# Monthly Archives: December 2016

## The Relationship between Draw Weight and Stabilizer/Bow Weight

I love it when I get questions I had never thought about before. When you learn a subject, it tends to channel one’s thoughts, thus avoiding questions that can challenge them, so it is good to consider such questions. The question that stimulated this flood of philosophical thinking was: “If I increase the draw weight of my bow should the weight of the stabilizer also be changed?”

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At first this seemed like one of those questions beginning Olympic Recurve students ask that are inherently nonsensical, but this one is not.

The “stabilizer weight,” including how that weight is distributed, is primarily a matter of balancing the bow as well as resisting movements that can occur in the short amount of time the arrow is on the string and moving (~ 20 ms). (The long rod of a OR setup resists the bow from tilting up and down and twisting left and right, while the short rods resist the bow from rocking left and right or rotating around the axis of the long rod. About the only motion they don’t resist is movement along the axis of the long rod, which is normal and acceptable. Note, though, that the biggest source of movement resistance is the mass of the riser itself.) The draw weight is a matter of force applied to the string and riser by the archer. The weight of the stabilizer and bow is also a force but it is at roughly a right angle to the draw force … and the two do overlap some. (If you didn’t know that weight is a force, you weren’t paying attention in middle school science class.)

The deepest part of the grip of your bow (called the “pivot point”) is typically the midpoint of the length and mass of the bow. Your bow hand is mostly below that point so the bow draw force (created by your two hands and the musculature and skeleton between them) is pulling the bow back into your bow hand but also partly upward, too (like the way a construction crane works (see illustration and photo), the pull of a cable from the bottom causes the top of the other end of the crane to rise, including any weight attached to it). So, like the crane, the draw hand is supplying some of the upward force needed to hold the bow up against gravity. When you raise the draw force, you increase the amount of this effect and it is easier to hold the bow up at full draw, that is the bow “feels” slightly lighter. So, you could add more weight to your bow or take some off if it feels better, but there is no reason to try to compensate for the increased draw weight other than that.

The bridgework bit in this crane is like your bow arm. Pull on those cables and the arm will move up. (The draw force is the equivalent of the pull on the cables.) And, yes, I know that the cables can also lift what is on the end of the hook without moving the arm, sheesh!

There should be no effect of the draw weight change on the feeling of balance at full draw, even though the strain you feel at full draw has gone up. That increase in strain is horizontal, not vertical. So, if your bow still feels nice and balanced, you are good to go.

The bow arm acts like the beam of the derrick, with the draw force being like the force acting through the cables. This produces a slight upward force at the bow hand which helps to hold the bow up.

Realize, though, that since your “back half” takes on part of the work of your “front half” as described above, once you let the string go, then it is harder for the front half (your bow arm specifically) to absorb the loss of help from the draw arm and “dropping your bow arm” after the shot becomes more of an issue. We do not want the bow arm to drop soon after the shot because of “normal variation”—sometimes the drop will occur later (no problem) and sometimes sooner. If the “sooner” instances involve cases in which the arrow is still attached to the string, the dropping bow will take the string and arrow with it and a low shot will occur (definitely a problem). The indicator for the form flaw “dropping your bow arm” is that low arrow hits points show up out of the blue, as we say.

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

## Where Are My Archery Underpants?

I just noticed that there is now available for purchase, golf socks and golf underwear. These are not just items offered for sale to golfers that are ordinary items, these are designed to facilitate a better game for golfers! So, add those to the golf gloves, golf shirts, golf pants, golf rain gear, golf hats, golf glasses, and all of the other items of clothing made available for golfers which are designed to make them better on the course.

So, imagine that … someone designed men’s underpants to allow the free movement of hips and legs required by the modern golf swing. Well if they can design men’s briefs to do that, why can’t they design men’s briefs that help someone be really, really still? Maybe they could be so uncomfortable that if you move, you get tactile feedback. (Ow, ow, ow!)

Now for those who scoff at my desire, and claim that there are so many more golfers than archers, so their market is just bigger, which is why so many golf products are available, let me say that there are about 25 million golfers in the U.S., more or less, according to the National Golf Foundation’s yearly study on participation. According to the 2015 Archery Trade Association survey, there were 22 million archery participants in 2014 and they didn’t count kids under 18! In addition, the number of archers is growing at a substantial pace while the number of golfers is actually shrinking. So much for that argument.

