NFAA: What did it mean to you to make the shoot-off at Indoor Nationals for the first time?
David Houser: To make the shoot-off at the 2015 Indoor Nationals for the first time, it was like I finally got over a hump in my professional career or got the “monkey off my back” you could say. It was a surreal feeling that was a rush of emotions, it was the end result of all the hard work that I had put in, and was the reward for spending countless hours at the range preparing for that one moment. To finally accomplish that milestone of making the shoot-off was a memory that I will never forget. I had dreamed of that moment ever since I first saw an NFAA shoot-off, I told myself I want to be out there someday toe to toe with the best archers in the world for my chance at a National title.
NFAA: What is it about this tournament that makes the elusive shoot-off so hard to make?
David Houser: The Indoor Nationals is like a mental marathon for us as archers. The task at hand is relatively simple, shoot at the x-ring at 20 yards 120 times and never miss. However, these 120 shots are spread out over a two-day period, which involves shooting for 4 to 5 hours per day, for the days round depending on how fast the line is moving. It only takes you getting out of focus for a fraction of a second and making a bad shot that could lead to missing an X, and then that’s it, you’re out. No do overs, or second chances. You then have to wait until the next year to try it all over again. The fear of missing is what many people struggle with in this indoor game, especially the five spot face. These are probably some of the most predominant reasons why this shoot-off is so elusive and hard to make. Every year hundreds, even thousands of people attend trying to shoot a perfect score. Of these thousands, only a handful have the mental endurance the make it to the shoot-off.
NFAA: How are you preparing for 2016 National Indoor?
David Houser: I am preparing for the 2016 National Indoor very similar to how I prepared last year. This basically involves a few hundred arrows a day, usually around 200 or so, and all the while tweaking my set-up and my form to make it as easy as possible for me to hit the x ring every time. Shooting so many arrows per day really allows for me to micro-adjust my set-up with subtle changes that make my scores more consistent and confidence level rise. Confidence is key and for me the more arrows I shoot and more perfect games I shoot, the higher my confidence level rises.
NFAA: Anything you are looking forward to the most next year?
David Houser: I really look forward to attempting to shoot another perfect score to try to make the shoot-off. The rush of excitement mixed with the nerves of the event while your standing out in the shoot-off, toe to toe with some of the best archers on the planet is unlike anything else. I want nothing more to have that feeling again and a chance at the coveted silver bowl.
NFAA: Do you have any rituals or superstitions before or during a tournament?
David Houser: I always try to get a very good night sleep before a tournament and to be at the event site long before my shoot time. During the tournament, we as archers are always under constant pressure and stress and I never like to add running behind and not having the time I would like to warm-up and mentally prepare to the scoring day of the event. I also like to make sure that I have my equipment as ready as possible before I head to an event. I don’t like to be adjusting it while I’m there, but would rather have everything related to my bow ready to go when I arrive. Then all I have to do is shoot my bow, and not think and worry of how I can adjust something on it to try to make it shoot better for me while I am at the shoot. I like to make sure that is all taken care of before hand so when I am at an event all I to do is shoot and mentally prepare myself for the competition.
NFAA: Do you have a piece of advice for fellow archers?
David Houser: The best piece of advice that I have for fellow archers is practice, practice, and more practice. I used to shoot only 50-100 arrows a day and shot good practice scores but my tournament scores were not consistent to my practice scores. Once I started to shoot a lot more anywhere from 200-300 arrows, then I noticed my tournament scores to be very close to my scores I was shooting in practice. The more arrows I shoot, the easier my shot process becomes as muscle memory takes over, which especially becomes important when shooting under pressure. Another piece of advice is no matter what always go to a tournament with confidence. Even if you haven’t been shooting that great leading up to the shoot, or if the practice day before the event didn’t go as well as you like, when it comes time to start scoring always be confident. Never count yourself out until the last arrow of the event either; one bad shot is not the end of the world. No archer is perfect and we all make bad shots, it’s just a part of our sport. When this happens, you have to use it as motivation to make the next shot a perfect one and not to dwell on the bad one.
NFAA: How do you handle and control your nerves?
David Houser: What I have found to be the best for handling and controlling my nerves is to try to keep my mind busy thinking about other things other than being nervous. Instead of thinking of the big picture, like winning the tournament or making the shoot off, I will think about my plans for later that evening, sing a favorite song in my head, or even try to think of a fond memory from the past to keep my mind busy. Most of all I try to keep my confidence level high and keep reminding myself that “I can do this.” Talking and joking with fellow archers while we are waiting for our turn to shoot also really helps. Laughing and keeping good in good spirits always seems to make me shoot better.