Archery Musts

I am sure, whether you are archer or coach, that you have heard a great many statements regarding the “musts” of archery. Sometimes these are framed as “shoulds” or “need tos” or “ought tos.” Unfortunately all of these are dead wrong. All of them.

Take, for example, “you need to shoot with back tension.” Well, do you? Obviously not since so many people shoot without it. Similarly, you need to shoot “with a surprise release.” A number of very successful compound archers are also release trigger punchers, so no surprise there.

The only “musts” that are valid are those associated with what you have committed to (or your student has committed to). If you or they have committed to shooting their compound bow using back tension with a surprise release, then there are certain “musts” that apply. If they haven’t committed to those techniques, those “musts” absolutely do not apply.

I am not just saying you need to “watch your language” or “do not use statements containing ‘must’ or ‘should’.” I am saying that those kinds of statements have to be linked to the goals committed to by the archer in question, either you or your student.

You can clarify such “must statements” by saying things like “If you really want a surprise release, then . . . we need to set up your release aid differently (or whatever).

I realize this is cumbersome and you may only want to use such phrasing early on in that commitment, but there are other reasons for speaking thus. One of them is archers are famous gossips. If in a session you tell one of your students “You must do x, y, and z.” someone nearby can hear you and then “quote you” as saying “everybody needs to do x, y, and z.” (If you are old enough to remember the E.F. Hutton TV commercials, you know what I am talking about. If you aren’t, they usually involved two investor types sitting around talking and one says “Well, my broker is E.F. Hutton and he says . . .” where upon the entire room hushes and everyone nearby leans in to learn what Broker Hutton was recommending.)

This isn’t exactly a “loose lips sink ships” situation, but the number of times I have heard Recurve advice given to Compound archers and vice-versa, well that is not a small number.

Context is important. And teachers, including us coaches, need to reinforce through reiteration . . . a lot.


Filed under For All Coaches

4 responses to “Archery Musts

  1. I like the manner in which the phrase you gave as an example is crafted to be positive. Yes, some compound archers can secretly punch by very subtly manipulating trigger less releases with their hand or fingers. We simply suggest what is deemed by most experts to work well for most. Thank you for all your fine coaching and archery tips and discussions here. Merry Christmas!


    • Yeah, there are people who can “punch” successfully, but they are a small minority of folks. If you are not one of those, you are just on a short path to target panic. I generally teach a surprise release, but I also explain why.

      On Tue, Dec 22, 2020 at 12:37 PM A Blog for Archery Coaches wrote:



  2. Coach Rama

    Hello Sir.
    On the 1st December, I opened a small shooting range at a shopping centre to give the general public access to try our beloved discipline.
    In a nutshell, my mistake was to assume that they could understand what I was saying. An example would be their lack of knowledge of how the shoulder blades work.
    In essence, I have had to completely dumb down my way of speaking, so as to get messages across.
    The shooting area is 5 metres by 10 metres, so I am having them draw to the cheek bone with 3 fingers under the arrow (recurve bows only).
    The most common problem that I was experiencing, is that of getting the person (never done archery before) to keep their hand at anchor point for the release.
    The majority of my messages, are ‘body’ based (form) and to be successful at getting the information across, I started to use a 12″ x 6″ handheld mirror so that they could see themselves whilst shooting.
    In short, my mirror assistant is turning out to be a very effective translator.


    • I find the mirror technique fascinating. Coaches need to supply feedback that the archer doesn’t get from the inside. Well done!

      All archery ranges in this country have been shut down due to the pandemic, England, too. Likely you have a better government than we do.


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