Why I Follow Golf Coaches

I follow a number of golf coaches on the Internet. I haven’t played golf in six or seven years so this may seem strange to you but there is a reason: there aren’t any archery coaches to “follow” on the Internet. This is a primary reason why I created this blog, so there would be. All ego issues aside, this is why I have done much of what I have done. I asked many, many coaches, coaches more experienced and better than me to write books about coaching archery. I never heard the word “no” so many times in my life. I tried to talk our “Precision Archery” publisher (Human Kinetics) into such a book. They said the market was too small. So Claudia and I created our own publishing company (Watching Arrows Fly) and voila! This is not one of those “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself” things, more of “if you want it done at all, we had to do ourselves.”

“Not one part of your body will go beyond where your mind is focused.”

One of my generous golf coaches, Darrel Klassen, provided a lesson today that had him saying: “Not one part of your body will go beyond where your mind is focused.” Now he was talking about swinging a golf club effectively. His point was that many amateurs are so focused on the golf ball that once club meets the ball they relax and thereby lose a great deal of power. Golfers need to swing through the ball as if their intention was to hit a point well past it, he says. I learned this lesson as a boxer. A boxer cannot aim to deliver a blow at another boxer’s body. The result will be a powder puff strike. Boxers have to aim their blows at the other side of the boxer’s body. (Sorry about the graphic images to those of you who are sensitive to them; the story is true. My Dad wanted me to be more of a “man” and so signed me up for boxing lessons.)

So, how does this relate to archery? Oh, it relates, especially to compound archers but really to all archers. Have you heard the term “a soft shot” or been told you needed to “finish your shot?” In an archery shot, our goal is an arrow sticking out of the highest scoring area of the target, but our participation with the arrow ends with the loosing of the string. This causes a great many archers to lose focus on their bodies at the release and their muscles relax. (The focus on the arrow rather than the bow, just like a focus on the golf ball rather than a point past it.) And, as I have said many times before, we are always fighting Bell Curves. The point in time when we relax our muscles … sometimes we are a little late (no harm) and sometimes we are a little early (soft shot). So archers need to be focused on achieving a strong shot and the way to do that is to set the goal of getting to a strong followthrough position. In order to have that happen we have to maintain our bow arms “up” and our back tension (full on). Many say this has to continue until the arrow hits the target, but I don’t like that signal because that means the time varies with the time of flight of the arrow. My end point for the shot is described by the admonition: “the shot’s not over until the bow takes a bow (the other bow).” So, when the bow finishes its “bow” the shot can be stopped. This should be the same amount of time post loose in every shot, lending a greater sense of regularity to your shots.

My point here is that there is a great deal to learn from coaches of other sports. I generally look to individual sports rather then team sports as team sport coaches are often on subjects irrelevant to archers, things like teamwork and “plays.” I like golf because the mental game of golf is quite well developed and very similar to that of archery (not as well developed). Take a look at some of the golf video lessons available for free on the Internet. I have found some of them so valuable, I have bought the coach’s training package. You may, too. In a couple of cases I have gotten so many valuable free lessons from coaches, I bought their training packages out of simple gratitude.

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Barebow: How to Aim?

QandA logoI got an email from Mr Benedick Visser (from Africa?), to wit:

“Thank you for sending me information on Archery. It is so helpful. I used to shoot Compound bows, but I love shooting bare bow. More challenging and fun. But I struggle to aim correctly. Please can you help me with it?”

***

Hooboy! A controversial question! (I am trying to be funny.) There are some strong feelings about how to aim without using a bow sight in the U.S. Some archers are very traditional and insist that aiming be only done “instinctively.” Others are thoroughly modern and use every part of the bow itself to aim with. I assume you just want to get started.

