I recently spent some time talking with former Olympic Coach and Professional archer, Tim Strickland. Tim has made tremendous contributions to archery and countless athletes over the years.
Jimmy – Tim, how did you find archery?
Tim – “I was always an outdoor kid. I was raised in Colorado and had to keep food on the table as a kid. I did it with a gun of course, but I loved to hunt and to be outdoors. After I returned from Vietnam I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington. I spent 9 years in the Army. Well, one day I drove by the archery range and saw some folks shooting. I wondered what that was all about. I thought to myself, I wondered if you could kill animals with a bow so I stopped. I met a man named Ed Cody who was from Texas, but was working and living in Washington at the time. He had won the Washington State barebow championship. Ed had some films of David Hughes and Rick Gilley shooting so he showed them to me. I also got a copy of David Keaggy’s book Power Archery, and with that book and those films I learned to shoot. Keaggy’s book teaches about loading the back and shooting dynamically. I remember the first time I shot with Ed – I had a 46# White Wing Hunter, and when I shot the bow it jumped forward and the hand went left and he was amazed. He said he had been trying to get that form down for two years and I did it from the start.
‘From that point on I was archery crazy. I shot literally until my fingers bled. I simply could not get enough of it. Prior to that, I was an extreme introvert. I didn’t really have anything to do with anyone and I was happy with that. Archery changed me. It brought me out of my shell. I loved the sport and I wanted to share it with others.
‘Rather quickly I saw a compound. It was 1972 and I decided to shoot a compound in the Washington State shoot. I had no idea about the politics. Honestly, I was naïve of what might happen. Well, I won the State and then the Northwest Sectionals. At the sectionals I broke all the records, but had no idea that shooting that compound was really upsetting folks. I was so excited about archery and I wanted to share it with everyone I met, but many didn’t want to hear it because I was doing it with the compound.
‘I still hunted with a recurve. I bought a Gentleman Jim from Carroll and man did I have a good first season hunting with a recurve. I drew a goat tag my first year trying. I went to Davis Mountain, hiked 13 miles into the woods and killed a goat. Then I went to Oregon and killed a very nice blacktail. I killed another big blacktail in Washington and a good elk. So I killed 4 incredible animals my first year hunting with a recurve.
‘So after the Sectional win I decided that I wanted to shoot Pro. I turned Pro after my first year and a half shooting and won the first 12 Pro tournaments I shot in. I also won the State and Sectional again but I wanted to go further for bigger shoots so I went to San Diego to shoot against the best. I placed 3rd behind David Hughes and Terry Ragsdale. It was at that point that PSE approached me and said they were interested in helping me out.
‘I still had this desire to help others. There was a kid that came around the archery range who smoked and had long hair. Now I was still active duty Army at the time so long hair meant punk to me. [Laughing] His name was Ron Pierce so one day I asked him why he didn’t pick up a bow and shoot. I was running the range at that time, it was 1976. He finally picked up a bow and I immediately saw potential so I told him that if he’d quit smoking and cut his hair I’d coach him. He said I was crazy. He was not going to cut his hair. Two days later he walked up with a haircut so I knew he was serious. I asked him if he’d quit smoking and he said yes. I began coaching him that day.
‘He won the State shoot in his class and I won mine. We went to sectionals and he won his class and I won mine. After sectionals a guy offered him a cigarette and he looked at me. I said, ‘You can win nationals, but if you smoke that cigarette you are on your own. Your call.’ He told the kid no, “I’m going to win nationals”….and he did.
‘I had met Shirley, my soon to be wife, who at that time owned Golden Eagle Archery. I got out of the Army and we moved back to Colorado. It was 1984. At that time I went back to shooting fingers. I just loved the simplicity of fingers. The best I ever shot with a release was at Vegas the first time it was ever cleaned. I was second to Terry Ragsdale, who cleaned it…no one ever remembers who was 2nd (laugh).
