Monthly Archives: January 2014

Hot Off the Press!

ACHT Cover v2I promised (threatened?) I was writing a “how to” book for archery coaches. Well, Archery Coaching How To’s is out and available on Amazon.com! In this book I tried to describe what I consider to be teaching techniques tf contents:

 

Table of Contents

Introduction
General Caveats

How To’s
Equipment

  • How to . . . Introduce Clickers
    ·   How to . . . Manage Draw Weight
    ·   How to . . . Teach Release Aids
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Slings
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Stabilizers
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Bow Sights
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Finger Tabs
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Peep Sights
    ·   How to . . . Introduce New Arrows

How To’s
Form and Execution

  • How to . . . Teach the Use of Back Tension
    ·   How to . . . Teach Shooting Off of the Point
    ·   How to . . . Teach Stringwalking
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Anchors
    ·   How to . . . Teach Different String Grips
    ·   How to . . . Teach a Finger Release
    ·   How to . . . Develop A Strong Bow Arm
    ·   How to . . . Create A Good Followthrough
    ·   How to . . . Create A Surprise Release (Compound)
    ·   How to . . . Adapt to New Bows

How To’s
New Experiences

  • How to . . . Introduce Field Archery
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Target Archery
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Competition
    Sidebar: Who Competes? Against Whom or What?

Appendices
Having a Written Coaching Philosophy
Coaching Rationales

If you read it, please post a review on Amazon.com to help others with their buying decisions. Thanks.

 

 

 

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Should I Emulate/Recommend Elite Technique?

Often what we read about how to shoot arrows from bows are descriptions of elite technique. Unfortunately these authors rarely include “this is what you need to do to build this technique.”

Some coaches, on one hand, recommend that you emulate what elite athletes do until you become one. This “fake it until you make it” approach might work but I doubt it. As an absurd example, consider a young high jumper who puts up a bar at seven feet and then tries repeatedly to jump over it. Such an approach is quite unlikely to help anyone. Consider young athletes in any other sport, say baseball or football. Would you recommend that they try to do things like the pros do? Probably not. The reasons are manifold. First, they probably do not understand the game well enough to even comprehend what you were asking them to do. Second, it is unlikely that they have developed the requisite muscle strength to do those things. And, third, it is unlikely that they will have developed enough skill and coordination to do those things. (There’s more.) So, what do youth coaches in those sports recommend? They emphasize “the fundamentals.” In other words, you teach the basics to build a foundation upon which those more refined skills might take root, later. At the same time they teach and encourage conditioning and strength development.

This, I believe, is true for youths and also for adult beginners, who might have more fully developed musculatures in general, but probably not their “archery muscles” so much.

It is my position that there are some things elite archers do that you and your athletes should not do. I urge my students to adopt good basic form to learn how to execute good shots with good alignment. I teach relaxation. I teach the shot cycle. I teach the mental game. I teach equipment maintenance and tuning. There is much to learn before the elements of elite technique come into play.

If you need another analogy consider a beginning archer: if you were to offer him or her a full professional-level bow and arrow setup, would it improve or hurt their development? Would their scores skyrocket or would they struggle to use “touchy” or heavy draw weight elite equipment?

If, and when, my students decide they want to become very, very good, then I will recommend some of the things the elites do, realizing that many of those are built upon a well-built basic form and upon excellent physical conditioning.

I call upon authors of works describing shooting techniques to (a) clearly identify to whom they address their comments and (b) build foundations to learn those techniques including all necessary preliminary stages and bridges between them. This has not been the case so far, but I think it would advance our sport a great deal, especially if a consensus can be achieved among coaches regarding these things.

 

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Q&A Do You Want a Heavy Bow or a Light One?

