Paralysis by Analysis

You may know I use golf coaching and golf training literature as templates for their archery equivalents. Golf and archery, field archery especially, have many commonalities. And the world of archery is far behind golf in its coaching literature and supports.

One of the coaching commonalities seems to be that we have dissected our motions into tiny little bits and then exposed those bits to the wrong audience. Dissecting an archery shot into tiny bits for analysis is perfectly suitable, in fact desirable, for coaches. It is a source of misery and confusion for archers. We can see this most clearly in golf.

Note that the golfer’s arms are pointing up and to the left, while the club is pointing to the right. The angle thus created is referred to as “lag.”

I just saw an advertisement for a book entitled “The Release: Golf’s Moment of Truth” by Jim Hardy. In a golf swing the “release” refers to the practice of releasing the wrist cock created by the golfer on the back swing. At address a golfer’s club shaft is aligned with his/her arms. When the club is swung back overhead, the wrists “cock” the club so the club head is farther back than the golfer’s hands. Once the downswing has begun, the club head lags behind the golfer’s hands, substantially, and golfer’s are taught to preserve this “lag” until the last possible moment, because when this “lag” is released, a great whipping action is created, delivering more force to the golf ball, causing it to fly farther (if struck correctly). This releasing of the “lag” is called, most sensibly, “the release.”

All of this occurs in a small fraction of a second, of course, so this information is of no use to a golfer—coaches yes, golfers no. The authors have apparently created a system described by the acronyms LOP and RIT to help golfers break this tiny moment in time into even smaller units. LOP stands for “Left arm, Outward, Pull” while RIT stands for “Right arm, Inward, Throw” apparently a recipe for a good release of the lag in a swing.

All of this information may be good information for coaches, but in a golfer’s mind, they can only lead to confusion.

If you coach Olympic Recurve archers I strongly recommend you read this book. I recommend you don’t recommend this to your students.

We do the same in archery. I have found USA Archery National Coach Kisik Lee’s two books fascinating (and am eagerly awaiting the promised third book on coaching) … but I never recommend them to archers. Why? They contain too much information they can do nothing about. I cringe when I hear archer’s talking about LAN2, scapulae, 60:40 weight distributions, and the distribution of finger pressures on the string. An archer is looking for subconscious competence. When he/she is shooting, there are no conscious thoughts attached to making the actual shot. They are consciously aware of shooting, but they are not thinking about shooting, certainly they cannot be thinking about the details of making the shot. That leads to “paralysis by analysis.” This term was invented around 1956 (I think) but shows up in works going back to Aesop’s fables. In general it refers to overthinking a problem.

A coaches job is to take concrete knowledge (and even hunches) and turn them into actionable things archers can do. Archers then judge those actions by how they feel and how they affect their results. Supplying the background information is usually a mistake. (Some archers, typical those described as being Type As, want their coaches to demonstrate this knowledge, but usually just to check to make sure the coach knows whereof he/she speaks, not because they need that information.)

In golf there are golfers tying themselves in knots trying to increase their smash factors, change their launch trajectories, decrease or increase their spin rates, and create more lag and a better release. If the golfer is a professional, literally steeped in golf for a living, this might be helpful. For an amateur, this is the road to paralysis by analysis. Same is true in archery.


