To Really Improve Should I . . .

The question I address here is the one archers face: Should I focus on what needs improving, that is my weaknesses, or should I focus on my strengths? This a very good question and it must be answered if one is to shape good practice plans for the simple reason that working on the wrong solution rarely solves problems.

We humans, please note, have a bad case of awfulizing. When confronted with something negative we tend to dwell on it, make it out to be a bigger issue than it really is and be negatively affected by our thoughts. We quickly go from “Boy, this is awful” to “We’re doomed!” This propensity not withstanding, most archers are told to work on their weaknesses. I even made it into a practice framework.

My recommended practice structure is: you identify the weak points in your shot and list them for improvement (on The List), then when all aspects of your shot are at the same level of quality (the factor that tells you when you can stop working on each of those issues), you assess whether you are content with your performance at that level and if not then you go another round. If you can’t find any weaknesses, then all of the form elements making up your shot are to be improved to get to a new, higher level of performance.

So, that is what you should do, right?

Uh . . . maybe.

There is a downside to doing this. One of the big ones is we do not track progress at all well and we can get to a point of “I have been working to fix my problems for years now and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere! And I seem to have the same number of problems now that I had then.” The failing here is in not recognizing that there will always be weaker and stronger points in your shot. And as you progress, that is get better and better and better, it becomes more and more difficult to make progress. Economists call this the law of diminishing returns. It shows up in things like the Pareto Law, which is often stated as the 80:20 Rule: 80% of the progress comes from the first 20% of the effort. The flip side of which is the last 20% of the progress comes from 80% of the effort! For archers to understand this, have them compare how difficult it was to achieve a score of ten points (0 to a total score of 10 points), the first time in an Indoor 300 Round with how difficult it is scoring the last ten points for the first time in an Indoor 300 Round (290 to a total score of 300 points).

And, if you don’t keep careful records, you may not be seeing the progress made. I recently blogged about my use of “The List” and why it is important to not throw away old lists or to obliterate items on the list, with just single line outs allowed so you can go back and read about all of the items you have improved.

Plus there are good arguments to be made for working on your strengths. A big one is you are working on positives rather than negatives. And studies do show that if you concentrate on strengths, often weakness just sort of drift away. For example, reading well written texts enhances your ability to spell. If you read words with, well let’s just call them “different” spellings, then your ability to spell those words is eroded. As a teacher tasked with grading students’ written work, I can attest to this. I would see certain words miss-spelled so often that my ability to spell those words correctly suffered to the point of having to look up the correct spellings of those words quite often.

So, really, what are you supposed to do?

It is obvious: both. Do both.

I suggest working on your weakness and, from time to time working on your strengths. As yet another example, if you increase the strength of a certain muscle group, say your biceps muscles, gaining that increased strength leads to your handling of, say, heavier objects, which taxes other neighboring muscle groups that tends to make them stronger, so by all means, do work on your strengths, they are contagious!. Also, characterizing your weaknesses can be really helpful in feeling as if you have “left no stone unturned,” and that when things go wrong, if it is a recognized problem, you will also have a recognized solution that you have been working on. So, if you tend to drop your bow arm too early in a shot and have been applying a drill to fix that, if you drop your bow arm in competition, you are in a position of not only recognizing what had happened, but confident in a fix you can apply.

So, Grasshopper, do both.


Filed under For All Coaches

4 responses to “To Really Improve Should I . . .

  1. I agree about working both on the riches and the things that will be improved upon and some day be riches. Balance. I love keeping an archery journal with details about what was done each practice, what tournament scores were and other such. Thanks for your fine blog and tips!


    • My pleasure. Please send in questions you have as I can’t always come up with good things to write about. Steve

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2020 at 1:26 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  2. Coach Rama

    Hello Mr. Ruiz.
    Hope all is well on your side of the pond and you are enjoying your ‘ALONE’ time 🤔
    We have been in total lock down for two weeks and have until May 4th to go (minimum).
    So, what a great question and in my opinion, more difficult to answer than the simple ‘technical / technique’ side of things.
    An example… Sound, draws the eye to that area and distracts the archer from their main purpose. We now find a situation where the archer may (subcontiously), be competing with the archer on another target (human nature?). In my courses, I have a butt set up away from the main group and give archers a ‘time out’ during training, to shoot on that butt if I sense that they are starting to compete. This method helps them to prioritise what they should be doing vis a vis form + technique in regards to maximising points and for me, I can now deal with the minutiae relating to biology and physiology.


    • Good example. Sometimes a “form flaw” must be addressed straight up. Learning to control one’s attention is a long and arduous process. I remember the preparation of the French Olympic team for the Olympic Games (can’t remember which but some time ago) and they had French Drill Instructors from the military shouting at the archers from just a few inches away as they were shooting in practice. (The accompanying photo showed one of the drill instructors, known for shouting … loudly, with the veins along his neck standing out from his exertions.) The goal. of course was learning to shoot in the presence of aural distractions. The US Olympic Training Center, again long ago, used a high powered sound system to blare out obnoxious sounds during practices (babies crying, etc.).

      So, two helps: isolate the archer so he/she can get their bearings again and expose them to what they must learn to ignore.

      It comers down to “practice, practice, practice” and coaches need to be prepared to determine what has the highest priority right now (over and over and over …).

      I always love to hear from you Coach Rama. We are likewise “sheltering in place” until May (for now). We will be publishing some articles in the next AF on training during a pandemic. As always we hope to help.

      On Sun, Apr 12, 2020 at 11:57 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



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