Monthly Archives: January 2015

Marketing on a Myth

I was reading a website’s marketing piece for yet another mechanical broadhead design. The line that caught my eye was “… allows the <brand name of broadhead> to maintain a minimal amount of blade exposure reducing the wind planning (sic) effect insuring better accuracy at a distance and (than?) a comparable field point shot.”

All mechanical broadheads are designed around this central bit of dogma. There’s only one problem with it: the “wind planing effect” is bogus. As the “wind planing effect” story goes the blades of an old model broadhead (see photo) act like airplane wings and cause the arrow to “fly” off line.

An "old style" two blade broadhead (still available)

An “old style” two blade broadhead (still available)

This is very bad science. An airplane wing allows a plane to fly because a number of factors:
1. Its shape causes air to move farther around one side than the other causing the pressure there (above the wing) to be lower than on the other side (below the wing) resulting in the air pushing harder from below than above creating aerodynamic lift.
2. The wing is angled to the line of flight, more so at slower speeds than to create more lift but also more drag. When the plane gets going, the higher the speed, the lower the “angle of attack” to reduce the drag and the lift (you only need enough lift at that point to keep the plane level, not climbing even more).

So, to get this “force” attributed to broadheads, the blades (aka “wings”) would have to be curved and at an angle to the air sliding by them. In fact they are flat, that is “not curved,” and in line with the shaft of the arrow creating no lift whatsoever. Not only that but there are two or three of these wings spaced equally around the point either cancelling each other out or accentuating one another. If there were actual lift created (there is not) it would be at a right angle to blade and hence a right angle to the shaft and since it would be off axis, the effect would be to spin the arrow shaft around the shaft (faster or slower depending on whether they are working with or against the arrow’s fletching), which is considered to be a good thing.

A mechanical broadhead cocked (below) and deployed (above)

A mechanical broadhead cocked (below) and deployed (above)

So, where did the idea of the “wind planing effect” come from?

I have found references to this effect that go back to the early 1970s and I suspect they go back even farther. But I suspect it came about when people had the opportunity to compare the same arrows with different points, so possibly when screw-in points were invented. Arrows with a screwed in target or field points would impact in different places than a screwed in broadhead of the same weight. People immediately wondered “why?” and the wind planing effect story was invented to explain the problem.

So what was the real reason the two arrows hit in different places?

My guess is that a number of things could be the cause. First, broadheads are quite longer than target or field points. If they were not perfectly straight, when screwed on a shaft you would have the equivalent of a bent arrow and so it would not hit in the same place. Second, those considerable longer broadheads create a longer arrow with a different weight distribution (a different “front-of-center” or FOC balance point). That would cause the arrows to fly differently, too.

Of course, there are dozens and dozens (and dozens) of mechanical broadheads being sold in today’s market. All of the marketing for which is, well, bogus. So bowhunters are buying into more complicated and more expensive broadheads (in which more things can go wrong, such as the cutting blades not deploying or parts falling off before use making them unusable) for no good reason.

Can you see now why I ask all of my coach-trainees and all of my archers to think through everything and ask a lot of questions?



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New Coaching Book Available

My latest archery coaching book is now available on and other sources. Here’s the TOC so you can see if you are interested:

 Table of Contents
Still More on Coaching Archery


On Form and Execution
1  A Defense of Copying
2  An Analysis of the NTS Finger Loose
3  Being Consistent
4  Helping Your Students Explore Balance
5  How to Build Championship Form
6  Relaxing
7  The Physical Requirements of a Good Shot
8  We Don’t Talk Enough About Stillness and Rhythm
9  What Is the Most Important Part of an Archer’s Form?
10  Why the Bow Hand Release is a Bad Idea

On Practice
11  Practice Tricks
12  Why You Should Always Center Your Groups
13  A Practice Prescription Case Study: After a Longish Layoff
14  Enjoying Practice

