Olympic Archery: Taking Aim with Jake Kaminski

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Leaving the archer’s bow, an arrow travels at over 200 feet per second and seeks a circular bull’s eye the size of a compact disc 70 meters away.  To say that there isn’t much room for error in Olympic Archery is a gross understatement.

And as you construct a mental image of a target 70 meters away, keep this in mind – due to the laws of gravity, an arrow will drop by as much as 8 feet over the course of its flight. (Archery Report)

Olympic Archery hopeful, Jake Kaminski

Yet, when Olympic archers take aim, they consistently pepper the center of the target.

Jake Kaminski

One archer who hopes to make his mark at the 2012 Olympics in London is 23 year old Jake Kaminski.  In spite of his youth, Jake is a veteran of the sport.  He began shooting at age six and started competing three years later.  Since 2006, Jake has been a resident of the ARCO US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California and is now training with legendary archery coach, Mr. Kisik Lee.

Olympic Archery Hopeful, Jake Kaminski

Using his Hoyt bow, Easton arrows, and B-stinger stabilizers, Jake spends time on the practice range shooting hundreds of arrows nearly every day.  Jake says, “I typically shoot around 100 arrows per hour,” and that daily repetition is what has led to a nearly flawless technique.

Jake explains that as he has progressed through the ranks, the emphasis on how he trains and competes has changed.  “At the state and regional levels, the completion is 75% mental but at the elite, Olympic level it is 99% mental.  At the elite level, everyone has the technical skills needed to compete.”

According to Jake, during high pressure competitions his heart rate may jump to 150 or even 180 beats per minute.  “Sometimes I have to focus on my breath as my respiration needs to keep up with an increased heart rate.”

That’s right.  Imagine trying to do something as precise as Olympic archery with your heart pounding through your chest.

To help with mental preparation Jake sought the assistance of a world-class teacher.  He found Lanny Bassham.

Due to a mental lapse in the 1972 Olympics, Bassham was unable to win gold in International Rifle Shooting; however by interviewing and studying other athletes, he was able to put together a system for managing his emotions.  The result: a gold medal in 1976.  And since then Bassham has dedicated his time to helping other athletes prepare for the pressures of mentally demanding sports.

According to Troy Bassham, Lanny’s son,

“We teach a mental system that allows an athlete to control his mind before the task by running a mental program. With Jake, it is important that he controls his thoughts in a consistent and organized manner before each and every shot.  Jake always starts his mental program with a consistent physical trigger. This physical trigger is the start point of his program as well as his key to signal his body that he is ready. From this point on his thoughts go through a series of steps up to the point of release. By doing this Jake has an advantage over his competitors. He is not concerned about were the shot goes or what his score is, he is only concerned with running a consistent mental program.”

“It is about who can handle the pressure of the moment.  It is about who can control their emotions,” Jake says.

In addition to the time on the range and the mental preparation, Jake also spends time working on this strength, mobility, and balance.

Archery puts “lots of strain on the psoas and the hip flexors.  I typically workout in the gym three times per week; however I am mainly focused on increasing my range of motion.  For example, with my squats, I am going nearly to the ground.”

Jake is also taking a somewhat unorthodox approach in working on his balance and proprioception, or how he senses his limbs with respect to the rest of his body.  To help with this Jake practices on an unstable Indo Board Balance Trainer as show in the video below:

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Jake understands that there are risks in taking a unique approach.  “If you are doing something different and losing then you are dumb.  If you are doing something different and being successful then you are innovative.”

Olympic Archery Qualification

But it looks like the Jake may be on the right track. Qualifying for the 2012 Olympics for the United States began in September 2011, and Jake made it through by being one of the top 16 male competitors (placing second).

The Second Nomination Shoot will be held in April 2012 and will cut the field down to 8.  Finally, the Third Nomination Shoot will be held in June to select the top 3 men and the top 3 women who will compete for the United States in London.

Best of luck Jake in your Olympic Archery quest! You can follow Jake on Twitter or at his blog.

Special thanks to Teresa Iaconi at USA Archery for her assistance with this post.

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