Category Archives: For All Coaches

Skill and Tempo

I have been thinking a lot about the difference between acquiring archery technique and acquiring archery skill lately. Taking the chance that I may be oversimplifying this in this post, when you have learned archery technique fairly well, you have learned how to group your shots on a target; moving that group into the highest scoring zone of the target requires skill(s).

I was reminded while walking our dog this morning that if you are out walking with another, if the other wants to walk faster or slower than you do, it is quite problematic. Matching your pace to that of an elderly parent is an exercise in patience (and love, and …). Trying to walk a dog who wants to go at a difference pace is also a struggle.

What we tend not to recognize is that the pace at which we shoot arrows, our shooting tempo, is also a key factor in reaching higher levels of performance … but we are often unaware of our own tempo while shooting. And then when we find our good tempo, that idiot with a timer and a whistle keeps interrupting us to go score and fetch our arrows.

To explore this, you can ask your archers to explore shooting very, very slowly and very, very quickly to see if either “works.” They almost never do work (because, I think, every archer wants to show off a little and overdoes it). I then go into “Goldilocks’ Mode” and give them the “too fast, too slow, just right” speech about shooting tempo.

To get tempo on your side, you need to find the tempo that works for you (or for your student) … and then find ways to hang onto it.

You can count off shots in practice to find your tempo, but this is not advised to do in competition (as counting is conscious thinking) unless you have lost your tempo and are desperate to get it back. Like any other part of shooting, shooting in tempo can be memorized.

There are other things to use (metronomes!), counting off your shots on video, etc. A longish exercise is for you, as coach, to time shots with a stopwatch (I time from stabilizer tip moving upward to release) and then logging those times with arrow scores. If you find a “magic zone,” where high quality shots exist, then you can train around that zone. One way is to simply start the stopwatch at tip raise and if they shoot too early you say “Too early, do it again.” If they get to the end of the time zone, you say “Let down!” Eventually more and more shots will occur in the right time, then the archer can relax and concentrate on shooting quality shots alone.

I suggest to you, that if you have advanced archers in your care, some tempo training may just elevate their skill and performances. (Happy archer, happy coach!)

PS For those of you who object to skill being separated from technique, and who claim that technique is involved in developing skill, I say “Yes, and your point is … ?” My point is that it is not just technique that drives better scores. Shooting perfect shot after perfect shot and getting lousy groups because you possess no tuning ability cannot be solved by working harder on your technique. By calling these things “archery skill” we might just get developing archers to focus on such things and even get them excited to learn more and the higher scores than may result from that learning.

If you want to learn more about all of the things you need to know about target archery that doesn’t involve “how to shoot arrows” may I suggest (Warning! Shameless plug incoming! Warning):

 

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Another Barebow Question! (This Time: Draw Length Control)

Here’s the question:

I have switched back to Barebow shooting from Olympic style. I also switched to a three fingers under (3FU) string grip. I am having some difficulty in determining how far to draw back and how high. I am trying to eliminate string slap to my face. I haven’t come across anyone yet who can help me but of course I have just started on this endeavour.”

* * *

Wonderful question. Barebow, in this case it is Recurve Barebow, is so much simpler than other styles, which is why it is so hard! Compared to Olympic Recurve, you don’t have help from a clicker or long rod stabilizers, or side rods, or bow sights. The clicker is what the Olympians use to give them excellent draw length control. In Barebow, we don’t get one … but that doesn’t mean you can’t use one in practice!

Draw length control is critical in Barebow. This is because we are “shooting off of the point,” that is using the arrow point to aim with. Starting from the fact that the arrow is anchored under our aiming eye (critical for windage control) and slants upward to the point which we sight across to our point of aim (POA), if we underdraw the bow, the arrow will protrude outward from the rest more (outward and upward), resulting in us lowering our bow to get it onto our sight line to the POA. But short drawing weakens the bow making our arrows hit lower, and so does lowering the bow! In the reverse situation, overdrawing the bow, causes the arrow to protrude outward from the rest less (less forward means downward also), resulting in us raising our bow to get it onto our sight line to the POA. Double whammy again. Both of these things cause the arrows to fly high.

Conclusion: Barebow is particularly sensitive to draw length.

