I follow a number of golf coaches on the Internet. I haven’t played golf in six or seven years so this may seem strange to you but there is a reason: there aren’t any archery coaches to “follow” on the Internet. This is a primary reason why I created this blog, so there would be. All ego issues aside, this is why I have done much of what I have done. I asked many, many coaches, coaches more experienced and better than me to write books about coaching archery. I never heard the word “no” so many times in my life. I tried to talk our “Precision Archery” publisher (Human Kinetics) into such a book. They said the market was too small. So Claudia and I created our own publishing company (Watching Arrows Fly) and voila! This is not one of those “if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself” things, more of “if you want it done at all, we had to do ourselves.”
“Not one part of your body will go beyond where your mind is focused.”
One of my generous golf coaches, Darrel Klassen, provided a lesson today that had him saying: “Not one part of your body will go beyond where your mind is focused.” Now he was talking about swinging a golf club effectively. His point was that many amateurs are so focused on the golf ball that once club meets the ball they relax and thereby lose a great deal of power. Golfers need to swing through the ball as if their intention was to hit a point well past it, he says. I learned this lesson as a boxer. A boxer cannot aim to deliver a blow at another boxer’s body. The result will be a powder puff strike. Boxers have to aim their blows at the other side of the boxer’s body. (Sorry about the graphic images to those of you who are sensitive to them; the story is true. My Dad wanted me to be more of a “man” and so signed me up for boxing lessons.)
So, how does this relate to archery? Oh, it relates, especially to compound archers but really to all archers. Have you heard the term “a soft shot” or been told you needed to “finish your shot?” In an archery shot, our goal is an arrow sticking out of the highest scoring area of the target, but our participation with the arrow ends with the loosing of the string. This causes a great many archers to lose focus on their bodies at the release and their muscles relax. (The focus on the arrow rather than the bow, just like a focus on the golf ball rather than a point past it.) And, as I have said many times before, we are always fighting Bell Curves. The point in time when we relax our muscles … sometimes we are a little late (no harm) and sometimes we are a little early (soft shot). So archers need to be focused on achieving a strong shot and the way to do that is to set the goal of getting to a strong followthrough position. In order to have that happen we have to maintain our bow arms “up” and our back tension (full on). Many say this has to continue until the arrow hits the target, but I don’t like that signal because that means the time varies with the time of flight of the arrow. My end point for the shot is described by the admonition: “the shot’s not over until the bow takes a bow (the other bow).” So, when the bow finishes its “bow” the shot can be stopped. This should be the same amount of time post loose in every shot, lending a greater sense of regularity to your shots.
My point here is that there is a great deal to learn from coaches of other sports. I generally look to individual sports rather then team sports as team sport coaches are often on subjects irrelevant to archers, things like teamwork and “plays.” I like golf because the mental game of golf is quite well developed and very similar to that of archery (not as well developed). Take a look at some of the golf video lessons available for free on the Internet. I have found some of them so valuable, I have bought the coach’s training package. You may, too. In a couple of cases I have gotten so many valuable free lessons from coaches, I bought their training packages out of simple gratitude.