On Equipment
15  Arrow Overhang: How Much is Too Much?
16  Bearpaw Twinbow Review
17  The Broadhead Planing Effect: Fact or BS?
18  Ultra-Adjustable Compound Bows
19  What the Coach Training Classes Leave Out . . . And Shouldn’t
20  A Stringwalking Puzzle
21  Can You Read Arrow Patterns?
22  The Optics of Apertures

On Coaching
23  Teaching the Finger Release
24  Getting from “Here” to “There”
25  A Coaching Case Study
26  The Overaiming Meme
27  The Stages of Learning Archery, Pt 1
28  The Stages of Learning Archery, Part 2
29  The Stages of Learning Archery, Part 3
30  The Stages of Learning Archery, Part 4
31  Coaches Never Assume
32  Managing Emotional Attachments to Athletes
33  On the Nature of Advice
34  Towards a Common Terminology
35  Watch Your Language
36  What To Look For (At?)
37  What Great Archers Don’t Necessarily Make Great Coaches
38  What the Coach Knows and the Athlete Needs

General Commentary
39  Random Archery Thoughts
40  Alternate Shot Letdown Alternatives
41  ATAs Archery Participation Survey
42  There Must Be … A Better Way
43  The Benefits of Archery
44  Having a Lot of Pull on the Archery Range

SMOCA Front Cover 10%


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How Many Arrows Should I be Shooting?

QandA logoI got an email from one of my Olympic Recurve students who ask the above question. It was in the context of getting a bit fatigues at the end of an indoor 600 round (60 arrows, 10-0 scoring).

* * *

As a rule of thumb, I think for “heavy shooting days” (to be alternated with light days and medium days and rest days) you should be shooting double the number of arrows in your most rigorous current round. So, that would make it 120 arrows for heavy, maybe 60 arrows for light and 90 arrows for medium. (For NFAA indoor archers you’d have to double these as an indoor 600 round is 120 arrows, 5-3 scoring.) As one’s championship desires become greater, those get upped. Many Olympians preparing for the Olympics do 400 arrows per day for their heavy days. The idea here is if you know you can shoot 120 strong shots in a day (as you have done it repeatedly) then shooting 60 strong shots is a piece of cake. On rare occasions you might want to do a super load day and shoot a much larger number of shots: in the scheme above, maybe 200-240. This is the psychology behind the 1000 Arrow Challenge, once you have shot 1000 arrows in a single day, it is very hard for you to respond with “I can’t do that” for almost anything else in archery.

You have to prove to yourself that you can shoot large numbers of quality shots. Each shot you shoot has to be with your full physical and mental shot routines. If you cheat and just “fling arrows” to run your count up, you will know this and the “experience” won’t really count.

* * *Indoor BB Shooting

Now, this is a very experience archer I am talking to. If he were less expert, the rules are quite different. I express this as “you have to find your shot before you can own it.” There is no real value in shooting high arrow loads if he hadn’t yet found his shot, the shot that uses his body best, aka optimally. If he weren’t there yet, shooting high volumes of arrows would create a feeling of “normal” around a shot he needed to change. Any time an archer tries to make changes, the “old normal” exerts a pull away from the “new normal” they are trying to create and back toward the old shot, making progress that much more difficult. With this student, we rebuilt his shot a couple of years ago and now he is refining and maintaining that shot, the one he will use for quite a while. (An archery shot is never “done,” rather like a knife it needs to be honed and occasionally sharpened as it is used; otherwise it gets dull and ineffective.) The score this student made in the local tournament was almost identical to the one he made to take a medal at the state indoor championship last year, even though he struggled somewhat due to a layoff from practicing.

Outdoor Blank BalesSo, if a student hasn’t yet found her/his shot, I discourage large volumes of shots and encourage working on their shot more. A balance can be found so they can have fun competing as all archers want to do, but really, really serious archers wouldn’t think of competing without having a settled shot, so if they were rebuilding their shot, for example, they will avoid competition until they can prove to themselves in practice that their shot is up to snuff. Otherwise, under competition stress, it will probably break down and they will have a good chance of developing bad habits as they struggle to score, that will just have to be weeded out later.