‘At that time you could shoot fingers compound so I went to that class and won nationals in a shoot off. The best shooter with no assistance was Vic Berger back then. Vic was an incredible shot with no clicker, release or anything. They called him the White Knight because he shot a white Bear bow and wore white shoes, pants and shirt. He shot 300 indoors many times and over 1300 on the FITA round with no clicker.
‘I was shooting on the Easton Pro Staff, I have been on the Easton staff since 1973; that’s a long time. Anyway, they wanted me to go to Europe and teach some classes. I was excited to go so I did and taught this dynamic shot concept that had worked for me. They really loved it and I got a lot of positive feedback, which made me want to coach even more. Now, from the beginning I had said that it would really be cool to be an Olympic coach one day. I wanted to do that from the start.
‘Well, after I returned I saw that they were going to have a local JOAD tournament and I thought that was really neat so I ran an ad in the paper and told all the kids that if they wanted to learn to shoot come to my place and I’d teach them and then they could shoot in this JOAD tournament. Well, we had a good turnout of kids that had never shot before. I coached them and we went to the shoot. We won every single class in the tournament, every one.
‘Rick McKinney and Jay Barrs were at that tournament. They saw us clean it up so Rick asked me how I did it. “Where did you come up with this,” he asked.
‘I told him how I approached shooting and about a week later I received a letter from NAA asking me if I would like to come to one of the camps in Arizona and be one of the coaches. I was intimidated. Who was I? I had no credentials at all. I was just a guy that read a book, watched some film, tried it all out and loved to teach it. I decided to go thinking I would learn a lot. It was in Mesa.
‘I got there and all the big names were there. Darrell Pace, Rick McKinney, Al Henderson were all there. They put the coaches names up on a big board and then the archers could sign up under them. Needless to say my name had no archers under it. I wondered what I was doing there. Since I had no shooters I took a walk down the line. There was a young man shooting 90 meters so I walked down there.
‘He was really struggling. He was shooting more arrows in the dirt than anything else and just shaking and fighting a clicker. He was miserable. He saw me so he walked back and said, “Well, can you help me?”
I asked him, “Are you having fun.”
“No,” he said.
“Well, maybe you should just throw the arrows at it. At least that will be fun.” He didn’t laugh. I then told him I always have fun when I’m shooting. I love to shoot. Then I told him what I knew.
“You are drawing your bow and then putting that sight right on the X. And then you are trying to hold the pin perfectly still while you pull back until the clicker goes off and then shoot,” I said.
“But you are trying to do something that is impossible to do. You cannot hold the bow still. It can’t be done. But when you try and hold it still it can’t self correct. Put the sight on the spot and then let it float. The subconscious will self-correct it. Then when you start pulling to go through that clicker just focus on form and pull right through it,” I told him.
“It won’t work,” he said.
“Humor me and try it,” I replied. “Put it up there and let it move, but when you start pulling let it go. Pull right through that clicker once you start.”
‘He did and shot a 10. He was amazed. He loaded another arrow and it was in the gold as well. I walked on down the line. Darrell Pace was on the 70-meter bale. He was spraying them all over the target. Now Darrell was known to chew up coaches and spit them out. He was notorious for being rough on coaches. I watched him for a minute and he saw me so he walked back.
“You going to help me? You’re supposed to be a coach, right,” he asked.
“If you shot like that at the Olympics you would not have won the medal,” I told him.
“Your elbow is coming way out. Relax and just shoot. Be Darrell,” I said and walked off.
‘A half hour later Mckinney came up to me and asked what I had told Pace. “Nothing really except to just be Darrell,” I said.
“Well, he’s cramming every arrow right in the center of the gold now,” he said.
‘They asked me to do a seminar so I just told them what I knew about the dynamic shot process. You have to counteract what the bow is trying to do to you and you can’t do that by holding still. You have to engage the back and push and pull. Your muscles have to be active. That night coaches came to my room for help. The next day all the names were on my poster. I had no credentials but I had a principle that worked.
