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An Archer Who Made the Sport Her Mission

Posted by Jim Mize on February 20, 2018

Archery is a sport built on stamina, good judgment and perseverance. Learn more about how archery became a way of life for International Archery Champion Joella Bates.  

"Grandmother" and "International Archery Champion" are titles seldom seen for the same individual. Joella Bates wears both proudly. Her story can only be told by explaining how archery threads her life.

Joella grew up in the outdoors. Her dad ran a bait shop and guided fishermen. Frequently, he just tucked her beside him in the boat and they went out with the fishermen.

“I was the best boy a dad could have,” Joella said with a laugh. 

She went on to study wildlife biology and worked both as a researcher and wildlife officer.  Up until 1989, she had four experiences with a bow, all bad. The main problem was finding gear that fit.

An Archery Star is Born

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“A guy I worked with offered to take me bowhunting,” and Joella explained to him her experiences beforehand. He took her to a shop that could customize the equipment and she walked out with a bow she could shoot.

Four years later, she won her first national championship in 3D archery, a form of field archery in which targets consist of three-dimensional models rather than paper targets. Joella has earned nine 3D World Archery titles and gone on to compete on Team USA in international events.

In 2017, Joella made the American team to compete in 3D archery in Robion, France. However, the day of tryouts, she had knee surgery, giving her just a few months to recover and train. The week before leaving for the competition in France, she had a gallbladder attack. After being cleared to travel, she went to the competition only to be bitten 18 times by a poisonous brown recluse spider. But Joella isn’t the type to give up. So, despite the obstacles she faced in the past, she is training for the 2019 competition in Alberta.

How a Skilled Archer Trains

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Training for a 3D archery competition isn’t a matter of standing in front of a bullseye and firing arrows. Joella emphasizes stamina and duplicating the process of the competition.

For instance, to build stamina, she starts every day walking two miles with a rucksack loaded with two eight-pound weights in it. On the way out, she carries the weights on her back. On the return, she extends her arms with a weight in each hand to strengthen the muscles required for shooting.

If the competition requires walking between targets, she adds that to the regime by getting on a stair-stepper for five minutes, taking two shots, and then getting back on the stair-stepper. Some days, she may shoot only 100 arrows. Other days, it may be as many as 500.

Judging distance is the other skill required for archery. In 3D archery competitions, range finders are not allowed. Joella spends time every day judging target ranges and trying to simulate the targets seen in competition. In France, all the targets were different. At one station she was shooting at the silhouette of a small gargoyle she had never seen before. Judging distance requires knowledge of a target’s size, so perspective matters.

Teaching Others the Sport of Archery

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Joella’s passion for the sport spills over to teaching others. She estimates she has trained more than two hundred archery instructors and many more students on school teams and in camps. She is also the Assistant Archery Coach at Bethel University in Tennessee.

“Archery is a sport for a lifetime,” says Joella.  “If you start an archer right, they keep shooting.”

For proof, you only have to follow a grandmother who will be competing in the international 3D competition in Alberta in 2019.

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Jim Mize

Jim Mize has written humor and nostalgia for magazines including Gray's Sporting Journal, Fly Fisherman Magazine, Field & Stream, and a number of conservation magazines, picking up over fifty Excellence In Craft awards along the way. His most recent book, a collection of humor for fly fisherman entitled A Creek Trickles Through It, was awarded best outdoor book in 2014 by the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. More on Jim and his writing activities can be found at acreektricklesthroughit.com

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