I carry on email conversations about archery all of the time: with archers, coaches, students, authors, manufacturers, parents, you name it. Recently a friend reported that he was hearing stuff on the Archery Talk blog site that he wanted my impressions on. For one he heard that: “Unless a coach is actively participating and competing, they aren’t the coach you want to use. They’re out of date and not current as to how the game is being played and what it takes to compete on a higher level.” Someone else expanded on that saying that coaches like Larry Wise were “teaching ‘old stuff’ that doesn’t work anymore because the game has changed so much since he was a top shooter,” and Terry Wunderle, who was “too old to know what is really going on and things are vastly different in the game than when he was a good shooter.”
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Ah, the wisdom of youth. I was wise once, but I got older.
I would like to ask these geniuses:
1. If they have ever worked with those gentlemen and how is it that they know what they teach?
2. How do they know what is being taught “now” as opposed to “then” (meaning where are they getting their “up to date” and “out of date” info)?
3. I would like to ask them to describe one thing the “old timers” teach that is incorrect or not “up to date,” and
4. Exactly what has changed about “the game” that it is different now than it was 20 years ago?
I will tell you the one thing that has changed over the last 20 years—the equipment. It has gotten better in many ways and, for target archery, worse in a few. The largest change in archery equipment has come in the materials used, lightweight carbon fiber arrows being the most significant innovation.
But what part of shooting a bow has changed since 1994? Since I have been shooting that long I can tell you. Nothing. It is amazing to me and many other “old dogs” in archery that so many “current” compound archers have been raving about the latest discoveries: creep tuning, hinge (triggerless) releases, plastic launcher blade rests, raising the grip angle to make the bowhand more relaxed, rotating finger holes in release aids, torque tuning, and hooded peep sights … all of which were available 30 if not 40 years ago. And “back tension,” ah back tension, all the rage for the last decade. The first treatment on back tension was written by Arabs just after Europeans “discovered” the New World, about the year 1500 or so.
And regarding the massively ignorant “Unless a coach is actively participating and competing, they aren’t the coach you want to use,” the most sure way for a top archer to lose his/her edge is to seriously take on archery students. This is a major “no-no” and everybody who has tried to do both—coach and compete seriously—disabused themselves of the notion after a short experiment. And, where are these competing coaches supposed to come from, the second and third tier archers who really can’t win consistently?
The problem with coaching and competing seriously is that coaching takes away too much training time and . . . and a coach’s viewpoint is from the outside in while the athlete’s is from the inside out. Coaches are constantly considering the “whys” of archery and competitors shouldn’t care. Coaches spend a great deal of time thinking about archery (from the outside in) and asking questions (What real benefit is there from…?) that have no value for competing archers. So, all of the good coaches are past their competitive peaks and no longer competing “seriously.”
There is a simple reason why I have stopped following any of the “threads” on Archery Talk—too many idiots, too many idiots asking for advice, and too many idiots giving it.. Every other sport on the planet seeks out older, more experienced coaches. (Pete Carroll of the Seattle Seahawks and Nick Saban of the University of Alabama are both in their 60s; do you hear anyone wanting to kick them out because they are too old and out of touch?) The younger ones are almost always those who were in position to learn the sport from the inside and outside (baseball catchers, for example) or don’t really do all that well (e.g. Lane Kiffen). And in archery . . . well specifically compound archers, the ones most likely to have opinions on Archery Talk, are unlikely to have ever consulted a coach. Yet, they have “opinions” worth disseminating. Amazing!