On Target at Any Age

When she was a student at Penn, Phyllis Wynn Shipman CW’65 signed up for archery with the sole purpose of getting around the University’s physical-education requirement. She was good enough, it turned out, to make the varsity team—then All American. And that, she thought, was the end of that.

But Shipman, a 59-year-old retired elementary-school principal from Honolulu, recently took up the sport again and is now ranked ninth in the country in women’s Olympic-style archery. In September she came in 11th in the Field Archery World Champ-ionships in Canberra, Australia.

“I’ve metamorphosed into an athlete at my age,” she marvels. “It’s remarkable because my inclination was certainly remote. But I train; I lift weights and do cardiovascular work. And one of the experiences I find totally unexpected is the support that 19-, 20-, and 21-year-olds give me. My age doesn’t seem to make too much difference to them. I have a lot of fun with them.”

Shipman was walking around a shopping center with her husband six years ago when they came across an archery store. “I went in and thought, ‘I used to like to do this.’” So she bought a barebow and began shooting in her backyard.

“I was totally involved in my career and totally committed to my school, so I never thought I would get this involved” in archery, she says. “But what I found about shooting was that after an hour I was mentally relaxed and reenergized, because [in target sports] you need to focus on what you’re doing. That’s all you can think about. So it was very reinforcing, and I would shoot a little more and a little more.” After she retired, Shipman enrolled in a school that the National Archery Association runs at the ARCO/U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California. 

While it’s not unusual for people to take up archery at Shipman’s age, says Lloyd Brown, the U.S. team coach, “It’s rare for them to do as well as she has. She really has done well in a short amount of time and has become very competitive. She could even be considered a potential Olympic athlete.” Shipman will be a resident athlete at the Arco Olympic Training Center for at least a year, and plans to compete in Olympic trials. 

“The most important thing,” adds Brown, “is a lot of practice—and also the mental game is really important in archery. She has so much confidence. It’s like she knows the arrow is going to go in the middle, and she makes it happen.”

Tax-deductible donations can be made on Shipman’s behalf to the National Archery Association, One Olympic Plaza, Colorado Springs, CO 80909.

—Susan Frith

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