Using NTS for Barebow Recurve

I received an email from a reader with an interesting question:

“I was reading your blog archive on Barebow Recurve and there is a topic that would be good to address – using NTS for Barebow Recurve. I shoot Barebow Recurve and attempt to use and teach NTS, finding that it can mostly be followed except for the anchor point. What has been your experience?”

And here is my answer …

* * *

To teach NTS or not, that is the question. (Everyone trolls Shakespeare!)

The question asks whether NTS would be appropriate for Barebow Recurve. The question, though, is not a simple one, or rather the answer is not simple.

The NTS or U.S. National Training System is misnamed as it is not a system, but a shooting technique. I think technique is very important; every archer should have one. The NTS is a technique designed for elite target archers. So, the first thing I would want to know are what are the goals of the archer. If they are a recreational archer, my answer would be no. If they were a competitive archery, but not a really serious one, the answer would also be no. If they were a serious competitive archer or asked to be taught the technique, then I would teach them, but only so long as they were making progress.

To learn any elite sport technique requires a great deal of practice, so there is a substantial commitment of time and energy necessary to even make the attempt to learn it. If that isn’t what is being committed to, why start such a task?

Secondly, I have to ask something else. Are you a Barebow Recurve archer with a primary interest in Field Archery? The NTS is designed to be shot on a flat target field. Field archers are shooting uphill, downhill, and on sidehills. The NTS focuses on a clicker to control draw length, whereas Field Archers do not get to use a clicker and even if they did, stringwalking, the most common sighting technique, would require a different clicker setting for each crawl, so it is quite impractical.

Think of cars. A Ferrari is a really cool marque. But if you needed a vehicle to haul trash to the dump, would that be your choice? Would you take a cement truck to a NASCAR race? My point is the technique chosen has to be mated to the archery “game” being attempted.

NTS is not well mated to FITA Field, plus Barebow Recurve target archery (on a flat field) is not seriously undertaken outdoors much anymore (indoors, yes). Note Barebow was in serious decline is now making a comeback, of which I heartily approve.

I wrote an article once that compared the NTS (then called the BEST method) with the best available compound technique. I found that about 40% of NTS overlapped with elite compound technique, yet I heard many people saying that the NTS should be undertaken by compound archers. In my opinion, that would have been a mistake. Those recommendations were just manifestations of enthusiasm, not well thought out points.

The technique employed has to be designed around the archery game/style to be engaged and equipment desired.

Note BTW, a Compound NTS has been drafted but not widely publicized yet. I hope to have articles on it in Archery Focus soon.

 

 

 

 

 

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How Can You Tell What is Better? (Or What is Best?)

Note Sorry about this being so long. I didn’t feel I could make the point otherwise and I didn’t want to split it arbitrarily. Steve

As a coach I am a professional advice giver. My clients are trying to get “better” and their definitions of that term are various to the point of contradiction, but at least we have some very clear indicators of “better,” competition round scores being the most obvious.

I also found myself in a recent comment saying “I am never satisfied with the ‘I just like it better’ approach to equipment recommendations. I much prefer for there to be reasons as to why such changes might be advantageous.” In archery, though, there isn’t a lot of “there” there when it comes to foundational reasons for believing why something is better than something else.

Allow me to address two topics in this regard: equipment changes and then form/execution changes. The question is: how do I tell if A is better than B?

Making an Equipment Change: Is It Better?
I am going to take the easiest and most likely to be profound change to examine: a change in arrows. Our starting point is you have a perfectly set up bow and arrow system that you have tuned to a ne’er thee well. You shoot excellent scores with this rig, but there is no such thing as perfection, so you want to explore whether some element in your equipment could be made “better.” The argument is that “better” equipment, in the hands of a skilled archer, results in better scores. I do not think this principle needs to be proven. It is not only self-evident (Look at how much better these straight arrows group, compared to the bent arrows I was shooting!) but the history of archery equipment development offers countless examples. As just one, the inclusion of carbon fiber into arrow shaft designs have made for lighter, stiffer arrow shafts that have in turn resulted in higher scores. For another, modern string materials have improved arrow speeds and equipment consistency and have also improved scores.

But this does not justify a switch from what our archer is doing now to another arrow. Typically, for elite archers, these changes are stimulated by offers of support from a different arrow manufacturer, but can also be stimulated by the previous manufacturer going out of business. Whatever the cause, we need some way to tell if a new piece of kit is better than the old.

