Monthly Archives: February 2014

How Do I Shut Off Conscious Thinking During My Shot

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Okay, we all know archery is a mental game. We gather a lot of shooting info in our heads but when it comes time to score what do you do to shut it off and let the subconscious take over?
Tony Bergh, President, Archery Shooter Systems
(through the Archery Networking Group on

Nice question. I will think about it some more but let me give you an analogy. Sometimes it is important to focus your vision intently on some task. What you are focused on becomes a large part of your reality as everything else fades away. Sometimes it is necessary to not be focused visually. If someone says there is a deer out that direction, do your eyes flit from bush to tree to find them or would it be more successful to relax the focus of your eyes and wait for some motion to draw your attention. Mentally, being focused unconsciously is like that. You avoid “concentrating” which I claim is a conscious activity and “focus” unconsciously upon the task at hand.

It helps at first if you use a “trigger” to create this state. Golfers do this while putting. They tap their putter on the ground or do a forward press or … or … just before they begin to putt the ball. It can also be something like a phrase of key words to start the process (e.g. Here we go!).

The only way I know of to train yourself to not think consciously while shooting is committing wholeheartedly to “the Rule of Discipline” which says

If anything—mental or physical, anything at all—
intrudes from a prior step or from outside the shot,
you must let down and start over.

The application here is that in practice and competition if a conscious thought pops up while you are immersed in your shot, you must let down and start over. If you do this religiously, you will train yourself to not have conscious thinking during your shots. It needs to be where it belongs: between your shots.

I assume you know why this needs to be, no? If not: you can consciously think about only one thing at a time, while subconsciously you can think of many things at once. Being only able to think of one thing at a time is no problem through much of the shot sequence because you need to be focused on just what you are doing “now.” The problem lies when you get to “aiming.” When you are aiming you must split your attention so that part of it is on aiming and part of it is on finishing your shot (hopefully something associated with your back tension). If you are thinking consciously at that point your mind will flit back and forth between the target and your back (or its surrogate). Everyone who has tried to do this consciously has reported failure.


Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

What to Do About Overenthusiastic Archery Shoppers

QandA logoMy friend Tammy Besser sent in a clump of questions for the blog (Bless you, Tammy!) of which this is one: Any advice on how to stop or at least slow down archers who go out and but too much equipment and too expensive equipment, equipment that is beyond their skill level?

The normal situation is people are clueless and need all your help to figure out what they should be buying and when, but these situations do happen. I remember one young archer who, after his first lesson, got his grandparents to buy him a bow and arrows and they went out shooting from the trails of the local state park. (After hearing this story from Grandma and after getting up off of the ground from having fainted due to blood loss to my brain, I explained that it was illegal, dangerous, etc. They didn’t know.)

So, the question is what to do with people whose pocketbooks outweigh their judgment when it comes to archery gear. The answer is simple: you have to educate them. How to do just that isn’t simple; it is hard.

Suggestion #1 Prepare some equipment handouts
The important points to make are: (a) that a beginners’ archery form changes quite a bit and therefore it is almost impossible to recommend equipment until it settles down, (b) buying the wrong equipment can actual retard an archer’s progress to the point they get frustrated and even quit, and (c) getting “advanced” equipment can be a waste of money as many of the features of the advanced equipment can only be taken advantage by expert archers.

I can back all of these up with stories, but if you can or can’t also offer solid advice. Maybe the best advice is that archers need equipment that is matched to their skill: beginners need beginner-level equipment; intermediate archers need intermediate-level equipment; advanced/elite archers need advanced/elite equipment. Cost is an indicator of these stages, but it is not the only one, so make specific suggestions in your handouts.

Suggestion #2 If you do group instruction, schedule classes where the topic is equipment.
Do bow and arrow fittings. (I include a handout on where and how to shop for archery gear based upon local providers. Help students who have their own equipment to realize what they can do to tailor that equipment to improve their shooting. Do equipment checks. (I had a younger student who has been struggling with left-right arrow patterns. So, I took her plunger off of her recurve bow to find out that three of the four set screws that held the settings of the plunger were missing, meaning her centershot and side pressure were changing with every shot!) Beginning archers do not know how to check their own equipment, nor how to document it. You might want to pass out bow/arrow documentation forms at those meetings. (I posted one at if you want an example of such a thing.

Suggestion #3 If there is a local archery shop in town (Hallelujah!) create a relationship with them.
Go there, introduce yourself. Ask about what equipment and services they offer that your archers might need. If they are cooperative, refer students to that shop. (I used to have handouts to pass out including the shop’s name, contact information, directions on how to get their, hours of operation, and if there was a specialist in beginner’s equipment who to ask for.) Work with them over time to serve your students better. It will be good for their business, your business, and your archers.