‘In 1988 and 1992 I was close to the shooters. I had helped them and really coached the program. The athletes and I really expected me to be the Olympic coach but it didn’t quite turn out that way. That is when I discovered young Denise Parker (13 years old when she made the Olympic team) and helped her to become a great shooter. Denise was an exceptional shooter. She possessed tremendous talent and I coached her but really I just helped her maximize her potential, which was very rewarding.
‘I then went to the NAA coaches and got the certifications that would enable me to become an Olympic coach.
Jimmy – “Tell me about the 1996 Olympic Team.”
Tim – “Well, in 1992 I became the U.S. Coach so I handled the camps. All the people that were on that 1996 team were from the camps and some of the shooters were my personal students. Lloyd Brown was Justin Huish’s coach so we worked together. Of course I had known Butch Johnson for many years. It was very rewarding to have them shoot so well. No one expected us to make the gold medal match, must less win it.”
Jimmy – Where did we go from 1996?
“Well, I moved away from the Olympic movement. I was teaching from home. I began teaching some 3D shooters then. By then folks knew that I had coached the Olympic team so they came and we had fun – coaching and shooting. I took the rock off folks back by showing them that movement is good. When you are trying to do the impossible, stop movement, then it’s not fun.
I wanted to go back to the longbow and recurve and hunt more. I enjoy that. I knew I could do it well and it was very rewarding.”
Jimmy – “How did the Stick come about?”
“ A friend of mine from Vietnam saw me on the TV Show we did and asked why I wasn’t making bows. I told him the show was taking a lot of money so he decided to help me out. Every bow I ever shot I rebuilt the grip in it. I build them so the grip falls off to the left instead of the right. I also make the grip higher. I have dropped it down a little now and I like it. The grip is also just a tiny bit higher on the left than right. “
Jimmy – Do you gap shoot?
Tim – “Oh certainly for target. Now when I hunt I stringwalk. I tie my bottom nocking point set up so that it’s a 20-yard point on. So I set the bow up with a 25-yard point on and a 20-yard crawl so to speak.’
‘For several years I hunted with a compound. Primarily I shot for Hoyt and Ben Pearson so I shot their bows. So that kind of drove what I hunted with for a long time. I went to New Zealand one year and that was really when I decided that I was only going to hunt with a recurve or longbow from then on. I was told, “Well you know you’ll have an opportunity at a big buck out at 35-yards and you’ll have to watch it walk.” But in New Zealand I took the recurve and they didn’t know I was going to bring it. They didn’t like that I brought a recurve. They didn’t even like a compound, but I was determined to hunt with a recurve. He said it’s hard enough to kill one with a compound much less that thing. Well, I asked him to let me shoot and he watched me and said okay.
‘I took a popup blind with me and he’d never used one. So I put it up and animals were all around us. Animals were putting their nose on the screen. The guide could not believe it. A stag then came in and gave me a shot at 32-yards and I double lunged him. The guide couldn’t believe it.
‘That fall I shot a 174” muley at 35-yards so I showed them that you can killed with it at those ranges. I was eat up at that point with it. That’s what made me think I could do a TV Show and take people along with me. That was not the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Tim – “I had in my mind that I wanted to shoot well at the Trad Worlds shootdown. I felt like I could shoot well at that. I felt like I could shoot eyeball to eyeball with anyone, not necessarily that I could win but that I could hold my own.
‘To me when you have a bow in your hand and an arrow and no matter how you aim, that is the ultimate – you the bow and that arrow and you either hit the mark or not. That’s archery to me.
‘I never kept track of score during practice. Never before have I done that so all of my practice was done on the line at my home. I felt like I was in good shape and shooting good lines so I knew that if I could just keep my act together and take my time I would do okay.
Jimmy – You drew Ty Pelfrey who was stringwalking. Did you feel like you were at a disadvantage?