When I teach beginners, the first question they ask is: “How do I aim?” Our response is “Just look at and focus on the spot you want to hit.” This is a form of “instinctive” aiming. The word “instinctive,” though is a misnomer. We are not talking about an instinct for aiming. This is a thoroughly learned process, learned through the process called “trial and error” or “trial and test.” It is fascinating to those beginners that the desire they have to hit the center of the target will result in them hitting the center of the target if … and it is a big IF … if they are willing to follow instructions and not try to aim. Trying to aim is taking over a process which is subconscious and replacing it with one that is conscious, one you really have no idea how to do, consciously that is. (Almost all beginners try looking down the shaft of the arrow, a technique that works out to maybe five meters or so, but then is defeated by gravity.)

Just wanting your arrows to hit what you are looking at does work, although it takes a great deal of practice over a long period of time. It has the advantage that you can change arrows and even bows and still shoot well. It has the disadvantage of not being the most precise way to shoot a great many arrows from the same position. Anyway, this is Option #1.

If you want to have a system for aiming, most people progress to “shooting off of the point.” The problem of archery is to execute shots consistently with the bow held in a position such that when arrows are loosed, they hit the desired target. Bows need to be held higher for farther targets and lower for near ones. Bows need to be held “off line” to adjust for wind and other factors. The question of aiming is “where do I hold the bow?” The answer (at least in the Western Tradition) was found by a British gentleman of the name Horace Ford in the mid 1800’s. His scores immediately rocketed past anyone else’s and, I am sure, he was accused by some of cheating. He solved the task of where to put the bow in space by lining up a part of the bow (he was shooting English longbows) with some fixed part of the background. It turned out to be very effective to use the arrow point for this purpose (there not being as many parts as our modern bows). So, an archer would watch his arrow point and when a shot hit the gold, he would note where his arrow point was vis-à-vis the background. On his next shot, he would again place his arrow point on that “point of aim” to ensure consistency and success. (Another name for this approach is “Point of Aim” archery.) There are many variations and extensions of this approach but this is the starting point.

Longbow archers were used to looking at their arrow points as a gauge of whether they had fully drawn their bows (the arrow point sitting on the top of the bow hand made a particular shape when drawn “full compass”), so this was not at all a huge departure for some. And, immediately people devised ways to make this more productive. They introduced artificial points of aim. When their POA was not on the target face, they placed an object on the ground to aim with. If their POA was on the target face, they invented the target clock to identify POAs (e.g. 10 O’clock in the Blue).

This technique has been used by target archers from then until now. If you want to know more about the extensions of this technique, key terms for an Internet search are “string walking” and “face walking.”

To get started, shoot comfortably at a large target face up quite close to you (8-10 meters). When you are hitting the center comfortably, notice where your arrow point is with relation to the background (by starting up close, we are trying to make sure it is on the target face). On subsequent shots, line up your arrow point with the point you identified and shoot several arrows. Did your group get smaller (indicating you were more consistent)? Also, if your arrows are still not where you want them (and your POA is on the target), you need only move your POA the same direction and distance you want your arrows to be. So, if your arrows are four cm too far to the right, move your POA four cm to the left and your arrows will also move four cm to the left. This should get you started and learning.

PS You can shoot compound bows Barebow, I still compete this way.

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Send in Your Questions!

In case you have missed this point, I am willing to answer your archery questions. If you click on “Q&A” (in the Categories—right), you will see the questions already asked and answered. Also, if I can’t answer your question I will try to find someone who can.

Cheers!

PS My tenth book “Still More on Coaching Archery” is almost ready to send to the printer. I will announce that when it happens. Shortly thereafter a book by Van Webster “Teaching Archery” will be published.

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How Long Do Recurve Limbs Last?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,
I got my new limbs today, to replace the one that broke. I noticed that I now have to walk the string less, even though they have the same labeled draw weight as my old limbs. My new limbs are $230 carbon limbs, whereas my old limbs were $80 wooden limbs. Could this difference thus be due to manufacturing quality or the material of the limbs? Finally, how long do limbs last in general? My old limbs lasted 2 years. Could I expect my new limbs to last longer given the price?
Thanks

***

Limbs can and should last a lifetime. Two years is way too short. The usual procedure when a limb fails (In this case the lower limb had internal damage and just stopped functioning as well as the top limb. SR) is to approach the manufacturer for replacements. They want the defective limbs to examine so they can determine what the flaws were. So they send you new ones and you send them the old ones. Limb failures are more common for lighter weight limbs than more stout ones and some manufacturers have more problems than others although this is very hard to determine because we usually only find out about them well after the fact (manufacturers do not publish their failure rates) and limb designs change from time to time and errors are corrected.

