One of my very best Olympic Recurve students wrote about his recent foray into indoor league action. His problem seems to be in consistency.
“My NFAA 300 scores have been good, kinda. A 285 is my best ever. A 281 is my best league score this year. But, that was followed the week after by a score in the 240s, and I just cannot explain what happened to drop the 40 points. I felt like there were a lot of great shots in there, but they’d be going left on the target. Same bow, same setup, absolutely no changes. This was the same kind of thing at indoor nationals where I felt I shot well but the score was horrible. Hmm, I continue to be puzzled. To end that bad league night (last week) I shot a 25 end, the first and only one of the night.”
Since we hadn’t had a lesson in a while and I hadn’t seen him shoot there wasn’t much I could say until we got together. Here is an expansion of part of what I answered.
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Competitive target archery is a search for consistency. In every competitive archer’s beginning experience we learn that an arrow that doesn’t “group” with the others needs to be inspected for damage. We learn tuning procedures that support “tighter groups.” We refine our form and execution. In every case we are looking for the arrows to land closer to the center (accuracy) and closer to one another (precision or consistency).
Accuracy is easier to achieve than consistency. By adjusting one’s bow and arrows and form a bit, one can get to the point that they have round groups centered on target-center. The average positions of these arrows is “dead center” but we are not scored on our average position, but on the actual positions of the arrows, hence the need to get the arrows closer and closer together so that they will all fit into a highest scoring ring (the de facto “optimum group size”).
“Competitive target archery is a search for consistency.”
Whenever I see scoring inconsistency like that reported, the immediate suspect (for a Recurve archer) is lack of line. No one seems to point this out, but in the same vein as the philosopher who pointed out you can’t ford or even step into the same river twice (the original water has been replaced by new) we are never the same archer. Every arrow we shoot, we shoot as an older person, the additional age may be only a few seconds or 24 hours of several weeks or even years of a layoff. As we age, things change. If we work out and get stronger, things change. This results in what I call “form drift” and it doesn’t have to drift far to be “off.” And good alignment is one of the things that one cannot afford to lose without a severe scoring cost. (A caveat here: I just saw a video clip of our current Olympic Men’s champion shooting. He does not have good line. The cost of that is he has to practice almost every day, which he does. You and I cannot afford the cost of poor alignment.)
So, we will meet to see what can be seen but there may also a psychological effect involved. And I do not have any information regarding whether it is “in play” in this case, but it may well be. We all have busy lives. We have school or work and it’s demands. We have families. We have lives outside of archery. Consequently the amount of time we have to engage in a sport is limited. It is not unusual for the indoor season to devolve into a series of mini-competitions with no real practice occurring. We experience success or failure on any particular league night but we don’t do anything with that until the next league night. Anything that might have been learned from the previous experience has long since faded before the next league night, so we drift from one “test” to “the next” and wonder why we are not being consistent. Can you imagine taking a night class at your local community college that meets once a week and each week the teacher gives you a version of the final exam to see if you are ready to pass out of the course, but no other instruction? You would be clamoring for your money back. Don’t do this to yourself.
After every competition, I ask my students to make two lists: one list is “The Things I Did Well” and the other is “Things I Will Do Differently Next Time.” I ask that they have a minimum of three things on each list. If consistency, aka small groups, is on the “Did Well” list one week and then not the next, then your consistency is a variable (not a good thing) and you need to do something about it before the next “test.” If the same things keep popping up on the “Do Differently” list, whatever you are doing to implement that is not working.
Please do not get the impression that I know everything about this topic, far from it. The problem I keep pointing out is that a tiny bit of the solution to every problem is available from that coach there and another bit from this coach here. Until we archery coaches get better organized, we will not be able to definitively answer any of these questions.