Seriously, the actual reason there are no “archery underpants” available is the usual (Hint Follow the money!). The 2UNDR underwear that prompted this post and which claims “2UNDR underwear will change your life, on and off the golf course,” are \$30 per pair. Now you know.

Also, seriously, when are the purveyors of archery goods going to wake up and recognize the size of this market? We seem to be locked into the idea of the market we had back when we thought there were only a few million archers in the U.S. Well, the economy still sucks and they aren’t going to use any of my money (I don’t have any) to expand offers anytime soon, so I guess it is still a matter of “follow the money.”

Filed under For All Coaches

## Are You or Your Students Suffering from the Instant Gratification Cycle?

One of my colleagues dropped a student he was working with because in between coaching sessions, his student would either solicit or accept coaching direction from other archers and when they got back together he had done none of what they agreed upon he needed to do to get better. Instead the student would want to discuss a long list of things he had been trying suggested by fellow archers. Requests to have the student check in with the coach before just trying things, but that did not happen.

This student was suffering from a malady common in amateur athletic circles. Desiring instant results, if something appears to not be working, they would try something else. The “something else” may be something they just made up or something suggested by another archer.

As archers we are often in the advice business for myriad reasons: archery is a social sport, we all want to encourage newbies and those struggling so they will get better and stay in the game, etc. (As coaches, we are not supposed to offer advice unless asked!) In fact, there is such an established pattern of giving advice, especially older archers to younger archers, that we equip our younger archers with a canned response. If someone offers them advice, we suggest they say “Gee, thanks, mister, I’ll tell my coach the next time I see her/him.” If a young archer merely brushes off such attempts to “help” them, they can get a reputation for being aloof or “stuck up” or worse.

When an archer is trying to get better, they are trying to do things differently from what they had been doing which is always awkward. Whether or not those changes are successful can’t be determined until the “new moves” are practiced until they become “normal.” This means that serious archers need to be patient. Coaches need to explain what “being patient” means in terms of practice time and clock time so there are no misunderstandings. Coaches need to explain to archers that if they flit from one tip to another like a bee harvesting pollen, they will end up with a whole mess of nothing.

Archers need to know what to do with such tips when they are offered. In addition to the above canned response we teach to younger archers, we suggest that they write down such tips so they can discuss them with us via text/email or in person. Sometimes something valuable is suggested. Knowing that Coach is open to suggestions helps build trust in the coach-athlete relationship.

Whatever happens on the relationship front, an archer has to avoid like the plague the Instant Gratification Cycle:

a problem occurs → something new is tried → something works somewhat better  → another problem pops up → etc.

A basic fact of human behavior is the Hawthorne Effect: which is that when something new is tried, things tend to get better … for a short time. The first time this effect was described it was used to explain an experiment done on office workers. The office workers were told that if the lighting were slightly better, it would help their work and when it was brightened a bit  office productivity increased. Then they were told that if it were made even brighter, etc. … and their productivity increased again. Then they were told that the optimal amount of lighting had been determined and the lighting was changed once again, and productivity went up again. The final change was to lighting exactly as it was when the experiment first began. But, after some weeks, the measured productivity dropped back to what it had been before the experiments began.

Some say that the Hawthorne Effect is just a result of expectations on the part of the participants: if you expect to do better (reasonably, not magically, there needs to be a reason) you tend to do better. But the “improvements” are short-lived. This has ramifications when archers are looking at form changes and equipment changes, etc. First impressions are not always valid as they tend to be better than one will get in the long term. So, patience is required to make rapid progress in archery form or in one’s equipment/equipment setup. (Yes, you have to slow down to speed up.) The sure way to slow down someone’s progress is to work on something for only a short time and then switch to another thing, and another,…

Filed under For All Coaches

## When I Raise My Bow, How High Should I Raise It?

The question in the title of this post came from my very best student. He is my very best student because he challenges me to support my opinions and not just by asking. He does his research. (I like this!)

This question came from a critique I had of a videoed shot of his. In the video, his bow hand (and bow, of course) went up substantially and then came down substantially before the string was loosed. We had talked about this before and I thought we had an agreement on not doing this.

My recommendation goes like this: if you find yourself raising your bow above where it ends up when the release occurs, you are wasting energy and time during your shot. Doing this, your bow passes through the position where it will end up, is lifted higher against gravity and then lowered into position, a position it has already been in. This, I argue is extraneous motion, which costs energy and time and has no positive benefit.

My student then jumped on YouTube and showed me two of Korea’s finest female archers doing just that: raising the bow up above where it would be finally and then lowering it into place.