We do have testing metrics that stand in capably for round scores. One of these is group sizes. If our archer shoots round groups centered on the target face, we can use something as the metric score (scoring rings divided into tenths and scoring down to the tenth as an easy way to measure group sizes.

There are considerations we need to make in addition to simple testing. Very few archers are so consistent that their scores do not vary from day to day or even group to group on the same day, so what ever test we come up with are best done “side-by-side” in time and location. For our arrow test, we would have to keep everything a constant, especially the bow, and as much as we can the archer, so the new arrows would have to be fletched identically to the old and adjusted so they are tuned to the bow in its current configuration. Then, our archer can shoot an end with the A Arrows and an End with the B Arrows, measure both groups, then shoot the BS again and the As again, then measure the groups. After many groups being shot, with no advantage given to one arrow over the other (which is shot first or second, etc.) you may come up with a result.

What if after many rounds, the average of the A Arrows was an average metric score of 8.9 and the B Arrows was 9.0. Is one better than the other? It seems easy to declare the Bs the “winner” and be done, but really this is a “too close to call” result. If you were to repeat the whole process the next day, you might get A: 9.1, B: 9.0. Maybe a difference of 0.5 in metric score average would be definitive.

So, let’s say that the old arrows scored better in the test than the new? Does that tell you whether the old arrows were better? This is a conclusion that many make fairly easily but I would not. The reason is that archery equipment is fairly idiosyncratic: small changes in configuration can sometimes make large differences in performance. I remember when Rick McKinney was heavily into the development of his McKinney II arrow shafts. On a particularly hot summer day (in Central California where 100+ degree days were fairly common) Rick spend many hours shoot his arrows with different fletches, down to comparing whether the new arrows grouped better with 1.75˝ Spin-Wings or 1.5˝ Spin-Wings. Arrow manufacturers make recommendations regarding best point weight and fletching for various applications (Rick’s company, Carbon Tech, also makes hunting shafts) but arrows targeting the elite competition set, need to be very refined, hence all of the “testing” out in the brutal sun.

Still, little is proven in these test. For our archer, if the old arrows had an advantage of 0.5 in metric score average, I wouldn’t say they were “better” per se, but that the new one’s didn’t seem worth the time and effort to explore. A great deal of time and effort went into the old rig, and to redo that process, I would want a better indication that better scores were in the offing.

I do not want to sound pessimistic, just that one has to be wary of “promises for better performance.” If you look at professional archers who are supported by a bow manufacturer, especially on the compound side, they have to switch bows every year or two as their sponsor brings out new models, yet, their round scores stay roughly the same. Basically, the differences in equipment from year to year are very small, the adjustments the archers have to make to “operate” the equipment well are also small.

This is on the elite end of the scale, of course. Large improvements in score are available to less accomplish archers using equipment not as well-designed and built.

There is something to say for making changes. My best friend was a sponsored archer and he got new bows fairly frequently and he stated that this actually helped him. It got him excited about having a new piece of equipment. It was necessary for him to “go back to basics” to create a good setup and tune, and the setting up process got him shooting someone more than he might do otherwise. So, new equipment can keep an archer’s head in the game.

My point here is: determining whether such changes are “improvements” or just “changes” is not easy. Think about how you would similarly test a new long rod stabilizer or arrow rest in the same manner as the above and you will see what I mean.

Making a Form Change: Is It Better?
As a coach, people perceive me as an arbiter of “right” and “wrong” when it comes to form and execution. The impression I got from my coach trainings reinforced this. You can even see this in archery instruction books which include drawings or photos of archers in “right” positions and “wrong” positions.

One must be very careful giving advice because just because something is not being done in a textbook manner does not mean it is wrong. There are too many champions showing off their medals whose form and execution include well-known “flaws.”

Before Making Suggestions of Changes Before a suggestion for a change is made, my hope is that I can link what my client is doing is the cause of some problem. A classic example of this is I had an older Recurve student ask me for help with a problem that was so frustrating to him that he was considering quitting. He was getting “high flyers” on short targets that barely stayed on target.

It took some discussion and observation to discover the problem. This student had been a gymnast as a youth and was quite thick through the shoulders. Because he had learned from “the books” that his draw elbow need to continue to move around toward his back, he was focussed on doing just that. When I observed him shoot, it was clear though that before the release of the string, his draw elbow, which was arcing around normal, reached a point where it changed direction and moved straight down. When this happens, it changes the angle the string fingers make with the bowstring, increasing the force of the top finger and reducing that of the bottom finger, a recipe for, you guessed it, high flyers, at a minimum vertically stretched out groups.

