Monthly Archives: November 2016

Archery’s Grumpy Old Man?

My recent post on the recommending of archery instructional videos to those we coach seems to be foundational in establishing me as archery’s grumpy old man. I gathered from some of you a sense that video is the wave of the future and I was not embracing it, along with “it is the preferred avenue of learning of young people and you are old, so….” Some of this is probably true, but I do myself no good if that is the only message that you got. My points are simple: it takes a lot of work to make a good instructional video (I don’t think anyone will disagree with this); and the tools for making and publishing a video have become very, very inexpensive, so they are within the reach of millions of people that were formerly blocked out. A consequence is that videos are often produced by an individual, with no support or help from a team.youtube-logo-full_color

All forms of communication have their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes a strength is also a weakness. Text has a strength in that it can easily be skimmed and highlighted (more so on paper and increasingly so electronically). On the other hand a 20 minute video takes at least 20 minutes to digest and is hard to highlight. A comparable text can be digested in much less time, so video is inefficient for that reason. Video has a strength that dynamic processes can be shown (both speeded up and slowed down, too) that cannot be matched by text.

There are many misconceptions about how we learn best. We may have addicted entire generations of American kids to whiz-bang presentations by creating an expectation that education should be entertaining. (Why we did this is beyond me; I think it was an attempt to keep kids in school.) So, there is a constant push for musical backgrounds, more color, more animation, etc. in instructional presentations, but are these effective? In an attempt to answer this question (in small part) the U.S. Navy did a study to determine the best way to teach prospective Navy Corpsmen human anatomy (Corpsmen are battlefield medics). They provided students with either color photos of human internal organs, black and white versions of the same photos, or black and white line drawings. Most people would expect the color photos to teach best as they are the most realistic. Turns out color photos came in dead last. Black and while line drawings came in first. It turns out that humans learn about the shapes of things by identifying their outlines first, and color often supplies a great deal of information that is superfluous.

So, in archery instruction videos have their place and, I still insist, making good ones is quite difficult. I also still suggest that if you are going to suggest videos to students that you first view them completely yourself and note any things you may want to emphasize or comment on or correct.

So that you don’t think I am the equivalent of an old man standing out on his porch shouting at the neighbor kids to get off of his lawn, here are some videos I find quite instructive for coaches: https://www.youtube.com/user/ArcheryWinchester/videos. And, yes, I find there are points that are weak and things that could have been done better … and they are still done well enough to get their points across. (I found the videos in #2 most informative.)

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Olympic Recurve Alignment

I have a right-handed Olympic Recurve student I am coaching remotely and he sent me a couple of videos and a question:

I’ve sent You two videos to your Dropbox; in the video that the camera is between me and the target you can see that after the release my string hand goes out to my right side instead of just going back. It means that I’m doing something wrong, right? Have you seen this happening before?

* * *

Yes, it is called a “pluck” as one would pluck a string of a guitar or other stringed instrument. (The bow was probably the inspiration for stringed musical instruments.) At some time or other, every “fingers” archer (non-mechanical release archer) has to deal with this issue. If you are asking “have I noticed you doing this before?” as opposed to “have I ever noticed anyone doing this before?” the answer is yes in both cases. In your case, we have been working on other things and, in general, beginning archers are often “all over the place” meaning that they lack enough consistency to identify which things they are doing often enough to suggest correction.

The cause of plucking? If you would look at the video taken from in front (I say “toward” as in “toward the target”) and look at your rear elbow. It is sticking out to your right. Ideally placed it would be right behind the arrow in the central plane of the bow (the one with the arrow in it) or slightly past that position (around toward your back—see the diagram). Because your elbow is out to the right, the pull on the string is slightly out to the right also, but most importantly, your subconscious mind knows that just relaxing your string fingers from this position will not get your fingers enough out of the way of the string, so it tries to “help” by opening your hand slightly. (Your fingers can move in toward your palm much farther than they can move back away from being straight. In order to avoid the string, your fingers need to be “out of the way” and your subconscious mind evaluates how successful that process will be.) Since this hand opening must be done quickly, your subconscious mind overdoes this motion and your hand moves out away from your face. Unfortunately, the string follows this motion of your hand, to some extent, taking the rear end of the arrow out to the right, resulting in shots that go to the left of where you aimed. (Target Cue: if your arrows start hitting left of where they formerly did, plucking the string is a common cause. Learning to read targets is a skill necessary for progress and making corrections while competing.)