Now, I have been told that a study had been done that supported my position. Researchers hooked up an archer’s deltoid muscles (on their upper bow arm the ones that raise the arm) to a myograph and then had them raise the bow and stop it in shooting position. They measured the muscle activity involved in this task. They then had the archer raise the bow higher and then lower it into shooting position and again measured the muscle activity. What they found is that when the bow was raised and stopped where it was supposed to be, they got consistent muscle activity. When it was raised up above that position and lowered into it, they got more variable, less consistent muscle activity. So not only does the second approach to raising the bow waste time and energy, it results in a less consistent shoulder stability. (I asked for a copy of this study but the guy who told me about it couldn’t find it. If any of you know of this study, I will very much appreciate a copy or a link to it.)

So, the question remains, why did these elite Korean Olympic archers perform this unnecessary move when they raise their bows? As I thought about it, I came up with a number of possibilities. From the video, it appeared that the bow height these Korean elites raised to initially was very close to the bow height they would need at 70 m. Since the Korean archery community is obsessed with the Olympics, the 70 m distant target is focused on very much. The question comes then, whether you should have a different draw indoors, where one’s bow is not so high? Their answer may have been: for year round consistency it is better to keep a consistent raise (designed around 70 m targets) and just insert a lowering of the bow step  into “indoor position” when it is needed. This is one possibility.

Another possibility is based on the claim many archers who make this move have: they claim that raising the bow up higher makes the draw easier. A cursory look at some additional videos brings this claim into doubt. Several Olympic recurve archers doing the up-down move didn’t complete their draw until the bow was back down. Since the draw weight of recurve bows just goes up and up, this argument would be that the move was made to make the easiest part of the draw easier but left the later, harder part of the draw alone. Again, this makes no sense. Also, one could argue that pulling straight down is more awkward that pulling at shoulder height, so the higher the draw is begun, the more awkward the draw becomes. I do not see how that helps. Maybe some one of you has more expertise in this and can straighten me out.

Now, when we ask our archers why they do things, we should not expect well-reasoned answers or even sensible answers. They may just parrot what they were told or were just making it up as they go (a very common thing amongst humans, I am told). But something apparently feels like a benefit to these archers, otherwise they probably wouldn’t have adopted it in the first place. Also, “sky drawing” or “drawing high” is prohibited by many organizational rules (WA specifically and WA rules are the Olympic rules). If one gets a little carried away one and raised a bit too high could end up either disqualified or required to draw the bow differently than practiced, neither conducive to a good outcome.

Should the bow get raised higher and then lowered to this point or should you just raise to this point, that is the question!

My Analysis of the “High Raise”
There is a benefit that is significant in doing this and the benefit goes to those whose bow arm deltoid muscles are somewhat weak: most youths, adults with little upper body development, etc. This is what I see: when the bow is raised and for some of the kids I see doing this, the bow is almost thrown up into the air, and lowered, while it is being lowered the full weight of the bow is not being supported. So a six-pound bow, while it is “falling” down from its high point to its final resting spot, the archer may only need a five-pound force along the way. Actually, when the bow reaches its peak, the force needed at that point drops to zero, then climbs up to the force equal to the weight of the bow when it stops moving. But while that is happening, what if you could transfer half of the load of holding the weight of that bow to your draw arm? Many people do not realize that the draw arm is contributing a sizeable fraction of the force holding the bow up. This is because the bow hand is on the bottom half of the bow (the pivot point being the typical center point) and the force of the draw is back and slightly up (a second order lever is being employed, just like in a construction crane). If the draw force is substantial, e.g. 40# and the portion of it in the “up” direction constitutes 5%, then 2# of the bow’s weight is being held in the string hand! If 10%, then 4# is being held. This is more than half the weight of the bow being held up by the draw side!

So, for an archer who finds holding up a 6# bow or an 8# bow with just their bow arm difficult, if they do this up-down maneuver and draw while the bow is coming down, by the time it comes to rest, the bow arm has to hold up only a fraction of the total bow’s weight!

I think this interpretation is valid because I see a great many young archers who are rushed into a heavier metal-risered bow (either compound or recurve) who have real problems dropping their bow arms post loose. This is because the bow is too heavy for them to support with just their bow arm. And if it is too heavy after the shot, it is too heavy before the shot.