We can all swing our arms back around toward our backs, but that motion is restricted by the muscles creating it. The muscles in this situation are the famous ones, responsible for “back tension.” Those muscles bring the elbow around by contraction, but there is a limit to that contraction and then the movement stops. This archer’s muscles were large enough that his “stop” was just short of being in a state of good alignment. When the motion “around” was stopped by those muscles, the archer’s desire for continued motion resulted in more motion, just in another direction.

Unfortunately, all issues are not as clear cut.

What to Do? What to Do? Once a problem is diagnosed, then there is the problem of what to do about it. Too often, recommendations come in the form “try to conform to the normal way of doing things.” This the “you were doing things wrong, try to do them right” prescription. In the example given just above, the problem was created by . . . (wait for it) . . . trying to do it the right way in the first place. I have had more than a few students tie themselves into knots “trying to do it the right way.”

We settled on an approach in which he shot with his draw elbow just short of line. Some very, very successful archers shot this way. And, sure being “in line” is superior but if the archer can’t get their, what is “next best” is the real question.

The first major coach I ever heard address this situation directly was Coach Kim of Korea. He talked about how “standard form” was the place we started everyone, but then every archer departed from that to create their own personal form. He summarized this with one of the most profound teachings I ever received from a coach, Coach Kim said “Everybody same, everybody different.” We are enough the same to all start with the same suggestions for beginner’s form and execution, but because we are all unique, the form we end up with will be similar, but will depart from the starting point.

It is a coach’s job to help with that transformation.

How to Find Out if A Change is “Better”
Form and execution changes have a different set of metrics, ones more difficult to work with than those of equipment changes.

Consider an archer who switches from his former form to that of Coach Whizbang. After a year of training he says “I feel I am a much better archer now than before.” But, is he? How can we tell? Is he just flattering his current coach? Is he slamming his former coach, who he fell out with? Did he make any equipment changes in the past year that could account for more success?

Lets say that this archer had a 4% increase in a particular round score. Is this an indication that Coach Whizbang’s teachings are “better” than the former coaches? To answer this question, I would want to know a great deal more. First, did this archer’s scores improve last year with his former coach? If we find out that his scores did improve last year, on that same round, by 5%, would that effect your conclusion? One of the limiting considerations of such changes, which all take considerable time to implement, is time. (This is the old “you can’t step into the same river twice” trope.) A true comparison would be with what the archer would have achieved had he not made the change and that person is no longer available to do any testing.

Feelings Having qualified my answer ahead of time, I do want to say that the archer’s feelings are not to be disregarded as being somehow not measurable. One of my students had the opportunity to visit another coach recently and he came home with different form. Whether this will translate into what his goals are (better scores) remains to be seen, but I am very positive and have told him so as he says his shot now feels more stable. From my viewpoint his shot now is more dynamic and fluid (he had a tendency to try to control his shot minutely and that is now less evident). His feeling of the stability of his shot alone is encouraging and worth my recommendation that he continue to pursue these changes. (How dare another coach take one of my students and make him better! Hey, it takes a village.)

Conclusion: Is There a Best?
Is there a best? A best piece of equipment? A best archery form? Of anything?

No.

The whole idea is not only wrong, it is hurting people who listen to discussions of such things. When people have protracted discussions of who was the greatest of all time (LeBron, Michael, Wilt?) only time is wasted on a silly question. But when archers are looking to implement form and equipment changes, the results can be negative to the point of people quitting the sport. Things are worth exploring . . . or they are not. If they are worth exploring, serious archers will expend considerable time and effort exploring their choices.

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Adaptive Archery Manual … Free!

I have mentioned this before but I did an adaptive archery workshop yesterday (organized by Coach Bent Harmon) and I would like to reinforce that this coaching manual is available for free here. Also, you can get printed, spiral bound copies for just the cost of shipping!

If you are clueless about adaptive archery, aka working for disabled archers, this is a must have manual.

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Recurve Barebow Shots Up- and Downhill (Part 2)

This topic is burgeoning. I got an email from another Barebow Recurve archer on a similar topic while writing the last post and there are quite a few loose ends that still need to be tied up here. Also, since I pointed out that the cut chart I included in the last post was a “simplified one” somebody just had to see one that wasn’t simplified. So, let’s get that out of the way right now.

