What does it take for archers to go from green beginners to elite competitors? Besides the right equipment, they need good instruction, a strong mindset and lots of work.
Jack Williams used that formula to become one of the country’s best archers just four years after taking his first lessons. The 18-year-old native of Irvine, California, is a resident athlete at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, and has achieved several top finishes at national tournaments.
Williams fenced from age 10 to 14 before trying archery. “I was competing quite seriously (in fencing), going to nationals and things like that,” he said.
While training at the fencing studio, Williams shot a simple beginners bow just for fun. That was enough to spark his interest, and launch him into a new sport.
“After shooting for a while, I realized archery was much more enjoyable for me than fencing,” he said.
Like many archers, Williams started with a basic bow that he received for his birthday. As he grew interested in competition, he upgraded to a top-shelf Olympic recurve bow.
Most archers, of course, start by renting or buying an inexpensive bow. If their interest in archery holds, they’ll next buy an intermediate bow. Archers typically shoot their second bow a year or longer, depending on how serious they are about archery.
Williams didn’t need such convincing. He quickly became a serious competitor, which explains his immediate upgrade to a top-of-the-line bow.
Good instructors are as vital as good equipment. Williams started with lessons at a local club, Orange County Archery in Mission Viejo, California. He then sought advanced coaching at the Joy Lee Archery Academy, where he worked with Kisik Lee, USA Archery’s national head coach. While taking lessons from Coach Lee and competing regularly, Williams realized he must commit to training if he wanted to chase his Olympic dreams.
“At first, like with anybody, it was just fun,” Williams said. “Then I realized I could be good, and it shifted over to more Olympic aspirations.”
Olympic archery teams have only three spots, and securing one takes incredible commitment. In November 2016, when Williams was a high-school junior, he moved to the Olympic Training Center.
The move required him to do his high-school classwork online. “You have to be ready to dedicate a lot to archery,” he said. “It’s a big commitment that has a big payoff.”
Williams has been at the center over a year, and is benefiting from its advanced training. “I’ve seen tremendous improvement in my overall maturity, my archery form, and scores,” he said. “That’s a big credit to the resident athlete program.”
Work, Work, Work
Many archers dream of training full time for the Olympics, but it’s lots of work. Williams starts training at 8 a.m. and shoots until noon. He then takes 90 minutes for lunch, and resumes shooting from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. The athletes finish their day with a gym session.
Williams’ schedule resembles a full-time job, but instead of attending meetings, or doing paperwork or skilled labor, he shoots arrows. His “work” is a mix of scoring, training games and practicing form.
All that practice is delivering impressive results, including a career highlight in 2017. At the outdoor nationals last year, Williams took third in qualifications and fourth in the Olympic round. “That was my first time being on the top,” he said. “Being on the podium with Brady (Ellison) and Jake (Kaminski) felt right.”
He achieved another top-three finish at the 2018 Arizona Cup, the season’s first outdoor tournament. With two years until the 2020 Olympic Games, Williams is on track to contend for a spot on the American team.
Williams has gone far during his high-school years, Maybe you can, too. To start your archery journey, visit a pro shop and give it a try. You can find a nearby store here.