In recent years, to put a fun spin on our team’s holiday parties, we have added an after-dinner activity. A few years ago we went to a karaoke bar. Last year we attended a stand-up comedy show. This year we thought, what could be more natural for a holiday party than throwing axes with your work colleagues?
I admit that I was a little nervous when the idea was first proposed. I am not a champion by any stretch of the imagination in any game that involves aiming a projectile at a target. Frankly I was less nervous about myself and more nervous for everyone else around me.
But my curiosity did indeed reign supreme in terms of what was involved in throwing axes for the sport of it. What drove me to say yes was the thought that at a minimum, it could be a very bloggable once-in-a-lifetime experience.
After our lovely team dinner, it was time to head over to the venue. Along the way, I noticed that the butterflies in my stomach felt more like a fleet of commuter jets, not really knowing what was lay ahead for us.
The moment we walked in, my senses went into overdrive, but in a good way. Between participants cheering at the top of their lungs, the sound of axes hitting (or missing) their targets with a loud thud, and the strong but pleasant aroma of the wooden targets that filled the air, I knew that I had stepped way out of my comfort zone.
For a brief moment, the “what was I thinking when I said yes?” thoughts flew by, but just the same, I remained committed.
The check-in process started with being handed a tablet through which I signed a waiver essentially saying that I wouldn’t hold them responsible for an accident. I knew that this was a necessary part of any dangerous activity. In having done my homework, in checking out their web site and in reading every word in their FAQs ahead of time, I felt like I was in good hands.
As we walked over to the area where we would be playing, the intensity in the venue was unmistakable. That familiar mix of competition and determination could be seen in face after face.
Some people were holding and aiming their axes with such amazing form, looking at their targets with laser sharp focus, it was obvious that they had done this before. I was instantly impressed with the beauty of the sport.
Moments later, our axe throwing coach joined us and explained in detail the mandatory safety rules. Once everyone was clear on the ground rules, she proceeded to explain the technique involved in properly throwing an axe toward the target.
During our first throws, to get warmed up and get individual advice on our technique, I was able to hit the target a few times, but most of my shots were too high, too low or bounced off the target.
I did shock the heck out of myself a couple of times when my throws hit the bull’s eye, earning me five points each time.
That was when I started understanding that hitting the target wasn’t about just luck. The checklist of things to remember was considerable to ensure good form, good grip, and that the axe is projecting toward the centre of the target. But when I focused too much on my grip, my aim was off. When I focused too much on my aim, the axe would wobble. There were so many things to remember.
However, in those moments of deep concentration, when I was standing with one foot forward, with the axe firmly in hand in my outstretched arms, aiming carefully for my target, it was a very empowering position. In my mind I felt like I looked like an Olympian… or an Avenger about to go into battle. But I’m sure that to random strangers, I probably looked more like a fifty year old man thinking he was hot stuff.
Either way, I didn’t care. I was having fun.
During the trial round, I scored what I considered to be a respectable number of points for a first-timer, but relative to my collagues’ scores, was validation that I still suck at sports where aim is involved.
When we embarked upon our team tournament, despite approaching it with strong motivation, good energy and good form, I was eliminated in the first round of semi-finals.
For the rest of the tournament, it seemed that my teammates had found their stride, hitting the target time after time. We were now the ones cheering loudly, as we were totally in the vibe and in the game.
A little later, we crowned the winner of our finals and high-fived each other for not only a good game, but for a fun evening.
While I think it is fair to say that there may have been apprehension going into it, there is something to be said for learning a new skill together, with a side order of friendly competition.
I don’t think anyone wants to look bad in front of others, but when an activity is with a group with whom we feel safe and comfortable, doing something that’s a little out of our office wheelhouse can indeed be a fun idea for a team get together.
In the long run, it really won’t matter how many times we hit the bull’s eye. But the overall experience will be etched in our collective memories, and will likely form part of the “Remember when…” stories we will all fondly remember for years to come.
It was an “axe-llent” evening!
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Have a great day,