the-lines-of-archery-lo-res

In the right hand photo, the shoulder line of this Olympic Recurve archer can clearly be seen.

To fix this problem, your shoulders must adopt a slightly different position. We want a line across the top of your shoulder (called the shoulder line—see “The Lines of Archery”) to point at the bow. Currently, yours are pointing to the left of the bow. (Your rear shoulder cannot rotate your rear arm around to be pointing at the bow if your front shoulder does not have your bow arm lined up with your torso. Many times I find that these problems originate in the front shoulder more so than the rear.) Try turning your torso/front shoulder in toward the bow … slightly, and rotating your rear shoulder around toward your back more. This has the effect of lengthening your draw, so your current clicker position will have to be adjusted inward. But before you do adjust it, you can use your “old” clicker position for training. Stand up close to your target butt, and draw and shoot with your clicker on and your eyes closed. The goal is to slide through the clicker before you are ready to shoot by doing as instructed above. (Don’t shoot until you are ready; since the clicker is too far out, its “click” is not a correct signal to shoot.) When you can do this several times in a row, you can adjust your clicker … inward … and see if you can get your shot timing back. (Having someone watch how far your arrow point gets behind the clicker’s edge will help you figure out how far to adjust it, but you can do it a bit at a time with trial and error testing.) The clicker should only go off when you are in position … preferably a correct position.

force-triangle-finished

The “archer’s triangle”

What you are working on is the “alignment” of your upper body to the bow and when you get where you want to be, people will say you have “good line.” This is also what people are talking about when they mention “the archer’s triangle.” One side of the triangle (viewed from overhead) starting at the bow goes across both shoulders and is straight, thus your shoulders point to the bow.) Having “good line” is a prerequisite for consistent accuracy in Olympic Recurve because it means you are pulling directly away from the target (rather than away and out to the right as you currently are) and when you loose the string the string will go straight toward the bow and your hand will fly straight back along your face because that was the direction it was pulling, but only a small amount because your shoulders were in an extreme position. Monitoring where your hand moves upon release (it moves on its own, you don’t move it) is a way of affirming you had good full draw position/alignment. Since your position at full draw is very close to the limit of your range of motion in that situation, there is a very uncomfortable feeling in your back muscles just before release. This uncomfortable feeling is another part of “the feel of your shot” which helps you recognize the difference between doing it correctly and doing it incorrectly.

Sorry for the length of this response, but if you had focused on just keeping your hand close to your face, you would unlikely to be working on the correct source of the issue (your shoulder alignment).

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An Agenda for the Future of Archery Coaching

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 (steve@archeryfocus.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 (steve@archeryfocus.com) 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Okay, Let’s Pull the Trigger on this Thing (A Blog for Archery Parents)

I have been toying with the idea of offering a blog for archery parents. I even asked you if you thought it was a good idea and those of you who responded generally said it was. So, I am officially pulling the trigger on “A Blog for Archery Parents” (https://archerycoaching911.wordpress.com). Please share the link around to other coaches and archery parents. I posted an number of questions that archery parents frequently have so they wouldn’t be coming onto a bare site.

I will post on that site based upon the questions that come in.

Let me know if there are things you would like to see posted.

 

Steve

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How Fast Should You Shoot?

I came up through field archery and didn’t shoot with a clock running until I had been shooting quite a few years. Boy, the first time I did it made me very nervous. (I am one of those people who shows up early for everything; you know the type.)

So, after ending up a nervous wreck from my first exposure to a shot clock, I felt I had to do something about it, so I did.

