Wanna Copy?

In my last post I asked you about providing equipment help to new archers and parents of new archers and those of you who responded seemed to think it was a good idea. So I wrote a booklet The Beginner’s Guide to Archery Equipment … well, I have a first draft anyway. You can help bring the project to completion by doing this: if you send me an email at ruis.steve@gmail.com mentioning the title above, I will send you a PDF copy of the draft booklet. It has a few photos included but more will be added, so it isn’t really complete. If you read it and submit a review to me (at ruis.steve@gmail.com) by the deadline of February 28, 2015, I will send you a copy of the finished book.

Please ignore typos, etc, as such things will be corrected later. What I want to know is:

  1. Will this be helpful?
  2. Did I leave anything important out?
  3. Are the directions clear enough (photos will be added)?

The plan is to make this available in an eBook format (Kindle? PDF?) for cheap (US$2.99) and then look at videos to accompany The Guide.

Thanks!

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The Equipment Problem

I got an email from Portugal regarding buying archery equipment. The situation the writer is in is: no shops nearby, no ranges nearby, and no help nearby, and help on the Internet is spotty—sound familiar?

I get this question so often I am thinking about writing a book or pamphlet or producing an online course to help new archers and/or archery parents understand how to go about fitting, sizing, choosing, and buying archery equipment. The question is which?

Response Requested
What would you rather have:
a. a book/pamphlet
b. online course
c. an instructional video

This would be something you could refer to your students, archery parents, general questioners and it would be available relatively inexpensively. (If a book, you could buy copies from us at discount and sell to your customers.) Please respond with a comment (a., b., or c. plus anything you want to add)

Realize that brands and models go in and out of fashion (and business) rather quickly so the advice would have to be generic so as to not go out of date quickly. The fitting and sizing parameters have been stable for quite a few decades but brands/models come and go.

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Is Visualization a Flawed Tool?

Visualization is touted to archers as part of a formula to create success. The most common pattern is for archers to visualize a perfect shot just before they raise their bow to shoot. The argument goes like this: it is easier to reproduce an activity immediately after having successfully performed that activity. Since the effect wears off fairly quickly, the previous shot doesn’t always qualify as such an event and, since the subconscious mind, responsible for abilities like shooting arrows, cannot distinguish well between reality and that which is vividly imagined, the pre-shot visualization supplies such an “event” to duplicate.

Most archers who embrace this technique usually stop thinking about it there, which is a good thing as being an archer-athlete is about performing, not thinking, but maybe coaches need to think about this a bit more.

The Limits of Visualizations
This visualization technique is widespread: golfers visualize their shots before they step up to the ball, basketballers visualize a successful free throw, sometimes accompanied by a physical rehearsal, before shooting them, and archers visualize perfect shots before shooting them. But is this the only use of this technique?

dead center arrowWhat these examples have in common is that they are visualizations of something the athlete is perfectly capable of and has done repeatedly. They are not visualizing something never done before. Often, athletes can use memories of recent activities as patterns for those visualizations. Since the more accurate and vivid a visualization is, the more effective they seem to be, a visualization set in context with all of the sights and sounds appropriate to the current venue is of more value. So, a memory of a recent perfectly shot arrow supplies a perfect source of information for those visualizations. Similarly, a previously shot free throw, or a golf shot on the same hole on the previous day of a golf tournament may supply the detail needed for a more “vivid” visualization of the task coming up.

But what happens when the task has never been done before? In that case visualization becomes very much less effective. Visualizing oneself on the medal stand at the Olympics may actually help one get there, but it would have to be repeated many, many times for it to have any effect as it is not something one has done or will be doing shortly. The visualization examples above are in the context of a “short feedback loop,” meaning the effectiveness of the visualization in helping make a good shot is tested in short order and the practitioner can get a sense of whether it helped or not. For a far off goal, visualizations may help one stay on a path to that goal, but they serve as little more than an affirmation at that point.

For example, if one is practiced at long distance shooting and then the target is moved out to a farther distance, one unpracticed, what value has visualization? I think it has little value, except that it might help execute a good shot, even though the success of that shot may be due to many other factors. If that distance is one you do not have a sight setting for, not only is your body position different, but your sight picture is different, and your trust in your sight setting nonexistent.

A practice of philosophers and scientists is to push their thinking to an extreme, to see what can be learned from such a situation, so in this case, what if we were to push the target back until it exceeds the cast of the archer’s bow? In other words, even shooting at a perfect ballistic angle, the arrows shot from that bow at that draw length will fall short of the target. What use is a visualization then? Obviously, it will have no effect whatsoever upon hitting such a target.

