December 9, 2021, by brzbs1
Scholar in Focus: Louisa Piper
Last weekend University of Nottingham student and sport scholar Louisa Piper competed at the National Indoor Archery Championships in Warwickshire. It was a very successful competition for Louisa, finishing 2nd in the Women’s Recurve event to come away with a silver medal. We spoke with Louisa during one of her practice sessions in the run-up to the event to learn more about her preparations, as well as discussing her sporting journey before and during her time in Nottingham.
It’s great to meet you Louisa. How did you first get into Archery? Was it something you picked up at a young age or that you tried when you were slightly older?
I actually started when I was around five or six when a unique and interesting sports session was held at my primary school. I’d never even heard of archery before then, but I gave it a go and they said that I was good at it and should join a club. However, at the time my mum said that I couldn’t join a club because I am the youngest of four siblings and things were quite hectic! There was also a feeling that they tell everybody that their child is good, but they did come back to the school the next year and said that I was actually pretty good and again encouraged me to join a club, which I then did.
You say that you have quite a big family, was sport a big part of your family life growing up?
So I’ve got two older brothers and an older sister. My sister Eleanor, actually also does archery and was on the Olympic squad for Tokyo with me. However, because she is older everyone believes that I took up the sport after her but it’s actually the other way around! One of my brothers grew up around rugby with my dad, whilst my other brother is a really talented musician and was a chorister in the National Choir. That meant that with them and me all out doing various activities on a Sunday, my sister was left home alone so she decided to come along with me and my mum to archery.
Did you end up teaching your sister what you’d learnt or was there a sibling rivalry there?
Well she only joined about a year after I had started so she wasn’t too far behind! Once she’d started we always trained together and our mum essentially became our coach, even though she only started to pick up knowledge of the sport when I began doing it and she is now actually an archery judge! Since then, me and my sister have always trained together and we ended up joining an academy when I was 10 and she was 14. I was the youngest ever to be in my academy and we both trained six days a week. Four years later I was selected for the Olympic Squad which was also the first year I debuted in senior competition, and Eleanor was then selected six months later, so ultimately we have trained together quite a lot!
So in terms of the archery that you do, is it indoor or outdoor? Are there specific types of archery?
I predominantly compete outdoor where the distance to the target is 70m, about the size of a football pitch, and the size of the gold target I’m hoping to hit is about the size of a CD, which are the Olympic standards. I prefer outdoor competition but I do take part in indoor competition but that is usually to keep me in good practice during the winter months. The distance to the target indoors is 18m but the target face is tiny, so indoor competition really ensures that your technique and fitness is good. There is also more focus on your mental game because at the top level if you miss the inner ring (10) then your chance of winning decreases dramatically. I also do field archery which I sometimes compare to the Hunger Games (without the violence!) because you navigate woods to find targets and you have to work out the distance and then shoot, so it’s more of a puzzle. I enjoy that aspect, as well as being outside and seeing more views because you pretty much hike while you shoot!
It sounds like you have a pretty intense schedule! How much training and competing do you have a week, and how do you juggle that with your university studies?
At the moment I train six days a week which I don’t actually find too bad at all. I’m studying Aerospace Engineering and I’ve found it a lot easier with many lectures being online recently because it means that my timetable is a lot more malleable around my shooting. I then also use the gym three or four times a week as well as having regular competitions at the weekends. There are more competitions in the summer, but there is the National Indoor Championships coming up soon for me.
How have your recent competitions been going and do you have any expectations for the National Indoors?
It’s actually been going pretty well, throughout the outdoor season after Tokyo finished, I’ve made some technique changes as well as working on the mental side of my game a lot. This meant that my scores could have dipped a little bit because I’ve been experimenting and I wasn’t expecting much from this indoor season, but in the first competition of the season I achieved scores to qualify for the Senior European Indoors selection process. I’m hopeful for Nationals, it should be a good event and I’m aiming for a top three finish.
You mention the Tokyo Olympics there, are your aims to compete for Team GB?
I was the second reserve for Tokyo. With the games being pushed back a year, it was moved into my A-Level year and I kind of had to choose between my A-Levels and the Olympics. During quarantine with online schooling, I was living at Lilleshall which is the national training centre for five days a week, but in the end it came down to a really tough choice and I decided to focus on my A-Levels. However, I’m definitely aiming for the next games – Paris in 2024 and then future Olympics as well. Having said that, outcome is great but it’s not something that I focus on because it’s not something that I can control which I learnt with my Tokyo experience. I couldn’t really account for a global pandemic delaying the games into a critical time for me, so all I focus on is making sure I enjoy archery and seeing my scores improve.
Your focus on your A-Levels obviously paid off as you are here at the University of Nottingham now, why did you decide to study and compete here as a sport scholar?
The main thing was the facilities that are available here. David Ross Sports Village is insane and having access to the Salle here is great for me to be able to train. Being able to train on my own around my schedule is something that most other universities couldn’t offer me as I have to train six days a week outside club times. The university is also known for the top-tier education it provides with the course that I study being very well accredited, and when I read the list of modules it sounded really interesting. I visited campus and Phil Wood (Recruitment & Scholarship Manager) gave me a tour where I found the team environment atmosphere here really impressive.
In terms of the team environment, do you and the other archery club members try and push each other as well as foster a positive culture?
Definitely, I think one of the key things that the university does with all of the clubs is not just seeing them as people who train, but creating more of a family environment. Maybe I’m biased because my sister actually coaches the archery club now, but being around archers who have similar goals and understanding the same problems with both archery technique and university work is a big positive.
If there are other people at the university or people in general who are thinking about trying archery, what advice would you give to them?
I would definitely say to come along to one of our club sessions and have a go! You can do a beginners course here in two or three weeks, and once you’ve completed that you’ll be able to lend a beginners bow and everything that you’ll need. You’ll then receive technique coaching to be able to shoot and have fun! It’s really, really easy to get involved and you don’t have to know anything about archery beforehand or necessarily have any equipment.
In terms of skills and equipment, what would you say is needed to become a good archer?
The main piece of equipment is obviously the bow which has many different components. I have a main bow and a spare bow for when I am travelling in case one doesn’t turn up! Other key pieces of equipment when you are starting out are a chest guard and arm guard. These help to protect you, because many people mention that after trying out archery that they’ve repeatedly hit their arm with the bow strings. This can be avoided by wearing these guards which when you’re also taught the right technique then there’s no problems at all. In terms of skills, I think there are a few key things. Archery can be quite an individual sport so when competing you need to be able to focus on your performance mentally. I think keeping in the right place mentally is more important than technique. You have to ensure that you are very consistent because any slight error can mean a bad score that puts you out of contention. Even though it isn’t a typical physical sport, you also still need to have good core and leg strength because outdoor conditions in England can be quite windy! A strong core and legs will help balance and keep a steady form when shooting over long distance outdoor.
We thank Louisa for her time and it was brilliant to see and hear how much passion she has for archery. We wish her all the best with her studies and future endeavours after her degree at the University of Nottingham. We also look forward to seeing if Louisa can build upon her brilliant results at the National Indoor Championships when she competes in the Berlin Open just before Christmas.
As well as a reputation for academic excellence, we have a history of sporting success and are passionate about supporting promising athletes during their time at the University of Nottingham. To find out more about our Sports Scholarships, please click here.
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