QandA logoI got this question from one of my University of Chicago archers: “I have often heard a heated debate over whether one should shoot a heavy bow vs. a light one. Today, I was reminded of that debate today when I was using my somewhat heavy compound bow. Camp A says that people should always use lighter bows, because with lighter bows, it’s easier to be stable due to the lack of significant strain on the muscles used to hold up the bow. Camp B says that people should always use heavier bows, because with heavier bows, it stabilizes your shot since more weight equals more inertia. Are both sides correct, and is it just personal preference?” Vincent Chen

The answer to the question has to do with time. With a recurve bow or longbow, you experience peak draw force at full draw, which means whatever you are going to do at full draw, you want to be quick about it. Because of the letoff of a compound bow, you experience a great deal less draw force at full draw (considerably less than half of the maximum or “peak” draw weight), so you have quite a bit more time available.

Dennis T near Full Draw

If you have to make positional changes in the bow at full draw, to get your sight’s aperture or arrow point on your point of aim, and you have little time, you want the bow to have less mass (= less inertia, meaning it is easier to move), so it can be moved while still having time to settle down from that movement. ( I use the metaphor of cartoon characters that run and then stop abruptly, vibrating to a stop, which isn’t quite correct, but it does take a little time after a gross movement for “stillness” to occur, plus you need to assure yourself that stillness has been achieved and you can only do that through observation over time.) If you have more time at full draw, you can afford the extra mass (which would slow such repositionings down). That extra mass really comes into play when the arrow is loosed in that the bow is barely being held when the string is loosed, so how much it moves is dependent upon inertia and the forces acting on the bow. Since the bow acts on the arrow and vice-versa, the only big other player is gravity.

Make sense? Olympic Recurve archers want lighter bows, compound archers want heavier bows.

This Italian barebow riser is massive and that's before the weights that fit into the two round holes are installed!

This Italian barebow riser is massive and that’s before the weights that fit into the two round holes are installed!

Now, recurve barebow archers, they are different. Since they are forbidden to take small amounts of mass and spread them out in space via stabilizers, like Olympic Recurve archers, they are forced to maximize what they have, which is the bow’s mass. Recurve bows made specifically for barebow tend to be quite heavy indeed as there is no other stabilization allowed. This then requires some extra time at full draw when shooting, unavoidably so. For example, I bought the riser of a bow shot by a world championship bronze medalist barebow archer. He had the grip taken off and then made into a mold to cast a replacement . . . in brass. I didn’t measure the weight difference between a large plastic grip piece and one of the same shape in brass but it was more than a pound. It made the bow heavier yet didn’t stick out far enough to fall prey to the “no stabilizer” rules.

A secondary question is whether the archers have enough strength in their deltoid muscle (on their upper bow arm) to hold up that much weight. Most beginning archers do not, especially youths and beginners with little upper body development, so I recommend that these folks “keep it light.” Over time those muscles will get stronger and adding weight to must bows then is relatively easy.

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Q&A Does Your Peep Sight Twist on You?

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I got this question from Oleg on the blog: “I started my journey with archery using a compound bow and as you mentioned compounds have peep sights so it is easier. However, due to my technique or some fault of the bow sometimes the string twists a little and peep sight turns. This can be very annoying.

Compound bows are more mechanical than other bows, so if you are going to shoot a compound, you have to learn how to fiddle with them. No doubt about that. And this is one of those things that is quite frustrating to the archer, so it has to be dealt with. If you have a bow press, it can be relatively easy to remove the peep and reinstall it in the place you need. If you do not have a bow press I included a procedure below to make adjustments without one. Both of these segments are excerpts from my book “Archery Coaching How To’s.”

Peep Tied InPotential Pitfalls (Peep Sight)
1.  The Peep Rotates When the Bow is Drawn (Release Aid)
This is typically due to a rotating bowstring. When constructed, the bowstring, had twists built into it. But if the string stretches, the string also rotates, taking the peep out of line. Some strings are sold already stretched to avoid this problem. Another is to orient the peep so that when the rotation occurs, the peep ends up in the right place.

