Aiming for the bullseye
Thunk! Thatâ€™s the sound of an arrow hitting the bullseye, a sound that freshman Nausikaa Arai is all too familiar with.
Arai began archery when she was 8 years old. With no prior experience in any sport, she became intrigued after seeing a character named Susan in â€śThe Chronicles of Narniaâ€ť and began competing in archery tournaments, even becoming a coach.
Arai participates in indoor and outdoor target competitions in Southern California, and in the span of five years, she has won 20 tournaments. For outdoor competitions, Arai goes through a course and shoots targets at various locations and distances. During tournaments, she adopts a focused and competitive mentality by closing her eyes, picturing what her posture looks like and imagining where her arrow will land on the target.
â€śI think the best skill to have is concentration because if you canâ€™t focus on what youâ€™re doing, you just canâ€™t get into it. So for me, thereâ€™s one tournament where I just could not focus at all whatsoever, and because of that, it affected my performance a lot,â€ť Arai said.
For the past three years, she has placed 31st, 33rd and 41st in the California State Indoor Championships, an annual archery tournament for the top archers in the state. Her performance in the tournament determines her state ranking and affects her chances of earning a spot on the USA Archery Junior Dream Team, in which she will compete with others in her state and age category.
â€śI highly dislike the competition since it is so stressful, and I get so much pressure there. However, I feel like I do my best when Iâ€™m there because of the pressure. Competing in State Indoor has definitely made me aware of where Iâ€™m at, skill-wise, and itâ€™s made me concentrate more on my archery. Knowing my ranking makes me want to become a better archer,â€ť Arai said.
Arai fine-tunes her aim and technique at El Dorado Park every Saturday, every other Thursday and occasionally on Sundays.
â€śI feel that practicing archery is my way of releasing all my stress out onto the target. I also feel like it helps me with my concentration on whatever I do,â€ť Arai said. â€śCompetitions give me a way to get out of my problems. [As for] concentration, if I canâ€™t focus on the target, then how am I gonna do anything? How am I going to focus on other things in my life? Being able to focus on that one target, that one aim helps me stay on that one task, whatever task I am doing.â€ť
Arai began coaching archers at age 12, and at age 15 after passing a test for the United States Archery Associationâ€™s Level One Instructors Course, she became a certified archery coach and currently coaches at El Dorado Park. She coaches for the El Dorado Archers, teaching students of all levels, whose ages range from 8 to 60 years old.
â€śI think it helps ingrain the concepts that I need to focus on. Coaching does help a little bit with making sure that I know this is what I gotta do because this is what Iâ€™m teaching [my students]. I think itâ€™s really fun knowing that you can pass on your knowledge to other people,â€ť Arai said.
She aspires to become an Olympic archery coach or create a nonprofit organization that introduces and teaches archery to kids.
â€śI love it. Archery and coaching is something that can really help some people bond. It is a good way for me to get away from whatever troubles I have,â€ť Arai said. â€śItâ€™s my personal escape. It is special because when I first fell in love with the sport it was during a very hard time in my life, [when] I didnâ€™t have many friends and was getting bullied. Â So archery was a way for me to escape whatever pain I had going on.â€ť
By Ethan Cheng, Staff writer
Photo courtesy of Nausikaa Arai