Payton Bellings March – Not many people can say that they’ve gone to state for their sport, but I’ve gone eight times. From anxiety to bow issues to a virtual tournament, I truly believe that I have seen everything there is to see at State. If you’re feeling anxious about an upcoming State tournament, you may want to keep reading for some tips and tricks on how to make the most of your State experience!
First of all, take it all in. If this is your first time, it is most likely the biggest tournament you have ever been to. It can be difficult to get used to. I’d recommend arriving extra early so that you can get a grasp of what the tournament is like and even sit down and watch a little bit to ease your nerves. There are going to be way more people than at a normal tournament, but the cool thing is that most likely, only the people you came with are watching you! Everybody in the audience is there to watch a specific person, so don’t worry too much about the crowd.
Secondly, be patient. My state tournament had 100 people shooting on the line at once, compared to the normal 24. With that many more people, it is going to take longer to get through a flight. There is a better chance that an equipment malfunction may happen within your flight since there are more people. If one does happen, be patient while it is resolved and stay respectful while that person is shooting after the malfunction. It takes a lot of courage to be up on the line all by yourself. Fun fact: one year, I shot by a girl on my team whose arrow rest broke mid-tournament. The coach who fixed it rushed the job and accidentally popped on a left hand arrow rest instead of a right hand one. Instead of raising her hand and having it fixed, she rested her arrow on the shelf for the rest of the tournament. If something like that happens to you, do not do what my teammate did! Make sure to inform the lane judges of all equipment issues so that they can make your coaches aware.
My last piece of advice is to be proud of yourself. No matter how you did, you made it to State! That’s a pretty big accomplishment. Getting to compete with the best of the best within your state is an awesome experience that I am so happy I got to have eight times. I have felt many different emotions and had many different experiences at all of the State tournaments I shot at. There were years where I was just happy to be there, years where I was bummed out about my scores, and even years where I was given a plaque for placing at the awards ceremony! Not every tournament is going to go the way that you want it to, and State is not an exception to that.
If you are wondering how you should prepare for State, I would recommend treating it like a normal tournament. While there is a lot more on the line than at a normal tournament, I think that it is best just not to think about those things. My club practices every day on the week leading up to State to get us ready for the big tournament. We even shoot from 18 meters to help tighten our groups in 15 meters. Personally I make a pretty long playlist that I can play before on the car ride to State and while I am waiting for my flight to begin. Listening to my favorite songs helps me relieve stress, so I like to listen to music leading up to my flight. One silly thing I always do before I leave for State is making sure that my homework is all done. The last thing that you want to think about at your State tournament is doing your math homework. Make sure that you have an open mind as you prepare, especially if it is your first experience at State.
If you are attending State this year, I hope that these tips and tricks will help you, as they have helped me for many years! I know that going into something that is new to you like State can be very nerve racking, so I hope that my advice can help you feel more prepared going into it. Good luck!
~Payton Bellings is a 2023 student contributor~