2  The Peep Rotates When the Bow is Drawn (Finger Release)
In addition to the problems described in #1 (above), finger shooters can also cause the string to rotate as their fingers curl or uncurl around the string as the bow is drawn. The solution is to orient the peep so that when the rotation occurs, the peep ends up in the right place.

Emergency Peep Fixes
Sometimes during competition, a string stretches and the peep no longer lines up. To fix the problem, simply slide the nock locators away from the peep. Figure out how the peep has to rotate to get it to work and then take a strand from one side of the peep and swing it over to the other side accordingly:
·  If you take a strand from the right side and take it around the front of the peep it will point the peep more to the left.
·  If you take a strand from the right side and take it around the back of the peep it will point the peep more to the right.
If you already have too many strands on the left and not enough on the right:
·  If you take a strand from the left side and take it around the front of the peep it will point the peep more to the right.
·  If you take a strand from the left side and take it around the back of the peep it will point the peep more to the left.
When you are done slide the locators back up against the peep.
Note The reason there are two processes given to make a move to both left or right is so you can keep the number of strands on each side of the peep the same.

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Q&A How does arrow length affect the point on distance? Will a longer arrow increase the point on?

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I got this question from “Ken” on the blog.

First Some Background
The “point-on-target distance” or “point on” for a barebow setup is an indicator of the power or “cast” of the bow-arrow combination. Powerful bows have longer point ons than weaker ones and heavier arrows result in closer point ons than lighter ones. Beware! There are a whole host of other factors that are involved. I give you the example of a compound archer who cranked his draw weight down by one whole turn on each limb and got an increase in point on! The reason was that the adjustment in draw weight, while making a less powerful bow, created a better spine match with the arrow, resulting in better energy transfer from bow to arrow (a greater % of the energy stored in the bow ended up in the arrow), offsetting the lower draw weight to create more cast and a farther point on.

So, point-on-target distance is determined by a great many factors: the question is about the effect of arrow length. Any such discussion has to occur assuming all of the other factors stay roughly the same, otherwise we will end up talking about those effects and not just the length of the arrows, so point weight, fletching, spine match with bow, all must be ceteris paribus. (How’s that for classy language? So, you don’t have to look it up, it means “all other things being equal or the same.”)

So, Now the Question
How does arrow length affect the point on distance? Will a longer arrow increase the point on?

Actually the reverse is true; a longer arrow will decrease point on. Here’s the reasoning: since the arrow is slanting upward (arrow nock is near the anchor point which is below the eye line, arrow point is on the eye line, (also called the line of sight), the longer the arrow, the lower one must hold the bow to get the arrow point onto the sight line (the eye is looking at the point of aim). Think about being at full draw with a normal arrow, lined up with a point of aim (POA), and then magically the arrow grows three inches. Since the arrow is slanted upward, the point goes outward from the bow and upward above the line of sight (since the behavior of the arrow is being held constant so it will fly in the same arc as the shorter one, you must lower the bow to bring the point down onto the line of sight. If the bow is held at a lower angle, the distance of trravel is reduced.

So, for an indoor setup, in which most bows have too much cast, one is left with either a POA on the floor or a large crawl if stringwalking. Many archers switch to a much longer, much stiffer arrow (about one spine group stiffer per extra inch of arrow). This gives a shootable arrow (with roughly the same dynamic spine as the shorter one) with a much higher POA (hopefully on the target or very near it) or smaller crawl. Some are so adept at this that they can create a point on equal to the target distance.

Outdoors the situation is the reverse; there is no such thing as “too much cast/bow power.” Since the targets mostly are farther away, you want a shorter arrow, correctly spined, and as light as possible to give a POA down near the target and not up in the trees.

The Short Answer
So, longer arrow, closer point on; shorter arrow, farther point on.

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How to . . . Teach Stringwalking

We teach aiming before we teach sighting so once beginning archers can group their shots we teach them the “point-of-aim” system as a first aiming system. If they do not want to move on to a physical bow sight, we next teach them stringwalking. To help you help you help them learn this, we provide an excerpt from the book “Archery Coaching How To’s.”

