Fondness for numbers has helped Model’s Joshua Smith become a world-class archer
Joshua Smith spent most of his young life unknowingly preparing to excel in a sport he had never really been exposed to.
The gifted student has always had a fondness for numbers and their relation to performance.
His father, Shawn, recalls how Joshua would meticulously keep his own book of statistics for college basketball and use that information to recreate and predict who would win in match-ups — very similar to the popular fantasy sports leagues for professional football and baseball.
“He would say, ‘Hey dad, you be Georgia and I’ll be Kentucky,’” Shawn Smith said.
For Smith, numbers have often provided a solution to the sometimes difficult puzzle of performance and a path to unlock higher levels.
As a pre-teen, Smith said he used statistics to improve his basketball play.
Archery wasn’t even on his radar in middle school.
“I’ve played basketball my whole life,” Smith said sheepishly. “I wasn’t very good at it though.”
The amateur statistician said while he wasn’t naturally gifted, he did shine in one area — shooting.
“It makes sense, when you look back on it,” Smith said with a grin. “I was a decent shooter, it was something I had better control over.”
However, when his younger sister took up archery in Smith’s freshman year at Model, his parents urged him to try the sport.
“It’s funny, at first, we kind of had to drag him into it,” Michelle Smith, Joshua’s mother and Model archery coach said of her son’s introduction to the sport. “We told him he might as well try it. He was going to be at the practices for his sisters anyway. It would keep him from getting bored.”
Smith reluctantly agreed, with the provision that it would not interfere with basketball.
Smith’s admits his penchant for numbers comes from his mother, who is an associate professor of mathematics at EKU.
His time on the basketball court dwindled as his ability to focus on micro-adjustments revealed itself as a major asset in archery.
“I’m not going to say it came naturally to me, because it didn’t,” Smith said of his foray into archery. “But I was able to focus on the little adjustments I needed to do to make me better.”
Smith’s rapid growth as an archer is something he credits to the vast support system around him.
Both his parents are coach at Model and Smith said he has found numerous mentors in the sport to help him.
“It wasn’t necessarily all me. I had a lot of help that sped things up for me a bit,” Smith said of his mentor’s contributions. “I didn’t have any expectations of being good when I first came in, but I looked around and saw who was good and tried to get to that level as quickly as possible.”
His mother said Smith allowed himself to be very teachable, which started bringing results.
Smith’s hyper-focus and ability to use numbers to inform his decision-making in adjustments like angle, tension and feet placement has earned him a nickname from family-members and teammates.
“My uncle calls him the Ice Man,” Smith’s younger sister, Rebecca revealed. “He doesn’t let anything faze him. He’s got ice in his veins. He doesn’t even think about the scores at all. It’s about getting better, each time.”
Smith said he approaches every shot with an almost robotic-like programming.
“I guess I have the right mindset for shooting,” Smith said with a laugh. “I have this routine almost. I make sure I know exactly where my feet are placed and make sure I’m breathing and my grip is right. There are a lot of little things I make sure of.”
Smith isn’t afraid of making changes either — sometimes scrapping an entire setup just days before a match in an attempt to get better.
“I know that my scores will likely suffer doing it that way, but if it makes me better in the long run — then it is worth it,” Smith said. “Some people practice for weeks and refuse to change anything before going into a tournament. They will wait until after it’s over to work on something and get better. I’ve changed stuff the night before.”
That dogged determination and informed adjustments has earned him a championship in each level of archery competitions.
He holds region, state, national and world titles.
Earlier this month, Smith took the overall title at the KHSAA Region 8 Tournament in Lexington.
His other notable victories include: 2017 NASP/IBO World Outdoor 3D High School Male World Champion, 2017 KHSAA Individual Male State Champion, 2017 Centershot Ministries National Tournament Champion Overall Male and the 2017 Centershot KY State Tournament Champion Overall Male.
His proudest moment was during the 2017 KHSAA state tournament.
“It’s hard to qualify for and I was facing a lot of adversity. My bow was breaking down and I was getting frustrated. I had been doing well in regular tournaments, but was struggling when it really counted. I had changed a lot of things up and things started to get better from there,” Smith said.
That tournament was a turning point.
“It was a transition from frustration to confidence. We also got a lot of things sorted out and we learned a lot and worked through it as coaches and a family,” Shawn Smith said.
The archer has a 296 average and his career high score was 299.
A perfect score in archery is a 300.
Throughout his archery career and his quest to get better, Smith has used his love of numbers to determine a national ranking system of archers around the country.
Unlike swimming and track, archery does not currently keep a national ranking.
“I call it the 290 Club and after every tournament I update the statistics and adjust the rankings,” Smith said.
This is no easy feat.
“He has to go online and keep track of all the different tournaments and then plug in the individual scores for all these other archers. It takes time, but he’s dedicated,” Shawn Smith said.
“I just wanted to know how I was doing compared to others,” Smith said of his hobby.
Although he admits his computations may be a little off, Smith’s ranking has in him in the top 10 in the country.
“There’s a chance I might be wrong about that,” Smith said with a laugh. “But I think it’s pretty accurate, at least that’s what the numbers say.”
While he was reluctant to pick up a bow, Smith said he could not have asked for a better sport to be involved in or the success he has experienced in competition.
“It’s tough to master, but I enjoy the challenge,” Smith said. “I don’t think I could ask for anything better. It’s become a whole family thing for us and I really enjoy that.”
Smith and the rest of the Model team are set to compete today at the Kentucky NASP (National Archery in the Schools Program) State Tournament in Louisville.