Okay, Should I Change the Way I Teach the Draw?
This is always a complicated question. If you have a student who throws the bow up and then lowers it into position, should you suggest they change? This is the real question. It really depends upon their situation. For the brilliant elite archers from Korea, you would be making a mistake. In fact for any archer with mature form, you should not recommend a change unless what they are doing in this context is causing them problems (they run out of energy, they drop their bow arm later in tourneys costing then points, etc.). The reason is that you must always weigh the training costs against the potential gains. If your student is not struggling, then making such a change might not be a source of better scores at all. They are just wasting energy and if they have enough energy, there is no problem. But, there is also an opportunity cost! While you are working to make a form change for which there is dubious benefit, you are not working on other things that have more significant benefits.

The answer to this question is quite different if an archer is just building good form or rebuilding their shot. Those would be times to consider such changes. It also helps if you can discern whether this “up-down” maneuver was something they learned to cope with a too heavy bow when they were young and just carried it into their adult form. If their deltoids are still too weak (especially true for compound archers who are shooting loaded up bows) this may still be an option, especially if the archer doesn’t want to go to the gym and build up their deltoids. If it isn’t, then why build in superfluous movements into a shot?

This Is What I Teach
It varies somewhat but has the same criteria. At its heart are the facts that compound archers has very heavy bows to cope with, while recurve archers has full draw weight at full draw to cope with. In both cases, we want to minimize the amount of time spent at full draw. The more time, the more energy is burnt while under the stress of the draw or the weight of the bow which one is trying to hold steadily.

I suggest the following procedure: the bow should be raised, such that when one executes their draw and anchor, the bow is properly positioned at the end of those steps … naturally. Why spend time moving the aperture onto the target if you can arrange to have it on target in the flow of normal events.

Here is a drill to find that position: I ask the archer to raise their bow and sight through their aperture, lining it up on a target center. Then I ask them to close their eyes, draw and anchor, and then open their eyes. When they open their eyes, I ask them where the aperture is lined up with respect to the target. If they start dead center and then after executing their draw and anchor movements, the aperture ends up at 5 o’clock in the blue, for example, I ask then, “Where should you start your aperture if you want to end up seeing gold at the end?” For the “5 o’clock in the blue” example, the answer would be 11 o’clock in the blue. (Just go straight through the center and out the other side as far from center as you started aka “same color on the other side of the target clock.”) So, if your draw and anchor naturally moves your aperture slightly down and to the right, as in this example, you would start slightly high and to the left. Easy peasy.

Don’t expect elite level consistency from intermediate archers here (or ever)! The more variable their form, the more variable will be their “starting point” or “pre-aim point.” The idea is to create a situation in which only very minor corrections in bow position are needed at full draw.

This makes a lot of sense for athletes who shoot single distances: indoor archers at 20 yd/18 m, outdoor Olympic recurve archers at 70 m, etc. You would have that one starting point on that one target face at that one distances. But what about field archers where many different sized targets are shot and the same targets are shot at multiple distances? I have found that if your aperture moves “down and to the right slightly” as in the example, then because in general larger targets are used at longer distances, the starting point is fairly similar on most targets and I can leave the exact pre-aim starting point up to my subconscious mind. When I raise the bow, if I am an “above, left” starting point archer, I just start above and left of target center. How much I leave up to my subconscious mind.

In my case, I was an unfit archer shooting a heavy compound bow. Using this technique I became much less antsy about being lined up in time. So when I hit anchor and was checking my scope bubble and peep concentricity, there was just gold in my sight ring. This reduced the amount of time I spent at full draw, conserved my energy, and made me less nervous/anxious—all of which were distinct “positives” for me.

Try this in your own shooting. If you feel a benefit, then maybe this is something you want to teach.

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

## Should I Be Shooting from the Valley?

I got the following question from one of my students. It is about compound bow set up.

What is Coach Larry Wise talking about when he suggests “adjusting your draw length to shoot from the middle of the valley?” Is he saying you don’t want to be against the wall? Many of the new 2017 bows make big points about being able to adjust the hardness of the wall so why would you want not to be against the wall? Is there a way to adjust the draw length via twisting the string to put you in the middle of the valley? Doesn’t that also decrease the let-off?”

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Here is my response:

Some Background for Coaches Not Compound Fluent Yet
The valley is jargon for the segment of the force-draw curve of a compound bow (see illustration) right at full draw. The force exerted by the bow drops steadily from peak weight until a minimum is hit at the “bottom of the valley” and then it skyrockets thereafter. Because the draw force increases so quickly after the valley is reached, it feels like one is pulling against an unmovable object like a wall, hence the jargon “the wall” for that segment of the FD curve (again, see the illustration).

