The Damned List

In our sport, we commit to a routine, then if we want to change any part of that routine we have to commit to a revised routine. The problem with that is the almost magnetic appeal of the thing you have practiced the most recently, which is the old routine. Because of this I ask all of my students to keep in their notebook what I call “The List” which is a list of the things they have committed to change (this is just the top three if the list is longer than that). They are instructed to read this list before they shoot an arrow, in practice or competition, to remind them that they are going to be doing a few things differently, and to do this religiously.

Reading The List raises the probability of shooting the new way and lowers the probability of shooting the old way and thus makes learning faster. Shooting the old way and new way alternatively, which one can do just by warming up mindlessly, is a way to convince your subconscious mind that these two ways of shooting are alternatives.

I keep the list of things actively being worked on at three or fewer because I think that keeps things doable, plus a long list of things needed to be done can be depressing.

Two or three pages down in the notebook is “The List (con’t)” which has items #4 through whatever listed upon it. Whenever reasonable progress is made on an item on The list, that time gets lined out (with single thin line) and something from the #4 – #n list is promoted. (The numbers aren’t priorities and one should always promote that thing that gives the most “bang for the buck” as is said.

The reason for the thin lineouts is to be able to see what it was that progress had been made upon. Often, grinding away at getting better seems like a never ending task and it helps to see a list of things that one has improved. One can also see that elements pop up again on The list. This is because we make progress and move on. If that amount of progress isn’t enough we go back to work on some of the things we worked on before, but this time to make them even better.

The criterion for “good enough for now” is “of the same quality as the rest of the shot.” Making one link very much stronger than the rest in a chain, does not make the chain stronger (it being only as strong as the weakest link), so working on something already strong enough, to make it better, is counterproductive. As a student-archer improves, the standard of “good enough for now” goes up, so we do need to cycle though items more than once.


Filed under For All Coaches

2 responses to “The Damned List

  1. d7mongeau

    Really good point. Especially like re-enforcing the list before practice shots.


    • Of course, I “just warmed up” myriad times before “working on my shot,” so it was “old way–new way–old way–new way …” It is true that we learn by doing but I’d rather learn by doing it right than by doing it wrong. (I know all of the wrong ways to do things because I tried them all, all …)


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