USA Archery's Zach Garrett Describes Long Road to Rio

Zach Garrett Archery

USA Archery's Zach Garrett was 4 years old the first time he picked up a bow and arrow. His grandfather, who was a hunter, taught him how to shoot. “I was just having fun in the backyard,” says Garrett, who grew up in Wellington, Missouri, a rural town of 800 people located 40 miles east of Kansas City.

By 14, Garrett was shooting a recurve bow (the same style sported by Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games”) at a 4-H fair. By then, he knew about the Olympics, but still didn’t know how to get there—until fate intervened.

During a family trip, Garrett, who also ran track and played baseball in high school, met Steve Cornell, owner of an archery shop three hours away in Springfield, Missouri. Cornell began coaching Garrett, who would visit him a couple of weekends per month, coupled with Skype coaching calls. 

Then came his big move. After graduating from Wellington-Napoleon High in 2013, Garrett headed to the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, to see if he could make the team.  College is not typically on the path for Olympic archers because few schools have strong programs (Texas A&M and Columbia University are exceptions).

“It’s not like being a track athlete who has a well-set up collegiate program,” says Garrett. “If  you want to go to the Olympics, you’re better off going to a training center.”

Less than a year later, in 2014, Garrett began competing internationally and joined the U.S. World Cup team in 2015. He has won two individual silver World Cup medals since then, before finishing second behind Brady Ellison in the three-stage U.S. Olympic trials that began in September 2015 in College Station, Texas, and concluded in May in Newberry, Florida.

Free room and board made all the difference in Garrett’s training because he didn’t have to worry about rent or paying for his next meal while training. When he started the program, Garrett says he made $250 per month as an unranked athlete in the resident program. Now he makes $1,300 per month thanks to his rise, ranking second in USA Archery’s national ranking system in points. “You get out of it what you put into it,” he says.

To compensate for a hectic travel itinerary (see next page), Garrett took five days off after going to the World Cup in Turkey this June to gear up for the “sprint to the finish line,” as he calls it, in Rio. “You have to get really good at knowing yourself and how long you can go before you get burnt out,” he says. “You can be the best competitor in the world, but if you’re not happy, you’re not going do anything. Rest and recovery is important to balance with training.”

Around the World

Feb. 19-21: Chula Vista, California; U.S. National Indoor Championships

April 7-11: Phoenix; Arizona Cup

April 17-22: Chula Vista; U.S. Olympic Team Trials

April 26-May 1: Shanghai; Archery World Cup

May 9-15: Medellin, Colombia; Archery World Cup

May 26-30: Newberry, Fla.; Gator Cup/U.S. Olympic Team Trials

June 12-19: Antalya, Turkey; Archery World Cup

June 23-26: Chula Vista, Calif.; SoCal Showdown

July 13-17: Decatur, Ala.; U.S. National Target Championships, U.S. Open

Aug. 5-21: Rio de Janeiro; Olympics