Are you excited about a potential athletic career in archery, but don’t know how or where to start? If you have Olympic aspirations, work toward getting invited to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. Heather Koehl, the Archery Trade Association’s communications assistant, is training there in her second Olympic cycle. She agreed to share what life is like at the complex.
Koehl graduated recently from Texas A&M University, and has shot archery since kindergarten. She’s a professional recurve archer who’s on her second Olympic cycle, and training for a shot at the 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo.
Olympic training cycles last three to four years. After Heather’s first cycle, she was the USA Archery Olympic Team’s alternate for the 2012 Olympics. Her success didn’t stop there: She finished in the top eight in Team USA’s 2016 Olympic trials.
How do Olympic athletes in training live? Koehl’s schedule is packed from sunup to sundown. She begins the day at 5 a.m. with Archery Trade Association work, and then trains on the range from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., with 90-minute lunch breaks that includes more ATA work. She ends the day by finishing her ATA work before bedtime. Her training also includes a workout routine three days a week. She runs for a cardio workout the other two days.
When asked how she spends her free time (if any), she said: “Sometimes I just go to bed early. Sometimes I read. And other times I might get in a few games on League of Legends.”
What about her dietary plans? “I make sure to stuff as much food in me after a workout as I can,” Koehl said jokingly. “But more seriously, I usually have a lot of carbs during lunch, and follow up with a more protein-based dinner after everything major that day, like shooting and the workouts.”
She doesn’t drink any soda, except during the holidays, which helps keep her body well-conditioned. All meals at the dining hall are free. Each is carefully thought-out by nutritionists, and prepared by the training center’s private chef. It resembles a college campus dining hall, but without the temptation to eat entire trays of desserts.
The living arrangements are set up like apartments, with four athletes per suite. Two athletes share one bathroom in each room, with two rooms on each side of the suite sharing living-room space. Koehl’s current training group has six archers, which is twice as many as she had during her first cycle. “I feel like there’s much more of a team dynamic for this cycle, and I think that will only make us stronger,” she said.
Koehl is gearing up for the World Championships in 2019, where she’ll compete for a spot on the Olympic team. “I’ve been training harder these past few months than I did in my time training for the 2012 team,” she said. “I’m even more confident in my abilities leading up to the two goals we set for making the teams and doing well.”
She said the most important things she has learned is to have a faster shot sequence and to be strong and aggressive when finishing each shot. Having done an Olympic cycle before, she thinks she’ll continue doing different training techniques for visualization, distractions and strength.
Koehl has learned she must do everything she can while training, and have no regrets. “I felt like I had done a lot last time, but this time I know I won’t have anything to regret,” she said. “I’m definitely working hard this cycle.”
She said archers who are eyeing Olympic training must have self-discipline. “Whether you have school, a full-time job, or little money to travel, you need to be determined to practice,” Koehl said. “You don’t have to attend all the USAT events to make an Olympic team. What you do need is the drive and resolve to get in the practice time and train as hard as you can. Then attend the Trials and give it your all. No regrets.”
If you dream of shooting archery at the Olympics, training at this facility can help you get there. Yes, you must be accepted into the Resident Athlete Program by USA Archery, but it’s not an impossible quest. With hard work and dedication, you could be shooting arrows at the Olympic training facility someday.
To begin your Olympic journey, visit a local archery retailer and get set up with gold-medal gear.