So, as a process, visualization seems to work best as a tool to help repeat something the athlete is perfectly capable of doing. But when applied to completely new situations, its effectiveness is far less and there are situations in which it has zero effectiveness.

Do Visualizations Really Work for Archers?
One must take into account that not everyone is capable of making such visualizations. Psychologists have estimated that maybe one in every five individuals may be incapable of making such visualizations (the golfer Tiger Woods appears to be one of them). Having a mental rehearsal, though, seems to be effective enough that when visualizations aren’t effective, athletes find other ways to rehearse. Tiger Woods uses a rehearsal of how a golf shot will feel, as opposed to how it looks, apparently.

So, for the four in five who can perform a visualization process without their minds wandering, is this process effective? The answer has to be a definite “maybe.” In so many things “mental,” much depends upon the athlete trusting his/her process. So, for visualizations to be effective for an archer, they must be taught how to do them, they must practice doing them, and then they need to have a test of whether or not it works for them (otherwise they will just “judge” the process, which is a fairly unreliable skill). This investigative process is not unlike the testing of a new piece of equipment or a new movement in a shot sequence.

The testing probably has to be something like the effect upon practice round scores. A fair test would probably require several practice rounds shot with a process goal of having a high percentage (85-90-95%) of the shots made with a visualization incorporated. After each end, the archer determines how many shots were made with a visualization and reinforces the goal by re-reading it (it is written on the tally sheet used to keep track of the shots in each end that are performed correctly). Then the average score of, say, three practice ends shot with visualizations could be compared with the average of the three previous practice rounds shot prior (presumed to be without visualizations).

There are many things that can trip up such a test. For one, if significant time and energy were spent in learning and “training in” the visualization habit, then the archer shooting the practice rounds with the visualizations is a more highly-trained athlete than her former self. And there is the Hawthorne Effect, which indicates that when anything new is introduced a bump in performance is achieved that disappears shortly thereafter. Possibly, one could ask their archer to try to shoot practice rounds without the visualizations (using the same process goal process) to get comparative scores but I have not tried this and I am not sure one wants an athlete to participate in “negative practice,” practice that deliberately does something “wrong” or different from what is desired.

What is needed is for enough archers and coaches to undertake such “tests” and report back on the results. Then we might be able to come to a definitive position on the question.

Conclusion
This is not hoary old knowledge passed down from the ancients but something “discovered” in the past few decades. We don’t know everything and finding out such things, especially in the realm of “mental skills” is especially difficult. For the time being, if one of my seriously competitive students was confident in his/her visualization process, I would leave it at that as confidence is something I put great stock in)“why” anyone does so is a question that cannot yet be answered).

Possibly the ideal experimental subject are my people, aka “over the hill” archers, especially those who are somewhat accomplished. Asking some of these folks to try to shoot practice rounds with and without visualizations (using process goal protocols) might supply very valuable information and would be unlikely to derail ambitions of accomplishment. Any takers out there?

 

 

 

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Helping Them Try a Release Aid

If you have compound archers in your classes, they may be looking forward to shooting with a release aid (if they haven’t already made that decision). Many coaches do not know that release aids were invented before compound bows were and therefore were used with recurve bows but since the competition divisions only allow the use of a release aid with a compound bow, we will stick with that restriction: release aids are used with compound bows only. (Of course, what you do for fun is up to you.)

In the AER Curriculum, we save learning how to use a release aid until last. Here’s why. Learning to shoot well at all is quite a complicated task, throwing a release aid in from the beginning and the task gets even more complicated. Some beginners start with a full unlimited compound setup, including a release aid, but that is learning the hard way. We only recommend that to people who have a coach or parent who can oversee each and every shot, which means not in a class setting.

For the purposes of this article, we are going to assume that your student shoots her compound bow fairly well with her fingers on the bowstring and she has added all the accessories to your bow she wants. (Since the competition categories allowing release aids also allow stabilizers and bow sights, it makes to sense to not use those also, so our assumption is a student will have all of those things, all set up and working fairly well before the release aid is attempted.) This is actually a shooting style: called Freestyle Limited in the NFAA and Compound Limited in USA Archery (only available to those who are in the Masters-50+ and older categories). And this exposes another part of our strategy of adding one accessory at a time: many of those stages are actual shooting styles. In the NFAA shooting a compound bow with just a short stabilizer is called “Bowhunter,” with a longrod stabilizer it is called “Barebow” and with all the goodies, it is called “Freestyle.”

FSLK Archer

Freestyle Limited (NFAA) allows everything but a release aid to be used!