The draw weight of a pair of limbs is just one factor in their ability to store and release energy. Think about it. You can make a bow of any draw weight out of PVC pipe. If PVC pipe limbs were as resilient as commercial limbs, why would anybody buy expensive limbs when $20 of PVC pipe would do as well? Draw weight is not the sole determining factor of arrow speeds.

The other two large factors are design and materials. The limb shapes are now just about all the same (or very close to one another), so the design factor reduces to how many laminations and what thickness those lams are. The material factor should be obvious. Most top end limbs have no natural materials in them any more (wood, bamboo, etc.) as synthetic materials can be made to be more consistent and less affected by environmental changes (temperature, humidity). Limbs which “restore” their position from “full draw” flex to “brace” flex fastest will be the fastest limbs. But we don’t want just fast limbs (to create smaller crawls, etc.) we also want stability in those limbs. We want the path the limb takes between those two states to be repeatable. If the top limb finished before the bottom limb one time and then behind it the next, you will not be consistent. So, we all want fast, stable limbs that last a very long time and that depends upon their design, the materials they are made of, and the draw eight specs they are made to.

Let me know how your new limbs are working.

 

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Having Your Ear to the Ground

I carry on email conversations about archery all of the time: with archers, coaches, students, authors, manufacturers, parents, you name it. Recently a friend reported that he was hearing stuff on the Archery Talk blog site that he wanted my impressions on. For one he heard that: “Unless a coach is actively participating and competing, they aren’t the coach you want to use. They’re out of date and not current as to how the game is being played and what it takes to compete on a higher level.” Someone else expanded on that saying that coaches like Larry Wise were “teaching ‘old stuff’ that doesn’t work anymore because the game has changed so much since he was a top shooter,” and Terry Wunderle, who was “too old to know what is really going on and things are vastly different in the game than when he was a good shooter.”

* * *

Ah, the wisdom of youth. I was wise once, but I got older.

I would like to ask these geniuses:
1. If they have ever worked with those gentlemen and how is it that they know what they teach?
2. How do they know what is being taught “now” as opposed to “then” (meaning where are they getting their “up to date” and “out of date” info)?
3. I would like to ask them to describe one thing the “old timers” teach that is incorrect or not “up to date,” and
4. Exactly what has changed about “the game” that it is different now than it was 20 years ago?

I will tell you the one thing that has changed over the last 20 years—the equipment. It has gotten better in many ways and, for target archery, worse in a few. The largest change in archery equipment has come in the materials used, lightweight carbon fiber arrows being the most significant innovation.

But what part of shooting a bow has changed since 1994? Since I have been shooting that long I can tell you. Nothing. It is amazing to me and many other “old dogs” in archery that so many “current” compound archers have been raving about the latest discoveries: creep tuning, hinge (triggerless) releases, plastic launcher blade rests, raising the grip angle to make the bowhand more relaxed, rotating finger holes in release aids, torque tuning, and hooded peep sights … all of which were available 30 if not 40 years ago. And “back tension,” ah back tension, all the rage for the last decade. The first treatment on back tension was written by Arabs just after Europeans “discovered” the New World, about the year 1500 or so.

And regarding the massively ignorant “Unless a coach is actively participating and competing, they aren’t the coach you want to use,” the most sure way for a top archer to lose his/her edge is to seriously take on archery students. This is a major “no-no” and everybody who has tried to do both—coach and compete seriously—disabused themselves of the notion after a short experiment. And, where are these competing coaches supposed to come from, the second and third tier archers who really can’t win consistently?