Most youths who grow up with a clock running don’t have my problems, in fact the clock almost never affects them, because they shoot like Machine Gun Kelly, rat-a-tat-tat; a 3-arrow end takes 24 seconds, a 6-arrow end is done in a minute and a half.

Since archery is a repetition sport, tempo is a key factor in how consistent we can be. If one shoots too quickly or too slowly (than your optimal tempo) your scores will go down. So, a scoring strategy must not interfere with keeping a consistent shot tempo. For example, some recommend a 6-arrow end be broken into two 3-arrow ends with a short rest in between to recover the energy lost from shooting the first three. But, if after shooting three arrows quickly, one takes a break and then shoots the other three arrows quickly, one ends up shooting the first arrow of an end twice and the first arrow does not have a very recent shot to imprint upon. The natural timing of a shot generally sets the second arrow to be shot within 30 seconds of the first because there are limitations to how long you can hold a feeling or thought in memory (and I think, but cannot prove, that 30 seconds is pushing it). If you cannot use the last shot as an example for a pre-shot visualization, you are left with using something you’ve cobbled together from long-tem memory, which is generally considered to be less accurate and therefore less helpful. Because of this limitation, most elite archers shoot each arrow the same way in the same time and one after the other until done with the end.

Most young archers do tend to shoot too quickly but that is a relatively simple problem that involves no particular strategy (like shoot three, rest and then three more). To help deal with time pressure, it helps all archers to know how much time a let down costs. A let down takes about as much time as a shot, so if a three-arrow end (2 minutes allowed) takes 60 seconds to shoot your three arrows, for example, you have enough time to execute three letdowns, but not a fourth before time will run out. I can remember feeling that letdowns cost way more time than they did and I started to feel time pressure very early in the end (clocks are not always visible, especially if one is left-handed). For this reason I measured how much time it took me to shoot three and six arrow ends and then figured out how many let downs I could safely make without fear of running out of time. (For me it was one and two, respectively. If I made two let downs in a 3-arrow end, I had better hustle on that last arrow and it … must … be … shot.) I also taped a count down timer to my spotting scope tripod which I triggered as soon as the “shoot” signal was given. That way I would know how much time I really had.

With regard to actual shot tempo, there is a way to find out if you are shooting too quickly and if it is affecting your scoring. Label a set of arrows (1, 2, 3 …) and then shoot them in a practice round in that order. Record the score of arrow #1 of each end in the first box on the score card, arrow #2’s score goes in the second box, etc. (Not from highest score to lowest, just in the order they were shot.) When done with the practice round, average all of the box’s scores giving you an average score for your first arrow, your second arrow shot, etc. If the scores steadily decline, you are shooting too fast, consuming too much energy that is not being replenished before you shoot another, digging yourself an energy hole that guarantees poor scores later in the round.dual_vegas_fntdual_vegas_fnt

We are not robots, so you might have to do this drill several times to see if you are being consistent. Of course, one must also avoid other sources of score variations while doing this (pressing to get better scoring arrows, struggling with the clicker, etc.).

It is not a simple prospect, changing your shooting tempo. The reason for this is that tempo is one of the last things addressed when building a high quality shot. (Who cares how fast you are shooting
if you are shooting incorrectly in the first place?) So, by the time most archers get around to addressing tempo they have shot many thousands of arrows and have constructed a shot with a “normal tempo” that is based on who know what. The simplest approach to making a temp change is through feedback. If your normal shots take 10 seconds, for example, from release to release but you now have evidence that is too fast, pick a new time frame, say 15 seconds, but give yourself a range instead, like 15-20 seconds (or 13-17, etc.). Any shot made within that framework is considered “good” during this exercise (we are not robots). Have somebody time you. If you shoot in less than 15 seconds, your timer tells you “too soon.” If you reach 20 seconds, your timer tells you “let down” and you must let down. Don’t try to “do” anything, just take the feedback and let your subconscious mind do all the work. All you need do is be disappointed when you shoot too soon or not soon enough, do not try to do anything
else. (Try? There is no “try.” Do or do not. Yoda)

Obviously the time frame you choose can be too small or two large and you may need to refine it. This is how that is done: the above exercise is probably best done blank bale because the arrow scores are not really the point. But when you have achieved some consistency there are still two questions: “Am I still shooting too fast?” and “Is this my optimal shot timing?” For the first question you have the practice round drill above, for the second, that requires a target. I will use the example of 6-arrow ends and since it is indoor season, we will shoot indoors. You can obviously adjust this drill for any distance you prefer.

