Principles-Based Archery and Coaching

I work with a few coaches who are trying to expand their archery knowledge so as to be able to work with more students. (Mentoring coaches is important. If you aren’t doing it—either as a mentor or being mentored—think about it.) In one case I am teaching a recurve archer/coach about compound archery. Some coaches are more comfortable sticking to what they know best and that is fine. You do not have to learn about multiple styles, you can specialize. I do think, however, that a principles-based approach can help coaches apply what they know to different styles of archery (for those interested) as well as different variables within their chosen style and my intent for this post is to give an example of this.

This comment is based upon a very good archery instructional video: “How to Find a Recurve Anchor Point” hosted by Archery 360 (a site of the Archery Trade Association) and this video was made in conjunction with World Archery. It is available on YouTube here.

This video is wonderfully made, with excellent production values and high quality presentations. The archers shooting demonstrated excellent form (this is not always the case). And, of course, I had a quibble.

In discussing the characteristics of a high quality recurve anchor position they made the claim that the nose touch by the sting is intended as a mechanism to set the bow into a vertical position. This is debatable at best, actually I think this is wrong. Rather than a mechanism to set the bow into a vertical position, it is a mechanism to make consistent one’s head position. In the video, a illustration was drafted of how the bow being placed off vertical somehow changes the position of the string on the nose as a “tell” and this allows the archer to straighten his/her bow up so that it contacts the nose correctly. This might be true if the archer were struggling with holding his/her bow anywhere near vertical. It also might be true if archers didn’t put such a premium on the nose touch that they will tilt their head to make the nose touch the string no matter what. (Have you seen this? I have.) I think this concept of what the nose touch is for is misleading. For one, the nose touch is not calibrated such that one could detect a canted bow at all well. For example, could you determine a 3 degree bow cant at the tip of your nose? Our sense of touch is limited in the first place and the tip of our nose is not anywhere near as sensitive to touch as, say, our fingertips or lips. In other words, the tips of our noses are not up to this task. In fact, without our eyes, we are very limited in determining plumb or level positions of our own body parts.

A "nose touch" can be incorporated into a side anchor or a center anchor (as here) or in a totally screwed-up anchor. Its primary function is in controlinghead position, primarily head tilt.

A “nose touch” can be incorporated into a side anchor or a center anchor (as here) or in a totally screwed-up anchor. Its primary function is in controlling head position, primarily head tilt.

The actual context for the nose touch, I believe, is that the bow is raised into a vertical position after we set our heads to be level (we hope)—a level head is needed because the eyes need to be level to function optimally. The nose touch occurs at anchor, confirming that both head and bow are vertical and the head is not tilted up or down. One can keep one’s eyes level and tilt ones head up and down (do it now and you will be agreeing with me, aka nodding). But tilting one’s head up and down changes the distance from the nock to the pupil of the aiming eye, which changes one’s sight marks. One does not, I believe, adjust the verticality of the bow based upon the touch of the nose. The nose touch is almost all about head position, not bow position.

These things are not minor quibbles because they can mislead archers as to the procedures they are to follow. When should the bow be made vertical? I think this needs to be done at the end of the raise. (Keeping the bow vertical as long as possible locks in the feel of the bow being vertical when shooting. Compare this with, say, trying to make the bow vertical just before the loose.) When should the head be made vertical? I think this is just before the raise. After that point, there are many other things to do and we do not need to add to that list. Since we want to “bring the bow to us and not move our bodies to our bows,” we need to establish where we want the bow to go.

Note The entire shot sequence is based upon a “set and move on” basis, that if done quickly enough, the things done earliest stay where they were set.

So, the sequence for recurve archers is: set head erect, eyes level (establish line of sight to target), raise bow to be vertical, draw and anchor, establishing nose touch which confirms verticality and sets head tilt to be consistent shot after shot. Having to wait for “nose touch” to check bow verticality and adjustments if necessary is inherently imprecise and also wasteful of time and energy at full draw.

Compound archers, on the other hand, check whether their bow is plumb after they hit anchor. This is facilitated by letoff, creating a draw weight at full draw that is a small fraction of the peak weight passed getting to full draw (a 60# bow can have a holding weight as low as 12#), thus allowing more time at full draw to check things, plus the fact that their sight apertures have bubble levels set in them that allow bows to be set perfectly plumb (if the bubble level is correctly set up).

