All Coaches Have Opinions (Yes, We Do!)

I was reading a guide to teaching Olympic-style archery I found on the Internet. In rather large bold letters right on the first page it said: “There is a perfectly good reason why the use of a clicker is mentioned here and again later in the text, the standard concept of leaving its use until some point further into the learning process is rubbish.” The point a clicker was to be taught was apparently the third session (lesson).

The reason this stood out for me is I had just finished some work on an Olympic-style archery curriculum and the clicker was being introduced quite late. Still, the opinion of the Internet author was so vehement, I spent some time to reconsider my position.

“Their” Opinion
Later in this quite short document the authors claim:  It is important to get the novice using a clicker as soon as possible so that their style will improve and they are not “hung up” about using this important and very necessary piece of equipment. Apparently this is an indication the authors are aware that clickers do not find favor with beginning archers and they have found an approach that works. They also seem to claim that by using a clicker, the archer’s “style” will improve. The authors are British and I am going to guess that by “style” they mean the same thing we do by “form.”

I have never seen an archer’s form improve by the introduction of a clicker. In fact, it seems as if it always gets worse at first, and quite a few don’t recover. As to how to introduce the clicker they say: If a consistent draw is being achieved set the clicker a couple off mm in front of where the arrow is at full draw. Explain that this is a draw check and all that is required is to draw the bow until the clicker goes off and then loose. At this stage there is no need for anymore explanation than that and it is important to let the archer practise using the clicker without attention to how it is being used. Fine adjustment of clicker position and execution can only be learnt when they have experience of using it.

The problem I see with this is not the approach that is used here, it is the “If a consistent draw is being achieved . . .” requirement. This is correct, but for this to happen in a student’s third lesson must constitute some kind of miracle.

In my opinion I believe that clickers have a bad reputation for two very good reasons: 1) they are introduced before an archer’s draw length becomes fairly consistent, and 2) they are taught poorly.

When to Introduce a Clicker If an archer has otherwise good form (a requirement), introducing the clicker is dependent upon the consistency of his draw length. Here is why. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say an archer’s draw length varies between two values an inch apart. If you set the clicker for the middle of this range and then one eighth of an inch closer to the bow for safety, then when he draws on the 5/8 of an inch side of that one inch range farthest from the bow, the clicker stays on the point, which is good. But when he draws on the 3/8 of an inch side closest to the bow, the clicker falls off before he is ready. So, approximately three shots are pulled through the clicker before anchor is achieved for every five that are not. This is frustrating for the archer and has the potential of causing a disaster in the form of the archer trying to consciously control his draw length. This is not something we want him to do.

Now consider that your archer has a quite consistent draw length, gotten by focusing on body position and tenseness of back muscles, etc. and his draw length varies between two values only a quarter of an inch apart. If you set the clicker for the middle of this range and then one eight of an inch closer to the bow for safety, the clicker stays on the point almost every time (with only a little more draw necessary to finish the shot.

Because the archer only pulls through the clicker rarely, he gets to draw the bow as he has always done, which reinforces that subconscious movement. He gets to practice using the clicker every shot rather than five times out of eight.

Now I made up the “one inch” and “one quarter inch” draw length ranges, but the point is clear: the smaller the variation in draw length before the clicker is introduced, the less likely the archer will feel the clicker is an impediment and the more likely he will pick it up sooner.

The phrase “If a consistent draw is being achieved . . . ” is key but I do not expect anything like the consistency necessary by the third or even the thirteenth lesson necessarily. Let me put it this way, if you put a clicker on a student’s bow and they experience frustration, take it off. It is too soon. How to Introduce a Clicker I have heard how the clicker is introduced to Korean student-archers, I have read how a number of others have done it. And I have read the above “At this stage there is no need for anymore explanation than that and it is important to let the archer practise using the clicker without attention to how it is being used. Fine adjustment of clicker position and execution can only be learnt when they have experience of using it.” I find none of them sufficient. So, here is what I am recommending (these are the student instructions):

How to Shoot a Clicker
Start by stripping sight and stabilizer(s) off of your bow and step up to an empty target butt. Your coach will be directing you and this is how it will go. You will slide an arrow under the clicker and your coach will ask you to draw the arrow while you watch the clicker. Your goal is to get to a comfortable full draw position with the clicker still on the arrow but quite near its falling off point. Adjustments will probably have to be made.

After any adjustments to the clicker’s position, you will draw to full draw (watching the clicker) and then “finish the shot” by extending to the target with your bow arm and rotating your rear shoulder toward your back. When the clicker “clicks,” you will be doing one of several things (as directed by your coach):
• letting down
• shooting, or
• pausing for 1-3 seconds and shooting.
Your coach will tell you which to do each time. When you first start, at least every other shot will be a “let down.” Drawing through the clicker and letting down is also called a “clicker check” as you can check whether your back and shoulders feel they are in the right positions at that point. This is something you will want to do every time you warm up to shoot and then later interspersed with your warm-up shots.

What is being done is your subconscious mind is being trained to assess the status of your shot at the point in time that your clicker clicks and then either a) finishing the shot (if everything is good) or b) letting down (if anything is not good). Your subconscious mind can do this with lightning speed; your conscious mind would take several minutes to do the same thing! What you do not want is what is called a conditioned reflex (a reflex that is trained). A “click–release” trained reflex will cause you a great many poor shots. What you want is “click–check and if okay–release.”

This training can be tedious, so it is okay to take a break and shoot without the clicker for a while.

Also, if you are still growing, the position of the clicker will need to be adjusted often. It also needs to be adjusted often if your form isn’t fairly solid which is why we have waited until now to teach you the clicker.

The instructions for the coach are to train the student on the clicker for short sessions spread out over two or three lessons. Gradually the number of “let downs” is reduced and the number of “count to two (or one or three) before shooting” are reduced until the instruction becomes “shoot if the shot feels right.” On the second or third session the stabilizer, sight, and target can be reintroduced (target last). The student is to not use the clicker unless he is with the coach until the coach gives the “okay.” Then the student must shoot it continually thereafter. The objective is to integrate the clicker without distorting form which is already good. All the clicker can do is tell you whether the arrow has been pulled far enough through the clicker, it cannot tell you if it has been done properly, consequently it cannot help you learn good form; all it can do is make your draw length even more consistent.

Can Anything Be Concluded?
Both of the above techniques are still just opinions. Can both work? Is one better? Is one right and the other wrong?

I strongly feel that archery can be taught well in quite a few ways. I strongly encourage coaches and archers to share their methods . . . and their opinions . . . and their justifications of their opinions, because there may just be some superior ways to do things.

But while we are sharing, I feel that one’s opinions of other’s techniques need to be factual and not visceral, “. . . the standard concept of leaving its use until some point further into the learning process is rubbish.”

Good coaching is positive, good coaching focuses on the solution and not the problem. Good writing on coaching should do the same.


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2 responses to “All Coaches Have Opinions (Yes, We Do!)

  1. keith

    thank u bloggers for the idea that i have learned. i have a student and he is now in good form for just 2 months of practicing. he has a consistent draw and form without a clicker and i am now thinking to introduce the clicker to him but the competition will start in just 23 days can u advice me if it is a good choice to introduce him the clicker or not. and plz give me some tips to help him. thank u and godbless


    • This blog post includes the procedures for determining whether it is time to add the clicker and how to add the clicker (the procedure).

      My advice though that 23 days before an important competition is not enough time to master a device like the clicker. My advice is you wait until after that competition. Good luck and let me know how it works out.



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