So, set up two three spot target faces, so you have six spots, one for each arrow. Have your “timer” play the same role as in the previous drill except this time he/she must keep track of three categories: shots that are “too quick,” shots that are “too slow,” and shots that are “just right,” no “let down” commands are given. These ratings can be coded on a score card by your helper. Record the arrow scores for each arrow so that you know what the shot timing was as well as the arrow scores. Then you must compile the average arrow score for each of those three categories. If “too quick” and “too slow” got significantly lower score averages than “just right,” then “just right” is probably about right. If “just right” timing got the highest average but “too fast” was almost as good and “too slow” was way behind, then maybe you would benefit from speeding up a tad. There are far too many possible outcomes for me to go through all of them but I hope these examples are enough to give you an idea of how to proceed.

I hope you realize that you have to shoot fairly well to address the topic of shot tempo. If you do not shoot relatively small groups, adding a concern about shot timing may cause your groups to degrade until the results of these exercises are all by meaningless. In the drill just described, compare your group sizes with your normal group sizes (or score the first 30 arrows, or …) to see if they are roughly the same. If so, then you know that the focus of the drill/exercise isn’t adversely affecting your shooting.

A basic aspect of “getting good” at archer is that it takes more and more time to do less and less for your shot. Progress gets made in leaps and bounds when you first start shooting, but the rate of progress slows to a crawl as you reach a high level of proficiency. One example of that is the amount of practice needed to move you from a score of 100 to 110 in a 300 round compared to the amount of time need to move from a score of 280 to 290 in a 300 round. Both changes are just ten points, but the first challenge is blown through, while the latter one defeats some archers altogether.

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Anchor Positions (Finger Shooters)

John William's "center anchor."

John William’s “center anchor.”

I was struck by a photo of an archer from the recent past who used a center anchor to some effect, namely John Williams of the USA, the 1972 men’s Olympic gold medalist (see photo at right). Currently, there has been an almost universal adoption of the “side anchor” specifically the variant in which the string touches the corner of the chin, but not farther back (see photo below). This post is about why these changes have been made.

Most beginners think that these things are about string positioning but really they are about head positioning. By having the string touch certain parts of the head, at multiple points if possible, this guarantees that the positions of the head and the all-important aiming eye relative to the bow are made more repeatable. The archer must still try to endeavor to hold his/her bow in the correct orientation and hold their head in the correct orientation besides, but consistency is much improved by monitoring these other “touches” tactilely.

Brady Ellison's "side anchor."

Brady Ellison’s “side anchor.”

Very few people use a center of the chin anchor position any more because it often requires a substantial tilt of the head to line everything up. This we consider to be suboptimal because when we tilt our heads, there are physiological repercussions. When our eyes aren’t level, we lose some of the benefits of binocular vision, for example our depth perception and ability to estimate distance are degraded. For another thing, we actually lose physical strength when we tilt our heads because this is a submissive posture. Recall your posture when your Mom caught you with your hand in the cookie jar (or whatever). Dogs will actually drop their heads to the side exposing their jugular veins to convey helplessness to another dog. This is why people of power want you to bow your head; it puts you into a weak, almost powerless posture and your body and mind accept those positions.

Now look at the two photos; which of the archers has eyes that are level/horizontal?