This chart includes the fact that on downhill shots, gravity is accelerating the arrows making their arcs flatter and on uphill shots gravity is decelerating the arrows making their arcs more pronounced. For example: a 50 m shot at an angle of 35° uphill would be shot as if it were a 42.3 m shot but if that angle were downhill it would shot as if it were 39.8 m. Note A 35 degree shot is quite extreme by American standards but not so much by European standards. (Europeans like shots you have to tie a rope around your waist so you don’t fall off of the cliff as you shoot from it.) The “simplified chart” has this shot at 41 m which would be a 1 m error either way, not a lot to worry about.

Note that the two charts are arranged differently: one has degrees vertically, the other horizontally. If you thought I would remake one of these for consistencies sake a blog that doesn’t make me a dime, you need to think again.

Onward and Upward
Stringwalking in Barebow makes things different, but the physics of gravity isn’t one of the differences. The simplified cut chart gives a reasonable number for the crawl setting for an “angled” shot. Using the example above, a 50 m shot at a 35° angle (uphill or downhill) should be attempted with whatever anchor and crawl you would use for a 41 m shot.

This is a starting point! You really need to check these things out. For one, when you take a crawl, you are detuning your bow substantially. Different crawls represent different tunes, in effect. This is why tuning for Barebow is different from tuning for Olympic recurve. Even using a “three fingers under” string grip requires a different tiller setting than the more typical Mediterranean string grip (one over, two under).

The more extensive chart is not needed unless your groups compare to those of Compound Unlimited archers, but those “cut distances” need to be checked. (Do I need to say it again?) The second reason they need to be checked carefully is anything greater than a very shallow angle for a shot can distort the archer’s form resulting in quite varied results (depending on the amount of distortion).

There are a number of compensations that Barebow Recurve archers make for these shots. One of those is to open their stance greatly for downhill shots and close them greatly for uphill shots. The open/downhill posture makes room for the bottom limb to go between the legs, instead of hitting the forward leg if a square stance were employed. Opening your stance shortens your draw length which actually helps with those downhill shots (shorter draws make arrows fall “short” which is what we want), but they also make shots more variable and, hence, more difficult. The ideal is keeping your upper body geometry consistent from shot to shot, but this is virtually impossible at higher angles of launch. The net effect of this distortion of the full draw position is to shorten the draw. By using a very closed stance on those difficult uphill shots, the closed stance lengthens the draw to compensate for the draw shortening described above, making the archer more consistent. (If you do not understand this effect, take a very light drawing bow and at full draw tilt up- and downhill and see what happens to your draw length. (You may need a helper to watch your arrow point or set up a video camera.) Hold the arrow level, again at full draw, and swing left and right (in effect changing to open and closed stances). (Go as far as you can.) Do these things, see what happens, they are more explicative than any thousand words you could read!

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Recurve Barebow Shots Up- and Downhill (Part 1 … )

I got an email from a colleague regarding how to deal with shots that are up- and downhill whilst shooting Recurve Barebow. Here is the question:

“I have a question for you. The standard “cut charts” for distances and shot angles used in field archery are based on the mathematical computation of measuring the hypotenuse of a triangle but shooting a level distance (the long leg of the triangle).
“However, these charts don’t work for me because I shoot a wimpy bow with that produces very slow fps arrows (aka slow). Once I go beyond my POT distance (35m), I am shooting an arc, not a straight line. So I end up ADDING rather than cutting the distances.
“Can you or your stable of experts address this in Archery Focus? Is there a mathematical formula I can use? Trial and error (mostly errors) is costing me a lot of arrows…

And here is my convoluted answer and some of the “back and forth” conversation that followed:

* * *

Note The phrase “Once I go beyond my POT (point-on-target) distance (35m) … I end up adding rather than cutting the distances.” made me suspicious that the archer in question used a gap shooting technique beyond her “point on” which would hopelessly complicate the situation. But being fearless, I just plowed on!

Arrows never fly in a straight line; all arrows travel in an arc (technically it is a “decaying parabola”). Some arcs are just shallower than others in that higher arrow speeds produce flatter arcs. This is simply a manifestation of the fact that when you shoot on the level, gravity is acting only downwards (sideways) on your arrow and this fact forms part of the explanation regarding how to adjust for up- and downhill shots. When you shoot up- and down hill, only part of the force of gravity works as it does on the level, and part of it is applied to make the arrow go faster or slower. Think of arrows going straight up or down, Under those conditions gravity doesn’t bend the trajectory of the arrow into an arc at all. Since only part of the gravitational force is making the arrow bent on an angled shot, you need to plan on a sight setting for part of the distance being shot. Here is a standard “cut chart” used for figuring out the horizontal distances to the target (corresponds to the part that gravity is acting sideways to the trajectory).

