The Role of Clarity in Learning and Coaching Archery

I am working on a book project with Mike Gerard currently and it is a book of archery drills, a resource long needed. One problem we face is all drills have to be performed in a context and the book is a collection of drills, without supplying the overall context. Each drill has a description of what it addresses, but what the archer is trying to accomplish in toto is upon him or her.

It is extremely important for a serious archer to have a clear understanding of what they are trying to do and how they intend to do it. Otherwise I am reminded of the old joke of a bus driver who turns to his passengers and says “I have good news and bad news. The good news is we are making good time. The bad news is that we are lost.” Who cares what your rate of progress is if you do not know where you are going.

An Aside Please note that any serious archer will have better scores as they train … initially. Even if the form and execution chosen are flawed, practice will make them better at it, so scores alone cannot be our guide. Scores will plateau at some point that they will either be good enough or not and you can’t tell that until they plateau.

Now, you can well imagine that I can disclaim on proper archery form and execution for weeks, non stop. Setting that aside, it is key to have some clarity of purpose in this regard, even if it is wrong. There are a number of reasons: for one, we are not absolutely sure what is the “right way” to shoot arrows from a bow. For another, if we do not know what we are trying to accomplish, we are massively stuck, because we can never tell if we have achieved the level of technique and skill we desire. If we can do that, figure out where our bus is going and whether we are there yet, we have a chance because we can evaluate whether that particular form and execution actually works for us. If your archer has perfected her technique and it isn’t giving her the results she wants, then she needs to be doing something else. (Which brings to mind the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)

As a coach, our role is to help athletes clarify what they want to do and how they want to do it. Initially they may not know exactly what to do, so this is a journey we take with our athletes. The clarity arrives over time. It is vitally important that such clarity is highly prized, even down into what you ask from your archers. If they do not understand what you want them to do, the odds are not good they will achieve it. Clarity regarding the overall task should drive what you do from day to day, including selecting drills to bolster a small part of your archer’s technique or skill.


Filed under For All Coaches

6 responses to “The Role of Clarity in Learning and Coaching Archery

  1. Sue Palsbo

    I have been thinking a lot about training for the Masters (age 50+) archer, recently. Drills would be helpful if they explained to me which muscles I’m using, what those muscles do during a “good” shot, and how to modify the drills if the muscles have broken down from old age, overuse or injury. In addition, how should the drill be modified for the aging muscle to gain the same result as a prime-aged skeletal-neuromuscular system? I’m looking forward to the book!


    • Hi, Sue,

      Because of your background, I can see why you have this approach. Unfortunately focusing on what is happening inside of your body is the wrong focus. The focus has to be external, toward accomplishing the task. The biggest problems seem to me not to be in muscle development, but in flexibility as we all seem to get more and more inflexible as we age. The general approach, as you know is to start with light resistance exercised, and work your way up.

      We will not be including any physical training drills because our focus is upon learning archery technique, learning archer skills, and expanding upon all of those. (Includes mental aspects, TP, etc.) I just got a book, however that does a good job of what you indicate you want. It is called “Archery Fitness” by Ashley Kalym (a Brit?) and is subtitled “Physical Training for the Modern Archer.” This is a quite standard approach to strength training focused on developing the muscles needed for archery. Obviously, there are different approaches.

      I think it is cool you are venturing out into the Master’s landscape. I have been thinking about doing just that (in Recurve Barebow) myself.

      On Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 1:03 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Steve, please write a book or even a couple of tailored articles in Archery Focus, regarding tips/ideas for ages 50+ compound as well as Olympic Recurve and even Bare-bow. Master’s is getting more attention from the big organizations and more avenues for competition are being opened. Lots of older archers are beginners, too!


      • This seems to be a topic I need to follow up on. Interestingly, archery was becoming an old persons sport (at one point I heard the average NFAA Freestyle archers was 56 years old). lately, of course, archery has had some remarkable growth, especially amongst the young. So, while we all old, we focused on the young and now that the young have arrived, we will focus on the old. Makes sense to me!

        On Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 2:16 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:


        Liked by 1 person

      • G. Zimmerman

        I am an 61 year old archer that has only shooting for 3 years. The most helpful thing that I did was learn to relax my neck during all aspects of the shot sequence. I have two plates in my neck with limited rotation. The Feldenkrais method has really helped in that regard.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We need to do a better job in teaching coaches how to adjust “standard form” for people with infirmities such as yours. Right now, nothing is being taught other than how a perfectly healthy, perfectly fit individual should shoot.

        On Wed, Oct 24, 2018 at 4:30 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:


        Liked by 1 person

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