The idea of the string touching your nose is also a head positioning element. If the nose and string do not touch, what should you do (or ask your student to do)? Certainly you do not want to tilt your head to make this happen for the reasons mentioned above. You also don’t want to move your anchor position back along your jaw. Since your fingers are curled around the string toward you, when the string it loosed, the act of the string pushing your fingers out of its way causes the fingers to push the string back (Newton’s third law). This means that as the string moves forward it also moves toward the archer. High speed video has shown that when the string is held against the face behind the corner of the chin, the string drags along the archer’s face as it leaves, causing ripples in the skin! This drag lowers arrow speed and is a source of variation we do not need.

Positioning the string at anchor at the corner of the archer’s jaw allows the string to leave its position without drag on the archer’s skin and allows the archer’s eyes to remain level.

If there is no nose touch or too much touch and some is desirable, it is possible to create what you want by changing the length of a recurve bow, for example. The Korean women, who have short noses, tend to use longer bows, which provide less acute string angles at anchor. Compound archers who use a nose touch have learned this the hard way as bows being manufactured now are much shorter axle-to-axle than they were in the past, making vastly more acute string angles at anchor, making a nose touch harder to achieve. Be aware, though, that nose touches are less useful to compound archers because they have peep sights, acting as an additional alignment point to the face touches. So, going to great lengths to get a nose touch on a short ATA compound bow is probably not worth doing.

Throughout archery’s history we have learned through trial and error and by emulating the more successful, a process I describe often as: monkey see, monkey do. We are now teasing out why the things that work actually work, which means we are reaching a level of understanding at which we will have more control than ever over what we do to maximize our own and our student’s effectiveness.

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A Follow-up to “Lessons from YouTube”

In this post I warned people to view Internet videos with a somewhat skeptical eye and gave reasons. I specifically mentioned YouTube videos by NuSensei, who has myriad instructional videos available, many of them suitable for beginners and developing archers. I went on to say “I do recommend Mr. Nu’s effort as his videos are mostly informative.” I then went on to point out what I thought were a number of shortcomings in those videos as examples of what one needed to watch out for in Internet-based instructional videos.

One of you wrote back that you thought I was too tough on NuSensei, that his videos are some that they recommended frequently.

I referred to the author of those videos as Mr. Nu, even though that is not his real name because that is the way he presents himself in his videos. I mean no disrespect to “Nu” and his videos are quite recommendable for beginners … and I still think that before you, as a coach, recommend any of those videos that you view it with a critical eye because you may find some things you might want to add to those presentations. I recommend this process for all instructional material you find on the Internet.

There are a number of sources of very good archery content on the Internet. They are few and far between in most cases. It is my hope that one of the tasks of the currently under development Archery Coaches Guild is that some sort of guide can be created of such videos for people looking for help. Current a broad spectrum search for content will produce as much chaff as wheat (actually more).

If David Nguyen (NuSensei) reads these posts, I mean no disrespect to him and I appreciate all of the work that he has put into making instructional content for beginners. I will add that if he wants to produce a book on archery, helpful to those he is focused on, I will publish that book willingly.

 

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Lessons from YouTube

youtube-logo-full_colorAs an archery educator I often decry the unavailability of quality information for archers and coaches. As time goes on, though, more and more information is being made available, especially in video format, which is probably a good thing. Video has many strengths in that one can show the viewer things that are hard to describe, etc. but there are also weaknesses. If someone creates a 20 minute instructional video, you have to view the whole twenty minutes to see what they have to offer; skimming is hard to do with a video. Also, if you want to go back and re-view a small section, finding it is not easy unless you wrote down a time mark for that section. Clearly, though, both print and video have strengths that guarantee their continued use.