This is a simplified chart that ignores the arrow slowing and speeding up effects of gravity. Angles are down the left side, distances across the top. A 50 m shot at 35 degrees is basically only a 41 m shot according to this chart.

If you were shooting with a sight, a program like Archer’s Advantage can calculate all of your sight marks for whatever angle you shoot. Since you aren’t using a sight, this gets complicated.

Have you ever seen a “sight tape”? Just in case, I attached a photo. The strips at the bottom of the printout are cut out and attached to the sight bar. You can see from the markings that the spacings get wider as you go to longer and longer distances. Look at the difference between 60 and 70 yards as compare to between 20 and 30 yards.

When one graphs out crawls, though, one gets a straight line relationship between distance and length of crawl. In other words, the difference between any two identical distances is the same amount of crawl.

Now, given that there is that built in distance, you are going to have to do a little gymnastics here.

Once you get to your POT distance, do you shoot off the shelf, aim high, or lower your anchor? (From your question I suspect that you just aim high for distances beyond your POT, a form of gap shooting. This makes things incredibly difficult, though. For the approach I am thinking of, it is better to go to a lower anchor.

The ideal situation (if using multiple anchors) is to have a low anchor (for long distances) and a high anchor (for shorter distances) and a set of crawls for each (actually the crawls for both anchors will be very similar in that the crawl for 5 m/yd less than POT will be roughly the same for both anchors). When you start to shoot up- and down hills, you would use the anchor for the target distance, but you would take a slightly greater crawl (taking a crawl for a closer target). What your cuts will be are roughly the distance calculated as the cosine of the angle of the shot. (This is straight physics and geometry.)

And, as you know, your bow isn’t gonna be anywhere near ideal for all of the assumptions made. So, you are going to have to do some experimentation. (Do you have an angle finder?)

* * *

To which the questioner responded:

“Wow, my head is spinning.

“Yes, I had already figured out through experience that there is a direct relationship between distance and length of crawl.
“This year, once I get to POT, I start using the plunger and rest plate for sighting points.  Last year I did different combinations of face walking and string walking and it was too much for me to remember on the FITA Barebow courses, which don’t allow written memoranda.  I also had a lot of trouble getting a replicable anchor once I dropped below my upper teeth, because how much tension I had in my lower jaw varied all over the place.
“The other thing I am wondering about is the arrow trajectory and its impact on crawls past POT or at least the zenith of the shot.  I don’t think my arrows travel in a nice curve, instead they go upwards most of the way and then drop steeply at the end.  I am planning to play around with walk-back shooting to see if I can figure this out, and whether or not it matters.
“What does the last column of your attachment mean? For less than 10m, because I don’t want to crawl anymore, I just aim off a little.

* * *

That’s for people with sights.

When you say “I am wondering about the arrow trajectory and its impact on crawls past POT” you are making me wonder because to go past your POT, there is no crawl. You either aim off (gap shoot) or switch to a lower anchor and crawl down from your new POT.

The system I recommend now is to use the most comfortable anchor you have (this is usually the finger in the corner of the mouth version of a “high anchor”) and figure out your POT(High Anchor) distance and then all of your crawls down (inward) from there. Then, to deal with distances past your POT(High Anchor), you adopt a different, lower anchor (usually the Olympic-style anchor) and find your new POT, the POT (Low Anchor), then you figure out your crawls down from there. If … if … those two series overlap, you are generally good to go.

This has the “feature” that the crawls for the two anchors are generally very close, so five yards inside both the POT(High Anchor) and the POT(Low Anchor) are about the same crawl (why I do not know), so this reduces the amount of memorization.

If there is a gap between the two sets of crawls, we try to bridge that by aiming high off of the POT(High Anchor). All this requires you to know, if there is say a five yard gap between the two series, is what a shot lands at five yard past your POT distance with a zero crawl. If your arrow lands five rings low under those circumstances, then you need to aim one ring high for every yard you are past your POT. (I picked those numbers for simplicity, of course, your situation will be much more complicated (much). ;o)

Every anchor has its own POT distance. And there are all kinds of anchors to chose (you have tried face walking you tell me). The FITA Field experts work like crazy to get a POT of 50 m which is their longest shot (for the unmarked). So they have one set of crawls for the entire course. So, your trepidation was certainly shared by others!

