When I first entered the ranks of archery coaches I felt something was missing . . . in truth I felt a great deal was missing. So, I proceeded to educate myself as best I could. I started by looking for books on coaching archery. There were none in print. There were plenty of books about coaching other sports but the vast majority of those were about team sports and much of that material just didn’t apply. So, I set myself a goal to at least help create a literature for archery coaches. This started with articles in Archery Focus magazine and expanded to include books.
In my usual manner, I went around and asked all of the coaches I knew if they would consider writing a book about the coaching of archery and the answer I got was “no,” which I understood as there isn’t a whole lot of money to be made selling books to archers, let alone to archery coaches, a small subgroup of the archery community. So, I decided to write a book myself (Coaching Archery, 2009) so there would be someone getting their toes in the water, so to speak, in the hope that it might encourage other coaches. This approach is starting to bear fruit and the number of books available to archery coaches about how to coach is now approaching double digits and I am getting more “yes’s” when I ask people to write.
And as I have been educating myself about coaching, I am beginning to see something of an agenda for the things still needed to be done. This is the purpose of this article.
A To Do List to Promote the Best in Archery Coaching
When someone sticks one’s neck out saying “I know what we need to do” it is a bit cheeky, so let me temper this by saying I only hope to get the ball rolling with this effort. Many more people need to contribute to this in order for the effort to succeed.
The Goal? In order for any agenda to be useful there needs to be a clear goal in mind. In my mind, the goal for developing archery coaching needs to be focused on both the quantity and quality of coaching. If an archer needs or wants a coach, I would like for there to be a coach available and that coach be able to help the archer become better in reasonably short order.
To accomplish this, I see the need for the following (in no particular order):
Coach Training Programs
Continuing Education Programs
An Archery Coaching Literature
Best Methods of Coaching Practice
An Archive of Tested Corrective Procedures
A Coach Finder System
An Organization of Archery Coaches
Dedicated to Sharing Information and More
Let me address these one at a time.
Coach Training Programs We have these! Check one of the items off of the list. World Archery has training programs as do many of the other organizations of prominent archery countries. In the U.S. the National Field Archery Association (NFAA) has joined forces with USA Archery to jointly train coaches for their programs and other organizations have agreed to recognize those trainings for their own purposes. This is an improvement. I know in Canada and the U.K. that they are undergoing extensive upgrades of these programs. And, even if you have criticisms of the existing programs, they do exist and they are subject to change/improvement, so we have a great start there.
Continuing Education Programs Once a coach gets a training course under his/her belt, the education cycle stops abruptly. There is little to no follow-up with a new trainee to see how their coaching endeavors are going. This is almost shocking because if you buy a pencil on the Internet, whoever sold you the pencil will follow up with a message offering to sell you an eraser. My email box is cluttered with messages asking if I am happy with a purchase or whether I have suggestions to make their service better. But after a coach training program . . . <cricket, cricket> . . . nada.
Coaches need encouragement, a way to ask questions, and most importantly additional training. Getting a bunch of coaches together for a seminar is a bit much to ask as we are quite spread out, which makes the Internet an ideal mechanism to provide additional training. We are currently working to bring out some training modules to meet this need (they are called the Archery Coaches Continuing Education Seminar Series or ACCESS) but we need a great deal more in this area to be done. One way to think of these is as help bridging the gaps between the coaching levels (Level 2, Level 3, etc.) and as ways to expand a coaches expertise over more styles (compound, recurve, traditional) and as a way to expand equipment knowledge.
An Archery Coaching Literature This is just a matter of getting into print the coaching wisdom of today’s coaches to benefit the coaches of tomorrow. The only U.S. archery coach, until just recently, to leave much of anything in print was Al Henderson. All of the other great archery coaches of the past haven’t left anything for us to benefit from. (If you know of any such books in other languages, I would like to know.)
I have set a personal goal to work toward the creation of such a coaching literature. There are a great many books available about archery technique, what I call “how to shoot books,” and more get published every day. What I am addressing here are “how to coach archery books” and, as I mentioned, we have about ten or so of those and a number more in the works. It is desirable to have a great deal more. If you look at some of the more developed sports, like basketball, it seems as if every prominent coach has a book or three on the market. There are dozens and dozens of books on how to coach this or that basketball offence or defense, etc.