Now, is this a problem. But your targets can answer that question. If your groups are round, your draw length is well controlled. If it were a problem you would have extra high and low impact points, making your groups elongated up-down.

What if that is what I have?

So, you need to get your draw length under control. There are two factors: full draw position and practice. The standard descriptions of full draw position describe an archer very, very close to the end of the range of motion of what we call “the draw.” Any time you get near the end of the range of motion of any of your body parts you will feel muscles tensing. (Open you arm as far as it will go, push it a little. Feel any thing? Turn your head as far to the right as it will go. Feel any muscle tension? That.) The tension you feel when you are at the end of “the draw” motion, we call “back tension.” The existence of the muscle tension you feel in your upper mid back tells you two things: a) you are using the right muscles, and b) you are near the end of the range of motion. If you don’t feel that tension, then at least one of the two is missing.

So, believe it or not, a clicker installed on your bow … for practice … can help you with both of these things.

With OR archers we do something called a Clicker Check. We ask you to draw through your clicker, but instead of loosing the shot we ask you to keep expanding with your best possible form and then let down. What coach is looking for is how far you can get past the rear edge of your clicker. What we want to see is about a quarter inch (5-7 mm) past. (The last archer I tested was at two inches past, nowhere near full draw.) We do not want to be all the way to the farthest extent of the range of motion in the draw but really close. (We need to allow for day-to-day differences in your energy level.)

So, installing a clicker temporarily allows you to check whether your full draw position is a good one. Then, practice shooting with the clicker focusing on the feel in your back. That feel is something you are going to focus on while shooting. (I recommend you pause 2-3 seconds after the clicker clicks (all the time feeling the feel) so as to not create a dependence of the clicker when shooting Barebow.)

Last, there is something the old guys have to contribute and by ‘old” I mean at least five centuries. In olden days, arrows were draw to the back of the longbow/composite bow, whatever, as a matter of course. It was noticed that the arrow point/pile had a distinctive shape (or feel) when in the full draw position. In medieval times and later with the use of target points, the shape of the “head” was likened to a full moon sitting on the horizon. In any case, when you are at full draw, you are looking at your arrow head in any case as it is your bow sight. When you are shooting well, shoot arrows while focused on the appearance the arrow head makes sitting on your arrow rest. Looking for this shape, once part of your shooting routine will add some credence to the “back tension feeling” telling you that you are at full draw. (This is not as sensitive as in the old days when we “shot off of the knuckle.” The arrow made a dent in the flesh of your hand and the “full moon shape” had a natural horizon. Elevated arrow rests make this less definitive (IMHO, of course).

Getting symmetrical arrow groups tells you when you have it down.

Getting small, symmetrical groups is another task.

Hope this helps!

Oh, and if you are getting string rubs on your face, either you are drawing too deep along your face or you are not turning your head far enough. The draw can go back no farther than the “corner” of the chin in this style although I have seen a recent appeal to a much, much longer draw which I cannot recommend as I have no experience with it nor do I know anyone who does. My experience is that deep draws that cause “chin rubs” are generally caused by the bow shoulder, not by not getting your draw shoulder around far enough. If your bow arm isn’t at 180° to your chest at the shoulder (that is in the same plane), there is no way your rear shoulder can compensate.

As to how high to anchor, having more than one anchor is common in Barebow but many try mightily to use only one. If you are shooting long distances, then the low anchor is recommended. If shorter as in Field Archery under WA, then a higher anchor is probably wise.

As I said, I hope this helps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ten Ways To Develop a Winner’s Attitude for … Archery

You may be getting tired of me using golf wisdom to create the same for archers, but they are doing the work we have not done. They have more people doing the kind of work we need to do and I am just riding their wave. This piece appeared on www.golfstateofmind.com on July 16, 2016 and was written by David MacKenzie, a Canadian golf mental coach.

Read it and tell me if it translates to archery for you.

