More on Talent

I have written before that I do not think there is such a thing as “archery talent,” and I do not want to rehash those ideas here and now. Instead I want to pursue what it means to have “talent” when it comes to archery, whether that talent is an inherent “gift” one is born with (I think not.) or some other thing.

Consider the following quote from Angela Duckworth, author of Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance: “Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. Without effort, your skill is nothing more than what you could have done but didn’t. With effort, talent becomes skill and, at the very same time, effort makes skill productive.”

Now she and I use skill and talent differently but the point is spot on . . . Without effort, your talent is nothing more than your unmet potential. This is the core of having a growth mindset. belief in a pool of some mysterious talent inside of you that you cannot change is the core of a static mindset.

“Persistence in trying to improve one’s
skills is the key to achievement.”

Have you ever heard a professional athlete proclaim “I can’t get any better; I am the best I can be!” Ever? Every elite pro athlete I am aware of, to the contrary, spends the off season every year trying to expand and/or improve their skills. This is true even of athletes past the peak of their arc in the sport. Trying to hang on to the level of skill they have exhibited takes effort; otherwise the decline in one’s skills is all the greater.

To paraphrase another quote of Duckworth’s “Enthusiasm is common. Persistence is rare.” (She said “endurance is rare.”) Persistence in trying to improve one’s skills is the key to achievement. I do grant that people bring various abilities to our sport. Some come with amazing physical abilities. More rare are those with amazing physical abilities and the mental abilities to maximize the former. Everyone I know has a story about a spectacular archer who just wasn’t interested enough to “put in the time/effort.” Archery is littered with young archers who won medal after medal and championship after championship and then drifted away (for reasons we have never bothered to discover).

No matter the sport, if you want to do something special, you need to persist and you need to make the effort needed. Is there a more important message we need to send to our serious competitive students? I don’t think so.

Now, having said this, I want to emphasize that this needs to be based upon the desires of the archer, not anyone else: parent, coach, friends, etc. I see plenty of students taking lessons because parents think they are supporting their child’s efforts. But taking lessons because you like your parents trying to help and taking them because you have a passion to “get better,” are two very different things.

I do not want to turn a young archer’s interest in archery into a job they feel they “have to do.”





Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “More on Talent

  1. As an older archer, an example I love is my friend and team-mate the late John Horwath who finally gave up archery in his last year of life and he was 94! He was firm about practicing and trying to compete and re-set national age group records. Always trying to improve and he “Never gave up”. That was a message that resounded with him and other champion archers!


  2. Absolutely! One of the things I love about archery is that it provides for archers to compete as they age. Even former Olympians compete in the “Masters” age groupings.

    And … if you have a number of such people in memory, a lovely article for Archery Focus would be the examples we can all point to as worthy of preserving as lessons to the new archers coming along. Stories are great ways to communicate and if each one had a little message associated with it, as yours did, well … (“The moral of the story, children, is …”)

    This would be great information for coaches to have.

    You may not have all the stories but if you are willing to collect some, I will pay you for your article. (If you are interested, email me at

    Liked by 1 person

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