Joshua Smith, a sophomore statistics major from Richmond, discovered a natural talent and lifelong passion when he decided to give archery a shot five years ago. That passion and talent took him to the 2020 Las Vegas Shoot, where he ranked 14th out of 30 in the highly competitive championship barebow division.
Held Feb. 7-9, the Las Vegas Shoot is the world’s largest archery tournament and is widely known as a place for the best of the best to show off their skill. This year, the tournament boasted a record of nearly 4,000 archers. Smith was the only EKU archer to compete this year, and the highest placing EKU archer in his division last year.
The barebow championship division is for archers who use bows with no sights, releases, or other pieces of equipment. It is known as one of the most difficult that the tournament offers, and this year was no exception.
“There was a strong group this year. It was a small, but very competitive field,” said Smith. “The guys I was competing against have been shooting since the 1960s and 70s and are very skilled.”
Smith raised some eyebrows at the tournament with his uncommon choice of bow. He competed with a Genesis bow, which is known for its simplicity, and therefore more difficult to shoot. Patrons and fellow competitors questioned how he performed so well with the Genesis bow.
His secret? Consistent practice. “The equipment is only a small part of (the competition). If you have the technique, you can shoot well with just about any bow.”
Smith began practicing five years ago, when he joined the archery team at Model Laboratory School. Though his sisters had already joined and his parents coached, Smith was reluctant to join; he had already joined the basketball team. Within a year of joining the archery team, it became a passion and his main priority. After enrolling at EKU in 2018, he joined the EKU archery club.
In addition to the archery club, Smith co-founded Sports Analytics Club, a convergence of his passion for archery and study of statistics, last year. The club is the beginning of an industry movement that Smith hopes to pioneer; he hopes to one day use his statistical skills to help archery companies design more efficient bows. While many professional sports leagues rely heavily on data, the archery industry has yet to embrace it to the same degree.
“The world is being driven to data,” Smith observed. “If there can be people like me to look at the data and analytics, it can reshape how archery companies approach customers.”
Archery tournaments provide Smith the opportunity to network, showing archery companies the value he can provide. No matter his career path, though, Smith is certain that he will always have a bow in his hand and his eye on a target.
“It’s something that I love and am passionate about,” he said. “I just want to keep doing more of it.”
For more information on the EKU Archery Club, visit campusrec.eku.edu