10 Ways to Create a Winner’s Attitude for Golf

  1. NOTICE WHAT YOU SAY (TO YOURSELF AND TO OTHERS)
    When I ask a new student to describe their game or recent rounds, those with a winning attitude for golf will immediately go into the all the positives. There’s a positive tone and lots of positive adjectives. Those that need to work on their attitude, will highlight more negatives and things they don’t currently have in their game – it’s more pessimistic.
  2. DEFINE YOUR PURPOSE
    Some players don’t have a winning attitude for golf because they don’t know their purpose for playing. If you don’t ask yourself why you are playing golf and how it’s going to fulfill you in the future, it will manifest itself in a poor attitude. Your purpose or “why” and a having a target in mind provides drive and optimism. Ask yourself what this is and write down the answer.
  3. FAKE IT UNTIL YOU BELIEVE IT!
    This isn’t about trying to change other people’s perception of you or pretending to others that you are something that you are not. This is about changing your behaviors by acting in a certain way. E.g. If you want to be a more confident and mentally tough golfer, then act like it! Walk and talk like you are one. Use more positive body language and smile! Over time you’ll start to think and feel more like that person you want to become.
  4. CHOOSE TO BE IN A GOOD MOOD
    Your mood is something that you have control over. Those people with a winner’s attitude use the positive energy created by a good mood. The best time to get into a good mood is first thing in the morning. If you haven’t already read my “Killer Morning Routine” article, please do so. I do my best to set myself up for a productive and positive day, by sticking to this routine.
  5. BE GRATEFUL
    Those with a winning attitude for golf regularly express gratitude for the simply being able to play the game, irrespective of the result. Last week I asked one of my Tour player students what his goals are for the week and one of them was to maintain an attitude of gratitude and remind himself about how lucky he is to play this game. When you do this, you’ll immediately feel lighter and more content.
  6. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH OTHERS WITH A WINNING ATTITUDE
    Seek out others with a more positive attitude and do your best to avoid the company of people who have a poor attitude. A winning attitude is infectious – you’ll be inspired and motivated to achieve your goals by spending more time with the people that you admire.
  7. CHANGE HOW YOU VIEW MISTAKES
    I never learned anything from a match that I won.”– Ben Hogan
    Those with a winning attitude for golf see every round as a learning experience no matter what the outcome, and that any mistakes and failures can be learned from and reduced in the future. This is also called a “Growth Mindset”. The opposite of a Growth Mindset is a “Fixed Mindset” where failure and mistakes are seen as a reflection of ability level, instead of something you can change. Those with a winning golf attitude believe there is no limit to their success – they can keep growing with every round, even if it’s just a little. It’s most apparent whether a player has a winning attitude for golf in the face of adversity or defeat. Winner’s are able to look at defeat objectively, without complaining, blaming or dwelling.
  8. BE ABLE TO LAUGH AT YOURSELF
    Taking yourself too seriously and being too self-absorbed is not a trait of someone with a winning attitude. Research shows that those that can laugh at themselves are generally more cheerful in their demeanor, which is an important attribute for being able to handle stress. By being more cheerful, you are more able to ease tension during intense moments. Part of developing a winning attitude for golf is about having less of a sense of self on the course. Laughing at yourself isn’t about putting yourself down, it’s about realizing that no one is perfect and mistakes happen. Laughter is a powerful tool for improving mental toughness and resiliency. Zach Johnson says: “Realizing bad shots happen is the best way to deal with them. Take the drama out of a bad shot. Use humor or laughter to make it go away, and then move on.”
  9. SPEND MORE TIME IN THE PRESENT
    Learning how to stay more in the present moment is great for keeping a winner’s attitude. There are so many benefits to it. Rather than spending time speculating about the future or worrying about the past (which can cause performance anxiety), stay in the moment more often and you’ll see improvement in your attitude.
  10. AVOID COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS (IN THE WRONG WAY)
    One of the traps that I find many golfers fall into, especially junior golfers, is comparing themselves to other players. They can easily get into that Fixed Mindset and be envious of another player’s skills. By being envious about another player’s game, you are essentially telling yourself you are a weaker player. Remember that competition is a good thing – it drives us to get better. Notice whether you are looking at other player’s game for motivation (growth mindset) or envy (fixed mindset).

Well … ?

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Working on “The Real Problem”

I had a fairly full day of lessons yesterday and a couple of things came up that were instructive that I will share with you.

