Sources of Inconsistency, Part 2

QandA logoIn my last post I shared an email I got from a student (right-handed Olympic Recurve archer) regarding having bouts of “leftitis” while shooting in an indoor league. Since we hadn’t had a session in a while, I have nothing substantive to report, but our conversation continued. I asked “Generally left arrows means you are a little long in DL or you are plucking … unless, of course, you didn’t just lower your draw weight did you?

This question shows how complex most of these situations are. The reason I asked about the draw weight change is, if he had lowered his draw weight (he had not), even slightly, e.g. 1#, if his arrows were almost too stiff, this may have made them “critically” stiff. If the arrow spine is “critical,” that is on the bleeding edge of being right/wrong, then a very slight shift in technique can make them appear as they are here, “too stiff” or “too weak.” On days when you are feeling strong, everything seems fine (we don’t know that they could be better, which is always our problem) and on days when you are a bit soft, the arrows appear too stiff. This is always surprising to me because with a clicker draw length is “fixed,” but a crisp loose of the string is one thing and a slower one another and these can show up with a “critical” arrow spine. A crisp release gets the arrow where aimed. A loose/sloppy/slow release exposes the too stiff arrow (flies to the left). I don’t like the word “critical,” I think a better word would be “borderline” but that is the term in general circulation.

Equipment that is not quite in a “sweet spot” can show problems intermittently which can falsely point to an “operator error” when really it is an equipment error. We rightly think that consistent errors are probably due to equipment, inconsistent errors due to inconsistent execution. The key word is “probably.” A prime example of this is if a numbered arrow always flies to the left. It is probably that arrow that is a fault. But if one arrow in an end seems to fly left, but it is a different arrow each time, then it is probably the archer.

When we tune, our goal is to create a bow-arrow-archer system that minimizes the effects of slight “operator errors.” We want that tune to be in the “middle” of a performance peak (measured however you want) so that an error one way or the other will have a minimal impact on our performance. A tune that is on the edge of such a zone is the equivalent of walking along the edge of a cliff: a slight misstep in one direction is not problem, in another it is a major problem.

As I said, I can’t really tell in this case until we get together, which will be this coming weekend. “Probably” more on this issue later.


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