The problem with coaching and competing seriously is that coaching takes away too much training time and . . . and a coach’s viewpoint is from the outside in while the athlete’s is from the inside out. Coaches are constantly considering the “whys” of archery and competitors shouldn’t care. Coaches spend a great deal of time thinking about archery (from the outside in) and asking questions (What real benefit is there from…?) that have no value for competing archers. So, all of the good coaches are past their competitive peaks and no longer competing “seriously.”

There is a simple reason why I have stopped following any of the “threads” on Archery Talk—too many idiots, too many idiots asking for advice, and too many idiots giving it.. Every other sport on the planet seeks out older, more experienced coaches. (Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and Nick Saban of the University of Alabama are both in their 60s; do you hear anyone wanting to kick them out because they are too old and out of touch?) The younger ones are almost always those who were in position to learn the sport from the inside and outside (baseball catchers, for example) or don’t really do all that well (e.g. Lane Kiffen). And in archery . . . well specifically compound archers, the ones most likely to have opinions on Archery Talk, are unlikely to have ever consulted a coach. Yet, they have “opinions” worth disseminating. Amazing!

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Should I Practice Right Before a Tournament?

I got another email from one of my favorite students. (My favorites are the one’s who work hard and ask really good questions. S)

Dear Coach Ruis,
Today during practice, I was scoring extremely well. I had also fixed everything we went through last lesson, so I ended practice after 55 minutes. When I perform really well, is it still necessary to practice 1.5 hours – 2 hours?

Also, I’m attending a tournament on the 18th. Would it therefore be counterproductive to have a practice on the 12th (to hold to the “don’t change anything two weeks before a tournament” logic)?
Thanks,

***

I have had practice sessions as short as five minutes (after set up), so 55 minutes should not be considered short. The champion golfer Jack Nicklaus said about practice “Achieve, then leave.” You need to have goals for a practice and if you have accomplished those, why would you continue? This, I think, is good advice.

Practice sessions are best when short and intense, but often we have only a little time set aside to practice during any week (which can involve travel to and from a range, etc.). So, if you have set aside 1.5-2 hours of practice time, then you should use it. Practice on one thing, intently and intensely for 10-15 minutes. Take a short rest. Practice on something else … same way. If you get tired, rest. There need to be longer practices to develop strength and stamina but not close to a tournament as that could lead to muscles being sore during a competition.

Regarding that five minute practice, it was the day before the travel day to a state field championship. I drove to my club’s range, set up at the practice butts, and picked the 60 yard target to shoot at. I shot one arrow, an X. I shot another right next to it and a third making a tight group of three arrows in the target. I walked up to the target, observed my rather good group, pulled the arrows and went home. I was prepared physically and mentally. All of my equipment and sight marks had been checked and re-checked. All I needed was some re-assurance that I was ready. I got it and went home.

There is lots to learn here. For example: should you shoot a practice round a few days before the tournament? The recommendation is “no.” If you shoot a good score, what does that tell you? Probably nothing you didn’t already know. If you shoot a bad score? Now you begin to doubt and wonder if you are prepared. Neither of these will help your performance at the tournament. If you tend to shoot a lot of practice rounds, stop doing those the week before an important tournament.

The admonition to not change anything isn’t an admonition to not practice. People show up at major tournaments a day or days before its start to practice on site. You are being encouraged to not change anything without reason. So, if your bow string or its center serving breaks, should you change it? Of course you should. But you must take care to “shoot it in” and check your marks/crawls, etc. Should you entertain a major change in your shot? No! major changes should be carefully planned and undertaken and will take quite a bit of time for you to make the transition from the “old normal” to the “new normal” forms. These are the kinds of changes you do not want to make close to an important tournament.

“Not making any changes two weeks before a tournament” is good advice but ask yourself “If something is really wrong with my shot, should I just ignore that and go to the tournament anyway?” I suggest not. Which is more important “shooting correctly” or “shooting in some tournament?” I argue that shooting correctly is vastly more important. I argue that you might just want to make that change and forgo the tournament. Think about this: tournament pressure raises your intensity and “burns in” what you are doing. If you truly believe that what you are doing now needs to be changed, why would you want to make it harder to change?

