Drawing, reading or… just dreaming? How archers deal with breaks in shooting

Archers take different approaches to the breaks between arrows at the second stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archer World Cup in Lausanne.

Six arrows, followed by a four-minute break before scoring, returning to the tent line and then shooting again. The time waiting for the second line (in archery lingo: detail) to shoot their arrows can last an eternity. Long enough to overthink, overanalyse or… colour stained-glass drawings.

Michelle Kroppen took the top seed in the recurve women’s competition with a career-best qualification of 675 on Tuesday at the second stage of the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Lausanne.

The German drew attention for her behaviour between ends, when she would sit in the team tent, grab her tablet and draw in an effort to calm her nerves before stepping onto the line.

“It’s the first time I've tried this,” Kroppen explained. “Usually, I read a book. But it requires too much focus to read and understand everything. I tried something new. In the morning, I downloaded the app and tried to draw and keep calm. I guess it helps me a lot.”

The 25-year-old benefited from retreating inside her own world, even for a brief moment. It’s a tactic used by many archers, though the activity they choose can vary. 

Aida Roman, for instance, prefers not to switch to a completely different mode when she puts her bow away.

“I like to listen to music, but I prefer to focus on myself,” the London 2012 silver medallist said. “With music, I could get too focused and forget about things that are around me. I prefer to stay alert, to check the wind and think about my feelings.”

The Mexican archer remains in control of her situation. Archery is the priority, even during the breaks.

“I think about my grouping, about my shot, how I feel or if I practise something specific,” she said. “Every competition is different, and in every one you have some objective. So I think if I am close to that, how I can do that. It's not about reading a book, more about my personal things.”

Archers take different approaches to the breaks between arrows at the 2021 Hyundai Archery World Cup in Lausanne.

On the other hand, experienced Swede Christine Bjerendal makes an effort to forget about her bow for those brief moments of respite.

“I try to think about everything else but archery,” she said. “When I’m standing on the line, I focus on doing everything right. But when I go off, maybe I’m a little bit like a child, I play and then get serious again.”

Even small talk can reduce the tension.

“I don't read, sometimes I can listen to music. But I prefer to stay open, talk to people, have fun with others,” Bjerendal continued. “It feels like I'm closing in when I start listening to music or reading a book.”

Nanna Jakobsen of Denmark likes to clear her mind, too.

“I don’t focus too much on what's going at the target or even at the shooting line. I only focus on my shots during the shooting. I kind of distract myself with different conversations,” the 21-year-old said. “Sometimes if you have a bad end or a bad arrow, you need to complain a bit about it, but then move on. I actually use music a lot. So when they play it between the ends, I try to listen and get a good mood. It helps a lot.”

Sjef Van Den Berg, a multiple gold medallist on the international circuit, puts on headphones or reads a book, but only after the shooting is over. When there are arrows in flight, he sits and entertains himself. 

“I just enjoy the fact that I’m shooting,” said the somewhat self-confessed ‘archery nerd’. “I can look at other people shooting because it’s also something I like to do. I’m enjoying myself.”

The world number seven finds it easy to free his mind from the pressure of upcoming matches: “It’s not a problem. I don’t feel so stressed before the competitions anymore,” he said. “I can easily change from being in a competition mode to reading.”

Like everything in archery, the time in between ends remains an intensely personal experience.