What brought this topic up was the recommendation of a YouTube video by NuSensei, who has myriad instructional videos available, many of them suitable for beginners and developing archers. I do recommend Mr. Nu’s effort as his videos are mostly informative. But when I found his stuff a while back, I viewed several of his efforts and noticed that each of them seems to either leave something important out or include something strange, or both. For example he has a video with the title “Tab or Glove?” This video addresses the question of “Which is better?” which often comes to the minds of beginners looking to purchasing their first archery gear. I would prefer that that question (Which is better?) be never asked because it implies that there is an absolute answer when, really, each of the two (gloves and tabs) have strengths and weaknesses that make them better in certain circumstances and worse in others. In this video Mr. Nu emphasizes the protective nature of both in that the pressure from the bowstring on a heavier bow can cause nerve damage, even permanent damage, in the string fingers. The gloves and tabs are padding, so to speak, to distribute the force, lowering the pressure on the fingers. But in discussion the advantages of gloves and tabs in this function, he compares a well-made glove with thick padding with a thin tab and then concludes gloves are slightly better. He also notes that a glove need not be taken off to use one’s fingers to, say, pull arrows, but later demonstrates that a tab can be swung around to the back of your string hand to free up for fingers for such jobs, but gives the nod to gloves anyway.

What is left out are the important things. Gloves are preferred by traditional archers and hunters for the simple reason that once attached to your hand, you cannot drop them. Tabs can be dropped and lost as any tab user will tell you (from direct experience). A lost tab can ruin an entire day of hunting. (Compound bow hunters prefer wrist strap releases over ones held in the hand for the same reason. You cannot drop or lose one because it is strapped to your wrist, plus it is always “at hand” and you don’t have to reach into a pocket to find it.)

A big advantage of tabs over gloves and the primary reason tabs are preferred by target archers doesn’t get mentioned. When the bowstring is loosed, we want our fingers to come off all at the same time, together. (We want a chord, not an arpeggio, if you are a music student.) The glove doesn’t tie the string fingers together in any way, where as a tab encourages them to act in concert as it, to some degree, ties them together.

In another NuSensei video “Anchor Point,” Nu discusses the basics of anchor position, but again, amongst the basic solid information there is something strange and something missing. When discussing the “low” or “Olympic” anchor position and comparing it to the higher anchor positions he claims that the low anchor position is “stronger” in that it has more contact with the face. This is not even close to being true in the first place and certainly not the reason for the existence of the low anchor. The advantage of the low anchor over the high has nothing to do with contact area. The advantage of the low anchor and why all Olympic recurve archers use it (well, not all, but almost all) is because they shoot longer distances. The low anchor has a larger gap between nock and aiming eye, thus angling the arrow more upward, allowing a more level form when shooting longer distances. Conversely, the high anchor has an advantage over the low when shooting short distances, such as indoors, in that the bow doesn’t have to be held so low to compensate for the anchor being low. Some beginners comment that indoors they feel like they are aiming at the floor (they are) and the low anchor makes this worse.

Nu also misses the key point of all anchor positions, the alignment of the string with the aiming eye. By having the string plane tangent to the pupil of the aiming eye, we effectively are aiming the bow so that the arrow will strike the target along a 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock line through the point being aimed at. The anchor position is for consistency, yes, but also for accurately gauging the windage (left-right aiming) of the shot. If you are not looking right along the edge of the string, you are guessing more than controlling the windage. This is so important to compound archers that they use a peep sight that allows them to look right through the bow string, a more accurate position from which to control windage.

While most of Nu’s videos I have reviewed are helpful, each of them seems to either leave something out or include something strange (like the low anchor being “stronger”).

This is the problem with YouTube and other videos. They are almost always written, directed, shot, and posted all by one person. There is no critical review of the content of the video. So, crowd sourcing instructional content is not necessarily a good idea. We will be better off when these things are done by teams. Like YouTube, the team doesn’t have to be in the same place. Mr. Nu is in Australia, for example. A content reviewer could be anywhere there is an Internet connection. The complication is that the scripts for these pieces would have to be written out ahead of time to be reviewed and I suspect that many of the YouTube creators do not work from a script.

When reviewing any archery content, in any form whatsoever, I strongly urge you to think through what you’ve heard, otherwise you are going to be like those people who think “such and such has to be true, otherwise they wouldn’t be allowed to put it on the Internet,” that is clueless.

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