If the wisdom of today’s coaches is put in print, then tomorrow’s coaches won’t need to reinvent everything all over again and real progress can be made. If you know of a coach who wants to write such a book or have a coach you think highly of, let me know (email@example.com) and I will approach them about assisting them getting something to market. Please note that I am the first to admit that no one will get rich writing for archery coaches. It is a small market, so I pitch these projects as “pay it forward” projects, projects that will build the sport so others can go places we could not.
Best Methods of Coaching Practice There is virtually nothing in the archery coaching literature about the best way to start archers out. Every coach I have met has an opinion on this but there is almost nothing in print. The only way to discover if there are “best” methods of doing anything is for the methods to be published so other coaches can test them and then chime in as to which they think work better and which work not as well.
This applies not only to coaching beginners but also to working with advanced to elite archers. What are the best ways to assess the status of an advanced archer? What kinds of questions should you ask when interviewing potential students? What do you do with the information you receive? How to you prioritize correctives (First, we need to work on . . . )?
Even if we can’t tell which of a set of approaches to, say target panic, works best, at least we will have a list of things people are trying. Knowing even this is a step ahead of coaches having to improvise something as they work.
An Archive of Tested Corrective Procedures Tested and proven corrective procedures is an element of Ericsson’s effective practice. In order for an archer to be practicing effectively, they need to know that if their coach suggests a drill that will fix a problem they are having, they need to have confidence that the coach knows what they are talking about. This requires the coach to have either immense experience about anything and everything or access to an archive of procedures proven to work in those circumstances created by other coaches. If the coach has confidence in the contents of that archive, that will lend confidence to his student-archers and speed their progress.
Such procedures, once collected, also attract comments from coaches who experience variations of the same problem. Those comments offer advice on how to deal with those variations and at a bare minimum let other coaches and their students know that they are not alone in dealing with a difficulty. Knowing that others have dealt successfully with a technique or other malady is one level of support, knowing how they dealt with it is even better. Over time we may even figure out why the corrective worked and then we will be getting high quality information about how and why coaching works.
Of course, some agency must make this archive available and keep it up, maintain it, so this will be a collective effort requiring the backing of some or all of the archery organizations.
A Coach Finder System One of the most frustrating parts of coaching archery currently is the difficulty archers have in finding a coach. I am currently remotely coaching a young man in Portugal because he could not find anyone near him, but he could find me (through my coaching blog). I am not charging him because I am currently still learning how to coach remotely so I am getting as good as I give. I also have responded to questions from Africa and India for the same reason: local help is either not available or not trustworthy. I do wish there were more information regarding doing remote coaching. (Anybody out there want to write a book?)
There are lists of coaches available. Here in the U.S., one is maintained by USA Archery. But, if you are looking for a coach, all you will find is a list of names sortable by level (1, 2, 3, etc.) and state and there will be the town or city they live in and a contact mechanism (apparently just a phone number now). So, someone looking for a coach has to call up a perfect stranger and ask questions like “Do you give lessons in my town?” “How much do you charge?” “Do you coach compound archers?” “How much experience do you have?” etc. If, by way of a comparison, you look at a Yellow Pages ad for a mechanic for your car, they list the makes and procedures they specialize in, whether they take credit cards, whether they offer loaners while they are working on your car, what days of the week and hours of the day they are available, and much more. We need a system more like the Yellow Pages and less like a list of coaches available by state and town. I realize there is quite a bit of work maintaining such a list, so I suspect there will be a charge associated with it, but because of the Internet, it doesn’t have to be much. And such listings can include a photo, background information on the coach, what styles they commonly coach, what trainings they have had, what level archers they tend to work with, where and when they are available, etc.
An Organization of Archery Coaches Dedicated to Sharing Information and More The perfect organization to offer some of the services mentioned above would be an independent professional organization of, and for, archery coaches. Being independent of any other archery organization is important because then there is no “party line” to follow, that is the organization’s policies are open just to the organization’s members who might be associated with a great many archery organizations but beholden to none of them.
We are in the process of creating such an organization, The Archery Coaches Guild (www.archerycoachesguild.org). Currently to join is free but as tasks for that organization grow, some services may need to be charged for (such as being listed in the “Coaching Yellow Pages”).
So, What Did I Leave Out?
Write me regarding this agenda to create a better future for coaches and archers (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you think of something I left out. If you have something to contribute to the furtherance of this agenda, let me know and I will help you get it published. If you write an article for AFm, you will get a check from us and will become instantly famous . . . at least with me.