Tim – “Not at all. I was getting a little antsy and had to consciously slow myself down was all. I wanted to shoot too quickly and so I had to focus on slowing down and making good shots. Jimmy, the stringwalking isn’t the advantage there, it’s the clicker. [Author note: Mark Lynde was shooting with a clicker] That clicker is the advantage. It’s huge.
‘The whole round with Mark Lynde was great. We both shot 11s on the first target and it was just a great shoot. I did what I came there to do and I was on cloud nine. People asked me if I threw the match against Fawn and my answer is NO. I didn’t throw that at all. I really didn’t know we were doing that part. I emailed her later and told her that she beat me straight up. She shot great.”
Jimmy – What is archery to Tim Strickland?
Tim – “It’s an enjoyment that really defines my life. It’s something that for whatever reason I am proficient at and I’ve become a student of the game of archery. Through that learning I’ve been able to help other people and that gives me great enjoyment. It’s also where I met my first love and soul mate – Shirley. It’s been very very kind to me. I enjoy shooting a bow as much today as much as I did the first time I shot one.”
Jimmy – What is the most rewarding thing that’s happened to you in archery?
Tim – “It would actually be coaching. Not too many people thought we’d do what we did in Atlanta. I believed in them and we did it. No one thought we could beat Korea in the gold medal match. Most didn’t even think we’d get TO the gold medal match. Most didn’t think Justin could do it.”
Jimmy – Who is the most talented archer you’ve know?
Tim – “This will probably surprise a lot of people but if you picked one individual out of the people I’ve known, if you say talent with no mechanical advantage, of a clicker or anything else it is Vic Berger. Certainly, Butch Johnson and Frank Gandy were wonderful but Vic shot amazing with nothing. Denise Parker was incredible as a 14-year old girl. That is pretty outstanding too.”
Jimmy – How important is the mental aspect of shooting?
Tim – “Oh man, it’s everything. Learning the shot is mental so really everything is mental. It’s also physical to a degree but archery is mental.
‘Did you see Tiger Woods today? [Jimmy – “No.”} Well, you can see it in his body language that he would not win. I could help him. He is waiting to fail and that is all mental. He feels like he “has to” and when you feel like you have to you are done. All you have to think is that you can. If you think you can, well then you can, but if you think you have to you can’t. That is the key Jimmy.
‘You can’t put yourself in a scenario where you have to shoot them in the middle. All you have to do is shoot. You can’t “have to.” I see it in athletes all the time.
‘Okay how do you practice. This is critically important. How you shoot the tournament tells you how you practice. If you don’t perform like you practice then your practice is what’s messed up. When I shot that 3 Rivers shootdown I knew that I was mentally and physically in good shape. Now I don’t know how they are going to score but if my bow is shooting a good line and my technique is good then I know I can stand up there eyeball-to-eyeball and I know that I have a chance to win. I may not, but I can.
‘I used to tell folks at world-class shoots okay, this is where we find out if our practice is right or not. We’ll know by how we perform. You practice to learn and throughout your practice you learn to act under fire. So you can only do as good as you can do. If you try and do better than you can do then you do less. We practice to perfect our technique and then we do it. I know it all sounds crazy but it is the key to shooting well. It’s all mental.”
Jimmy – What have you done with NASP?
Tim – “I wrote the shooting portion of the curriculum for NASP. I wanted to give this to the kids. I felt like they were going to “introduce” kids to archery but they would not keep kids with the methodology they were using so we set up a program and it became the 11 steps to archery success. We used positive affirmation as a way to teach and it works. I consider writing that program Tim Strickland’s biggest accomplishment for archery. I later made a video with Denise called “Beyond NASP” which some people think has to do with kids but it’s for shooters of all ages.”
Jimmy – Tim this has been a pleasure. Any parting words?
Tim – “Always make it fun man. It’s got to be fun.”
Author’s note: visit Tim’s website today at: http://www.stricklandsarchery.com/