A generic compound bow force-draw curve.

Shooting from the “middle of the valley” was common advice back in the day of round wheel bows (aka “wheelies”). My mid-1990’s PSE Magnaflite bow had a 2˝ wide valley as an example. With the advent of high performance, dual-cam “speed bows” and one-cam bows, the valleys were so short that you had to be in the middle of the valley, whether you wanted to or not. With more moderate cams such as are on today’s bows, the middle of the valley is still the place to shoot from. You do not want to “pull hard against the stops” (PHATS). The PHATS strategy was invented, I believe, on the fly by an archer who was creeping at full draw as a way to prevent creeping. But Tom Dorigatti has shown in one of his more brilliant Archery Focus magazine articles that doing that (PHATS) results in draw lengths that vary by as much as a quarter of an inch creating more vertical dispersion in your arrow groups.

Larry’s argument, one that I subscribe to (it is hard not to agree with Larry), is that a key to performing well is being relaxed. PHATS disrupts any such relaxation you might muster and doesn’t provide anything of value. Larry teaches that you have to set your bow’s draw length so that you hit perfect full draw position when you are in the middle of the valley, and that you hold that position because it is your full draw position (draw elbow straight back behind arrow), not because the bow is preventing you from pulling farther. This allows you to relax and even though there is variation in all positions of your body from shot to shot, the minor variations in a comfortable feeling elbow position (at which point your elbow is on an arc pointing sideways to your arrow, so not affecting the draw length all that much) results in only small changes in draw length, which because you are near the center of the valley, result in the initial launch conditions of each arrow being virtually identical. (The FD curve is basically flat at the bottom of the valley, so if you move forward or back ever so slightly from the middle, the draw force soon to be acting on the arrow is essentially the same (again, see the illustration).

Regarding “Is there a way to adjust the draw length via twisting the string to put you in the middle of the valley? Doesn’t that also decrease the let-off?” Most bows only allow adjustments in draw length via modules, etc. in one half inch or one quarter inch increments (1/4˝-1/2˝). Pros won’t accept more than 1/16˝ error in their own draw length, so yes, you will have to twist strings and or cables to accomplish these. There are too many schemes to be able to state a generic process for doing so, but in general twisting cables makes for larger changes than twisting bow strings. And, yes, this does affect let-off but so do draw weight changes. The listed let-off of bows is determined at one particular draw length and weight and varies slightly when either of those variables is changed (see image as example).

The changes due to cable or string twisting/untwisting are so small as to change the let-off only a very small amount, so not to worry.

As to why manufacturers are offering “features” to adjust the feel of the Wall one is pulling against, I guess we shouldn’t criticize them from giving us what we are asking for. We should OTOH be more careful in what we are asking for.

Does this make any sense?

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

## Is This a Good Bow?

I received a request from a correspondent along the lines of “what do you think of this compound bow”? Getting quality information about an expensive purchase is a real issue for archers and I wanted to share my thoughts on the topic. In the message the following was included:

The incredible versatility appeals to me, both as a means to work my way into this type of shooting, and the wide market of resale if it is not for me. Every review I have seen is very positive, but it’s always nice to hear a word from an individual.”

To which was added “Also the price as you can find them fully loaded for around \$350 on eBay.”

* * *

I have not shot that particular model but I have worked with a student who is shooting it.

Some Specifics
First let me point out that recognizing your limitations is very important. If, for example, you are not a confident “bow mechanic” buying second hand gear is a real risky proposition. You could run up shop repairs in excess of what you paid for the bow if you can’t do many things for yourself. I have, for example, bought compound bows and then changed eccentrics to create a different draw length, made new bowstring and cables and been very happy with the results. I had the eccentrics and all of the bowstring materials, tools, and experience to do all that, plus a bow press to break the bow down to make the changes. I also had the expertise to know that I could find the specifications for cables and string on the Internet. If you had this done at a good shop, you could be look at upwards of US\$200 for the parts and labor.