I hope this makes sense,
Steve

 

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Does My Stance Affect My Head Position?

QandA logoCoach,
I have a question: how does the foot stance affect your ability to rotate your head into a good position for shooting. I’ve been thinking about this and it seemed to me a closed stance can limit the head rotation. Taken to an extreme closed position it would inhibit your ability to rotate your head, having to look over your bow shoulder, not that you’d shoot from a stance like that. The trade off is that a closed stance has been key to getting good alignment into my shot.

***

The stance can indeed affect the position of the head but turn your thinking around. The arrow needs to point at target center (it needs to be in or very near a plane going through target center because if launched at an angle to that plane, it will only get farther and farther away from that plane as it flies and will never hit the center. But if the arrow is in that plane, where is the archer? Answer: standing beside it. The Archer’s Triangle is an attempt to describe that position. For bracing, the bow arm and shoulders form one continuous line. The upper draw arm comprises a second leg of the “triangle” and the archer’s forearm is roughly in line with the arrow, the two making the third leg of the “triangle.” The archer’s draw side forearm is ideally pointed at the grip of the bow as that is where the force is directed, so it is not in perfect line with the arrow.

Stabilizer + V BarsNow, whatever happens below the shoulders must not disturb this arrangement. Please note that the head is on the opposite side of the shoulders from the stance (ahem). So, head position should not be affected by stance. But many archers open their stances to relieve neck strain, or to see around the frame of their glasses, or to get string clearance (female archers especially) or, or…. This is a mistake, because the only way opening one’s stance can relieve the strain on the neck, etc. is for the shoulders to move out of line with the bow arm (taking the head with them).

At full draw the arrow points to the target, the shoulders are at about a 10-13 degree angle closed to the arrow/target plane. The head normally can only get about 45 degrees or so turned on the shoulders, so … this is the problem. A lot of stretching (both directions) is necessary to increase the range of motion in one’s head (I have commissioned an article in Archery Focus on just that topic which I hope is forthcoming).

My argument is that if the shoulders are 10-13 degrees closed to the target plane/arrow line, then a good place to start is with the shoulders directly above hips, knees, ankles, etc., so a 10-13 degree closed stance supports the shoulders being in their proper position with no contortions required. Later, one can experiment with other stances, so long as they do not adversely affect what is happening at the shoulder level. If you look at the NTS elite archers, their stances are wide open to the target line (even more so relative to their shoulder lines) … and their shoulders are closed (as needed). They have learned to do this and prepared their bodies to do this. This creates a more stable shooting platform (better in the wind, for sure) but if your stance negatively affects your upper body geometry, you have sold something dear for something cheap. Having good alignment is a core basic requirement for consistent accuracy, any particular stance … not so much.

For Olympic Recurve archers, like you, neck strain is a recurring issue. Kisik Lee mentions it in his books. Rick McKinney mentioned it in his book. It isn’t going away as an issue. The key, though, is to not do something destructive to good form and execution in looking for relief.

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Got Flinch?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,
Sometimes, at the very end of my practices, I have issues with deciding when to let go of the string. During these times, I might decide to release the string but then quickly re-catch the string. This problem has also occurred in the past during tournaments, usually during the last third of a tournament. What’s going on and how do I fix it?
Thanks

***

This is called a “flinch” and it stems from having to decide when to release the string. It is an inherent problem with Barebow Recurve. It is one of the reasons the clicker was invented. The clicker was not just a draw check (designed to fix the draw length at a particular value); it was invented in 1955 by a man named Fred Leder because of “flinching, freezing, and creeping.” The idea was that, when used properly, the clicker obviates the need to make the decision to loose.

Ch 09 Clicker (Andy M)For Barebow Recurve and a number of other disciplines involving finger looses, the clicker-less solution became shooting process and shooting rhythm. A consistent rhythm is created based upon a consistent shot process. My process (Barebow Compound) is when I get to full draw position, I align my point to my POA, check my breathing (I have asthma), and then check my string alignment, then I come back to my point and POA; if both are aligned, I loose the string. All the time I am partially focused on the feel of my rear elbow moving backward (so as to not lose back tension). A comfortable rhythm has been developed around this process.

