls, and their older brother, Jaron, have each accumulated a serious collection of trophies and medals from the last several years of archery tournaments.
They’ve won their fair share of trophies, and I’m not talking about the participation kind. I’m talking about top 5 finishes out of dozens of kids, sometimes hundreds, in their divisions.
They’ve tasted what it’s like to win. A lot.
But this year’s archery season has been hard, in more ways than one…
After 4 years of the kids shooting with a local public school team, and me helping to coach the team, this is our first year participating in the NASP program as solo homeschoolers. (Awesome, and a little bit scary at the same time!)
We all miss the team terribly. We are missing the friendships, for sure, but we are also missing the regular practice at a full-size range, and it’s showing up in not only their shooting, but also in their enthusiasm. *sad face*
It just isn’t the same trying to shoot across our basement at an old shot-out target that isn’t a true 80 cm target face like what is used in every official NASP tournament. So, our practicing for NASP tournaments has been less than stellar this year.
My kids are used to winning when it comes to archery. I really don’t want to come across as snobbish when I say that. It’s just true. Archery is something that just clicked for most of my kids, and only clicked better and better the more they trained and practiced.
As much as they’ve grown used to winning, they’ve each also had their off days. A couple of them have struggled through an entire off season, which is where we’re finding ourselves this year.
But we’re hanging in there*.
One of the things I have always tried to stress with my kids, in addition to just doing your best at everything your hand finds to do, it to FINISH STRONG.
When it’s been a rough round, when it’s not going your way, when the scores just aren’t there…
We do NOT give up.
We are NOT quitters.
YOU. KEEP. TRYING.
When you shoot a bad arrow, when you miss a shot on goal, when you fumble the ball… (Trying for the broader sports analogies here…)
There is absolutely nothing you can do about that. There is no big rewind button in the game of life.
It’s over. It’s done. It’s in the past.
The only thing you can change is the future.
It’s what you do next that counts now, and IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER.
You shot a 7? That shot is done. It’s the next shot that counts, and you know how to do this. Shoot your form and aim for a 10.
No sulking. You can’t shoot your form, you can’t play your game, with slumped shoulders.
We’ve been working on the subtle art form of shaking it off.
Some days are better than others.
This past Saturday was one of those others.
Hope dropped more points than she thought she would at 10 meters. I tried to encourage her that she could still finish strong with some solid rounds at 15 meters, which we all know she is very capable of. When that first scoring round at 15 was rough, she was visibly shaken. When the second round was harsh, the tears came hard, and her sisters felt her angst. (Painful and raw moment to watch, both as a coach and as a mom, but man, I Iove my girls and their bonds of love for each other!! #proudmommoment)
I tried to tell her to stay calm, tried to reassure her that there were still two weeks to get some good practice in before State, that she is a solid shooter who can still do this. I told her to fight for every shot on the last round, and to FINISH STRONG. No giving up.
And she did it. She finished strong. And I am so proud of her!
Hope finished that last scoring round with a 47 (out of 50), which for a middle schooler, at 15 meters, shooting a bare Genesis Bow (fingers only, no sights, no stabilizers, etc…), is a solid round. She has shot plenty of 48’s and 49’s at 15 meters, but 47 is still strong, especially considering the mental game she had to fight-to-win to shoot that 47.
When all was said and done, and all the arrows had been scored, Hope finished that tournament with a score of 272 (out of 300), which put her in 30th out of 147 middle school girls. A respectable finish. But not a win.
Just before getting up to shoot that last round, she wiped away the tears, listened to the rest of my finish strong pep talk, and then asked if we could go to Chick-fil-A on the way home. I happily answered, “You betcha!”, and she smiled, got up, finished strong, and walked out with her head held high, knowing that she had tried her best, that she had pushed through the emotions and achieved a mental win, which in the grand scheme of things, will probably do more for her character than a podium win any day.
All four girls finished with decent scores, but none of them earned a spot of the podium.
They didn’t win. Not a one of them.
And that’s okay.
No pressure, no shame, from me or each other. Only support and encouragement.
No anger towards or jealousy of the kids that finished on top this time. We can be happy for them!
Of course there was plenty of disappointment, but I hope and pray that my kids know that while I may share in their disappointment with their scores that day, that I am not disappointed in them. They tried with every shot. They encouraged each other after every rough round. (Oh, how that blesses this mama’s heart!!) They were polite and nice to archers and coaches from other teams. They did well.
They finished strong.
They didn’t win, but they lost with grace and dignity, and maybe that is a win after all…
*(I said *mostly* hanging in there… Jaron is a senior this year, and just concentrating on finishing strong with his schooling, working hard on some dual enrollment classes this year. His Genesis Bow mostly stays in its case these days, but he is enjoying shooting his Mathews Halon at the local archery range when he gets the chance.)