Additionally, the phrase “you can find them fully loaded for….” indicates that you are attracted to a bow that comes with arrow rest, bow sight, stabilizer, quiver, release aid, etc. as a way to get equipment that at least is matched to the bow. A word of caution here: the ancillaries provided in a bow package are generally of lesser quality and also may not be appropriate to your style of shooting. Plus, these compound bow “packages” are almost always directed at bow hunters in the U.S.—they will have a short stabilizer, a pin sight, a quiver that bolts to the bow, and a wrist strap release aid. I have never seen such a package come with a long rod stabilizer, for example, and if your preferred style involves a long rod, you will have bought a short stabilizer for no good reason (your package does come with a short stabilizer, no?). If you are looking at a Compound Unlimited/Freestyle compound setup to shoot targets with, you will be replacing the arrow rest, the sight, the quiver, the stabilizer, and the release aid, making their purchase dubious “bargains.” Add to that for target shooting, “bow quivers” are generally not recommended because as you shoot arrows, it changes mass and the balance of the bow. If you are using the bow to shoot targets, leave it off.

Having said that, it is the case that some of these accessories will do for a time as you are learning the pros and cons of the accessories you will purchase to replace the ones that came with your “package.”

Regarding Opinions
There are many, many fine bows on the market and an opinion can be helpful if … and it is a big “if” …  if your application for that bow is the same as the opinion givers, and he/she is about your size, strength, and shooting ability, etc. By “your application” I mean what you intend to use the bow for. For example, if hunting from a tree stand, a short axle-to-axle (ATA) bow design is a real asset as it results in the bow almost never bumping into something when you are trying to line up a shot. (For comparison, imagine being in a tree stand with a 70˝ recurve bow with long rod and V-bars!) But if the bow is to used for target shooting, its short ATA is a detriment (the riser is the biggest stabilizing factor in the entire setup, a short riser has its mass concentrated in a smaller zone, making it harder to hold still).

So, when you are looking for opinions or talking to someone about their bow, look for or ask them how it works for your application. If you are out hunting you can ask people if they shoot target with the same bow, etc.

The key thing is not so much the brand or model of bow but to have the bow fit you. I focus first on the grip section. When I draw the bow, does it feel solid, stable, and secure in my hand? A bow that Claudia loved felt to me like it was going to slip out of my hand at any moment. So, it was a good choice for her, but not for me. Does the bow’s draw weight and draw length include settings that fit you? If not, you are only buying trouble.

So, have you gone to a shop and tried this bow? If not, you may be buying a “pig in a poke” that is something that may look and sound good but not really work well for you. We always advocate that you “try before you buy.” Note I realize that this is generally not possible <sigh>, but I can’t stop giving what I think is my best advice.

The Bottom Line
Newish compound bow archers are in a real bind. Most start with a Genesis Compound or other zero let-off bow. To get a real advantage from a compound bow, however, one needs one with let-off. So, what to buy next? If you go full-tilt-boogy for a “real” bow with “real” accessories you can be looking at a price tag in the \$1000-\$2500 range and that is definitely not a god idea, especially of you are on a budget. Until you have more knowledge, keping your purchases at the low end of the price spectrum prevents making expensive mistakes.

You are doing what I usually recommend and that is to get a relatively inexpensive ultra-adjustable bow. This kind of bow can be set to a lower draw weight while you are learning the process and cranked up considerable as you progress. (Careful! These bows usually restrict the available draw weights by draw length. If your draw length is long, for example, don’t expect the lighter draw weights to be available to you.)

These bows can be adjusted with simple tools, typically just Allen wrenches, and do not need specialized equipment or knowledge or additional parts to do so.

Getting the package provides you with at least all of the parts (but usually without a nocking point locator) you need to start shooting, even if they aren’t the style or quality you will end up with. As long as you don’t spend more than you can afford, you are probably going to be okay with one of these bows.

Tell me what’s up.

Steve

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

## Oooh, Ouch!

I got this call for help email from a colleague in Italy:

My average score at indoor competitions is around 510-515/600. I am quite regular in this. My objective is to reach 540/600 within the indoor season and I am working on it. But yesterday I shot a first half with a typical score (257), but I was feeling good, and in the beginning of the second half I started shooting very well. After seven ends I had 193 points which was 13 points higher than in my first round! I went back to the shooting line and asked ‘How many ends to go?’ ‘Three.’ I said ‘Not possible! I have 193 points already!’ Well, you can guess the result of my next end. I followed a 28 with a 20, then a 26, then a 21 and ended up with a ‘normal’ score of 260.

Apart from the fact that I was writing the scores (which I will try to avoid from now on), if I think back to that end, I cannot retrieve a different way of shooting, but obviously it happened. I tried to concentrate more after the 20, and it was slightly better, but in the final end, I shot another 5!