General Background Information
Stringwalking was invented less than a century ago, but since archery’s history hasn’t been codified, that is debatable. Basically stringwalking is gripping the string below the arrow, the farther below the arrow the string is gripped, the less far the arrow will fly (in effect the bow is being tilted down). Target distances can be mapped onto the bowstring quite exactly. Since only a small range of distances is covered by these “crawls” down the string, various anchors are used for ranges of distances. Long distances require low anchors while short distances require high anchors. Some archers also switch between using the arrow point to aim with to using other parts of the bow (typically the sight window shelf).

Crawl MontageThe main advantage of stringwalking over other versions of shooting off of the point is that the same sight picture is used for most shots.

Since no shooting rules allow marks to be put upon bow string, bow, or tab, most archers use either the ordinary marks available on some tabs, for example a line of stitches (see photos), or use a center serving material like monofilament serving that will allow them to count down “wraps” of serving. This is typically done by running one’s thumbnail down from the nock locator, counting each click or bump along the way. Each distance that corresponds to a shooting distance is called a “crawl.” Some organizations allow these to be written down, others require them to be memorized. Beginners are urged to take notes so as to minimize mistakes. If their crawls need to be memorized, they can do that later.

Stringwalking is usually only seen in field archery because target archery involves only a few quite long distances (the exception being indoors target archery). Field archery involves shots at many different distances, quite a few of which are at shorter distances.

How Do I Know My Athlete Is Ready Learn Stringwalking?
This is an option for any student wanting to shoot barebow. Stringwalking is only allowed in a few shooting styles so check to see if your student’s “style” is allowed in the competitions they are interested in. The only preliminary skill needed is the ability to shoot off of the point

How to Get Started (Stringwalking)
Basic Setup If the archer knows his “point on target” distance (in the vernacular “point on”) that is the best place to start. Have her warm up until she is grouping nicely. Then take five paces closer to the target and have her shoot using the same crawl (zero because of the three-fingers under string grip). The arrow should hit high. Then ask her to stick the tip of her draw hand thumbnail into the string about a quarter inch down from where the tab is touching the arrow and then slide her tab down until the upper edge of the tab is lined up with the point her thumbnail is touching the string. Then the bow is drawn and the shot taken with the same point of aim. The arrow should hit lower.

If the arrow didn’t hit in target center, if it needs to hit lower a larger crawl is in order; if higher, a smaller crawl. Once a crawl that works is found, the distance and a description of the crawl are written in the student’s notebook. The crawl is described either as a number of wraps of center serving or number of stitches (and fractions thereof) on the archer’s tab.

This process is repeated until a number of crawls are discovered.

Advanced Setup Once a number of crawls are determined work with your archer so they can see that the crawls are linear, for example if one stitch crawl equates to four yards closer than the archer’s point on, a two-stitch crawl will be eight yards, a three stitch crawl 12 yards, etc. Since the crawls are linear, the archer can interpolated between them, for example, in the previous example a one-stitch crawl was 4 yards inside of the archers point on and a two stitch crawl was 8 yards inside her point on, a one and a half stitch crawl (halfway between the one stitch and two-stitch crawls) should be 6 yards inside of their point on.

Crawls are limited to about two to three inches down the string as drawing the string this way detunes the bow.

Going Farther Go back to your archer’s point on distance, this time walk back five paces and shoot the same crawl (zero). This time the arrow will hit low. It should be obvious that crawling will not solve this problem as a crawl will cause the arrow to hit the target even lower. One can combine other aspects of shooting off the point by choosing to “aim off” here. If the arrow landed at 6 o’clock in the blue, your archer could aim at 12 o’clock in the blue to compensate, but soon your archer would be off of the target so a better solution is needed.

