I just watched a YouTube video of Oh Jin Hyek describing his form (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bee3Q9sPjzQ), which includes poor shoulder alignment and a number of other flaws. Yes, this is the same Oh Jin Hyek who won gold at the 2012 Olympic Games (London). Also winning a gold at that Games was Michele Frangilli, whose form can best be described as idiosyncratic (and devastatingly effective as he has won everything in sight). And it was not that long ago that Viktor Ruban of Ukraine won an individual Olympic gold medal (2008, Beijing) grabbing the bow (no sling) and with his thumb behind his neck at full draw. The compound world is just as idiosyncratic.
So, why are archers and coaches so obsessed with describing and teaching and trying to adopt perfect archery form and execution? Clearly excellent, or even good, form is not needed to win.
I am not going to try to convince you I know the answer to this conundrum, but I do think we need to start discussing this because for all coaches, we need to know what to emphasize (as well as how to emphasize it and when).
How Could We Know?
I often wonder what climate change denying politicians are going to say when they are proven wrong. I imagine it will be something like “I am not a scientist, how could I have known?” (The cynical me would ask “You didn’t question why the energy companies were giving you so much money?) The same question occurs regarding archery form and execution: what should we be emphasizing? What are the roots of winning form and execution?
I suggest a novel approach: we could ask.
Lanny Bassham’s Mental Management System was created because he asked. He asked fellow Olympic medal winners what their mental state was when competing. He took what he learned and went out and won everything in sight, too, including the gold medal that eluded him his first time around.
We could survey Olympic and world championship medal winners and we could examine them. We could rate their form and their execution, describe their strengths and weaknesses (we have video of most of the competitions, no?). We could look at their performances before and after their winning such prestigious medals to see if the winning was part of a longer-term trend or a surprise.
We could ask. We could ask them and ask each other.
What role does confidence play? (Apparently a lot.)
What role does being comfortable on a big stage play? (Apparently a lot.)
What role does picture perfect form and execution play? (Apparently not so much.)
That these questions are not even current in coaching and archery discussions says a lot about where we are. (Hint: we have no idea.)
What Should We Know?
There are so many questions that need to be asked. What role does shooting distance play? This came to mind because the aforementioned Michele Frangilli still owns two world records for indoor rounds: for the 18m 600 round he shot a 597; for the 25m indoor round, he shot a 598. That’s right, move the targets back 40% and the WR goes up! (Was it the 50% increase in target size? Was it the difference between the magnitudes of two changes (distance and target size)? Were these just his very best performances or did he flirt with such scores regularly?)
I would like to know how best to teach archery 8-year olds, and teenagers, and adults and how to distinguish excellent archers from just the very good and … and….
I’d be interested in hearing from coaches out there about things you would like to know. If I get enough responses/questions sent in I will share them far and wide.