An Archery Analogy

As part of a bureaucracy (I was a teacher) I saw this happen over and over again and have read about this occurring many more times. It is part of the bureaucratic workflow now. It goes something like this.

A bureaucratic leader shows how an agency can work spectacularly well. One example was a county roads supervisor who found ways to inspire his employees and produce clean safe roads for his service area. His methods were highlighted in this article I was reading. This is why we all crave “good leadership,” even when we have no idea what it looks like unless it is right in front of our faces. It seems that all we need is “a strong leader.” But these folks do not come along all that often and “waiting for Superman” is just not a good strategy. So bureaucrats try mightily to “institutionalize” the methods of these inspired leaders: they create rules, and bureaucratic structures to make sure that the fruits of that leadership are carried on into the future.

This happens over and over . . . and eventually, almost always fails. Not always but often enough. So . . . how come?

Before I address that, let’s see how this plays out in an archery context. A promising archery competitor becomes known. So, what path does he/she follow? Often, he/she has a famous or near famous archer, occasionally a coach, who they use as a guide. They “want to be like Mike” or whoever they consider to be an exemplar of all that they are striving for.

Does this work? Generally not so much. So . . . how come?

What is missing from all of these scenarios, political and archery, is any indication of how much hard work was applied to get the results lauded. I have had quite a number of experiences in which I helped recruit volunteers, who we then worked like dogs to achieve an end. And then those volunteers thanked us for being included! Why? Because we inspired them. They felt their hard work was for a good end. We acknowledged them and their work and thanked them profusely, but no money, no medals, etc. changed hands. We did ask them for input into processes and treated them like adults who had something to offer, which also went a long way.

The key element for bureaucratic systems and archers alike is working hard, very hard, to achieve their outcomes. Success, without all of that hard work, seems transient. (We see it all of the time with young archers who win everything in sight, and then drift away from the sport.)

The hard work that these champions engage in is rarely emphasized. We see lists of their equipment (they have sponsors after all), we see lists of their accomplishments (championships, medals, and monetary prizes won, etc.), but we rarely see lists of their ordinary training/work hours/activities.

Bureaucratic employees are no longer inspired by a charismatic leader, but are urged to do things “by the book.” Archers rarely emulate the brutally challenging practices of their “heroes” but will buy equipment that apes theirs, or adjust their form and execution to look like theirs, etc.

Those of us you publish stuff will do better by getting some of this other information into print and circulation. Obviously it has value. Celebrities sell their workout routines. Competitive cyclists sell their training plans. Nutritionists sell their nutritional regimens, especially if they work with celebrities. If we aren’t sharing the key elements undergirding the success of these people, what are we selling?


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “An Archery Analogy

  1. Szaja gottlieb

    Everyone has talents. The question is whether they have a talent to develop their talent.


    • I try not to use the term “talent” or “gifts” as they induce a fixed mindset. I think everyone has capabilities that can be developed.

      On Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 10:43 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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