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We Have to Stop Saying Stupid Things

I just finished reading a column in the January 7, 2015 New York Times: “Years of Repetition Help Sharpshooter Equal a Record”

The subtitle was “Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis of UConn Took Aim at Record for 3-Pointers;” here are a few quotes:

By the time Mosqueda-Lewis reached seventh grade, Ali (her father) was waking her at 5 a.m. to take her to a 24-hour fitness center in her hometown, Anaheim Hills, Calif., so she could shoot as much as possible before school. The exhausting goal was 500 shots per day. If that meant returning to the gym once her homework was done, so be it. Ali never tired of running down rebounds and snapping off passes, and the two of them delighted in a bond that grew ever stronger.

There have been very few players who shoot the ball the way Kaleena does,” Coach Geno Auriemma said. “It’s God-given, and she’s worked hard at it.

“Argh! God-given talent my ass!”

Argh! God-given talent my ass!

Coaches have to stop saying stupid things like this. This young lady has the correct mindset for an athlete, which is “if I practice hard, I will get better.” There is no such thing as “God-given talents” and the consequences of believing you had one is … what? Why should you work hard if the talent came to you magically? Why should you risk high levels of competition as it may put all of my praise at risk?

The right mindset for an athlete is one in which they equate hard work on their game with progress. In no other way will they get better. Praying certainly won’t do it. Asking God for another soupcon of talent won’t do it. Why not ask God to make you taller (or quicker or faster), that would really help a basketball player.

Coaches need to praise athletes for their hard work and dedication, which fuels even more hard work and dedication, not some mumbo-jumbo about “God-given talent.” How in heck would Coach Auriemma recognize a “God-given talent” in any case? Where did he get the talent for that? When did he receive his coach training in recognizing talents? What is a talent for basketball or for archery, exactly?

Stop with the stupid, please!



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Serving Recreational Archers to Serve Archery

In our programs we make a distinction between recreational archers and competitive archers. Our definitions of such may differ from yours, though. What makes a competitive archer is not just going to competitions; many recreational archers go to competitions, even at the national level. Competitive archers differ from recreational archers in how they train. Recreational archers, in general, will do little that is not fun to do. Competitive archers, on the other hand, will do quite boring drills and whatnot if they suspect it will improve their performance. This category includes, of course, elite archers but also a great many others who still want to win, even if it is in a small subcategory of archers.

Since we are in the business of training coaches, knowing who your audience necessarily informs what a coach will recommend. We had a friend (still do) who kept asking recreational archers to do work only competitive archers embrace and was disappointed when those tasks were not done. Offering boring tasks to a recreational archer is how we determine if they are becoming competitive archers. If they refuse, it is not an occasion for disappointment, merely an acknowledgement of their recreational archer status. Similarly trying to train a serious competitive archer in the same way you train recreational archers will likewise result in poor results. (How about a balloon shoot today?)

A correspondent recently pointed to his disappointment that the “archery organizations” did so little for recreational archers. I have had similar thoughts myself, but I think it is time we recognize the reality of the situation. As long as archery is a relatively minor sport, it is fitting and normal that the archery organizations are focused upon the highest performing segment of their memberships. It is only that way that the sport can achieve a bigger share of the sports spotlight.

I could be criticized for using too many golf analogies, but here I go again. If you look at the phenomenon which is golf today, there are entire cable channels devoted to the sport, the PGA Tour has sub tours on other continents. Other continents have their own professional golf tours and televised golf events have sponsors which have little to do with golf or nothing at all (Buick, Rolex watches, etc.). The questions I wish to put to those of you who would like a similar standing for archery is: how did golf get this way?

ty-cobb-the-american-golfer 1931If you go back a hundred years, golf in the U.S. was an entirely amateur sport, mostly played by rich people. Playing for money was sneered at. In the 1950’s, professional golf was a backwater of sports with little prize money. Golfers often made more money from side money matches with well-to-do challengers than they made in the tournaments themselves. The advent of televised golf changed things a lot and the dramatics of highly contested matches (Palmer-Nicklaus, etc.) contributed positively. What attracted advertisers was not the golf but the ratings of the golf shows. So, who was watching televised golf? The answer: ordinary golfers. So, golf’s formula was to get a great many people involved in the game, build an audience for advertisers and then cash in.

The Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) was founded in the late 1920’s with two target groups (no, not professional golfers). They targeted coaches and golf course superintendents. Coaches were necessary to teach people to play well enough that they continued in the game and superintendents were necessary to make sure courses existed and then thrived. You needed places to play golf and people to play the game. This was the formula used to build audiences, not a professional tour. The PGA spun off the PGA Tour as a separate entity and while a whole lot of money is involved in the PGA Tour, most of that is handled by the separate tournament organizations and only a few hundred members of the Tour exist. The rest of the PGA, some 29,000 members is dedicated to serving … wait for it … recreational golfers and, well, some competitive but not professional archers (putting on various championship tournaments for amateurs that required very high levels of skill to win).

So, while many in archery drool over the success of professional golf, it is the recreational base which made it all possible.

So, what does this teach us? I think it teaches us that we need to build a strong organization in support of recreational archers, archers who can demand places to shoot in their local municipalities, like public golf courses serve community golfers. The more recreational archers, the greater the demand. So what is needed for this to happen? A great deal, I am afraid. For our part we have published an entire recreational archery curriculum (see here) and have begun a website to support that curriculum and we are creating programs to train and support archery coaches. We need some kind of effort to secure municipal archery ranges but we are not up to that yet. Can we depend upon our archery organizations to do this for us? I don’t think so. Like the PGA did, it takes a much greater effort to “build the base” than it does to promote the pinnacle and I don’t see anybody or any organization stepping up to that task in the way the PGA did.

What do you think?




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My 2 Cents Worth on “Shuffling My Feet”

two-centsThanks to all who commented on this matter. Here are my thoughts on this.

* * *

The purpose of shuffling one’s feet while engaged in a tournament was to lessen the tension that was building up when the author was trying to score well during a tournament. This is unfortunately typical of the routes that archery “conventional wisdom” gets passed along. A suggestion from a stranger is first rejected, then later attempted with some positive results and a new practice is adopted, then that story is passed along in an “it worked for me, maybe it will work for you” fashion.

To figure out whether this practice is “good advice” one needs to consider what the alternatives are. What else can be done to lessen the pressure we put upon ourselves to score well when that pressure becomes debilitating?

First, I think that some of that pressure is desirable. It leads to increased focus and intensity. What we do not want is for the pressure to score well to build up until it inhibits good execution. So, what are some alternatives to shuffling one’s feet?
• One could wiggle one’s legs (without moving one’s feet)
• One could develop a mental program that channeled the pressure better
• One could use breathing exercises
• One could shake the tension out through one’s hands
• One could adopt a key like rattling the arrows in one’s quiver to trigger a relaxation
• One could use a tension reducing sequence like curling one’s toes and relaxing them followed by tensing various other muscles and then relaxing them.
There seem to be a great many alternatives. (I could think of more, but …)

What, then, are the pluses and minuses to moving one’s feet. For one, it does break the routine that was allowing the pressure to increase to unacceptable levels. That’s a plus. For a minus, if one’s feet are perfectly placed, moving them means that they are less likely to be perfectly placed for the next shot. (The author himself emphasized the importance of a proper stance). This introduces another measure of variation into the shot and makes one less consistent. Maybe the cost of this tension reducer is higher than some of the alternatives. (I think so.)

Once the pressure problem has been identified, the best way to deal with it is to not just settle for the first thing that works better than doing nothing. Rather than comparing the results against doing nothing, one needs to identify a number of things one could do and pick a couple to experiment with. Pick one of those that seems to fit one’s personality and start there.

