Some life skills learned through archery
By Tom Baker
April 05, 2007 - Posted at 12:00 a.m.

I have worked with many young people over the years to teach them life skills through the discipline of archery. A couple have been fortunate to also take their skill level to a point of being internationally competitive and representing their country at international archery competitions.
My son, Kevin Barker, went to the Czech Republic and France. Holly Heinsohn, from Cuero, earned spots on teams that went to England and Mexico. Andrea Garner, from Port Lavaca, represented her country in Denmark, while Kayla DeBord, from Goliad, went to Mexico.

Most recently Victorians Bryce Wickliffe and Jordan Brown spent their spring break in Izmir, Turkey, at the World Indoor Championships. Bryce brought home a gold medal. I asked Jordan, a Memorial senior, to keep a journal on his trip and then let me know what he learned on this archery trip.

Following are his thoughts, which are very revealing:

Over the past three months, I have prepared and trained for one of the biggest moments of my life - the 2007 World Indoor Championships in Izmir, Turkey. Unlike so many other life-altering events, this was only a stepping stone toward greater things. I went into the event as the unknown kid and left virtually the same. However, I was able to learn and listen to the advice and experience of those who were veterans in this sport.

Spending eight days with some of the best archers in the world allowed me to realize that those people whom I had always thought to be so perfect, were real people.

Real people lose their first match even if they are an Olympic silver medalist. Real people can shoot incredibly impressive scores just the week before and can lose to a kid almost 10 years younger than themselves.

Real people find themselves shooting against their own teammates in head-to-head matches and learn to remain civil.

Real people have no control over situations, they simply take them as they are and adjust accordingly.

I also learned that there is a difference between an athlete and a competitor. Both are there for the love of the sport and both have equal desire to win and come home with the gold medal. It is not the wins that separate the two, it is the losses.

An athlete takes the losses with dignity, looking at the archer who beat him, realizing that the other archer simply shot better.

Marco Galliazzo, reigning Olympic champion from Italy, faced first-time international competitor from the U.S., Shawn Rice, for the bronze medal. Both had shot impressive scores but found themselves in the shoot-off for the bronze rather than the gold.

Both Marco and Shawn were perfect through nine arrows. On the last end of the head-to-head shootoff, Shawn shot three 10s, finishing with a perfect score of 120. Marco shot two 10s and on his last arrow shot a nine. With a smile on his face, he shook Shawn's hand, knowing he had lost by one point to a perfect score.

In a similar situation, other competitors found themselves so wrapped up in the loss of the gold, they could not see the possibility and honor of a bronze medal. It's been said that you can tell a lot about an athlete by how he/she responds to a loss.

Aside from archery, I learned about a completely new country and culture. I learned about new people and a very different diet. I learned in a country where beef is not found often, lamb is a reasonable substitute.

I learned that differences are not bad, they are simply different. I think that the most important thing I learned was something about myself. Regardless of how I ranked, I had earned a spot to shoot and represent the United States - an honor I will forever remember.

I am very proud of Jordan and the rest of the young people I work with. They are "Straight Shooters".
Tom Barker is the archery columnist for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-574-1206 or, or comment on this story here.

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