In one case I had a very frustrated Recurve student who has been shooting well of late, but recently has had a problem with fliers, even clusters of fliers. By this I mean while putting most of his arrows in the gold, suddenly putting an arrow in the blue or black. Sometimes as many as three arrows in a six arrow end were such “fliers.”

“What am I doing wrong?” he wanted to know.

We talked a bit to find out how his shots felt and he said they all felt the same. He also said his tune was “good” and that the environments he had been shooting in were not the cause (wind, etc.). So, I asked “What do you think you were doing differently on the ‘bad shots’?” and he said “Nothing.”

I agreed.

So, before I continue, put on your coaching hat and think on what you think was wrong. I’ll wait.

* * *

Got it figured out?

Here are my thoughts. Please note that I am never sure of any diagnosis. I consider each situation a trail I am trying to sniff out, just finding a direction to go in first, all the while looking for confirmation or at least some response to the changes I recommend be made. (As a former college teacher, I used to joke with colleagues that we were being paid to look and sound like we knew what we were talking about. I do not want to give you the impression that I am some sort of tuning guru.)

Part of my diagnosis was due to knowing my student well enough to know that he was a “blame himself first” person. He took responsibility for everything. Taking responsibility is good but with regard to missed shots, there are three potential clusters of reasons: the environment (wind, twigs in the flight path of your arrow (field archery), hummingbirds (it happens), etc.), your equipment, and you. The key point is that if you do not find the right cause of the problem, anything you do will not only not solve the problem, it will probably make it worse. For example, if you have a form problem and you keep buying new equipment to solve it, well you ain’t gonna solve it.

In this case, I felt the most likely cause of the problem was that he had a “critical tune.” This is a bit of jargon that isn’t easy to explain (but I will try). Consider the variable of bow draw weight. For a given arrow, if you start at a “too low” draw weight you will get poor results, indicated by group sizes or positions, say. If you then incrementally increase the draw weight in steps of a pound or two, and continue to test for group size, you will get better results, better results, better results, and eventually poorer results, then even poorer results. If you were to graph these results you would see a line in the profile of a hill. The line would go up, up, up, then flatten out somewhat and then go down, down, down. At the middle of the top of the mesa just described, you will have the optimum draw weight for this combination of bow-arrow-archer. We call that a spine match (changing the power of the bow to match the spine of the arrow). Tune charts suggest that the top of the plateau of the draw weight “hill” is about five pounds wide (approximately!).

A tuning space graph, this one for brace height. In any tuning space variable, you may have more than one “peak” you can tune onto. To get to the highest peak (best performance) it is important to always start tuning from a well set up bow (set everything back to manufacturer’s specifications).

Now there are a lot more variables in the tune of a recurve bow than just draw weight. If you combine all of the variables into one graph (what I call a “tuning space” graph) what we want is a hill with a flat spot on top and we want a tune that is right in the middle of that flat spot. This provides the most “forgiving” tune we can make. The term forgiving refers to your setup’s ability to tolerate variations in your shot and still produce good results. We are not talking about “mistakes” here, mistakes are things done wrong that you could have done right. The variations involved in normal shooting are the quite small differences from shot to shot, simply because we are not robots. Even if you shoot an excellent group, in that group some of the arrows are higher that others, some are more to the left, right, down, etc. If you shot them all the exact same way and the arrows were perfectly matched, each shot would have broken the arrow of the previous shot and archery would be very, very expensive. We all make shots that are almost the same but not quite the same. The range of the variations starts out large when we are beginners and gets smaller as we become more expert, but they never disappear into some form of perfection.

A “critical tune” is a tune where you are not in the middle of the flat spot of the hill in your tuning space graph, but when you are right on the edge of the flat spot. With this tune if you make a variation that pushes you back toward the middle of the flat spot, well, no harm, no foul. But if you make a mistake the other way, a flier is the result. Think of this as walking along the edge of a cliff. If you trip and fall away from the edge, there is no problem, If you trip and fall over the edge … ahhhhhhh!

So, if this student had a critical tune, what does one do?

Well, you could start by cutting arrows shorter or other drastic things, but I prefer to start with adjustments that can be put back and with small adjustments first, large adjustments later. The procedure is to make an adjustment to see if there is an affect.