 

Where to Begin
Please, please, please, whatever you do, do not allow your students to just borrow a release aid and try it on their bow. They could injure themselves and/or damage their bow and/or arrow. Wait, you say, you’ve seen this done? Of course you have, but so has jumping off of a cliff. The question is is it wise to do so and the answer is no. Ask any release aid archer if he has an funny stories about shooting releases and they will immediately begin telling you stories of people who knocked themselves out or knocked teeth loose when their releases tripped mid-draw. (Very funny! Don’t let your students do this!)

In order to test out and practice with release aids, they need something called a “rope bow” or a “string bow.” If you have the AER Recreational Coaches Guide, all of the instructions are in the appendices. If not, rope bows are made from a piece of parachute cord or polyester clothes line (not cotton as it is too stretchy). The length of this cord needs to be twice as long as your draw length and then about 10% longer. So, if your student’s draw length is 30˝, you need a length of 30˝ x 2 + about 6˝ = 66˝. Then, make a loop out of it by lining up the two loose ends and putting a single knot it them. You need to fit this loop to your students draw length by drooping the loop over your bow hand and then attaching your release aid. If you then adopt your normal full draw position, everything should be in place (see photo). If the loop is too short, take the knot out and tie another closer to the cut ends. If the loop is too long, take the knot out and tie another farther from the cut ends or just tie a second knot inside of the first. Keep adjusting it until the length is just right.

We often give away these loops to young archers as a safety precaution. We get 100 foot rolls of highly colored cord from Home Depot for just a few dollars.

To use the “rope bow” you just made, loop the thing over their bow hand and attach their release aid and then have them adopt their full-draw-position. They are to pull slightly against the loop (resisting the pull through their bow arm) to simulate the holding weight of their bow. The holding weight is the draw weight of their bow at full draw (after the letoff). If they do this right, when the release is tripped the rope will fly out of their bow hand and land on the floor/ground 1-2 m/yds away.

Rope Bow in Use

You should encourage them to keep this loop in their quiver because you never know when another archer will show up with a cool looking release aid and you will want to try it or they will need a little practice to sort out a kink in their release technique.

Acquiring a Release Aid
This is quite a problem for beginning release aid archers. Ask any veteran release aid archer how many release aids they have or have owned and they will always respond with “dozens” or “too many to count.” The reason for this is that there are so many different types and styles. Plus the only way anuone can figure out whether a particular release aid will work for them is to shoot with it for several weeks.

So, if they are looking for their first release aid, they have a bit of a quandary. They must balance their budget with the style and fit of the release. Because many beginning release aid archers are on tight budgets, they may want to look into borrowing your first release or buying one used. Many release archers have any number of release aids just sitting in a drawer at home and would willingly lend you one to try. (Remember “try before you buy”?)

They will have to decide on the style: we tend to recommend a trigger release aid with a “safety” for first timers. The safety is a button that can be pushed that locks out the release so it cannot go off until you reach full draw and turn the safety off. These releases have the advantage that if they are set up properly, they will go off all by themselves when they reach their correct full-draw body position, so they give you feedback on whether their form is good.

A Great Release Aid Starter Kit!

A Great Release Aid Starter Kit!

Whatever release aid they select it has to fit them. If it is a handheld, it must fit in your hand correctly (basically when your hand is fully relaxed; you shouldn’t have to spread your fingers out to make your hand fit the release). This can be a problem as releases are sized for adults and even if it is labeled an “XS,” that is extra small, it may still be too big for a youth with smallish hands. If it has a trigger, it needs to be able to be adjusted into the correct position in your hand (up against the shaft of your thumb for thumb triggers or just behind the first crease of your index finger for index-finger releases when your hand is relaxed. No reaching!).

Setting Up the Release Aid
Even if their release aid is properly fit as to its size and trigger location (if there is one), there are settings that have to be made. One critical one is trigger pressure (if there is a trigger). They do not want a very light or “hair” trigger. They need a trigger that is fairly stiff. This allows them to get on or off that trigger without fear that it will cause the release to go off. Then they can slowly squeeze it until they reach the tripping trigger pressure and it goes off. The “squeezing” technique is coupled with the draw elbow swinging into position so that the draw elbow aligns with the arrow line.

If the release aid is triggerless, you want the release to trip when they are in perfect alignment. They must start these adjustments with their rope bow and then check them on their bow. You can help, basically you want the point of the draw elbow lined up with the arrow line when the release trips. (It is that simple.) Consult the manufacturer’s adjustment instructions.

Should They Use a D-Loop?
Yes. If they don’t know how to apply one (quite likely), the instructions are available in the Appendices of the AER Coaches Guide and on the Internet. You do need to use “release rope” purchased specially for this task and we recommend you start with a 4.5˝ piece to begin with. This should give you a loop about 1/2˝ long when installed. Adding a D-Loop also affects the bows draw length, so that might need to be adjusted, too. Adding a 1/2˝ D-loop requires the draw length to be reduced 1/2˝ (assuming it was set up correctly before).

