Complete Silence Before the Thunder

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For Rocks archers, repetition is key.

Joseph Eng, Staff Reporter

Fifty archers once stood at these targets, creating an incoherent buzz that ran throughout the gym. Now there are only 20, and now the air conditioning unit dominates the other sounds. When this pandemic finally ends, and 50 can once again stand in the gym, I want to remember these practices — not because they are quiet or less crowded, but because they capture the archer, at peace, drawing back an arrow to hit the target.

When I arrived at the gym, the bitterness of cold reminded me to get inside, where an infrared thermometer greeted me by taking my temperature. The awkward seconds of waiting to get the all-clear are always annoying. Once released, I looked around the gym. It was lined with wooden, glossy tiles. On one side, the archers were talking and preparing to shoot. On the other side, targets lined the floor.

Some targets were brand new. Some of the others were decrepit, with sides were worn out, and the center of the target practically gone. The gym also reeked of hand sanitizer. The coach and an archer began a friendly conversation, talking about video games they liked to play. They seemed to disagree on whether “Assassin’s Creed” or “Grand Theft Auto V” was better. Suddenly, the coach’s watch reminded him practice was to begin.

For every five seconds of silence, there were three seconds of arrows slamming into targets. It was almost soothing—the complete silence before the thunder.”

Each archer carried a case, most of them black, with a few a camo pattern. Each had its personality marked with stickers. There were “Star Wars,” “Hunger Games,” and Trinity stickers. Each case contained a bow and arrow. The bows’ colors ranged from black to white to camo. One archer had a black bow with blue and red arrows.

The coach gave a few words of inspiration and constructive criticism — and shooting began. Despite differences in stance and drawing hand placement, the most important thing is consistency. A third-year archer will shoot his arrows like a robot.

As the archers stood, I could see the anticipation in their eyes. Everything was quiet. The drone of the air conditioner was severed by the sound of a whistle. Each archer turned on autopilot and went through the steps.

The click of the nocks securing themselves on the string signaled the end of the second step. The sound of the metal arrow on the metal rest brought upon the end of the fifth step. Silence and waiting merged as the archers went through steps six and seven. Bam! Bam! Bam! The constant hitting of arrows at the target sounded like bullets ringing at a battle.

At the end of the thunder of arrows, the archers repeated the process — so methodically and meticulously. For every five seconds of silence, there were three seconds of arrows slamming into targets. It was almost soothing—the complete silence before the thunder.

Once the shooting ended, the archers retrieved their arrows and reacted to the results.  Some groaned at the sight of a low score. Others showed pride in their high scores, and a few didn’t care. Then came the sound of pulled arrows hitting the floor, like rain hitting a metal roof. Arrows brought back, the whole process restarted.

Before there are 50 again, I will remember the 20 drawing back arrows to hit the targets.