If I Just Had Better . . .

As regular readers of my diatribes know, the literature for archery coaches is quite sparse and so I often find myself slogging through materials designed for golf instructors and coaches for inspiration, knowledge, wisdom, etc.

Recently I was reading an article entitled The Biggest Myths in Golf  by Adam Young, the author of The Practice Manual, and as I am wont to do, I translated as much as I could into archery to see if it held up. One segment of this article is this:
The main messages I want everyone to get is that
• There are much wider acceptable boundaries of swing style which will produce function
• Lots of things held dear as technical ‘musts’ are nothing more than old wives tales
• Pros have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
• Skill is different to technique
• Form can (and does) arise from function.
• Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
• Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
• There is more to a golfer than their swing style. Trying to get good at golf by only improving your swing style is myopic, at best.
I understand that many of you will have strongly held beliefs challenged after this article.
Good. Maybe it will open your eyes to why you are not as good as you should be.

As you can see golfers obsess over their swings and their equipment, like archers who obsess over their form and their equipment. And by so doing, both golfers and archers miss out on a great deal.

Now, Translating the Above into “Archery”
The main messages I want everyone to get is that:
• There are much wider acceptable boundaries of form and execution which will produce function (aka results)
• Lots of things held dear as technical “musts” are nothing more than old wives tales
• Pros have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
• Skill is different from technique
• Form can (and does) arise from function.
• Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
• Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
• There is more to a archer than their technique. Trying to get good at archery by only improving your technique is myopic, at best.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “If I Just Had Better . . .

  1. Wesley Shuecraft

    I agree with all of the bullet points. Each one is a whole discussion in itself but I am particularly interested in hearing you or some of the other seasoned coaches expand on the 5th bullet “Form can (and does) arise from function” and the last bullet “There is more to a archer than their technique. Trying to get good at archery by only improving your technique is myopic, at best”.
    Thanks and looking forward to the response.

    Like

    • I can’t know whether any other coaches will chime in on this topic. But if one looks objectively at elite archers, you will not find paragons of archery form. Our most recent Olympic Mens champion jokes about awful his form is. If you look at who won the men’s team gold in that Olympics, the winning shot was by an archery with the most idiosyncratic form today.

      One needs form, but nobody shoots the form described in books. Everybody does something different. Brady Ellison doesn’t shoot the way Kisik Lee’s books say we should. Championship performances are built on form that has been internalized so that it is trusted, which leads to confidence, which leads to consistency. Minor flaws incur a cost of additional training time, but not necessarily an ongoing scoring cost. Jaime Van Natta, a champion compound archer, has a bow arm that isn’t textbook … because she had an injury and adapted to it. It did not prevent her from winning everything in sight. If you look seriously at any current champion, you will find “issues” that could be corrected, but probably wouldn’t make any difference in their performance, because style doesn’t gain anyone points.

      The emphasis on this list on skill development is important. Golfers who focus on making good swings don’t progress as fast as archers who focus on making good shots. Focusing on making good shots leads to control of one’s shot making. Focusing on one’s swing leads to pretty swings.

      So, does it matter whether your stance is open or closed? Probably not. But we do not have any definitive studies because it takes a very large effort for an archer to change something as fundamental as a stance and then to train it in. Some people have said that “I change my stance two years ago and now I am a better archer.” Both of those could be true, but it may not have had anything to do with the stance change. It might, instead have been two years of practice. It could have been a re-awakening of a bored archer’s interest by making a change that offered some improvement. We can’t tell because there are too many variables changing over too great of a time. So, coaches, like me, pontificate as to how to do this and how to do that, but we really can’t be sure. If we are really, really honest, we say things like “One way to do this is….” or “You may want to try that.”

      As to “Form can (and does) arise from function.” how do you think the guy who invented the bow and arrow learn to shoot it? He sure as heck didn’t have a coach or a book to learn from, nor did he have onlookers shouting “Don’t drop your bow arm!” or “Finish your shot!” For tens of thousands of years, people learned archer by doing it. Children were given tiny bows to “practice with” and larger ones as they grew. As time went on, some members of the tribe got reputations for being good archers, I am sure, and young ones tried to copy them (as do young football/baseball/golfers/etc. still do today) but how effective were those efforts? Probably not very much. More important would be a word of encouragement or even a correction from the “great one.” That would instill a desire to continue to practice which would lead to more skill, etc.

      Currently we structure youth sporting activities so much that kids have little that they learn by doing. I think this is one of the attractions of video games. None of the adults are offering tips to them like “Do you want to now the secret of getting to Level 12?” They just bang away and then get to own their own success.

      Like

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