Developing Skill with a Release Aid
It is important for them to practice their release technique with their rope bow only until they are proficient before they then try with their bow.

Since success using the rope bow requires them to pick the thing up off of the floor over and over again, most folks catch the loop in their bow hand instead of letting it drop. Just make sure the loop is flying out upon release when they do this. Once they are more than comfortable with their release setup and operation, then you can switch to their bow but do so blank bale and very close up. The rope bow makes to noise when it is used which is not true of their bow. Since what we are looking for is for the release to trip without them knowing it is happening (this is called a “surprise release”), the abrupt shock and noise can cause them to flinch. They need to get used to this and we prefer to do this in a manner where arrows can’t go flying around in all directions.

After they are comfortable shooting with their release aid blank bale, a target face can be put up but keep the distances short because a) you don’t know how the focus on the target will affect their release technique and b) they haven’t sighted in yet. You should check before they make their first shot at each new distance to make sure their arrows will hit the butt.

Anytime they experience confusion or a string of poorly executed shots, they should go back to their rope bow and regain their competence and rhythm and then try again. The whole process for a first-time user will take at least a couple of weeks of regular practice. (Note two weeks of five days per week practice is equivalent to five weeks of two practice days per week)

And if you personally have never used a release aid before, you have two choices: tell your compound archers to go elsewhere (not recommended) or set up a loop and acquire a release and try it yourself. You can acquire enough skill to help beginners. Also, there is quite a bit that has been written on this topic for you to read up on. But, don’t expect to be “up” on all of the latest release aids, we are not sure anyone can be that well informed.

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Okay, I’m Back

Sorry, I have been busy. We will be formally launching the Archery Coaches Guild web site this week and that has been a great deal of work. Do drop by and “join” (www.archerycoachesguild.org). There will be no dues charged until next July, so you can explore whether this new organization works for you at no cost.

I haven’t blogged much of late because of the ACG and I have been working to get a couple of new books out (see below) as well as launching the 20th year of Archery Focus magazine with what we think is a stellar issue (also see below).

If you have questions, fire away; I will do my best to answer them.

Steve

TPOCA v1 Front Cover

TPOCA Vol2 Cover

AF Cover 20-1

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Sources of Inconsistency, Part 3

Note If you haven’t read parts 1 & 2 yet, please do so, it will make this more understandable.

So, my student and I found some time to work together this past weekend and to make a long story short: mystery solved (we think).

The issue is a lack of consistency indicated by a drop in scores on the NFAA indoor 300 round (60 arrows, 5-1 scoring) from the 270-280 range to the 240-250 range which had to have a cause. In all such cases, there is the question: “Is it me or my equipment?” So, my student took his backup bow to league just before the lesson and shot a score in the 250s, so we know that the problem wasn’t based entirely in the equipment.

But a sound approach is to remove all of the equipment issues first as it is then easier to focus on the form/execution issues with the bow giving good feedback. After shooting some to warm up we did a bare shaft test (three fletched, two bare) while I watched his arrow flight. There was definitely some poor arrow flight involved in the vertical plane and the bare shafts were higher than the fletched group. So, the suspect was a “too low nocking point;” measurement also indicated that it was on the low side (and the nock locators were too easily moved, which was likely the source of the problem). We replaced the top nock locator, tying on a new one with each loop cinched tightly. (This keeps the locator from moving until it is glued down or turned on purpose.) This locator was moved up by about one-eighth of an inch compared to the old one. A retest showed the bare shafts grouping and closer to the fletched shafts (but still slightly high) with the arrow flight improved. We could have continued in that vein but there was something else: a form issue.

At full draw my archer’s shoulders were slightly tilted (front shoulder high). This can happen even to the most serious archers who also have real lives. Family and work intrudes upon our archery and we lose focus and continuity. By this I man we have a mental and/or physical break from practicing our good form. Slight changes drift in and are accepted as normal. As I watched, the subtle shoulder tilt was causing his draw elbow to move as much down as around during followthrough. This, I suspect, is also a contributor to the high bare shafts. If the shoulders are tilted, the drawing forearm is out of line with the primary force line (PFL) we desire. In this case, it is below. This changes the angle the draw hand and fingers make with the bowstring (slightly) causing the string to be pulled a little more down, in this case, rather than just back along the PFL. This cause shots to go high.