And we have yet to get to the crux of the aiming up and down hills issue.

PS When you shoot with a sight, there is a point in space where the arrow rises up from its position below the line of sight to the line of sight. Typically for me that was around 11 or 12 yards out. (If you check one of those sight tapes I sent you, the tape stops at that point as there are no more markings that mean anything.) When targets are inside of that distance, you have to set your sight for an even higher distance to work. For example, I often set my sight for 52 yards for a 4-yard shot. The arrow is still rising to the line of sight the aperture is in, so the aperture has to be set much higher to get the bow low enough to hit anything. That is what those boldface numbers are on the right side of the AA printout, shooting targets inside your crossover distance.

There is so much more to this discussion, I will follow-up with another post.

 

 

 

 

 

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Release Triggers: Size Does Matter

My Carter Target 3 with three thumb trigger options I have used.

This posts concerns the photo attached (right). The release aid is my #1 release (has been for a very long time). When I bought that release the spot that my thumb rested on was a simple post (in photo just below small barrel). Then at a Las Vegas Trade Show I bought a number of Tom Thumb adjustable “barrels” to adapt the trigger to a somewhat larger size. This was just before Carter came out with their own version, the “Adjusto Trigger,” so I felt I was very much in the avant garde.

Recently one of my students made me a trigger barrel much larger than the Tom Thumb version. It is 1.0˝ wide (25 mm), as compared to the Tom Thumb version (the purple one in the photo) which was 5/8˝ wide (0.625˝ or 16 mm). I noticed immediately the different feel associated with this new, larger thumb barrel which got me to thinking.

Perfect positioning of the trigger on a thumb release aid: nowhere near the sensitive pad.

When encouraging a “surprise release” approach to release technique, the standard instructions are to tuck the trigger back away from the tip of the finger/thumb. The argument is that the very sensitive finger tips can feel the position of the trigger as it moves and thus lead to anticipation in the form of flinches, freezing, etc.

My thinking is that the nerves associated with those finger- and thumb-tips are pressure nerves. (The pain and temperature change nerves don’t get engaged.) The force required to trip the release aid is built in with springs and whatnot. But spreading that force out from a narrow pin, to a small barrel, to a much larger barrel, I have created small and smaller amounts of pressure on the trigger. This diminishes the feel of the trigger on the skin, which should be a good thing.

So, if you coach release shooters, or are one, and you haven’t tried a larger barrel or a “shoe” trigger, give it a try. You may like the results.

Note I am never satisfied with the “Gee, I like it better” approach to equipment recommendations. I much prefer for there to be reasons as to why such changes might be advantageous. Still, you do have to try things out to see if they work for you.

Thumb barrel, thumb shoe, whatever. The aspect that is important is the amount of contact area between archer and trigger.

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What is All This Visualization Stuff About?

I was reading a golf instruction piece yesterday (Surprise, surprise!) and one “tip” regarding how to improve ones “game” was to embrace visualization. The author wrote:

“One of the greatest helps to a pupil making a swing change is having a clear mental image of what they are trying to achieve.
“As a junior, I spent hours with my eyes closed, visualizing the movements I wanted to achieve. Even as a coach now, I often close my eyes when analyzing a swing and try to put myself in the body of my pupil to feel what they are feeling.
“Lesson – close your eyes for a few minutes or seconds. Get a clear image of what you are trying to do. When (and only when) you can see it, stand up and rehearse the motion.”

So, what is all this visualization stuff about?

Let me keep this as simple as I can and provide you with a rationale … that I cannot prove as no one can at this point, but I have been studying this intensely for the past few years and feel this has some merit.

The purpose of the visualization process in sports is to provide a set of instructions to your unconscious mind.

It is the unconscious part of your mind that is in control of your voluntary physical actions. You do not need to think consciously about any physical action that you have learned (tying your shoes, riding a bike, driving a car, etc.). Doing this is a path to “choking.” Athletes who choke often allow their anticipations lead them to taking conscious control of their actions, taking control away from the mental processes that actually could make what we want to happen happen. (Gag, gasp, choke. It is painful to watch this happen.)

“The purpose of the visualization process in sports is
to provide a set of instructions to your unconscious mind
.”