The evaluation needs to include both the positive and negative aspects of each option. I think moving one’s feet is a big negative and would not recommend that unless nothing else worked.

















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I asked a question regarding a piece of advice I got from another blog “Want to hold your bow steadier? Shuffle your feet!” (see two posts back).

I asked if this were good advice.



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On Your Rate of Improvement

QandA logoI got a note from a student who had attended a recent tournament and noted that his score had improved substantially over his score from the previous year but in talking with other archers found that their scores had been about the same. The question was “Why?” Why hadn’t they improved from a year of practice?

* * *

The fact that this archer had had a big jump in score indicates where he was on the progress chart, a typical “S” curve. We start out with low performance and then increase rapidly with practice, then we plateau. Think about the common 300 Round we shoot so much indoors. If we were to score 100/300 our first time out, then when we get to a score of 200/300 we will have made a 100 percent improvement. But what is left, getting from 200/300 to 300 now only amounts to a 50% improvement. When you get to a score of 290/300, only a 3% improvement can be made. So, if one practices well, progress in round scores occurs fast, then slower, then plateaus.

Where the plateau is is an indicator of the quality of your effort. Those that plateau with lower scores either didn’t have the guidance needed or with good guidance, failed to execute that advice. So, common scores of 150/300 on that round, indicate a great deal of improvement is available but is not being made. Obviously these scores are going to be different for traditional archers and compound archers, etc. because of their equipment choices, so these “scores” are offered up as “for instances” not real benchmarks. If you want real benchmarks look up the record scores for your area in your style and age group, etc. and use those as indicators of what is possible.

Everybody plateaus. Everybody. Once you have then the real work begins because the amount of work needed per percent score improvement goes up … way up. This is a manifestation of the famous “80:20 Law,” also called the Pareto Law, which says that the first 20% of the effort produces 80% of the outcome while the final 20% of the outcome requires 80% of the effort.

S Curve

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In Which I Question You …

I ran across this interesting blog post today. After reading it, the question I put to you is “is shuffling your feet a good way to deal with competition tension/pressure?” What do you think?

* * *

Want to hold your bow steadier? Shuffle your feet!
Posted by Bart Shortall on January 05, 2015

Do you remember practice sessions where you enjoyed small amounts of pin movement, and the thought crossed your mind, “why can’t I always hold this steady”? My significant event that led me to reevaluate my form/mechanics was a state indoor championship years ago. Practice sessions had resulted in high X count 300’s (NFAA), with a comfortable amount of movement in the X-ring. Soon as the tension built with the scoring and competition, my movement went from inside the X to barely inside the 5ring. Mentioning it to the guy next to me, he noted “shuffle your feet”!

Of course, my mind was set on nervous tension being the culprit, and watching this well intentioned gentleman miss half of his X’s while leaning back with a hard angle bow arm, I just dismissed his advice. It wasn’t until a few years later when I attempted another indoor event, where this trick came into play. My form and experience had improved in the time between events, but as soon as the nervous tension arrived, pin movement and frustration set in. Running thru the shot sequence in my head, I knew everything was in order, so the only thing left to do was “shuffle my feet”! The pin movement instantly was cut in half and the X’s became very easy and a 2nd place finish was my reward. Now was time to go to work and find out why this helped and how to incorporate it into my routine.

There are so many elements to aiming steady with a compound bow, with the draw length and correct body alignment being the top two in my opinion. What I found, was shuffling your feet improved your body alignment. Correct body alignment and draw length provides strength and ease of holding the bow at full draw. It cuts down on muscle tension, and makes aiming easy. When you’re aiming easy, duplication of shot execution makes your groups tight and consistent!

. . .

Not only did I learn a vital element in archery that day, I learned a good lesson in life as well. We all can learn anything, at any time, from anyone. Have a great archery season!



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