Welcome to our new section, Thrive on Campus, devoted to covering the urgent issue of mental health among college and university students from all angles. If you are a college student, we invite you to apply to be an Editor-at-Large, or to simply contribute (please tag your pieces ThriveOnCampus.) We welcome faculty, clinicians, and graduates to contribute as well. Read more here.
Archery has been part of my life for nearly three years now, ever since I joined my university’s club back in freshman year. During that time it has become one of the most important parts of my life at university, and I truly believe that it has had a deep and profound effect on my development as a person. It is difficult to adequately express just what archery means to me and how it has changed me, let alone what I have learnt from it, but there are a few clear aspects that, to me at least, seem undeniable.
Firstly, and most obviously, archery requires commitment and dedication. In order to be good at anything, you have to keep doing it. With archery there is the benefit of a physical score to track how I have improved. There is real gratification in knowing for certain that through my persistence and commitment I have improved significantly as an archer. I can look back at how I was and see how different I am now. The desire to keep improving isn’t solely limited to archery either. In all things I do, I try to think of it like I am shooting: I simply need to keep doing it otherwise I won’t get anywhere.
The beauty of archery, at its core, lies in its simplicity. The skills surrounding the sport are straightforward and uncomplicated. The most important tool for an archer to have is patience. In order to make sure that every arrow I shoot is a good one, I need to take the time to focus. If I pull back an arrow without thinking about it then I have no idea where it will go. It is only when I force myself to slow down and collect myself, then and only then will I be happy to shoot an arrow. I’ve always thought that this feeling is close to meditation because it centres me on one point and it’s even like yoga because it helps me establish a natural rhythm. When I have this presence of mind and this rhythm, that is when I shoot my best and everything else in the world seems to disappear for a bit.
There have been countless times when I have been overwhelmed with stress or anxiety about exams an schoolwork. The one thing that has always been able to calm me down without fail is shooting. If I take a bit of time out of a particularly hectic week to go down to the range and shoot a few arrows, I always feel better at the end of it. It forces me to take my mind of the future and what may or may not happen and instead directs me to concentrate on the here and now. All thoughts about next week’s assignments, or making sure I get to office hours, fade away until it is just me and the bow.
But that is not to say that archery is a solitary sport. Perhaps the biggest reason why archery has been such a large part of my life is the community. The friendships that I have formed through archery have helped me remember the most fundamental truth about the sport: It’s fun. When I am having an off day or I am not shooting as well as I want to, I can always rely on my fellow archers to crack jokes and stay positive. Whenever we shoot at tournaments, high-stress environments that put a lot of pressure on you, seeing archers from other schools again acts as a perfect counterbalance. Even after the heat of a gold medal match, my opponents are still my friends and we still chat and joke with each other. It was the people that drew me to archery and it has been the team that has helped me stay. Indeed there is even strong scientific evidence that says team sports help you live longer.
Joining my university’s archery team was one of the best decisions of my life. Archery has taught me many valuable lessons that I will carry with me, especially after I leave university and I intend to keep shooting for as long as I can.
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