So, I asked my student to thrust his “away” hip back and to exaggerate it. His first attempt got his torso vertical, his shoulders level and his arrow into the X (just luck but bolsters coach’s reputation in any case). My student reported that he though he had pushed his “away” hip a great deal whereas he had moved it only a smidgeon. This is a phenomenon reported by both golf and archery coaches, “you have to ask for a lot to get a little.” (This one is going into Volume 3 of The Principles of Coaching Archery!)

We therefore devised a little experiment. He has a mirror set up where he shoots at home to check his posture. With a vertical tape line or a plumb line hung just in front of it he is going to work on getting his spine plumb and his shoulders level. Then we are going to recheck his bare shaft test. This may well get us a perfect test and no further adjustment of the nocking point locators will be necessary. If not, then additional nocking point tuning is needed. When this is all done, I think this student will be back to championship level form.

To Summarize

It is not uncommon for a small flaw to creep into an archer’s form. Elite archers have to practice many days a week to ensure that this does not happen, and then it even happens to them from time to time.

Competitive recreational archers face all kinds of distractions: job/school changes, significant other changes, births of children, etc. All of these are opportunities for their form to become different. Since we all age and change with age, such time related differences are to be expected and the others just fit into this normal trend. Very good archers experience only small changes but because they expect relatively good scores, these still show up on their score sheets.

The issues involved are what I call “Bell curve” problems. If you take any parameter of form, execution, or equipment, you will find there is a range over which its setting provides optimal performance. In this case, nocking point location” like brace height or any other parameter would show this behavior:

Tuning Graph (150 dpi)If the nocking point is way too low, we would get very poor performance; at just to little too low, we would get something better but still poor; at just a tad low we would get good performance. Spot on would give the best performance; slight higher would cause the performance to fall off a tiny bit and the farther it got in the “too high” direction the worse things would get. We have just described a performance hill (a bell-shaped curve). Some parameters have more than one such hill (as alluded to in the diagram). Nocking point location probably has just a single hill and single hilltop. The center of that hilltop is where we want to be. The reason for this is the tops of those bell curves are relatively flat. If you have a slightly flawed execution, such as pulling down or up on the bowstring when the arrow is loosed, you subtly change the actual location of the point in space the arrow comes off of the string. If the fixed position of your nock locators, though, puts you in the center of the performance hilltop, a slight shift one way or the other doesn’t affect performance all that much. But, instead of being “top dead center” you are at the edge of the top (left or right, high or low), a slight change in another parameter can produce a relative large loss of performance.

In this case, a combination of a too low nocking point (a relatively recent change in the equipment) combined with a slight shift in form brought about a 20+ point drop in 300 round score. I suspect that the shoulder problem was there first and then when the nocking point locator moved … ooops!

What to Do In order for an archer’s equipment to be in order, they must tune it by shooting (and they can’t tune any better than they shoot) so the two are intertwined. When they achieve a stable state for their equipment and are shooting acceptable and consistent scores, they must document the heck out of their rig. You should insist on this. (I have a form I email to my students for this purpose. If you want a copy, send me an email at steve@archeryfocus.com asking for one and I will send it to you.) Having this record means that when things go wrong, you can measure up their rig to see if anything has gone wrong. (Some of these things are invisible (cracks in interior limb laminations, broken threads of bowstring material under the center serving) and may show performance effects before measurable manifestations of them show up. But these are rare.)

If you can correct any equipment flaws and the problem goes away, much the better. If it does not, then you must look to the archer. It is not uncommon for the problem to have multiple causes as did this one (I think).

Oh, did I mention that leveling my students shoulders (subtly) required his clicker to be moved? We moved it out about an eighth of an inch, later it will need to be refined. Shifting shoulders up and down, even subtly, affects draw length. All such changes go straight into the archer’s notebook to document them.

If you change one thing …

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Sources of Inconsistency, Part 2

QandA logoIn my last post I shared an email I got from a student (right-handed Olympic Recurve archer) regarding having bouts of “leftitis” while shooting in an indoor league. Since we hadn’t had a session in a while, I have nothing substantive to report, but our conversation continued. I asked “Generally left arrows means you are a little long in DL or you are plucking … unless, of course, you didn’t just lower your draw weight did you?

This question shows how complex most of these situations are. The reason I asked about the draw weight change is, if he had lowered his draw weight (he had not), even slightly, e.g. 1#, if his arrows were almost too stiff, this may have made them “critically” stiff. If the arrow spine is “critical,” that is on the bleeding edge of being right/wrong, then a very slight shift in technique can make them appear as they are here, “too stiff” or “too weak.” On days when you are feeling strong, everything seems fine (we don’t know that they could be better, which is always our problem) and on days when you are a bit soft, the arrows appear too stiff. This is always surprising to me because with a clicker draw length is “fixed,” but a crisp loose of the string is one thing and a slower one another and these can show up with a “critical” arrow spine. A crisp release gets the arrow where aimed. A loose/sloppy/slow release exposes the too stiff arrow (flies to the left). I don’t like the word “critical,” I think a better word would be “borderline” but that is the term in general circulation.

