“So-Called Mental Skills Coaches”

I was reading an article about the 2019 U.S. women’s national soccer team and encountered this: “The US have often employed sports psychologists and so-called mental skills coaches over the years, although there is not currently a full-time staff member working in either of those roles.”

“So-called” mental skills coaches . . . hmm.

Why not “The US have often employed sports psychologists and mental skills coaches over the years, . . .”? Why “so-called”?

Sports coaching seems to be an established field, but I suspect that is because there are coaches who make a great deal of money doing that as a job, rather than there being standard (or non-standard) criteria that qualifies you to do it, such as doctors and lawyers and beauticians have.

What is it that qualifies one as a “mental skills coach”? When I look at my favorite mental skills coach, Lanny Bassham, he not only invented himself and his business as a mental skills coach, he invented his curriculum, too! There are now education programs just coming into existence that are certification programs, so “certified mental skills coach” is a phrase now coming into being. (Lanny’s company, Mental Mangement Systems is offering some of these.)

Note As an aside, it took me a long time to realize that a certification program was one that had a certificate at the end. What the certificate establishes is that you completed the program in good order, nothing more, nothing less. Basically it is just a “certificate of completion” for a course of study. The value of the certificate is derived only from the value of the program, or it should, although some programs seem to limp along, harvesting their former reputations along the way.

So, what is it that qualifies one as an “archery coach,” then?

In the infancy of archery coaching in this country, which was not that long ago, what qualified you as an archery coach was the fact that you coached archers. There were few of them and no, count them—zero, zilch, nada—archery coach training programs.

What qualifies one to coach archery is still evolving, although evolving chaotically in my opinion. There are a number of things that are needed to make “archery coach” a more recognizable position, far from being a “so-called archery coach,” and they do not involve getting a high paying job with a professional team or major university. One of the things I found missing when I first got a coaching certificate (a Level 2 certificate from the then National Archery Association, now USA Archery) and that is any kind of professional literature for archery coaches. I searched and searched and searched and found exactly two books on coaching archery, both of which were on how to teach a college archery classes (and one of them was published in 1935).

I can’t remember exactly when it was I took on the task, the mid-2000’s I think, but I decided to make the attempt to create a professional literature for archery coaches. (No shrinking violet I.) I went about and used my position as editor of Archery Focus magazine to ask every coach I knew to write books about coaching . . . and got turned down every . . . single . . . time. So, I wrote one book myself (Coaching Archery, WAF 2009) to get the ball rolling. The project got turned down by traditional publishers, so we formed our own publishing company, Watching Arrows Fly, which now has about a dozen titles on coaching (and many more on other archery topics, all available on Amazon.com) and a half dozen more coaching books are on the drawing boards. (I am editing, designing, and laying out one such currently—Bob Ryder on Coaching Collegiate Archery).

It is a start.

We made an abortive attempt to create a community for archery coaches. We called it The Archery Coaches’ Guild. The effort is on hiatus because we just didn’t have the resources to pull it off. We spent many hundreds of hours and a fair amount of money on it only to end up back on the proverbial “square one.” It is doable as we designed it as a virtual community (around a web site) but we just couldn’t get it done.

At some point or other, when I am brave enough, I will take a shot at writing an outline of archery coaching knowledge. Part of that “tree” will be a branch, a stout branch, labeled “Mental Skills” or the “Mental Game of Archery.” (So-called metal skills coaches, my ass!) Other branches will include archery equipment knowledge, the role of technique and how to teach it, how to develop archery skills, how to compete successfully, how to operate a recreational program, the science of archery, etc. My thought is if I create such an outline and share it widely, it will stimulate people to write about these topics. If we can accumulate the coaching wisdom of current coaches then future coaches will not have to “start from scratch,” as it were, developing their coaching kit. And, if they add their acquired wisdom on top of ours, well, maybe we will have something of great value to coaches going forward and, through them, to all archers.



Filed under For All Coaches

7 responses to ““So-Called Mental Skills Coaches”

  1. To me, archery is one of the top sports a person can be involved with. The problem I see is the lack of knowledge the general public has about it. And now we have a general public that has construed a bow to be a “firearm “ and you are not allowed to shoot one within city limits unless it is at a sanctioned archery range. ( At least in my area.)
    So as a result of it being so difficult to even shoot a bow people turn away from even being interested. I totally understand the danger involved (archery golf!) and I don’t have the answer but I know if it became a family sport parents would want coaches and competition for their kids. Maybe we need an extreme version like “Hunger Games” to have something that excites the spectators…..
    Anyway, just a few thoughts about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do not need archery Hunger Games, heck we don’t even need Archery Tag (a questionable set of incentives if there ever was one).

      Many municipalities heap archery in with firearm codes because they are clueless and only consider what could go wrong. This essentially makes a bow and arrow a firearm in those counties! (Where’s the damned fire?!)

      Your pessimism is not founded in reality. In 2012 and 2015 the Archery Trade Association (ATA) did phone surveys in every US state. In the 2012 survey they found millions of archers no one knew about (and they didn’t count anyone under 18, so all youth archers went uncounted. They repeated basically the same survey in 2015 (ATA_Participation_2015_Report_final.pdf Search for it, it is easy enough to find) and found a few million more archers they didn’t find before. In other words, we thought archery was a smaller sport that it was and it is growing … rapidly. The additional fact that there was been little organizational effort to accommodate these new archers shows there is room for much more growth.

      A surprise finding of those surveys–target archers substantially outnumber bowhunters. It was “common knowledge” that the majority of archers were bowhunters and that marketing archery products to target archers was only a “loss leader” for manufacturers … not! According to my estimate, target archers spend more money per capita on archery equipment than do bowhunters. Bowhunters spend on travel, camping gear, license fees, camo clothing, etc. So, why archery equipment manufacturers would have such a negative attitude toward target archers is bewildering. It kept them from expanding their markets substantially, so it had consequences.

      Do not despair, Padawan!

      On Sun, Jul 7, 2019 at 10:40 AM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:


      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you kind sir for rekindling my hopes for the sport of archery!!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I’m an effing cheer leader, aren’t I? Actually I have participated in so many of those time honored conversations where archers get together and bash the organizing agencies/officials/whatever. We alwasy seemed to know what should be done, but somehow never volunteered to do it.

        I often find that things are better than we think they are and those surveys (even from the ATA) were a breath of fresh air.

        On Sun, Jul 7, 2019 at 4:38 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



      • Yes, it’s frustrating that the simple solutions are so dreadfully difficult. It’s that way in everything we do. I have been involved in lots of things that involve humans and it seems it’s the same in every case. 😝


  2. Glad you clarified what happened so far with the guild idea. Hope it happens. Your are spot on about developing a library of books and articles of reference for archery instructors and coaches at all levels. I also hope you will encourage writers to include methods specifically tailored for archers ages 50+, which are a growing segment of the competitive archery scene. Thanks for all you have done and continue to do!


    • Thank you for the kind words. Interesting that you mention the 50+ age crowd. I was just communicating with an AF author on that very topic.

      On Sun, Jul 7, 2019 at 10:44 AM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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