In the second part of the competition I had been shooting with an average of 28/30, until I realized I was going ‘too well’! My question for you is: what can I do to avoid this problem? Is there any ‘trick’ apart from trying not to realize how many points I got?”

* * *

Primarily, though, the little things don’t make big changes. To make a bigger change in your “comfort zone” you need to shoot “normal” scores in practice that are higher than 510-515. Here is how you do that: you start with a bigger target face at a shorter distance, say a 80cm target at 9 meters. Shoot a practice round (30 arrows, 300 points and multiple by 2 to get a 600 point score equivalent). Your score should be very high; if it is not, you are losing focus (probably because it is too easy … you think). You need to focus on shooting your normal shot, in normal rhythm, just at this larger target much closer up. Your arrows should all land in the gold (9s and 10s) giving you a score at least in the 560-580 range. Focus on getting your score to as high a level as you can without doing anything different like aiming too hard, trying to “help” shots into the 10-ring. Keep a score card and keep records of each and every score (just looking at those much better scores reinforces what you are doing). You must do this several times. (Obviously this takes quite a bit of practice time.) Then you can move the target from 9m 2-3 meters farther away and repeat the process. In 3-4 steps of doing this you will be back to 18m. After you shoot 2-3 very good scores at 18m, you go back to 9m with a 60 cm target face and repeat the process. All the time, you need to retain a high level of focus without “trying to score.” (“Try? There is no try; do or do not.” Yoda from Star Wars) After you have gotten through the series with the 60cm face, go back to 9m with a 40cm face. When you finish the series with the 40cm face, you will be at regulation distance (18m) with a regulation target face and along the way, you will have shot 100’s of arrows into the gold and shot dozens of scores higher than 510-515. Then it will be “like you” to shoot scores higher than your “old normal.”

Your subconscious mind sees an arrow in the gold and it is an arrow in the gold. It doesn’t care that you “cheated” by using a larger face at a shorter distance. Only “experience” can lead to an improved self-image but we can accelerate that experience (rather than wait for several years as your scores creep up slowly) through these kinds of exercises.

A word of caution: if your form or execution or equipment are weak, this will help, but much less than if your form is solid and your equipment is tuned well. Check your tune and make sure your setup is good before doing the above exercise. You need to have confidence in your equipment to perform well.

If you figure out a way to not know your score, I will appreciate your sharing that! You must, however, must (must, must, must,…) avoid projecting your score into the future. So, if your end score is 26 or 25 or 27 you just approve of that and move on. You do not want to think things like “If I keep this up I can shoot a new personal best!” … these kinds of thoughts take you out of the “now” and place you squarely in the future and you must shoot in the “now” in order to shoot well. Also, you will end up on an emotional roller coaster and you now know what they feels like—”Oh, I have 193 points, how can that be?”) which will undermine the steadiness and calmness needed mentally to score well.

Does this help? These are methods archers have used successfully to move their comfort zones up and thus improve their scores.

I do hope this helps and you let me know if you try it and whether it worked for you.

Steve

Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

## How Many Things Can I Work On at a Time?

I got a query from one of my students which asked:

That leads me to something I meant to ask in the last email … what happens when you have a list of things to work on? I know from our lessons you can only effectively work on one thing at a time. So how do you choose what? The thing that is most wrong? The thing that is earliest in your shot sequence? The thing you think will give you the most bang for your buck (or time spent working on it). There are so many aspects to a shot sequence it seems inevitable that you will end up with a list of things. Oh, and, of course, each step builds on the previous, so if there is something you are working on early in your shot sequence it has to be there, done the new/different/correct way in order to practise something else.

* * *

I have the most wonderful students! (Good students ask good questions, that’s one of the ways you can tell which are the good ones.)

There is a common misconception that equates “work on only one thing at a time” into “work on only one thing until it is better before you tackle another,” which is wrong. You can work on many things at once, just not two at once. It has to do with feedback.

If you try to work on your bow arm and release at the same time and a group of arrows is better than before, was it due to an improvement in your bow arm or release or both? A potentially awful outcome is that one of those changes made it better and the other made it worse but not enough to not make the whole group better. In this latter case, you are getting a mixed message. When we do something differently we only have a “better” or “worse” outcome to judge whether the change we are exploring is a good one or not. We want to be able to attach those “better or worse” judgments to just one thing. This is my definition of getting good feedback.

So “work on only one thing at a time” limits how many things you can work on simultaneously but not how any things you can work on concurrently. (Sorry for the big words, but being accurate sometimes requires them.)