You may have learned that whenever we engage in repetitive tasks, the chances of success are increased substantially if we have just done that task and are repeating it rather than if we are doing it for the first time. We also may know that our subconscious mind lives in a world apart that we create for it in our mental space (a playground for the imagination, as it were).

If we have just done something, e.g. shoot a free throw, it is easier to repeat that effort than to do it for the first time, especially if it was successful, because that effort forms a perfect set of instructions for the second effort. I call these “do overs” as no change in plan is needed. If a correction needs to be made, the instructions are: just like before but with a little more … less … whatever.

In archery, the spot for any such visualization is just before the bow is raised. This is because of several limitations on our memories that I won’t go into now.

Try this! Just before you shoot, you imagine as accurately as you can a perfect shot into target center. Include all of the sights , sounds, everything. Then shoot immediately.

Anybody who tells you that “this will work” is someone from whom you should turn and walk away rapidly, possibly also clutching on to your wallet. No mental exercise has been “proven” beyond a shadow of a doubt to work as advertised. These are all things to try and evaluate yourself (or your student’s selves). This is one of those things I place a high probability of improving an accomplished archer’s game. It will not, however, turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

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Why Did I Make That Change?

Every archer I know says the same thing. Basically they say “my <widget> was working perfectly, I don’t know why I changed to something else?” This thought was prompted by an author who was working on an article about compound bow launcher arrow rests. He said: “Goodness, there a lot of options on launcher style arrow rests! I was digging in my junk drawers and kept finding other types and styles. They all worked but with a few exceptions, I don’t recall why I stopped using them.”

We then told several stories back and forth, because that’s what archer’s do. But, of course, I couldn’t leave it there. I have to add …

* * *

We all succumb to the “new, improved” sales pitch which appeals to the magical thinking of archers. (Better scores are available here, just step through this door!) This reminds me of the story of P.T. Barnum solving the problem he had of getting people out of his exhibits so he could fit more paying customers in. He put up a sign that said “This Way to the Egress” over the exit. People flooded through, ending up outside.

We keep going through the door labeled “This Way to Higher Scores” based upon buying something. This is a form of magical thinking as we cannot supply any reasonable reason for why a new stabilizer or arrow rest will actually improve our scores, but it is only $59.99 and it sure looks cool!

I was just watching a video of Darrell Pace and Rick McKinney shooting in the 1984 Olympics. They had wood-fiberglass limbs, aluminum arrows, Dacron bow strings, flat V-bars with steel rod sidebars with simple weights on their ends. No Doinkers or other vibration dampeners in sight. Almost 35 years later, how many Americans do you think are shooting as well as those two guys? (Pace averaged 1308 in two FITA Rounds in quite breezy conditions.) Maybe a handful at best. Gee, I wonder how they did it? It was probably that they had the best archery equipment! (Not!)

The still brilliant Rick McKinney is one of the few elite archers who has written a serious archery book.

Currently my thinking on any equipment change is: “any reasonable piece of kit is fine, but learn how to get the most out of it.” And, “if you feel a change is going to be profitable, prove it.” I have made a number of equipment changes in my life that really produced better results. One was changing from a 20+ year old bow to a six-year old one. Another was a change of stabilizers (to one that was much better in the wind). Other than that, there was little difference in my scores based upon equipment changes. In one case, I bought my first brand new bow and my scores dropped. (A year later a professional archer told me that none of the pros had ever got that model to shoot well. That bow model lasted just one year, possibly because of the feedback from sponsored archers.)

I am not saying, don’t bother changing your equipment. I am saying research it well. When you make the change, find the best setup for that thing and then prove to yourself that something is indeed better. (I recommend practice score benchmarks.) If your performance is the same or worse, you wasted some money. If it is the same, you can go ahead and keep the change as no harm was done. If it is worse, change back immediately to your old setup and give that piece of new junk you bought to a rival.

 

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This Happens Far Too Often

This arrow shelf is “crowned” which means arrows can be “shot off of the shelf.” Note the material added to protect the bow (Velcro works great at this).

We had a light practice at the college yesterday (most were away at a competition) and one of the team members asked for help with his bow. I asked him what he was working on and he said his arrow rest. This young man is a Traditional Recurve archer and his rest was a metal wire stick-on rest, designed to be used with a plunger. In fact, shooting without a plunger was damaging his arrows because they were rubbing up against the rest’s bracketry. I suggested he use one of the club’s “loaner” plunger buttons and he set about installing it. I showed him how to adjust it and left him to it. (We learn manual things better by doing than by watching somebody else do it for them.)