What the archer needs is a lower anchor. Most string walkers get by with a high anchor (index finger in the corner of the mouth) and a low anchor (Olympic-style anchor) but some use other variants (middle finger in the corner of the mouth for very short shots, etc.). Each anchor has it’s own “point on” target distance and a set of crawls for distances down from that distance.

Training (Stringwalking)
Initial Stages New anchors have to be trained in. All are best addressed blank bale. Coaches need to give feedback so a good start can be had.

Be aware that clickers can be used to train with, even though they are often not allowed in competition or are just impractical (when stringwalking the distance the arrow is drawn varies with the crawl). New anchors are best trained in with a zero crawl.

Later Stages After some practice with a new anchor has occurred, the archer’s point on target distance with this anchor has to be found, along with all of the crawls inside that “point on.” Notes are taken so each set of crawls and their distances can be compared.

Fine Points When a complete set of crawls (five or so, from which the others can be figured) for both anchors is available, check to see if the two sets of distances overlap. If they do, your archer has all distances covered from her low anchor point on to her high anchor biggest crawl. If there is a small gap between the two sets of distances, then the aiming off technique discuss prior using the high anchor no crawl setup may fill that gap.

Advanced Training (Stringwalking)
Archers are oriented to target center but at farther distances with smaller aiming rings, the arrow point can cover the entire aiming dot. Consequently string walkers have adopted a slightly different target picture. They line up the top of the arrow point with the bottom of the central aiming ring creating a kind of “figure eight.” This creates a very fine position for aiming. Additional rings below the center can also be used as alignment points as can rings above the center but, since the curved lines go the same way, it is harder to get an exact positioning of the arrow point.

An Alternative to the Low Anchor Some archers struggle with the low anchor or the low anchor doesn’t give enough distance. In this case an option is to “shoot off of the shelf.” This involves positioning the target’s central scoring ring so that it touches the outside of the arrow and the top of the bow’s arrow shelf. This creates a great deal more distance as it raises the bow a great deal, but it also aims the arrow off to the right of the target (the target center used to be right on top of the arrow now it is to the left). This is compensated for by either aiming off or moving the string in the archer’s string picture quite a bit to the right (how much so must be determined by experiment). See the sidebar “String Picture and Windage.”

All variations must be trained in with repetition.

Potential Pitfalls (Stringwalking)
1.   Available Crawls Do Not Cover Competitive Distances
Sometimes archers can’t seem to cover all of the distances they need to shoot with the anchors and crawls they can master. Consequently different equipment parameters are needed. Typically these involve more draw weight (which gives higher arrows speeds and more “cast” or distance) and/or lighter arrows (which does the same).

Sidebar – String Picture and Windage
Most beginning archers are unaware that their bow string can be seen at full draw through their aiming eye. Careful positioning of the image of the bow string against the background of the shot can add consistency to an archer’s shot. (Compound archers using a peep sight do not have to bother with this as they can look through a peep hole straight through the string.)

To help your archers explore their “string pictures” and the effects of “string alignment,” have them play with it using a very light drawing bow at very short distances. Some archers line up the string with their arrow point (not a good idea if you are using the point to aim with). Others use the inside edge of the riser, or the outside edge, etc. What someone uses depends on the shape of their face and the kind of anchor they employ. A different string alignment may be needed for each anchor. When “shooting of the shelf” a right-handed archer may have to move his string in his sight picture a couple of inches to the right.

 

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Q&A How to Adjust Draw Weight (Olympic Recurve)

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I got the following question from “nelson” through the blog. “My question is, I’m planning on going up in poundage next month, how much is safe to go up to? I’m thinking of going to 32# or 34#. Unfortunately, my pro-shop has a limited selection of limbs I can try without actually ordering them and the competitors at my range are all shooting high poundages (38# and up). I have tried stock 30# limbs at the club and it seemed very close to my 28# bow. What are your thoughts?”