My recommendation was for this student to shoot a ten arrow group and count the fliers/note the size of the group. Then I asked him to put a full turn onto his plunger/pressure button and test again, then another full turn, etc. What we were looking for was an effect, a change in group size, number of fliers. So, one turn on—no effect, two turns on—no effect, three turns on—no effect. So the button pressure was set back to where it was. (Because you often have to do something like this and then set it back, take notes!) Next he took a full turn off from his original setting and voila, better group, no fliers. He asked “What do we do now? Were we done?” I suggested that that whole turn (a large change, by the way—start with large changes and only go to smaller ones to refine a fairly good setting) that created better test results might be right next to another setting that would create even better results. One more turn and test, one more turn, etc. The idea was to find the flat spot in button pressure tuning space and try to get in the middle of it.

So, we found that spot and I told him he needed to shoot a bit at that setting before doing anything else. My student wanted to know what would be next if more “correction” was need. I suggested brace height tuning. The plunger button is probably the finest tuning adjustment you can make (I did check that the button was neither too weak or too strong, just but pushing on it several times with a finger). I have learned recently that brace height tuning is a great deal more useful than I thought. I was asked how to do that tuning and I told him that it was done the same way as with the button, shoot for a benchmark group and then add 8-10 twists to the bowstring and test again, then repeat. You are looking for a response. If things get worse, go back to where you started (take out all the twists put in) and then take out twists, test, repeat. Again, you are looking for that plateau or range of brace heights that give you the best results and then you want to be close to the middle of that “flat spot.” Once you find that happy middle ground, you can refine your brace height (or whatever) with smaller increments of change.

Happy student, happy coach!

At the core of this problem, though, was that this archer didn’t trust his assessment regarding his shooting. Everything felt well, but since the arrows hit in the wrong place, he must have done something wrong. He was not making mistakes! Just a subset of his normal variations were causing those shots to fall off the cliff of his tuning space hill. This, of course, gets compounded when you think it was because of something you did, so you begin trying slightly different approaches, which makes for greater variation, not less (you haven’t practiced your improvised new shot) and this results in more fliers and more frustration.

Oh, and please note that we are all tinkers and we will, with nary a thought, make adjustments on our bows: we change the plunger button setting, clicker position, we tweak the position of the peep site in our bowstring (compounders), we rotate the nocks on our arrows “by eye.” Often these usually unrecorded “tweaks” accumulate to being a quite different tune from the one you created so carefully during you tuning sessions. People even change arrows, thinking their tune “will hold.” It won’t.

If you need a resource for tuning procedures consider Modern Recurve Tuning, Second Ed.

* * *

Another student reminded me that archer form is a kind of closed system. Any change you make, has consequences elsewhere. In this Recurve student’s case, he had opened his stance a bit to get some of the tension out of his neck. He reported feeling more comfortable while shooting as a consequence.

The problem that comes from such changes is that anything you do with your stance should not have any effect on the arrangement of your shoulders, neck and head. If it does, you changed something else, too. In the case of the stance, when you open your stance, you are rotating your feet in the opposite direction you need to rotate your shoulders to get into good full draw position. The fact that the archer reported less neck strain simply meant that he wasn’t rotating his shoulders as far as he was previously, ergo his line was poorer (and his groups spread left-right accordingly).

If your feet are open and your shoulders need to be closed (10-12 degrees by my reckoning) then everything in between is pulling the shoulders the wrong way. To get a benefit from an open stance, a great deal of flexibility is needed.

Neck strain is a common complaint of Recurve archers. It is caused by having maximum draw force on your body at full draw, which means you benefit from the bracing that standard full draw position provides (which directs the forces involved down the lengths of basically incompressible bones). But this means we must get very close to our bows and therefore we need to turn our head farther than if we were shooting a compound bow, for instance.

The only solution of the neck strain problem is to create more range of motion (in both directions!) for the turning of your head. Since this involves neck vertebrae which are quite delicate, you should seek professional help regarding the stretching routines needed to accomplish this.

