Do You Want the Long Answer or the Short One?

Toward the end of my teaching career when a student asked me a question I asked them “Do you want the long answer or the short one?”

In archery I expect that athletes would want the short answer to their questions. Their priorities are finding out which things are worth their time and effort to try and then figuring out whether those things work for them.

Coaches, on the other hand, should ask for the long answer. They should know the background, even the history, of the things they teach. They could also know the science of what they recommend. It would be nice to know all of the pitfalls when archers first try certain moves, and lots, lots more.

The students I taught were generally taking chemistry as a service course, to provide background for the things they were truly interested in, not because they were going to be applying that knowledge. It did not offend me that they, almost to a person, asked for the “short answer.” The rare chemistry major I encountered, would occasionally ask for the long answer, as is appropriate. That I asked my adult students this question and then accepted their judgment, I felt, was a sign of my maturing as a teacher.

When archery coaches are in “teaching mode” the most important principle to apply is “know your student.” If they are serious competitive archers, give them the short answer and ask if they want to know why. If not, don’t hold it against them, that’s not their job to know those things; it is your job. If they are beginning recreational archers, always, always give them the short answer. And tell them funny stories, they like those.

Oh, and when you email me with questions, it is perfectly okay to ask for “the long answer” or “the short answer,” I will understand.


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “Do You Want the Long Answer or the Short One?

  1. Coach Rama

    Mr. Ruis,
    well said.
    In our profession, I have come across too many coaches that know little to nothing about the science of what they are teaching. A little knowledge, is a dangerous thing and can do more harm (to the archer), than good.
    As a coach, I made sure to study the physiological, biological and psychological areas connected to our discipline. Becoming certified in each of these sciences, allows me to train the students with a greater confidence. I know how to answer the questions as well.
    Psychological bonding is very important, as it lets the archer know that they are not alone in their efforts. An archer experiencing the yips or a dip in performance, should always be able to turn to their coach for the necessary support at these times.
    Physiological and biological areas, are equally as important but for other reasons. Creation of ‘form’ in relation to an efficiently repeatable shot cycle, is achieved by reprogramming the archers brain to move the body parts correctly as needed. They will ask questions and as I have found out, not all possess the physiological or biological knowledge that I do and so, short answer are key in these areas. I will very often, draw (on a small portable white board) the areas that I am talking about. In doing so, I educate them about themselves.
    We as coaches, should never be judgemental about other coaches but I think that we should protect our sport by making sure that the level of professionalism, is what the archers deserve.


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