Equipment that is not quite in a “sweet spot” can show problems intermittently which can falsely point to an “operator error” when really it is an equipment error. We rightly think that consistent errors are probably due to equipment, inconsistent errors due to inconsistent execution. The key word is “probably.” A prime example of this is if a numbered arrow always flies to the left. It is probably that arrow that is a fault. But if one arrow in an end seems to fly left, but it is a different arrow each time, then it is probably the archer.

When we tune, our goal is to create a bow-arrow-archer system that minimizes the effects of slight “operator errors.” We want that tune to be in the “middle” of a performance peak (measured however you want) so that an error one way or the other will have a minimal impact on our performance. A tune that is on the edge of such a zone is the equivalent of walking along the edge of a cliff: a slight misstep in one direction is not problem, in another it is a major problem.

As I said, I can’t really tell in this case until we get together, which will be this coming weekend. “Probably” more on this issue later.

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Sources of Inconsistency

QandA logoOne of my very best Olympic Recurve students wrote about his recent foray into indoor league action. His problem seems to be in consistency.

“My NFAA 300 scores have been good, kinda. A 285 is my best ever. A 281 is my best league score this year. But, that was followed the week after by a score in the 240s, and I just cannot explain what happened to drop the 40 points. I felt like there were a lot of great shots in there, but they’d be going left on the target. Same bow, same setup, absolutely no changes. This was the same kind of thing at indoor nationals where I felt I shot well but the score was horrible. Hmm, I continue to be puzzled. To end that bad league night (last week) I shot a 25 end, the first and only one of the night.”

Since we hadn’t had a lesson in a while and I hadn’t seen him shoot there wasn’t much I could say until we got together. Here is an expansion of part of what I answered.

* * *

Competitive target archery is a search for consistency. In every competitive archer’s beginning experience we learn that an arrow that doesn’t “group” with the others needs to be inspected for damage. We learn tuning procedures that support “tighter groups.” We refine our form and execution. In every case we are looking for the arrows to land closer to the center (accuracy) and closer to one another (precision or consistency).

Accuracy is easier to achieve than consistency. By adjusting one’s bow and arrows and form a bit, one can get to the point that they have round groups centered on target-center. The average positions of these arrows is “dead center” but we are not scored on our average position, but on the actual positions of the arrows, hence the need to get the arrows closer and closer together so that they will all fit into a highest scoring ring (the de facto “optimum group size”).

“Competitive target archery is a search for consistency.”

Whenever I see scoring inconsistency like that reported, the immediate suspect (for a Recurve archer) is lack of line. No one seems to point this out, but in the same vein as the philosopher who pointed out you can’t ford or even step into the same river twice (the original water has been replaced by new) we are never the same archer. Every arrow we shoot, we shoot as an older person, the additional age may be only a few seconds or 24 hours of several weeks or even years of a layoff. As we age, things change. If we work out and get stronger, things change. This results in what I call “form drift” and it doesn’t have to drift far to be “off.” And good alignment is one of the things that one cannot afford to lose without a severe scoring cost. (A caveat here: I just saw a video clip of our current Olympic Men’s champion shooting. He does not have good line. The cost of that is he has to practice almost every day, which he does. You and I cannot afford the cost of poor alignment.)

So, we will meet to see what can be seen but there may also a psychological effect involved. And I do not have any information regarding whether it is “in play” in this case, but it may well be. We all have busy lives. We have school or work and it’s demands. We have families. We have lives outside of archery. Consequently the amount of time we have to engage in a sport is limited. It is not unusual for the indoor season to devolve into a series of mini-competitions with no real practice occurring. We experience success or failure on any particular league night but we don’t do anything with that until the next league night. Anything that might have been learned from the previous experience has long since faded before the next league night, so we drift from one “test” to “the next” and wonder why we are not being consistent. Can you imagine taking a night class at your local community college that meets once a week and each week the teacher gives you a version of the final exam to see if you are ready to pass out of the course, but no other instruction? You would be clamoring for your money back. Don’t do this to yourself.

After every competition, I ask my students to make two lists: one list is “The Things I Did Well” and the other is “Things I Will Do Differently Next Time.” I ask that they have a minimum of three things on each list. If consistency, aka small groups, is on the “Did Well” list one week and then not the next, then your consistency is a variable (not a good thing) and you need to do something about it before the next “test.” If the same things keep popping up on the “Do Differently” list, whatever you are doing to implement that is not working.

