Things Go Better with Coach!

One Archer, Five Different Coaches
If you took one archer’s shot, videoed it and showed those videos to five qualified archery coaches, you would likely get five different explanations of how to fix their flaws. However, I will argue that any one of them could potentially help the archer improve, but only if a couple of conditions were met.

First, the explanation from the coach for the changes recommended should resonate with the archer, aka the coach speaks their language. They need to respond to the communication in a way that makes sense and motivates them. Second, the archer would need to stick with that one coach’s voice as they continued to work. If they listened to all of the coaches at once, they would be worse off than when they started. You can’t make successful changes with too many voices floating around in your head. This is why “tips” and online videos are not good guides to better scores. (They can be helpful, but only for a specific topic and short term.)

Continuity Is Needed
Continuity is a problem that exists at every level of archery when it comes to coaching. Because changes occur only slowly, our instincts can be to switch coaches more often than is helpful, let alone being the guy who will take advice from anyone on the practice line at his club. Even the best archers in the world can cycle through a number of coaches rapidly when they don’t see immediate results.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of making meaningful changes to your form or execution, you need to stick with the same source of advice for “a while” and allow it to work. I don’t know how long that period is or should be but I also don’t know of anybody who does – that’s the challenge.

Archers develop shots that are unique to them. Yes, they look like everybody else, but they are different. Before I work with a serious archer I want to know what they think their issues are. I want to see them shoot and I want to know what their common misses are. Some archers can effectively shoot in ways that would undermine other archers. We recently had an Olympic men’s individual champion who shot with his string thumb behind his neck and with no sling (and yes, the videos showed him “grabbing the bow”). But if these things, these “form flaws,” are not problems for an archer, would you recommend they change them? Why? (I would not.)

This happens often enough when I work with young archers. These young people often haven’t developed enough muscle to keep their bow arm up through their shot. So their bow arm drops a little when the string is loosed. There is no immediate cure for this (although if their bow is too heavy, I suggest lightening it; young recurve archers do not need side rods or back weights, for example) so I tend to “leave it for later” (although I reinforce that work will have to be done at some point—just not now). If that archer sees another coach, they may see the “dropping of their bow arm” as a major flaw they need to work on . . . right now.

This is why I counsel archers who are seeing me or other coaches short term (something I recommend) that they should always take notes and discuss what was addressed with their “regular” coach to see how it fits into their improvement plan. Even “tips” from others on the practice butts, need to be brought to the regular coach for discussion. One of them may actually help.

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