As you can see, I think there are sound physical reasons for doing these things at these times. It may be a small point, but an archer mislead leads to difficulties later when sequences need to be shifted around and a “new shot sequence” learned.



Filed under For All Coaches

4 responses to “Principles-Based Archery and Coaching

  1. Caio Taniguchi

    I’ve been interested in archery for a long time, and more recently, I`ve been voraciously reading blogs with guides, tutorials, studying equipment, and watching some videos. Finally I got a bow (a Bearpaw Slickstick) a couple of months ago; I never intended to target-shoot competitively, barebow/tradicional archery struck me hard as an awesome sport/venting off method.
    Scrolling through your blog posts, the title of this post immediatly caught my attention – “Have I found it?” I thought. When you describe the framework you are working with (“a principles-based approach can help coaches apply what they know to different styles of archery (for those interested) as well as different variables within their chosen style”) a tear of joy almost rolled down my eyes – as a medical doctor (i’m a pediatrician), we rely on those same principles: there’s the basic sciences and body of knowledge we all must know and apply that to our daily practice. Much of that knowledge have been ”codified” in protocols and algorithims for many specific situations (like archery’s “standard form”), but not always the problems faced fit the book. The absolute lack of coaching available here (I live in Brazil, and archery isn`t exactly a big thing around here. Specially if you live in a small city), and the limited progress I’ve made (in my perception) training alone the last couple weeks were getting me kind of frustrated, but after finding your blog and going through some posts, I`ve found some points to correct/improve, and I stilI got a huge list of posts bookmarked for later. Also, i`m learning and relearning a lot of kinematics, geometry and ballistics XD – which form the basic body of knowledge used to work on archery.

    I understand that, eventually (ideally since the beginning – now), I`ll need some actual coaching; but the help i`m getting with your articles are proving to be invaluable. Thanks a lot, and i`m eager to see more about your principles based archery)


    • Thank you for the kind words. I love Barebow (your style) and am currently working on getting a book on Barebow from a former world Champion. I am also in the final stages of a book (“Coach Yourself”) for people in your situation. If you have questions directly concerning your own archery, please feel free to send them to me (at as it helps me with topics to write upon.

      To be perfectly clear, the archery coaching establishment, such as it is, is not currently taking a principles-based approach to coaching. I am doing what I can to establish such an approach. I recently published “the Principles of Coaching Archery, Vol 1 & 2 as an attempt to get the “ball rolling.” These are just some principles that ocurred to me that might help coaches do a better job in coaching their archers. The books were not meant to establish a complete coaching system. So much to do, so little time! ;o)

      Good luck with your foray into archery. I think archery is the ideal sport for people in professions like yours. The short feedback loop of effort and result requires one to clear one’s mind of extraneous thoughts and to relax all nonessential muscles. The net result is that all of your current problems go away (?) for a while and the fascinating thing (from someone who follows new findings in neurobiology) is that your issues will come back to you … sorted in order of importance (first to last). At least that is my experience and that of some close confederates. This clearing and reordering of the “concerns list” is vastly helpful to intellectual workers.

      Your friend in archery,



      • Caio Taniguchi

        Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my comment!

        I’m really looking foward to see your new book, I’m sure it will be a great asset for people who practice either mostly alone and ‘conventionally’, and a great piece of archery knowledge!

        You are totally right about those effects of archery in one’s mind and mindset. Sometimes we are so overwhelmed by cumulative issues that come up during our routine that we can’t sort them out to work properly on them. After some ‘mindclearing and meditation’ the actual picture of the situation starts to make more sense, and that’s exactly how archery has been making me feel.

        I’ll be sure to message you with some questions soon! (Must come up with some really good questions… I’ll try not to embarrass myself too much!)

        Thanks so much for the attention, and best of luck in your projects,

        Live long and prosper,



  2. … And a Vulcan greeting! Cool! I am currently refreshing some of my reading on mindfulness (immersion in the senses) to write about its application in archery. I do believe that archery encourages a state of mindfulness through feedback (as that state correlates with better performances) but, then, we are immensely powerful and can override any natural tendency through sheer stubbornness!

    Cheers, my friend!


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