Okay, coaches, what happens when an archer you are coaching gets “serious” and wants your help? Well, this can end up being the equivalent of “going steady” so let’s discuss this.
What Does “Getting Serious” Mean?
Our favorite mental coaches, Troy and Lanny Bassham, say there are three levels of training:
1. Training to Learn
2. Training to Compete, and
3. Training to Win
The vast majority of archers are in Category 1, no matter what they say.
Training to Learn All beginners are in this stage and are learning how to shoot arrows from their bows. We often say they are “finding their shot.” These students are characterized as ones learning how to shoot correctly or well. They have their own equipment but haven’t fitted it well or tuned it enough for consistent accuracy. They may attend competitions and be “competitors” thereby but are primarily focused on learning their own shot as part of the process. They are just getting started on the mental game (with maybe Self-talk and Process Goals). At this stage, shooting large numbers of arrow is not recommended.
Training to Compete Archers who are training to compete have a number of things going for them: (a) they have their own equipment, (b) their equipment is fitted to them and tuned (somewhat), (c) they have “their shot” down and are merely tweaking fine points. At this stage, shooting large numbers of arrow is recommended.
In addition these archers are learning competition rules, strategies, how to set their bow up for indoors and out, they are absorbing the mental game and applying it to competition. They shoot practice rounds from time to time and compare those scores with their competition scores. They start a journal for archery.
Training to Win Archers in this category have all of the attributes above in Training to Compete but have already shot quite large volumes of arrows and continue to do so. We say they “own their shot” even though minor tweaks and adjustments are being made (as they always are being made). Archers focused on learning to be a consistent winner may have a physical fitness plan involving strength training and cardiovascular exercise. They may have examined their diets and optimized what they eat to support competing. They have a full-fledged mental program or are developing and implementing one.
They have plans for practicing and plans for traveling and competing at tournaments and have a calendar of event to keep these in mind. They train 5-6 days a week and wish they could train more. They have a performance log that includes all of their notes and details and plans, etc.
Archers can “get serious” in any one of these categories. Signs they are is that they want more time to shoot, they want more lessons and more coaching, they want more and better equipment, but so do all other archers so that is not much of a sign.
This is a tougher question. It depends a lot on the student and the family. First, we don’t think very young archers should specialize in any sport to the exclusion of others. You’ve probably seen all kinds of movies in which a young person commits him- or herself to some athletic goal and through obsessive spunk and desire wins through. What these inspiring movies don’t show you are the cases in which the young person wants something so badly, obsesses over it and fails miserably. Those stories don’t make such great movies.
But you have heard stories, about driven sport parents and crushed kids, etc. We prefer well-balanced kids. If they want to fully commit to the sport, there will be plenty of time when they are 15 or 16. They don’t need to do nothing but archery from the age of eleven.
Do They Want To? Many parents love what the sport of archery does for their kids: get them away from their computers, get them outdoors in the sunshine, get them physically exercising, helps them focus mentally, gets them interacting with other kids, etc. Sometimes they want their kids in archery more than the kids want it. You must be on guard for this as assuming a motivation is coming from a youth when it stems from his parents is not a good mistake to make.
The Signs Indicating They Want To Simply put, when they start acting like a Category 2 or Category 3 learner, they are getting more serious. When they want to practice on their own initiative is a good sign, when they want to practice more, when they want more coaching, when they want top read instructional books, when they want to research archery on the Internet (and don’t get distracted by YouTube kittens), are all good signs.
We talk about “signs” because words are often just words, actions speak much louder. What they do is much more important that what they say. To this end we respond to requests from students for more information on a topic with a short discussion to clarify what they want to know, then we ask them to send us an email reminding us of the request and we will send them the desired information. The number of emails we get is far, far fewer than the number of oral requests. (even when we ask them to write a note in their notebooks about the request).
Occasionally, when working with earnest young people, your desire to support their efforts overwhelms your good sense. Before you agree to help a student “get serious” you need to look at your own capacities.
Working with a serious archer may involve: private lessons (even several times a week), email correspondence, examining videos taken by the student, taking videos of the student and discussing them, helping them with purchasing decisions, helping them fit and tune their equipment, all one-on-one. You need to ask: do I have the time? Do I want to do this; is this what you sign up for? And maybe most importantly, am I capable of doing this?
We believe that part of learning as a coach is getting in a little over your head. This puts pressure on you to learn and grow. But the key word is “little,” getting in a lot over your head may be hard on you and hard on your student. No matter what you decide, you will (not may) have to decide when to pass that student off to a better coach.
Whatever happens, we wish you the best of luck and will be here to support you. Send questions into the Coaching Blog and we will get back to you as fast as we can.