For most at the ripe age of 12 years old, life is about balancing the new world of middle school and keeping up with their social circle. But Maddi Duvall isn’t like most 12-year-olds.
“It’s a Friday night, most kids are out doing what kids do. Playing on their phones, playing Xbox, whatever,” Maddi’s dad, Willie explained. “She’s out practicing all the time. She’s here at the bow shop taking lessons getting better.”
With a little help from her high school shooting team and encouragement from her family, Maddi started to consider the world of archery about a year ago.
“I pushed her a little bit,” Willie said. “I said if you want to try it out, I’ll buy you a bow. Try it. Just see what happens.”
From the first pull, she released a talent she never knew existed.
“I really didn’t think I would be this good, but it just came easy,” Maddi remembered.
The past 12 months have shaped Maddi more than the past 12 years combined.
“I would’ve never dreamed that she would have this gift just right out the gate,” Willie said.
With every practice, it became clear archery would be more than just a hobby for Maddi.
“Every week, her scores kept improving and improving and improving,” Willie recalled.
Finally, Maddi entered her first competition – and the nerves set in.
“To be honest, I really wasn’t that confident,” she explained. “I didn’t know if I’d be that much good at it.”
Her dad still remembers the day perfectly. “In that scoring, a 12 is the highest you can get. She rattled off 6, 7, 8 12s in a row.”
Now more determined than ever, Maddi didn’t stop at one win.
“Last year I shot in 22 competitions. I won 19 of them. Two were second place,” she said.
Scores like that were more than enough to qualify for nationals. The Duvall’s took off to Alabama and were greeted by some less than appealing weather.
“They were holding umbrellas for each other because it was raining sideways,” Willie remembered. “It was to keep the rain out of their eyes.”
Maddi’s first time out, first year shooting, and first year at a national event. Add mud up to the knees to the mix and it’s easy to think things may not have gone her way. But backing down is an unknown concept to Maddi.
“She ended up finishing 14th in the nation,” Willie said with pride.
Now, with every target Maddi shoots, the target on her back gets bigger.
“I have practiced with pressure before, so it doesn’t bother me as much as it used to, but it’s still there,” she mentioned.
With one year under her belt, Maddi is preparing to come back even stronger.
“This year, I’m pretty much going to be doing the same thing except last year I only did one national competition. This year I’m doing all six,” she said.
Despite all the success, archery is more than a sport for the Duvall family.
Willie took the sport to bond with his daughters. “I just saw this as a way that I can spend time with them doing something they love.”
Maddi’s love of archery trickled to her dad and younger sisters – all to the point where they even have chances to compete together.
“In all my years of coaching, one of my goals was to win a state championship,” Willie explained. “Little did I know that we were going to leave Virginia that weekend with three. We ended up I won it, she won it, and my middle daughter won it.”
12 months ago, the last name “Duvall” was foreign to the world of archery. But now, Maddi’s aim is focused on making her name known.
“My next biggest goal would be to be in the top 5 in one of my national tournaments and first place in one of my tournament,” she said of her goals.
As far as later down the road, her sight window is even higher.
“Maybe even one day go to a world competition,” she mentioned of the future.
Pretty big ambitions at 12 years old. But for Maddi, right now is just the draw.
And she’s planning on hitting the bullseye as fast as she can.