Filed under For All Coaches

3 responses to “Paralysis by Analysis

  1. Tom Dorigatti

    You stated: “…A coaches job is to take concrete knowledge (and even hunches) and turn them into actionable things archers can do. Archers then judge those actions by how they feel and how they affect their results. Supplying the background information is usually a mistake. (Some archers, Type A’s, want their coaches to demonstrate this knowledge, but usually just to check and make sure the coach knows whereof he/she speaks, not because they need that information.)
    The sentence, “…. (Some archers, Type A’s, want their coaches to demonstrate this knowledge, but usually just to check and make sure the coach knows whereof he/she speaks, not because they need that information.) ” is especially important. I, as a coach have had to deal with this many times.
    I have also had to listen to “students” and “archers” put down other coaches that have years and years of experience with winning major tournaments and also a coaching palmarès that would put most of today’s “current coaches” to shame! There are also other coaches (I, for one, that are put down behind their/my backs because we don’t win tournaments, or no longer compete in events!
    What I hear is most disconcerting: “Oh, him/her…he/she is a has been and is way behind the times. That “old stuff” doesn’t apply to today’s archery games; things have “totally” changed since he/she was in competition.”
    As if many of today’s newbie hot dog shooters have very much experience at all in COACHING or have a clue that you must, “Learn how to teach before you can really teach how to learn.”
    Another disconcerting thing I hear, “Well he/she hasn’t won any MAJOR tournaments so what does he/she know about teaching or coaching someone in how to compete and move up the leader board?” OR worse yet, “Well he/she isn’t so hot of a shooter, so why on earth should anyone listen to him/her when they cannot hardly shoot worth a crap anyways?”
    Another one: “Well, he/she carries around this card that he/she is a “Level III or Level IV coach…what does that prove? They paid money to go to some seminars, and they don’t know how to shoot well themselves, so how can they possibly teach someone how to shoot?”
    Oh, but the doubters out there that think that to TEACH, the teacher must have to have performed at Olympic or PROFESSIONAL level and WON many tournaments and National or World Titles…or he/she isn’t worth the ink on the card.
    Uphill battle folks, a BIG uphill battle! Too many “know it alls” out there that countermand efforts and wilingness of many archers that are competent enough to become coaches, but hear things like what I mention above and totally shy away from it because of the bad-mouthing and the hassle from the “know it alls” that will countermand and undo anything they attempt to do to help a student that has hired them.
    “Oh, that. Well he/she hasn’t won anything, and I’m telling you that they don’t have a clue what they’re talking about. Listen to me, because I shoot way better than they do now or ever have.”
    The list of the negative statements made grows and the incentive for those with the knowledge and competence to TEACH/COACH and not to just inflate their own egos shrinks!
    WINNING and “coaching” don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Often times the best “shooters” are among the WORST coaches. There are exceptions, but those exceptions quickly get discouraged by hearing the above comments made in front of them or behind their backs.


    • Yeah, the funny thing is that in other sports, like baseball, the elite performers rarely work out as coaches. The better coaches seem to come from the class of strivers. They didn’t have much talent buy they learned how to work hard and how to practice and achieved inspite of not having significant natural gifts. Any coaches in the NFL star performers? One I know was a starting quarterback but he went back to coaching in college. No stars. How about professional golf coaches? Any starts? Nope. Idiot archers abound, my friend.

      Tom, you got to stop listening to idiots. there are more and more archers than ever before (3 million more from 2012 to 2015 according the the ATA survey). Find the one’s who listen. Work with them. When I start working with a new student I ask them to agree to do something. Whether or not they do it is a test. (One is typically: get a notebook and make a list in it (of the things they have agreed they need to work on).) If they do not pass the test we have a talk. (I gave you a test. You failed. I don’t have time and energy to work with students who say they are serious buy behave otherwise. I don’t have the energy to keep going unless you are serious … followed by “Are you in or out?”

      Next time you hear this argument, try confronting the “speaker” and ask him for examples of stars in other sports who are now coaches, just name a few. No, not a few? How about just one? Follow on with “I know it is rude pointing out that someone is speaking nonsense, but sometimes you just have to.”

      On Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 11:52 AM, A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Tom Dorigatti

        Very well put, Steve! I think it is important to give notice (warn) prospective, new, and even seasoned coaches of what obstacles to expect. Not so much “listening” to idiots as it is their brashness and disregard for the facts of the matter, personal feelings, and how it affects that particular coach’s relationship with that student and potentially other students as well.
        These helpful wannabee “coaches” can totally wreck months of work the real coach has implemented because the wannabee hasn’t a clue of what particular processes that real coach has put into achieving particular corrective actions or processes. MOST wannabees haven’t a clue about goal setting, process development, or planning; they simply go through their particular motions, right or wrong and “what works for ME must work for anyone” approach.
        I’ve had to make the decision to cease coaching some students because, even though our agreement was that they listen to what the wannabees have to say, but they don’t undertake the instructions until they’ve spoken with me FIRST, they take the advice and implement it right away without checking with me first. I had the talk with them about why they made a change or changes (they seem to think they can get by and I won’t notice it) and got the standard, “Well it seems to work better.” That pretty quickly ended it for me to be their “coach” and they were asked to seek out that other person since they want to listen to them instead of only have ONE and only ONE “coach.”
        My time is valuable too, and I won’t coach a student that will just up and take everyone else’s advice, setup, or word and disregard or abandon what we’ve been working on.
        Again, it is a tough road to hoe when there are so many experts out there that know so much…about THEIR process…but haven’t a clue how to teach that process one step at a time and analyze whether that process will even remotely work for the person they have now decided is THEIR student.
        I remember in college the adage I stated earlier: “You have to learn how to teach before you can teach how to learn.”
        That is the point of the coaching schools; it isn’t a hit or miss proposition and it sure isn’t based upon the premise that what works for ME will probably work for everyone, so I will “teach” my way of doing things because it works for ME.


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