Please do not get the impression that I know everything about this topic, far from it. The problem I keep pointing out is that a tiny bit of the solution to every problem is available from that coach there and another bit from this coach here. Until we archery coaches get better organized, we will not be able to definitively answer any of these questions.

Steve

 

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Fitting Young Recurve Archers

QandA logoThis begins often enough with an email:

Good Morning Steve,
My daughter met with you a few months ago for one session and she said that you mentioned the wooden riser she has is lighter than the ones being purchased today. Her coach has recommended a new 23˝ riser for her and an increase poundage with new limbs. My daughter wanted me to run this by you and ask what type of riser would you recommend? The one she is being recommended to purchase is <link provided>. Which riser would be good throughout her growth? She has also had another coach tell her that magnesium risers are lighter and would be good for a long time. Will she always outgrow a riser? Please let me know your thoughts.
Thank You in Advance,
<name withheld>

* * *

Equipment purchases are a minefield for archery parents, which is why I am sharing this rather normal request and my answer. (The student in question is a rather new and young but promising and enthusiastic archer. Also, her coach is a friend and student of mine.)

I have a prejudice I must admit to: young archers are attracted to the “bling” of a metal riser. Metal risers are what all of the best recurve bows sport, and for good reason: the heavy metal riser is a major contributor to being able to hold the bow still while it is being shot (the largest contributor in fact). But there is a cost to that stability. The stability comes from the riser being heavy. The heavier the riser, the less likely it will be to be moved while the arrow is leaving the bow.

The conflict is with the muscle development of young archers. The muscles needed to hold the bow up (and steady) are primarily in the upper arm (the deltoids). One of the last muscle groups that get developed as a youth makes the transition into their adult strength is … drum roll please … the deltoids. So getting a young archer into a heavier bow too early creates a situation in which they are unable to shoot correctly, so all of their practice involves the creation of bad habits (dropping bow arm during shot, etc.).

Wooden Riser recurve Bow

What’s wrong with this bow? (Absolutely Nothing)

Now, having admitted that to you I will address your daughter’s case: I have no idea whether she is ready for a heavier bow. There is a test, though. Let us say that her “new” bow and stabilizer, and sight, and … and … weigh in at about five pounds (adult rigs are heavier than this, 6-9 pounds). So, here is a test: take a five pound hand weight (you can substitute a plastic milk jug with five pints of water in it) and ask her to pretend it is her bow and ask her to stand in her normal “full draw position.” She should be able to hold this weight up while you count (normal speed) to five (simulating the time needed to take a shot). She should be able to do this repeatedly without getting tired (short rests in between, <10 sec, simulating the time it takes to load another arrow and prepare to shoot).

If she passes this test, then a metal-risered bow should be okay. magnesium risers are marginally lighter than the “ordinary” aluminum risers (wood is lightest, then polymer, and finally the metal risers).

If not, then either wait and/or order heavier drawing limbs for her current bow if that is desirable. An alternative is to do some exercises to build up the upper arm muscles (both arms—and be aware that if she has not gone through puberty, such exercises are less effective).

Whether she will outgrow any new riser depends. How tall is her mother? Typically children exceed the height of their parent of the same gender somewhat. If her mother is of “ordinary” height, then your daughter will probably be somewhat close to that height when she is fully grown and a 25˝ riser would be appropriate (23˝ risers are for shorter adults and youths—they are lighter but also have a smaller “window” to look through, which can be a problem for taller archers). Waiting has the advantage in skipping over the 23˝ riser if it has the probability of being a source of problems. (Many of the Korean Olympian females are 5’6˝ or even shorter and many of them shoot 68” bows which are recommended for archers 6’ tall. There are some advantages to having a longer bow (created with a longer riser and/or longer limbs) but, of course, that is predicated to being able to handle the mass of those bows. Of course, if her mom is short, she may find a 23˝ riser perfectly appropriate.

Regarding models, I would follow her coach’s recommendations as he is closer to that market at this time than am I. Be sure that you share your recreation budget limitations, etc. to help him give you the best recommendations. Part of his thinking may be “why buy new limbs for a bow she will give up when she gets strong enough for a metal-risered bow” (this is the same thinking as buy shoes a little large for a growing child). Talk to him about this.

And, if you are looking for a performance boost, the best source of that is providing a set of arrows fitted to her bow and skill, not a new bow per se. These do not have to be expensive arrows, just arrows of the right size and length (and fitments) to match her bow and skill. Of the two (bow and arrows), the arrows are by far the more important in delivering consistent accuracy.