This is not an uncomplicated question. Since your draw length wasn’t included, I don’t know how much you have “in hand,” so I will assume the measured draw weights on your limbs is close to their labeled strengths. You also didn’t state your age or fitness level so I will assume you are “youngish” and reasonably fit for archery. (Elite archers are often incredibly fit for archery and pull quite high draw weights. Brady Ellison stated on his blog he was shooting 52# in hand, but I don’t recommend you emulate an elite archer until you are one.)

And I have to ask another question: do you have a goal in sight for your draw weight? If you only plan on shooting indoors, you have enough now. If you want to shoot outdoors at 70m, then more is probably needed to “make distance.”

The general principles are that you need enough draw weight so that your form is near what it is when you draw with the arrow horizontal. If you must tilt up a great deal, in makes your form more inconsistent, never a good thing. Also, if your sight is as low as you can make it and you can’t place your aperture on target center to have it go there, then you need more cast/arrow speed and the two most common places to get it are: lighter arrows and heavier draws.

“I don’t recommend you emulate an elite archer until you are one.”

I must assume some more things: one, that your arrows are reasonably light (comparable to Easton ACEs) and that you want to shoot long distances. (What your mates shoot in club is fairly irrelevant because so much depends upon your form and execution. Two, I assume you do not own top-of-the-line equipment (which is good, you should not). One of the benefits of top flight bows is that their limbs tend to be superior in the two things that matter: restoring force and stability, that is you want the limbs to act quickly and move in repeatable, fairly straight patterns, but the differences between those and less expensive limbs will only show up at the elite level.

A draw weight in the high thirties and low 40’s of pounds is typical of intermediate archers exploring competition, so the question is, how to get from 28# limbs to #38-40 pound limbs. Well if you are made of money, you could just buy top-of-the-line limbs for every change you want to make but that is neither necessary nor advisable as there is a cost (a high one) without a corresponding benefit. Here is the general plan: if your bow has ILF limb pockets, you move up 4# at a time, borrowing limbs if you can, purchasing them if you must. You can just buy the least expensive ILF limbs you can find of the correct length and weight; they will be fine. Any of the correct length and draw weight you can borrow will be fine. (You will only need them for a couple of weeks at most.)

To make a draw weight change, plan on taking several weeks to make it. Assuming your limbs are bottomed out at 28#, swap them for 32# limbs. (I recommend that you always keep a pair of light drawing limbs around for training, but if you have very little money you could sell the old ones.) The 32# limbs should be backed off as much as the riser will allow (not necessarily as much as the bow manufacturer claims, but as much as is possible) which is about 10% of the rating of the limbs, in this case about 3#. So you would have, in effect, 29# limbs. Shoot these limbs for two to three sessions until they feel comfortable, then crank them up another 1-2# (Never more than 2# at a time!) and shoot them for two or three more sessions until you again feel comfortable, and then repeat until these limbs are bottomed out and you are shooting them comfortably. Since 5# of draw is the equivalent of a spine group difference in arrow size, you do not want to re-sight in, tune, and maybe buy new arrows if you really want to go higher in draw weight (which would require even stiffer arrows, etc.).

“Never more than 2# at a time!”

So, try 36# limbs next, using the same step-by-step procedure. I suspect you may want to stop at 40# limbs as that will give you a range of 36-40# of draw to refine your form, etc. You will need new arrows unless your original arrows were way too long and way too stiff (which is what I recommend to newbies in your situation, because you can then cut them to the correct stiffness).

So, new arrows or not, the bow needs to be tuned and sighted in and then you need to take it out for a spin to see how you do. If you find yourself struggling with the draw weight, you probably rushed things and you must go back down in draw weight. The worse thing you can do is overbow yourself as it will destroy your form.

If the draw weight is good for all you want to do, then look into higher quality limbs (and/or arrows) to invest in. You will probably pick up a little performance with better limbs, even at the same draw weight rating, but only just a little, don’t expect miracles. And if any of my assumptions aren’t right, well, as they say “results may vary.”

Let me know how it goes.

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