Erin Choi Shoots for Success in Archery


Ki Joon Lee

Choi anchors and prepares her shot while practicing for the Cotton Boll Classic, a state outdoor tournament that attracts over 400 archers every year.

Ajinkya Rane and Ki Joon Lee

Ki Joon Lee

Freshman Erin Choi lifts her carbon coated arrow and loads it into her bow as she eyes the target in front of her. She strenuously pulls back the braided string and rests her hand underneath her chin. As her arrow inches along the bow, it brushes by her clicker and launches toward the vibrant hues of the target.

Choi, who is nationally ranked 31st in the female recurve cadet division, repeats this process 200 times a day at the HSS Sports Academy as she trains with coaches and teammates.

“I first joined archery when I was in about fifth grade. I wasn’t good at any physical activity, so I decided on archery because it was a low-intensity sport,” Choi said. “And then once I started, I found that I enjoyed the feeling of shooting. It was really satisfying when I could hit the [center] yellow, so I continued.”

As Choi developed her skill and mental capacity for the sport, she thrived in the competitive environment. Often competing alongside older and more experienced archers, she showed her determination by consistently outperforming many of them in national tournaments. In one particular triumph, she qualified above 30 older archers at the AAE Arizona National Tournament.

“When I started coaching archery, I first met Erin. Erin was very hard working and had a lot of talent,” coach Hong Eun Jang said. “In only a year, she went to Korea, the highest-ranked nation for archery, and participated in an international competition there. Erin constantly tries hard to get more experience for herself.”

A sport of precision and concentration, archery demands both physical and mental strength, which makes maintaining consistent performance difficult. Despite her progress and achievements, her commitment to archery has recently waned since entering high school. As a result of her reduced practice, she was unable to mentally focus, causing her to face a common problem that many experienced archers encounter.

“As known to many archers, there’s a phenomenon called target panic. I got target panic in the middle of a national tournament, and that was a big hurdle for me,” Choi said. “I’m still recovering from it right now. The process have given me insight on how much I can take as a person.”

Target panic is an inability to draw the bow, caused by fear of letting go of the arrow too early. When she faced bouts of target panic, her parents, teammates and coaches supported Choi to regain her confidence and return to her full potential. Encouragement from her community helps the archer from the occasional slumps that impact her confidence.

“Since I’ve met her, I noticed that Erin’s strength is that while she is calm and quiet, she is very talented at self-control,” Jang said. “Since she works harder than anyone else and never shows signs of giving up, I’m excited to see her perform in upcoming tournaments.”

Archery has become an integral part of Choi’s life. Despite her busy high school schedule, she returns to the bow and arrow every week. Looking beyond her scoreboard, Choi considers her involvement in archery a lifestyle of striving for a goal and enjoying the process.

“My goal is to reach the peak of my performance before graduating,” Choi said. “I’d like to continue archery as a lifelong hobby.”

*Coach Hong-Eun Jang’s interview was originally conducted in Korean and translated into English by the writer.