* * *

Both of these students are “of an age” and I am very impressed when older folks want to continue in the Olympic Recurve discipline. Of all of the archery disciplines it is the most physically demanding, requiring the greatest strength, stamina, and flexibility. Light weight, stiff carbon arrows really help. Dropping down from the draw weight shot as a youth, helps, but nobody beats Father Time. As we age we get weaker, have less stamina, and are less flexible. That so many older archers are still shooting this way is very impressive to me.

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Making the Transition

If you have read much of what I have written, you have probably read me stating that our definition of recreational and competitive archers is that recreational archers are motivated by fun alone. Competitive archers are not just motivated by fun. Combine this with the fact that Mike Gerard and I are writing a book of archery drills for Human Kinetics, and you can see that doing drills is a good marker to tell you whether you are dealing with a competitive archer or a recreational archer.

Doing drills is, well, boring. They are repetitive by nature and there just isn’t much fun in them. But for a competitive archer, getting better is fun and they are willing to do drills. Serious competitive archers are motivated by learning to win and they will do drills until the cows come home. Recreational archers will get bored or never bother starting a drill because, well, they ain’t fun.

There is a deeper aspect here and it concerns the same topic: motivation. Ideally our students would be intrinsically motivated, that is their motivation comes from within. As children, we often were extrinsically motivated in that there were rewards attached to good behavior (or possibly no punishment as a substitute for a reward). In most cases, having an intrinsic motivation, especially to produce an athletic performance is vastly superior. So, I was reading a book (Why We Do What We Do) and this jumped off of the page at me:

“As socializing agents—parents, teachers, and managers—it is our job to encourage others to do many things they might find boring but that will allow them to become effective members of society. Actually, our job goes beyond just encouraging them to do activities; it’s more challenging than that. The real job involves facilitating their doing activities of their own volition, at their own initiative, so they will go on doing activities freely in the future when we are no longer there to prompt them. (emphasis his)”

The author goes on to use the rather mundane example of a boy who, over time, transforms requests to take the garbage out into a process where he keeps an eye on it and takes it out when needed, no longer needing prompting. (Yeah, in your dreams.)

The point, however is well taken. How do we as coaches help archers with the transition from doing things because the coach said so and doing things of his own volition? This presupposes we are dealing with a competitive archer, maybe one somewhere between being a competitive archer (training to compete) and a serious competitive archer (training to win). If we, as coach, tell them what to do all of the time and set their goals for them, etc. we are extrinsically addressing them as a student. If, on the other hand, we offer things to them, for them to choose to do, we are going “beyond just encouraging them to do activities” and leading them to doing things of their own volition. This, of course, as mentioned above has ramifications regarding the effectiveness of their training.

So, how do you do this? You can start by offering choices, rather than giving directions. I am not suggesting that you are a “do this, do that” coach, I do not really know who you are (well, I do know some of you), but if you look at your students as if they were your best friend you were coaching, how would you coach them? (I learned this “trick” from my days as a classroom teacher.) You wouldn’t boss your friend around or give them orders, but often our “suggestions” can be heard by our students as being just that. If you ask them to make choices, they become more of a partner and less of a client in their own training.

So, you might say “I know of a couple of drills you could do that would help with that.” If they do not respond (assuming they heard you), then that isn’t something they want to do. So, ask “How do you want to address this?” If they answer “I don’t know,” then you can give them your opinion, for example, “Most archers address this by doing XYZ or ABC drills.” “What are those?” they ask. You describe the drills and you ask if they want to try the drills. You keep asking for them to make decisions as if their opinion actually mattered to you (I hope it does). If they want to do something you do not approve of, you can say “I don’t think that will work, but if you do, it is worth a try.”

In this fashion an athlete builds up trust in their coach as a partner in their training and becomes more intrinsically motivated or, at least, more understanding of their own motivations. What we see on TV (ESPN, etc.) is big time college coaches who are quite authoritarian and professional coaches who are less authoritarian (maybe). If coaches have a reputation for training winners, maybe this approach can get their athletes to where they want to go. many athletes sign up for these programs willing to do as they are told because of those reputations. And, there is some truth to showing people what they can do by demanding it (I experienced this in college athletics). But, I also suspect that if you are dedicated to the goal of not just making better archers, but also to making better people, the approach recommended above is more desirable.

