The National Field Archery Association holds an annual essay content for archers ages 12 to 17 who compete at the Vegas Shoot. The young archers write a 500 to 1,000 word essay about archery. Then one male and one female archer’s essay are chosen by an independent panel of experts.
Ninth grader, Rohan Tamhankar, won a $1,000 scholarship for his essay detailing his archery journey.
When I was young, my grandparents loved to sit me down and tell me stories. I particularly enjoyed stories from the Mahabharata, a Sanskrit epic about a war between five brothers and their one hundred cousins. Above all of the characters, one stood out to me the most: Arjun. Arjun was one of the five brothers, and he was known for his archery skills. From a young age, I idolized Arjun. Many stories from the Mahabharata demonstrated Arjun’s skill, but one story stuck with me more than the rest.
When Drupada, a king, held a swayamvar (a ceremony to choose a groom) for his daughter Draupadi, he issued a challenge. Each potential groom had to pick up an extremely heavy steel bow and string it. Then came the hard part: each contender had to shoot five arrows through a small hole in a metal fish. The fish rotated around a pole suspended from the ceiling. As if the challenge was not difficult enough as it was, each contender would have to aim at the fish while only looking at its reflection in a pool of water below. Only Arjun succeeded in this seemingly impossible task, showing his undeniable skill at archery. As I grew up, the challenge stuck in my mind, and I began to wonder if I could complete it and develop skills to rival Arjun’s.
I began learning how to shoot a barebow when I was ten. Since Arjun had used a barebow, I wanted to shoot with one. However, keeping my arrows in a group with a barebow was much too difficult for an impatient ten-year-old. I could not understand what caused the drastic changes in each shot. After six months, I decided to switch disciplines and become a compound archer. With my compound bow, it was much easier to aim and keep my arrows in a group. This came with a cost, however; the bow was heavy and much more physically taxing than the barebow that I was used to shooting.
Because of how physically demanding my compound bow was, I decided to create a workout regimen. After some research, I was able to create a list of exercises that I should do every day to make it easier to draw and hold the bow. However, I often succumbed to laziness and failed to complete the exercises, and my archery skills suffered as a result. After three months, I decided that for me to be able to shoot my bow with ease, my indolence had to end. I began to devoutly work out nearly every day. As my strength grew, it became easier to shoot my bow. Even though it was less difficult to hold my bow and pull the string, I did not score as well as I thought I should as a compound archer.
For a very long time, it puzzled me why I did not score as well as other archers at tournaments. After three years of practicing archery, I was not as good as I thought I would be. I had seen barebow archers that had only started months prior shoot better scores than I did. I tried to focus on my form, but I found no flaws in it. For quite some time, I did not know what to improve on to score better. I began to wonder if it was impossible for me to do well at archery.
I even contemplated quitting archery. However, I decided against that drastic decision because I realized how much I value archery. I found a sport that I truly enjoyed. Practicing at the nearby archery range had become the highlight of my days. What’s more, archery helped me focus and improved my mood. It provided great exercise for the arms, shoulders, and back. I am glad that I thought of quitting because it was only through questioning whether I should continue that I realized just how much the sport meant to me.
One day, my coach noticed that my anchor point was not consistent in each shot. I finally had something to improve on. Even though it was a small factor, it improved my arrow groups significantly, and it revitalized my faith in myself. I had proven to myself that I could be good at archery. From that point on, I stopped viewing archery as a hobby and I began to see it as a sport. Once I adjusted my mindset, I was able to enjoy archery even more. I began to do better at tournaments and my overall attitude improved as well. However, there was one last hurdle before me.
Even though I now had undeniable skill at archery, I still felt as though something was missing. I realized that even though I had practiced archery for five years, I had no archery friends. I am not a social person, and I never thought of making friends with other archers. However, one day, I met another archer who was four years younger than me. She had the same bag as me, so we coordinated where we put our bags to avoid mix-ups. My resulting friendship with her led to me becoming more social and more friendly with other archers. I also was able to connect with a fellow archer from my school as well as other archers from my range. Finally, I was content with myself.
Over the course of five years, I switched disciplines, conquered my laziness, restored my faith in myself, built my archery skills, and adjusted my mindset in the pursuit of achieving a task whose difficulty I only now fully comprehend. Even now, I cannot complete the challenge at Draupadi’s ceremony, but that only provides me more motivation to continue my archery journey and become even better.
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