As I’ve mentioned several times on this blog, I recently joined a summer axe throwing league. I was desperate for some human interaction, so I joined this league at the height of a depressive episode. Worried that I wouldn’t be able to drag my depressed self there alone, I asked my dad to join the league with me. The local axe throwery has both a beginners league and an advanced league, so dad and I joined the former. Little did we know, most of the people in the beginners league have been throwing for like 2-3 years.
Needless to say, we were not great in comparison.
Our first night, when I walked in anxiously, I immediately saw one of my ex-coworkers. She was in the league, too! My anxiety ebbed a bit. Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. They took my dad and me back to a secluded stall so we could practice uninterrupted. A little weird, but I get it…the newbies needed a spot to throw that they wouldn’t have to share with the more seasoned folk.
At this point, I had only gone axe throwing once or twice before. I knew that I wouldn’t be perfect, but I wasn’t prepared for how bad I really was. Dad did okay, possibly owing to the fact that he’s more athletic than I am, but I think I may have sunk only one or two axes during twenty minutes of practice. The rest hit the board and flew off.
My anxiety started to spike again. I had already been nervous being in a new space and being around new people, but now I had to perform badly in front of those new people? I started developing a Chidi Anagonye-style stomachache. I tried to remember the ex-coworker I saw when we walked in. Having another friend there would help keep me calm.
As we all gathered before the first week officially started, the league head, Adam, talked a bit about how things would go for the next 8 weeks. Just the vibe in that group circle felt like everyone was very serious about throwing. He talked about how the advanced league would be partaking in competitions at the end of the season. He said that he couldn’t make the last week and wanted to vote to see if people would be willing to move it to the following week.
He wanted to move the last week of league because someone would miss it — that’s how serious this was.
He mentioned off-hand, in this large group meeting, that he would be in Disney with his family that week, and I immediately realized that was also the week I would be in Disney. Thinking for some reason, in this large group meeting, that this would be a great moment for a connection and to inject a bit of personality to my new league mates, I yelled, “hey, me too!”
Everyone including Adam gave me a “why was that necessary?” look. I facepalmed internally.
“Show off,” dad muttered to me, under his breath.
Finally, it was time to start throwing. Oh good, another opportunity to completely humiliate myself! And completely humiliate myself I did.
I could hardly land an axe on the board, much less win a match. I did manage to win one match that night against dad (you can imagine the bragging that ensued), but besides that, I just couldn’t get them to sink. After almost every throw someone was giving me advice.
“Think of the board as someone you hate and want to throw an axe at.”
“Think of the axe as an extension of your arm.”
It was great and lovely that everyone was so helpful, but with all of the advice swirling around my head, I was struggling to practice it all on every throw.
My ex-coworker saw everyone getting in my head, and she gave me the advice of thinking of a shopping list or something else. I started playing songs in my head to try to clear out the noise. After trying a few unsuccessfully, it seemed as though the song Stacey’s Mom worked best for semi-successful axe throwing. You know, in case you want to give it a try.
Although singing in my head helped somewhat, I still was performing extremely poorly compared to everyone else. People kept asking us what axes we were using and commenting on how the house axes sucked in comparison to others. This gave me hope. It wasn’t me! It was the house axes! Once I got my own, I would be much better.
Adam came up to us at the end of that first week and we talked to him about getting our own axes. He recommended just to get cheap $20 axes on Amazon for the next week of league.
While we didn’t have them for the second week and I still played very poorly, I did notice one win: I was not feeling nearly as discouraged while losing that second week. Sure, I was riding a lot on the promise of the new axe making me better, but even so, I just didn’t feel nearly as embarrassed losing as I had that first week. I would find my groove. And until then, I was just socializing and having fun, right? I was practicing shutting off the perfectionist in my head and was surprised to find that I was doing it pretty successfully.
Our axes came in for our 3rd week of league, and I was excited to start throwing with them. I knew my technique wasn’t perfect, but I also believed that having my own, better axe would help significantly, from what I had heard.
We took our axes to league that week, and I couldn’t wait to see how my throwing would improve! I stepped up to practice, threw the axe, and…
It hit the board butt-end first.
Well, that’s new.
Throw, after throw, I couldn’t get a single axe to stick. Dad stepped up to practice and he was having the same issue. We looked around at other people’s axes and noticed that the handles on our axes were longer than everyone else’s. Even choking up and choking down the handle, there was so way to get them to rotate correctly. So we switched back to house axes, and my prayer of my axe making me a better thrower lived to see another week.
The following week, we got our axe handles cut. They felt much more comfortable to throw, however, I was still having the same issues. My hope of the new axe improving my performance was dashed. I kept everyone’s advice in my head, but it didn’t seem that I could throw consistently. During my last match of the 4th week, I threw a series of duds expecting to turn around to someone else wanting to give me advice. Instead, I turned around to see everyone staring at me in silence.
My ex-coworker smirked and said, “we’re just trying to figure out what you’re doing wrong and how to help you.” That’s right, I was beyond help. At an axe throwing league. I feel like I should win some type of award for that.
Of course, I also got the most helpful advice on week 3 and week 4 of league, so I had unfortunately already learned how to throw incorrectly and had to relearn how to do it well (actual tips on how to throw well two-handed below!).
Not to mention that, week after week, dad had just gotten better at throwing. He wasn’t winning every match, but he was doing a hell of a lot better than me. Although I did win another match against him on week 5. I won $5 betting with him…not that it matters, I was just there to have fun and all that…I don’t remind my dad about it constantly or anything…
As we come up on the last few weeks of league, I’m sad that it will be over just as I finally got the correct technique down. I haven’t even really found my own throwing stance and technique fully yet, and I’m sad that I won’t have weekly axe throwing league to continue refining my skills. Plus, I’ll miss seeing everyone.
I am, however, incredibly proud of myself. I sought out something that would help me in a time of need, and I stuck with it even though I wasn’t great at it. I didn’t let my embarrassment and perfectionism keep me from enjoying myself and living my life. For a chronic perfectionist, that’s really the best you can ask for.
If you have the opportunity and desire to join an axe throwing league, I recommend it! It doesn’t take too much strength and skill, but it’s still a fun competition sport. And you can get out of the house and make friends! Have I sold you on it yet?
Actual tips that I’ve learned (for two-handed throwers):
- Don’t hold your axe too far back on your backswing. At the height of your swing, you want your grip roughly right above your head.
- When holding your axe above your head, make sure your elbows are tucked in, not splayed out.
- Grip your axe with one hand and place your other hand over it, do not have both hands side-by-side on the axe handle.
- Follow-through and eyeline are important! Keep your eye on your target and make sure to follow through your swing with your hands (my downfall, usually).
- If your axe is hitting the board with the butt- or head-end, your issue is rotation. If hitting head-end, adjust your stance by moving forward. If hitting butt-end, adjust your stance by moving backward.