In the absence of such a process, one’s conscious mind tends to invent new processes when one tires. As you tire, things feel “different” (harder, more difficult, etc.) which allows the conscious mind to go through a “things have changed, I had better adapt” sequence and the consequence is “Ooops, I didn’t mean to let that one go.” One’s conscious mind has to be kept out of the decision making process. That has to become a matter of habit, which is in the realm of the subconscious. One’s subconscious can multi-task, one’s conscious mind cannot, consequently when you start functioning consciously, your attention flits from this to that to that and … “Ooops, I didn’t mean to let that one go” happens. Do this often enough and you can create a syndrome known as target panic which is responsible for a great many archers quitting the sport because they “can’t shoot any more.”

So, decide on what your “shot completion” process is. The easiest way to do this is simply pay attention to what is happening when you are shooting well and normally. You must write this process down (Step 1, Step 2, …). You must read this list every time you shoot, then use that process at first deliberately, but then transitioning into using it “habitually” as you warm up. When you have a rhythm shooting in your process, you will find that you won’t be deciding when the string is to leave, it will “just happen” along the way.

Let me know how this is working for you.

 

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Pushers and Pullers and Pullers and Pushers

More letters are coming in; this is good. If you have a question, send it to me at steve@archeryfocus.com. The most recent question is:

Awhile back I was reading Rick McKinney’s book (The Simple Art of Winning Highly Recommended! Steve) and he mentioned that the shot execution is a 50/50 effort between pulling and pushing, but he tended to focus on the pushing. This sort of reminds me of the pushing technique that the Koreans and many of the European countries seem to be teaching (see The Heretic Archer by Vittorio and Michele Frangilli, 2005). What are you thoughts of taking focus off the pulling effort and placing it on the pushing effort?SAW

Also, I have experimented with the closed stance, but I really haven’t noticed a big difference yet. Maybe it’s just one of those things that needs an adjustment period.

***

Regarding Pushing and Pulling This is mostly psychological. Physically, if you are pulling a 40# bow, you will measure a 40# push and a 40# pull! Think about pulling on both ends of a rope or a piece of pipe instead of a bow. If the push were at all different from the pull, you would have imbalanced forces and the rope/bow would move. So, if the bow (itself) isn’t moving at full draw (and it isn’t; you are still) then the push = the pull. This is where the 50:50 description comes from, but physically it is really 100:100, that is the “push” is 100% of the “pull” and vice-versa.

In essence there is no push and no pull. (Yes, Grasshopper, and there is no spoon.) The force we feel as a “push” is really the resistance of our bow arm to being compressed. (Think about it. If you extend your arm fully to the side, how are you to “push?” When you want to push something, you use a bent arm and straighten it, or you lean into a straight arm. You do neither of these in an archery shot.) The “pull” we feel is not a pull per se but a rotating of our upper arm around the socket in the draw side scapula. The muscles in our back are working to pull the draw scapula closer to the spine (and the draw scapula is connected to the upper arm). So, we do not feel back tension (physically) but back compression, in that the muscles feel tightly bunched up. The tension referred to is “muscle tension,” not physical tension.

So, if psychologically we think of our arm as pushing, we are a “pusher.” If we think of our draw arm as pulling, we are a “puller.” What is actually needed is a focus on keeping the bow arm in proper conformation (without allowing it to be pulled back or bow shoulder raised, so “extended” is the word used) while at the same time being focused on our draw side rotation (some archers focus on the muscle tension in their back, other archers focus on moving their draw elbow in its arc—both of which require muscle activity in the back, they are just focal points).

