Larry Seale is a great example of everything archery has to offer. Coming to the sport late in the United States, he won accolades, broke records, and very quickly moved in to coaching – setting up Tulsa Archery Club. We spoke to Larry about his career, the club and how archery is doing across the pond.
KUDOS: So tell us a little bit about your journey in archery, and how Tulsa Archery Club came into existence…
Larry Seale: For decades, I have been an avid weight trainer, and restorer/racer of old vintage dirt bikes from the 1970’s (Penton, Husqvarna). From weight lifting, I got my love of repetition, concentration, discipline, muscle control. From old vintage two-stroke engines, I got my understanding that a technical endeavor requires that one submit oneself to the discipline of the endeavor – do it right’ or don’t get the result you want….both of those backgrounds were great preparation for the discipline and perseverance that target archery requires.
Taking up Olympic style recurve target archery in April 2010, at age 53, I fell in love with it. I was lucky to have John Magera (member USA 2004 Olympic Team) mentor me in the beginning, saving me probably 3 or 4 years of wandering around in the weeds trying to figure stuff out for myself. Now, 160,000 released arrows later, and having been mentored by elite archers such as John Magera (2004 Olympic Team), and Tom Stevenson (former national collegiate champion), I have, as of November 2017, competed in 21 national championship tournaments (with 17 top 10 finishes, including 2 Gold medals at Senior Olympics 2013 & 2015, and 7 other national championship podium finishes); and hold the Oklahoma Masters Division Outdoor Target state scoring record; and the Texas Masters Division Outdoor Target state scoring record.
Along the way, John (Magera) told me to start coaching others. He said while I had only been shooting for 3 years, I’d already competed in 13 nationals championships, and won, and that my competitive experience would be valuable to others wishing to reach for their ‘capability ceiling’. He’s 6’4” tall, so I said “Okay” (high school legacy – I usually do what tall guys tell me to do!). So I got some coaching certifications/training and converted half of my small office bldg/warehouse in to 20yard, climate controlled indoor range and began teaching. I started a JOAD Club a year later (4 years ago now), and have taught about 1000 people to shoot a bow in that time frame.
We started with about 7 members, and now have 27 full time members, with some others who wander in and out of membership at varying time periods throughout the year. This year we’ll have 14 club members competing at the USA Indoor National Championship, ranging in age from 11 to 70.
KUDOS: How does your club do for numbers and what kind of demographics make up your membership? Is it a predominantly older membership or is there an appetite for archery among younger people?
LS: We have 27 full time members and growing. Probably 60% adult and 40% youths. Probably 60% female and 40% male. Members come from all walks of life and backgrounds. Youth archers turn over frequently as they get enthused and then many ‘age out’ after a few years, moving on to other things (demands of heavy school workloads, or interest/fascination with the opposite sex and all things teen-social).
We have two climate controlled indoor ranges on either end of town (7 lanes and 6 lanes, respectively), and one outdoor range for training and teaching. We have 3 formal practices a month as a club, and all other times are 24/7 access for club members.
KUDOS: So – Larry Seale in 2018 – coach or competitor?
LS: I find myself, at 61, probably past my best shooting performances. In a cruel irony, I’m still in very good physical condition, and know so much more as an archer than I did 3 years ago – but slower reflexes, stiffer hands/fingers than 3 years ago, etc, contribute to performance degradation that no amount of knowledge/experience can completely overcome.
As I accumulate more students and more of my time is devoted to their skill and goal acquisition, I find I’m starting to define myself more as a ‘coach’ and less as a ‘competitor’. Much about that transition I find satisfying, although I’m still enough of a competitor that I struggle with angst of not having the time and focus to concentrate on my own performances. The fire burns on!
KUDOS: Do you have a particular coaching ethos? How do you get the best out of your archers?
LS: Along with the coaching philosophy that I have on my website…I”m not a cookie-cutter instructor – I approach each student the way a good doctor approaches each patient, as a unique individual.
As an archer, I have knowledge of the principles of form and tuning, and competitive experience in how to adapt to the stresses of competition, how to learn from losing (and how to lose with good humour and grace), how to learn from winning, and what it takes to put yourself in a position to win. I believe those things are all necessary components for high level coaching.
But just as necessary is a clear understanding that that experience and knowledge, in a coaching role, is being used to serve my students, not the other way around. I am here to show my students how to be better people (through consistent application of fairness and honesty and integrity and firm kindness and good humour!) and better archers (through the demonstration and explanation of form/tuning/competition theory and ‘best practices’).
