As a retired teacher, I am often amazed when people claim that it is a problem that student test scores have plateaued, that is show no improvement. What, did they expect that a new group of seventh-graders, taught much the same way as the last group, would somehow, magically, perform better?
What connection does the current group of seventh-grades have to those now in eighth grade? Answer: none whatsoever. Anyone learned in process mechanics knows that if you take a sheet of steel and place it in a mold and hit it with a press ram, that the part you get will be near identical to the last part. They have even figured out ways to ensure that the outcome is the same, within reasonable process parameters. They only compare one with the next if they expect them to be identical.
What is reasonable to expect is that the eighth-graders, given the seventh-grade tests, would perform slightly better. That comparison is comparing apples to apples and not apples to oranges. (My cartoon mind shows someone holding up an orange and commented on what a poor color this apple has.)
So, let’s talk about this applies to archery scores.
Should they be going up?
There is really only one scenario in which they do. If all you do is practice and shoot in competitions, your scores should either stay the same . . . or go down. That’s right, I said down. Studies show that just doing a skill does not make you better, but often can make you worse. I use driving a car to exemplify this fact. Commuting to work every day and racking up hundreds of thousands of driving miles, does not qualify you to compete in NASCAR events. And, your driving skills may actually be eroding. This is because the vast majority of time you spend driving, you are driving on autopilot. You are not focused on your driving, trying to get better, etc.; you are just driving subconsciously.
So, if you practice rarely and compete rarely, I suspect your scores would be going down if, indeed, they ever went up in the first place.
If you practice frequently (making you someone in good “archery shape”) and compete frequently, I suspect that your scores should hold steady. (I have spoken with professional archers who are practicing little and competing a great deal and they have complained that their scores were going down. It does take both.)
In order for your scores to go up, you need to be focusing upon practice sessions designed to make you a better archer. This is the only way you can “improve” your archery.
The mistake we make is most of us are in the second category but thinking, “Gee we are spending so much time and effort (and money); we should be getting better!” This is the equivalent to “Gee, I paid so much money for my family car and I commute quite a distance to work and back each day, I should be getting better as a driver, right?”
Nope, you are just reinforcing your ability to perform at your average level or lower.
The message for your students is that two things are required to get better: (a) time on task and (b) focusing on things that demonstrably make them better. They need to come up with “a” and you, as their coach, need to help them find “b.”
In finding “b” the trial-and-test process is your friend. Your job is to make suggestions as to drills your student can do that will make them better and devise tests that will show whether or not that drill is working for them. Better coaches diagnose faults better. Better coaches make better suggestions. Better coaches devise good evaluation plans.
Are you getting better?
PS I am not tweaking you. At this stage in my life I am well past my peak with regard to, well, anything. I still devote energy in trying to learn more about what will make me a better coach, but find myself more and more focused in sharing what I already know. I may be past my peak, but you are probably not, and you can take us farther than I can. I do hope you will adopt the spirit of “passing on your coaching knowledge” as I think not doing that is what has hindered us and our sport in the past. Steve