By Perry Smith
Paul Tedford was never really into traditional team sports, per se. But he remembers his interest being piqued in the bow and arrow after his mom took him to a shop in their central Montana hometown.
It was the summer of his fifth grade, and he and his four brothers were looking for an outlet.
“We were in need of something to do that summer,” the 26-year-old Great Falls resident said. “Our Mom took us down to the archery shop, and we were interested. We got set up and started shooting right away.”
By about a year later, Tedford, who’s now competing for one of only four spots on the U.S. Archery Men’s Compound Team, was entering into state tournaments. Tedford loved archery, but also the competitive aspect, trying to best someone on the range, was a thrill for him.
“Just the fact of trying to win something from somebody better than me — that was an experience for me,” he said. “From that day on, I just thought the competition side of archery was really cool, and I wanted to learn more about it.”
He fondly recalls that first tournament with a laugh, an experience he says he “totally bombed.” He was having equipment issues he didn’t even know about. He was completely nervous. But it was still a fun learning experience. “My whole arrow rest came loose, and I didn’t even notice until the end,” he said. “It was kinda funny.”
Over the last 15 years, his skills have improved and his nerves have calmed some, but he felt like he didn’t hit a breakthrough moment for his archery career until this past season, when he was competing in the U.S. Open. He ended up in second, but he competed against his traveling companion and friend, Tate Morgan, who also hails from Central Montana. The experience of knowing he qualified for a guaranteed medal spot for the first time was one he will not soon forget, he said. “Basically, it just gives you the confidence to know that now you’re one of the top guys,” Tedford said. “That podium in Alabama for the U.S. Open really was a massive boost in my confidence, just to know that I can compete with those guys and that I belong up there with them.”
There have been two other more recent adjustments to his technique and strategy that have made a big difference, he said. One was switching to the lighter Easton arrows, which has helped his score, and the other is two supplements he created — Provision and Profocus — which are supplements he engineered with the help of a manufacturer, and he now sells them online, as well. His new part-time supplement business keeps him busy when he’s not shooting professionally, he said.
“I take it every day, the vitamin for your eyes is just good in general, and the focus one I take every day just to help with my practice,” he said. “What really brought it out is for a lot of years I would look for something that would help me cut down on my nerves — everyone gets nervous,” he said.
As far as upcoming goals, making the US Compound squad, and at his final tournament of the season in Ohio at the end of the month, he’d like to pick up his first gold this season.
“I’d like to win a USA Archery event, and this one coming up in Ohio is my last chance, he said. “In the U.S. Open I came in second, which was great,” he said, “but I’d still like to take first.”