The major joy of the sport is not in winning, but in the giving of oneself to the commitment to prepare bravely and dare valiantly. Thoughtful planning, and a persevering commitment to executing that plan is how one gives oneself to the endeavour.
To accomplish the above goals, my athletes are best served with me using a cooperative coaching technique. We are a team with a common goal. That team needs a general consensus between coach and athlete in how to achieve that goal – the planned process, the consistent execution of that plan, the regular assessment of progress, relaxed encouraged feedback, adjustments, but ever forward – happy warriors.
Ultimately, I want my archers to understand that archery is a great metaphor for a life of character and principles and clarity. In archery, you shoot on a perfectly level playing field of merit and blind justice. Archery doesn’t care about your height, your weight, your gender, your nationality, your colour, your religion, or your bank account. It only cares about your performance – you get what you earn … If you shoot a 10, you deserved it; if you shoot a 3, you deserved that, too … it’s straightforward, no excuses -“the arrow is the truth”. Archery teaches that you can only control yourself, and that – with a plan, preparation, execution, reflection, and tenacity – you can achieve greatly.
KUDOS: Have you had any notable success stories emerge from the club?
LS: Club members have set, and continue to own, many state records and championships. We currently have 6 national champions shooting out of our little club, including 1 junior national champion, 4 Senior Olympic national champions, and one current indoor world record holder (compound female Erika Jones – although I’m quick to point out that I don’t ‘coach’ Erika, only observe and applaud her!). These champions include Olympic Recurve, Barebow, and Compound Unlimited divisions.
KUDOS: From a British perspective, archery is certainly outside of the sporting mainstream. Participation, however, has grown over the last decade. How is archery viewed in the US? It always seems to us Brits that it is incredibly popular over there?
LS: Archery enthusiasm in the USA is heavily weighted toward a hunting and compound bias. There are a huge number of people who have a compound bow and call themselves ‘archers’, but the vast majority of them are casual hunters who use a bow (because the hunting season is longer for a bow than for a rifle). Most of them won’t shoot a hundred arrows a year with their compound bow, which sits for months at a time collecting dust in their closet.
But, Hollywood and the Internet has created a lot of new interest in archery – films like Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games, Brave, the TV show Arrow … all have generated a new fascination among young people with archery. And the archery industry has made large efforts to foster this groundswell of interest.
Having said that, target archery as practised by steady/regular participants continues to be a very small niche activity as a percentage of the general population.
KUDOS: British archery recently suffered a blow when government Olympic funding was withdrawn, overlooked in favour of more mainstream sports. How does archery in the US do in that regard?
LS: Funding is always an uphill battle. College scholarships are few and far between, and must be a critically necessary area of improvement in the future. The universal availability of college scholarships will encourage many of the private K-12 schools to start/fund archery programs in school, so that their students are then more attractive candidates for the colleges of their choice.
Right now, trying to promote archery to youth is like trying to run a mile race while breathing through a drink cup straw – not enough oxygen. More money would give us a much bigger straw through which to breathe.
KUDOS: We believe archery’s greatest strength is its inclusivity – anyone can give it a go, and anyone can excel. What do you believe to be archery’s greatest selling point?
LS: Inclusivity is a great point – in archery, you don’t have to be 7foot tall, or run like the wind, or be built like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Becoming a good archer – like becoming a good piano player – is a decision, not a lucky accident of birth.
And, along with inclusivity, archery is ultimate clarity: If you do it right, you get the result you want; If you don’t do it right, you don’t get the result you want….end of story.
In archery, you shoot on a perfectly level playing field of merit and blind justice. Archery doesn’t care about your height, your weight, your gender, your nationality, your colour, your religion, or your bank account. It only cares about your performance – you get what you earn. If you shoot a 10, you deserved it; if you shoot a 3, you deserved that, too …it’s straightforward, no excuses – “the arrow is the truth”.
KUDOS: If you had one succinct message for a budding archer, what would it be?
LS: Focus on the aspects of craft, not on the result. The target face yields to the archer whose mind is still.
KUDOS: And finally, we believe – as well as talent – it helps to ‘dress for success‘…wearing the right kit that looks and feels good to give you the best possible foundation to perform at your best. Would you agree?
LS: I love a uniform/put together “look”. I think archers who ‘dress for success’ have more of it. Putting on proper well-thought-out gear/clothing is a trigger for the proper mindset. I reached out halfway across the USA and all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to acquire kit that performs great and looks great. We are very happy with Kudos.
We’d like to thank Larry both for his time and his terrific insight. With Larry’s infectious enthusiasm for archery there’s little wonder he’s done so well individually and with Tulsa Archery Club. Good luck to Larry and TAC for the future!
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