When he finished he wanted me to check his installation. The button wasn’t out far enough, it barely protruded from the arrow rest, so I did a quick peek at his centershot and it was way outboard from anywhere good. What the heck? I looked more carefully at the bow (being more focussed before on the student) and noted that the arrow shelf was “crowned,” a design that facilitated shooting arrows off of the shelf. I dropped the arrow onto the shelf and … almost perfect centershot. Even with really skinny arrows, there was no way to shoot off of an elevated arrow rest. The only way I could see that the brass threaded insert could be used would be to bolt on a wrap around arrow rest, that would have to hang back over the edge of the shelf because the bow wasn’t cut with enough of a sight window to place any rest inside the sight window.

Who would make such a bow, I wondered? (I am not telling, and this is not the only one I have seen doing this, just let it be known that the buyer must beware when purchasing archery equipment.)

We did a few other things to allow him to “shoot off of the shelf” which I won’t recount but I happened to take a peek at his arrows. They were 350 spine. At his draw length, he would have needed a 65+# bow to make those arrows work. His bow is 42#. Thankfully, the arrows weren’t cut to his actual draw length and were a couple of inches longer, but they needed to be a couple of inches longer than they were to work in that bow.

Who would sell someone arrows so out of spine like that?

This shelf is flat and is not designed to be shot “off of the shelf.”

This is a sad tale. In many parts of the country, the number of archery pro shops has dwindled dramatically. I live in Chicago, and if you struck a 50 mile radius circle around where I live, you would have close to 10 million people inside that circle. To the best of my knowledge, there is one full-service archery pro shop in that circle. There are, however, a number of big box sporting goods stores that sell archery gear. Some of the members of one of the archery clubs I belong to work in such stores, so I know there is quality help available but time and again, bizarre sales are made from such stores.

A most common pattern is a newbie target archer goes to such a store and there is someone behind the counter to serve them. They tell the clerk they have a 30# bow and they need arrows. The clerk selects an all-carbon shafted arrow that they are having a special on (!) that is labeled 30#-50#, then measures the archer’s draw length (usually haphazardly) and cuts the arrows to the student’s draw length. This sounds right, no? It is dead wrong.

Many all-carbon arrow manufacturers got into the arrow game by selling a small line of good arrows cheaply enough to get sales. By designing the arrows correctly, they can cover the range of draw lengths that hunters need in maybe three shafts: 30#-50#, 50#-70#, and 70#-90#. With these kinds of shafts, though, you do not cut them to an archer’s draw length, you cut them to the correct spine. If those 30#-50# arrows are to be used on a 30# bow (with a 28˝ draw length), they have to be shot uncut.

Now, my student’s arrows were of a 350 spine, not one of these schemes. The spine chart for these arrows would have him shooting at 65+# at his draw length. There is no way to fit such an arrow to this archer. Either a mistake was made or a retailer was “clearing inventory” by any means at his disposal.

This AAE Super Flyte rest wraps around the riser to bolt on from the outside but needs considerable room inside the sight window to do its job.

Beginners, intermediate archers, and even some advanced archers do not understand spine charts and all of the criteria needed to fit arrows. They need professional help. I wish there were online programs on how to do this that were easily accessed and easily understood, but there are not. Please do not tell me about YouTube videos, the problem is there are so many videos posted on YouTube that it makes finding the right one quite problematic. I have suggested that major retailers and/or manufacturers set up a YouTube channel to address the equipment needs of these archers but that has not been done. We are currently developing several Internet training programs designed for coaches and archers but those are not yet done. (Maybe by summer.)

The implication for archery coaches is clear, if you want to be helpful, you need to inform yourself on these technical issues so you can be a source of clarity in the sea of confusion that now exists.

BTW I wrote a complete description of how to fit arrows and placed it into the team’s Dropbox folder labeled Instructor Materials. Now if I could just get them to read it!

 

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I Want to Throw Up

I followed Ted Nugent around the floor in the vendor area at the Vegas Shoot a number of years back. He had a large gaggle of young people following him and I heard him throw the F-bomb several dozen times in just a couple of minutes, so I drifted off at that point. That is my sole personal contact with Mr. Nugent. I have heard and seen him on tape saying many racist comments and suggesting that President Obama should be “put down.” So you can imagine my revulsion on seeing the following photograph:

I wanna throw up.

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