I do not have any good science to back up my recommendations but here is what I recommend: keep a list of things you think need work but limit those you are working on currently to three. I also recommend that before you shoot an arrow during any practice or competition session that you read that list, the whole list. When you are “warming up” you want to pay special attention to the three items you are trying to change at the moment. If you do not do this and just “warm up,” you will end up gravitating back to the shot you have practiced the most, what I call your “old normal” shot and you will then be send this message to your subconscious mind “it is normal that sometimes we shoot the ‘new shot’ and sometimes we shoot the ‘old shot’.” We want, rather, the message to be “we are committed to the ‘new shot” and no longer shoot the ‘old shot’.” So, read the list with special attention to doing the top three the new way … do it … do it every time you shoot.

As soon as you are warm, the best time to spend working on your top three items is right away. This will lay a foundation for the rest of the practice session being based upon your new shot and not your old one.

Now, as to what order to take on these changes in your shot, you have some choices to make. There is logic and some science behind each of these and I haven’t been able to determine which is better, so my default position is “whichever feels better to you.” My thinking is if you think something is the right way to proceed, you will make better progress than if you are not sure, certainly better than if you are convinced you are going about it the wrong way.

Here are the two approaches that seem wise to me.

Tackle the Changes from Greatest to Least Effect If we could put a score impact rating on any prospective change, under this rule, you would tackle the issue that would have the greatest positive effect on your score first. So, if Change A would improve your score by 7%, it is more worth your time than Change B that might only improve your score by 1%. What this means practically, is that the effect of Change A would also be easier to see while it was happening and that improvement would strongly guide the process and supply motivation. Something with a tiny 1% improvement potential would be hard to see in the first place and would provide little motivation.

This plays out, interestingly, in the history of each and every serious archer. When they first begin, their scores are quite low and they make progress as they learn in leaps and bounds. As they get better, though, it becomes harder and harder to improve and each improvement requires more and more effort. This is, in general, why there are so many really good archers, but few great ones.

The hard part if you adopt this order of making changes is how to assign a scoring improvement potential to each potential change. If you figure out how to do this, please, please let me know!

Tackle the Changes in the Order of Your Shot Sequence This option, I think, benefits archers who most recently have chosen to become serious archers. The previous procedure, I think, benefits archers who have established their shot and are making smaller changes therein. The reason I believe this is twofold: for one you will be making improvements in your scores that are substantial as you work anyway; for another since you don’t have a settled shot yet, you do not want to be practicing a later aspect of your shot that will be changed when an earlier step is modified.

This approach, of course, makes it much easier to identify which you do first, second, third, etc.

When I work with a new Recurve student (my questioner is an Olympic Recurve archer) I work from what I call the “Three Pillars.” The three foundations (aka pillars of support) for consistent accuracy are a relaxed bow hand, a relaxed string hand, and good full draw body alignment (in this case delineated by the archer’s triangle—see illustration). So, the thing I most often address with a Recurve archer first is his/her … stance. It seems that most beginning Recurve archers have been told that an open stance is somehow required. But rotation your feet counterclockwise when your shoulders need to rotate clockwise to get into good FDP is working against what you want. A closed stance, at least to start with, doesn’t result in an archer’s shoulders fighting with his/her stance to get into position. So, I work to get their hands relaxed, and their body in position. (The same is true for compound archers, with a few details being different).

If  that archer is still building his/her shot, I then work through the shot sequence, helping them find their form as they go.

Conclusion
So, you have to decide which route you want to take and commit to it … and … (you knew there would be an “and” didn’t you) I think the best way to proceed is to make an improvement and then move on from each thing on your list. You do not need to make something perfect. If you think you do, you will be spending a great deal of time working on just a few things and you will feel as if no progress is being made.

Make an improvement and then move on. Your shot is an organic whole; you cannot change part of it in isolation and like a chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link, so think of the changes you are making as being on an upward spiral. You will go around and around, through your shot, paying extra attention to each part over and over. But you will feel the progress being made (the list of items you have crossed off as having improved should not be discarded; it is an indicator of progress made). And, each time you come back to the same item (e.g. I need to improve the solidity of my anchor.) it is not an admission that you didn’t fix it before but that you have made sufficient improvements that your improved anchor is no longer quite good enough (Hooray!). Having to work on items again are indicators that you have reached another level.

In order to tell whether you have reached another level or are just going “round and round getting nowhere” you have practice and competition round scores. If they are getting higher or more consistent where they are, you are making progress.

I hope this helps!