If you are working with an adult beginner, by all means do an eye dominance check as it may stave off problems. But when working with young beginners, well . . . we didn’t.
The reasons are straightforward. #1 there is a lot happening, this check would add to it. #2 Our strategy is to get them shooting ASAP. #3 They probably don’t know enough about their bodies to make an informed decision as to whether to shoot right-handed or left-handed.
When we start a beginning class, we start by teaching them one-on-one. We call this process The First Three Arrows and we train our coaches in how to administer it. While we are teaching them the basics of shooting arrows from a bow, that is not our primary objective. Our primary objective is to determine whether they can follow directions well enough to be trusted on a shooting line. Any child who doesn’t “get it” with their first arrows we send to a side butt where another coach walks them through it again. If after two tries we don’t think they can be trusted with a weapon in their hands in a group setting, we suggest to his parents that he try again next year and we refund their fee.
Those that pass through this process (takes about 20 minutes max) we set up on the shooting line, explain the whistle system and off we go. (We do not let them pull arrows until the second session.)
Handling Eye Dominance for the Young
So, how do we train our coaches to see eye dominance issues. There are two clues. One is an archers arrows flying way off to the side (bow side), but usually this happens (see photo below):
Can you see it? This is very common. The archer’s head is tilted to get the “off eye” lined up with the arrow. The “normal aiming eye” is often shut. Once you see this behavior, you know you have a child with an eye dominance issue that needs to be treated now. We offer the option of shooting “the other way” (after much positive talk). But if that is not desired we urge them to keep their dominant eye closed. We have eye patches they can wear, after we warn them about being popular because they are learning “pirate archery” (Arrrh.).
How do you deal with this?