I want to reinforce that her coach <name withheld> is a reliable source of equipment recommendations, I just always have the concern that youth archers not get into a too heavy bow too quickly.

Steve

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Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

Fitting Young Recurve Archers

QandA logoThis begins often enough with an email:

Good Morning Steve,
My daughter met with you a few months ago for one session and she said that you mentioned the wooden riser she has is lighter than the ones being purchased today. Her coach has recommended a new 23˝ riser for her and an increase poundage with new limbs. My daughter wanted me to run this by you and ask what type of riser would you recommend? The one she is being recommended to purchase is <link provided>. Which riser would be good throughout her growth? She has also had another coach tell her that magnesium risers are lighter and would be good for a long time. Will she always outgrow a riser? Please let me know your thoughts.
Thank You in Advance,
<name withheld>

* * *

Equipment purchases are a minefield for archery parents, which is why I am sharing this rather normal request and my answer. (The student in question is a rather new and young but promising and enthusiastic archer. Also, her coach is a friend and student of mine.)

I have a prejudice I must admit to: young archers are attracted to the “bling” of a metal riser. Metal risers are what all of the best recurve bows sport, and for good reason: the heavy metal riser is a major contributor to being able to hold the bow still while it is being shot (the largest contributor in fact). But there is a cost to that stability. The stability comes from the riser being heavy. The heavier the riser, the less likely it will be to be moved while the arrow is leaving the bow.

The conflict is with the muscle development of young archers. The muscles needed to hold the bow up (and steady) are primarily in the upper arm (the deltoids). One of the last muscle groups that get developed as a youth makes the transition into their adult strength is … drum roll please … the deltoids. So getting a young archer into a heavier bow too early creates a situation in which they are unable to shoot correctly, so all of their practice involves the creation of bad habits (dropping bow arm during shot, etc.).

Wooden Riser recurve Bow

What’s wrong with this bow? (Absolutely Nothing)

Now, having admitted that to you I will address your daughter’s case: I have no idea whether she is ready for a heavier bow. There is a test, though. Let us say that her “new” bow and stabilizer, and sight, and … and … weigh in at about five pounds (adult rigs are heavier than this, 6-9 pounds). So, here is a test: take a five pound hand weight (you can substitute a plastic milk jug with five pints of water in it) and ask her to pretend it is her bow and ask her to stand in her normal “full draw position.” She should be able to hold this weight up while you count (normal speed) to five (simulating the time needed to take a shot). She should be able to do this repeatedly without getting tired (short rests in between, <10 sec, simulating the time it takes to load another arrow and prepare to shoot).

If she passes this test, then a metal-risered bow should be okay. magnesium risers are marginally lighter than the “ordinary” aluminum risers (wood is lightest, then polymer, and finally the metal risers).

If not, then either wait and/or order heavier drawing limbs for her current bow if that is desirable. An alternative is to do some exercises to build up the upper arm muscles (both arms—and be aware that if she has not gone through puberty, such exercises are less effective).

Whether she will outgrow any new riser depends. How tall is her mother? Typically children exceed the height of their parent of the same gender somewhat. If her mother is of “ordinary” height, then your daughter will probably be somewhat close to that height when she is fully grown and a 25˝ riser would be appropriate (23˝ risers are for shorter adults and youths—they are lighter but also have a smaller “window” to look through, which can be a problem for taller archers). Waiting has the advantage in skipping over the 23˝ riser if it has the probability of being a source of problems. (Many of the Korean Olympian females are 5’6˝ or even shorter and many of them shoot 68” bows which are recommended for archers 6’ tall. There are some advantages to having a longer bow (created with a longer riser and/or longer limbs) but, of course, that is predicated to being able to handle the mass of those bows. Of course, if her mom is short, she may find a 23˝ riser perfectly appropriate.

Regarding models, I would follow her coach’s recommendations as he is closer to that market at this time than am I. Be sure that you share your recreation budget limitations, etc. to help him give you the best recommendations. Part of his thinking may be “why buy new limbs for a bow she will give up when she gets strong enough for a metal-risered bow” (this is the same thinking as buy shoes a little large for a growing child). Talk to him about this.

And, if you are looking for a performance boost, the best source of that is providing a set of arrows fitted to her bow and skill, not a new bow per se. These do not have to be expensive arrows, just arrows of the right size and length (and fitments) to match her bow and skill. Of the two (bow and arrows), the arrows are by far the more important in delivering consistent accuracy.

I want to reinforce that her coach <name withheld> is a reliable source of equipment recommendations, I just always have the concern that youth archers not get into a too heavy bow too quickly.

Steve

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Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A