And, of course, whatever they buy they will need help with setting it up and adapting it to them. This is especially true for all y’all who don’t have a good archery shop nearby.


Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

Musing About Strings

QandA logoI have a student I am teaching to make bowstrings (recurve, not compound) and he has a great many questions, quite a few of which I cannot answer. Those questions, though, got me speculating about a number of things, specifically nock fit and string diameters, in that arena. I would love somebody more knowledgeable about these things to comment on this!

One of the questions involved a discussion of the numbers of strands used to make a bowstring and hence its diameter. Please recognize that I am speculating more than quite a bit here.

Back in the old days (when string materials were natural and more easily broken, the pattern became: heavier drawing bows required thicker strings. the string materials: silk, linen, hemp, etc. were not particularly strong and so strings broke fairly easily. (I remember one war bow researcher stating that a string on one of those heavy bows might last six shots!) Thicker strings were made of more strands. Arrow nocks were generally just a slot cut in the back of the arrow (self nocks) and the fit wasn’t particularly a concern as the arrow was pinched between the fingers.

Easton Super Nock

Easton Super Nock

When manufactured nocks came into being, they were made in four different throat sizes to allow for this. Heavier bows required larger arrows (to get more stiffness, wooden arrows were just made thicker), and larger arrows required bigger nocks (think glue-on nocks at this time) and the larger nocks had bigger nock grooves because the bows had thicker strings. Smaller shafts used smaller nocks which had smaller grooves because those bows had smaller strings (in diameter/numbers of strands).

Fast forward to modern bowstring materials (Fastflight and beyond). These materials are much stronger and more resistant to wear/abrasion and breakage than the old materials but they were introduced into a system that was already created for the older materials. If you look at the breaking strengths, it only takes a few (roughly four) strands to carry the load for any recurve bow. The additional strands tend to be for nock fit. You have an example of this in aluminum arrows. Easton sells its line leader X7s with inserts for Super Nocks (large groove) if 20/64˝ diameter or larger and G Nocks for the smaller shafts (both large and small grooved G Nocks have smaller grooves than the one in a Super Nock). The assumption is still that the larger arrows are stiffer, going to be used on a heavier bow, with a larger diameter string.

I think modern materials have provided us with all kinds of options we aren’t taking advantage of. We can use strings of fewer strands on heavier bows, which would make them (marginally) faster. Some barebow archers use a triple center serving in lieu of using a tab (or a thicker one). We can use heavier strings on lighter bows but there are few advantages to this. We can put smaller nocks on bigger arrows. (Before Easton started making G Nock inserts for their larger arrows, I took ACC 3-71 nock inserts and epoxied them into Super Nock bushings to create the equivalent (so I wouldn’t have to change the bowstrings I was using to use those arrows with Super Nocks).

I think this is one of those examples of a system created under vastly different circumstances but which is maintained now to create some continuity with the past. I suspect that the number of strands recommendations by the various string material vendors is based more on nock fit than it is on having a strong enough string. Maybe secondary to nock fit is a thicker string distributes the pressure better on the draw fingers and therefore makes shooting more comfortable. I’d even place that in front of string strength as a guide to how many strands are needed to make up a string.

Easton G Nocks

Easton G Nocks

Another example of these phenomena is aluminum arrow sixes, e.g. 2114, in which the first two digits is the size of the shaft in 64ths of an inch. Sixty-fourths was chosen because the common wood arrow diameters were: 1/4˝, 3/8˝, 5/16˝, 11/32˝, etc. All of these are translatable into 64ths (being 16, 24, 20, and 22 sixty-fourths respectively). The benefit of any such connect (between aluminum and wood shafts) has dubious value in my mind, other than making aluminums more acceptable to those who were used to the sizes of wood shafts.

The situation regarding nocks and strings is that I think you can use any nock on any string for any reason and still be safe. I know Larry Wise preferred small groove G nocks over large grooved ones as they presently less of a target for another arrow’s point and a glance-off costing him points. Any reason can be good, the possibilities are very large, so feel free to experiment.

Toute réponse?


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Another Hot Off the Press Announcement!

We have formally launched the Watching Arrows Fly Coaching Library with the release of Larry Wise’s new archery coaching book Larry Wise on Coaching Archery. This book is now available on and I just put the finishing touches on a Kindle version for those of you who prefer that (plus it is only $9.95 — and for some strange reason the two editions are listed separately, so you have to search for the Kindle edicition separately).

If you don’t know Larry Wise, he is one of the premier compound coaches in the world. Currently he is helping the USA Archery folks write up the National Training System for compound archers. His new book is full of advice for compound and bowhunting coaches and was written also for those coaching themselves. This book fills a very large hole in the coaching literature as Larry address not only what to teach but how to teach it.

LWonCA Cover v4 (large)


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