THA Cover (small)It is at this point in the shot cycle that an archer’s attention gets divided (and only at this time): part of our focus is on aiming and part on completing the physical requirements for the shot. If, while you are aiming, you are also focused on keeping your bow arm extended, you are a “pusher.” If you are aiming and focused on your muscle tension in your back or on your draw elbow, you are a “puller.” Nobody I know is capable of splitting their focus into three parts: bow arm, draw side, and aiming, so one of those has to be treated with “set it and forget it” (and it ain’t going to be aiming). Either the bow arm configuration is set and then left to its own devices (by “pullers”) or the draw side/tension is so treated (by “pushers”). Neither approach is superior, but you may prefer one to the other; use that one, if so.

Re the Closed Stance You need to have somebody check your alignment (looking for the Archer’s Triangle). Often one’s “line” is much better with a closed stance (as it puts the shoulders into their full draw position with no fighting per se) than with an open stance. If so, shooting with a closed stance and good line, you can get acclimated and accustomed to shooting “in line” and then you can experiment with different stances later, all the while maintain your good line. Having “good line” is one of the most necessary aspects of shooting form to achieve good results; it is far more important and any stance. If your line is no better with a closed stance (and still not “good”), you need to look to potential flaws in your hip or shoulder positions.

Hope this helps! Let me know.

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You Say to Keep a Journal … But How?

QandA logoI got a letter from a new friend in Canada who had this question:

Hey Coach,
I was wondering if there is a good set of templates for keeping that archery journal you suggested I use? I saw the “Mental Management Performance Analysis Journal” by Lanny Bassham on the web, and I liked it but I wanted to create my own.
Thanks
Stef

***

Stephane,
That is indeed an excellent journaling system. It is also a tad expensive.

To lay out your own journal (I use spiral bound notebooks—they lay flat and are cheap. Plus if you get the tabbed ones, they have some structure to them.) make a list of all of the things you want to keep records of. When making lists, don’t give up when you first stall out. Wait a bit and a number of additional things will come to mind. Then when you stall out again, again try waiting to see if additional items come up. None of us think in continuous streams, instead we think in short bursts, so make sure you allow for a minimum of three such periods to make sure your list is as complete as you can make it.Notebook with Tabs

The largest section in your “journal” will probably be for practice plans and records. Each practice session should have a plan, even if it is just a list of things you want to do or accomplish. On any day on which you shoot a practice round, you need to allow for a number of notes (distance, face used, weather, temperature, wind, lighting, distractions, your own mental state, the type of round, the equipment used to shoot the round (yes, all of that, in three years will you remember what arrows you were shooting that day or how hard the wind was blowing?). You will also need a record of your scoring. (Some people take a photo of their target post round and store it for future analysis—of course for this to be valuable you need to use a fresh target face, otherwise the holes will represent … what?) You need to keep both Practice Round scores and Competitive Round scores. Entering these and their dates into a spreadsheet allows you to plot both against a time axis to see whether you are making progress. Also, you can tell a lot from the two trends. If your practice round scores are going up, but not your competitive round scores, then you probably have a mental problem, etc.

You will also need a section for mechanical data regarding your bow and arrows: tuning information, arrow lengths, masses, spines, fletching, point weights, draw weight in hand, draw length, etc. You will be amazed at how easy it is to forget such data. Every change you make in your physical setup needs to be logged here, e.g. Put a half turn on the top limb <date><time>

You will need a section for goals (outcome and process). I strongly recommend that you read all of your process goals (basically the things you are working on) before you shoot a single arrow … always. If you think “I’ll just warm up and then review my goals….” you will be making a mistake because as you warm up you will find yourself reinforcing your old shot, not the new, improved one, simply because the old shot has been practiced more than your new one.

You might want to have a planning section, where you can list the shoots you want to attend and the milestones you want to achieve.

How well/carefully you do this is up to you. After doing this whole process for a year or so, sit down with your journal and evaluate what works for you and what does not. If something doesn’t seem to have a positive effect, but you still think you need to keep a record of what that thing was supposed to describe, you need to come up with a new way of doing just that. Don’t just stop doing anything without a careful evaluation.

And <shameless plug> more detail on much of this is available in my book Winning Archery.

Let me know how this works!

 

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