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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7 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

7 responses to “Lessons from YouTube

  1. Beth A. Sholly

    Your article loses credibility after the first few sentences. It reeks of elitism and smugness. If you are a supposed expert get off your arse and make a set of videos. I live in an area dominated by compound and crossbow users. I started shooting Olympic ILF one year ago. NuSensei was the only one with consistent and accurate information. Does the USA Archery team/coaches make videos? No. GB Archery did a few. Some of us don’t live any where near an ILF coach, and coaching fees may be an issue as well. So suck it buttercup, you are not the butterfly in the field.

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    • My intention was to encourage coaches to review all such videos critically before recommending them to their students. I have apologized to David Nu, for giving offense, and commented that it “takes a village” meaning the contributions of many to effect a broad scale improvement in the serve provided to archers. I do reject your recommendation to “make my own videos” though. Just because one can hear music and critique it doesn’t mean that can play it themselves. I understand that many of you are fans of videos and I believe they have their place, but there are drawbacks to the format I am not enamored of.

      With regard to elitism and smugness, well, I may be guilty of those from time to time. I do hope they are minimal. Actually, I spend a substantial part of my time trying to get the elite to share their knowledge, which I think may be the opposite of the tag “elitism” which seems to imply a cloistering of said knowledge. In any case I will strive to do better.

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  2. Jeff Hawkins

    I think you may be expecting these YouTube videos to serve a different purpose than they serve. You seem to be lamenting a lack of truly authoritative videos that Archers could use to get answers to their specific questions/situation.

    In reality, a student needs to hear diverse opinion. Ideally where there are best practices, they should be well represented. But students need to experiment and learn for themselves. These videos give quick accessible opinions/thought/discussion from people with at minimum a serious interest in the sport, and often a great deal of expertise relative to other sources of info they may have. And a viewer can watch 3-4 different such opinions on a given topic in the time others would be spending on a sit-com.

    Then, they can go to the range and shoot… And watch and talk to others there. And maybe even get advice from a local coach. And frankly, the local coach in many cases will make similar or worse errors than one could find in a typical video. So these videos really expand the number of data points an archer has available.

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    • If you are accusing me of wanting to make things better, I stand convicted. My main point stands: before recommending an instructional video, I recommend coaches review the video for its strengths and weaknesses before recommending. Having a new format to reinforce old misconceptions is not progress.

      When it comes down to it I am a scientist. The scientific process is one of conjecture and critique. One makes up a reason for why something is the way it is and then criticism makes it better or proves it false. Criticism is welcome and desired because without out it, no progress can be made. In mainstream society, criticism is considered negative when in actuality criticism can be constructive or of ill-intent. I strive to make mine as constructive as I can.

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      • Jeff Hawkins

        Was not really accusing you of anything. Just offering criticism to you as you have offered it to others… And finding perhaps that you appear unable to take criticism as well as you would have others take yours. Seriously, you make some good points, but are really missing some other points too.

        In any event, if you are coaching and writing advice, you are doing good work. Best to you.

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  3. Mark H

    Hi Steve,
    It seems like your too old to understand how youtube really works, and your having to defend yourself by the notion that you have written books about archery.

    Your elitism over archery has you lost in a mindset that your way is the only way forward, Nu is providing free short videos allowing people to take on board his thoughts and then what they will do is research further.
    He is not trying to be the gospel of archery and providing the 1 stop only shop.
    Hes providing a slice of information in a video format.

    It seems like your hiding jealousy that Nu has come out with videos that people enjoy and people are continuously watching, he’s had more views in 2 years than you have had in your lifetime.

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    • I am defending myself “by the notion that I have written books on archery”? Where did you get that idea? I am a scientist, as I say, and I do not accept someones “authority” as an acceptable judgment of the value of advice. I have no authority, just some credibility … I hope.

      What you are telling me is that beginners do not need the best materials video/books/etc. we can provide? I have heard from NuSensei/David and he does not seem to be taking as much offense as are you. And in what world is a “view” a measure of value or quality. If someone “views” a video and finds it very, very helpful, how is that distinguishable from someone who finds it rubbish? Is that based upon comments? In what world is a “comment” a measure of value or quality? Again, I will restate my point, and it is not just about NuSensei’s videos but all instructional videos: if you are a coach, be sure to review any instructional content before recommending it as you may have something to add (for things left out) or “correct” for things you disagree with. And I stand by that recommendation as it is only good practice.

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