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Attempting to Perfect Their Shot (Don’t Bother)

Many archers are working to “perfect their shot.” I argue that this is a mistake. What they need to be working on is enhancing their skill. Let me explain.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you perfected your own shot in practice yesterday. Every arrow was going into the target center, making groups smaller than the maximum scoring area (the de facto definition of “great groups”). Everything felt easy, nothing troubled you. Your mental program meshed with your physical activities like never before. You were at peace and performing like a man/woman possessed.

That was yesterday.

Today, well today is a different day. You are one day older. Today you are feeling stronger/weaker. You are more/less focused. You … I guess you get the point. The old saying is you can’t cross the same river twice, meaning that the water you walked though the first time has flown away.

Surely, though, you will be very, very close to that wondrous state of yesterday? Will you? There is a saying in golf that “a very good round is seldom followed by another.” This saying tells us that you can’t take that performance with you when you go to bed at night.

Why is this so? Well, I can’t say definitively but it seems that the difference between an excellent shot and just a very good one is very, very little. Rick McKinney is fond of saying that to hit the 10-ring on a target at 90 meters, the arrow point needs to be in a specific circle one sixteenth of an inch wide (about one and a half millimeters wide). Arrow point in that circle, and the aim is good, outside of that circle and not so good … and then there has to be a perfect loose to back that aim up.

The difference in “feel” between the two states is almost nonexistent. The visual pictures of the aperture on the target of the two aims are indistinguishable.

Searching for perfect technique and then thinking that is enough to get you on the winner’s podium is a fool’s errand. The reason it is is not just that you are different from day to day (you are, you know this) but that the task is different, too. Even indoors the conditions are not identical from day to day. Outdoors, the conditions vary widely (think wind, angle of the sun, whether you are standing on flat firm ground or squishy mud, or…, or….

What is better to focus on once your technique is solid is your ability to adapt. If you are breezing along in a tournament and you suddenly shoot a wild arrow into the 3-ring, do you think “Hmm, I’ll have to take a look at the arrow and if there is nothing wrong it, add that to the list of things to work on in practice next week.” Of course not! If there is a problem you need to fix it right away. All of the champions in the aiming sports think the same way.

All elite performers know their personal tendencies, the errors and mistakes they are prone to, and also know how to fix those in real time. This is the core of acquired skill as an archer.

Now you could have your students just go compete and wait for things to show up and experiment with solutions as they perform (exactly how we learned!) but this is a costly approach. If they are just a bit more organized, take a few notes, ask a lot of questions, they can be better prepared for the eventualities.

  • Do you show your students how to inspect their bows and arrows for defects?
  • Do you simulate problems happening during practice rounds so they can practice adapting?
    • Do you ask them to keep lists of their common mistakes?
    • Do you ask them to write down solutions to “problems” whether they worked or didn’t work and examine those in practice?
    • Do you counsel your student-archers to keep their ears open for possible solutions to problems encountered when shooting when talking to other competitors?
    • Do ask your students to take notes after competition sessions?

If not, you are leaving it to “experience” to teach them what they need to learn. And, while experience is “the best teacher,” it is also brutal. For example, would you want your students to learn about target panic by getting it? Or would you like to caution them (sensibly) and then show them how to avoid it?

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New Blind Archery Coaching Course Available

British Blind Sport is offering an online course for coaches (link below). I looked all over their pitch and couldn’t find what they were charging. (When we buy retail we expect there to be a price tag prominently displayed on everything, no?)

Here is a bit from the pitch “Coaching People with Visual Impairments is packed full of helpful tips, practical solutions and vibrant videos that will increase coaches’ knowledge, assurance and skills of coaching participants with VI, ultimately, making their practice more inclusive. The course is suitable for anyone coaching and is fully accessible to VI learners.”

If you take the course, let me know I will probably ask you to write a review for Archery Focus, but you will get paid for that review.

Here’s the link: https://www.ukcoaching.org/courses/learn-at-home/coaching-people-with-a-visual-impairment

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How (Not) to Sell Archery Gear on eBay

From time to time I help students or colleagues to find archery gear on eBay. As usual I find myself irritated at the mistakes made by sellers. Here are some tips about how to sell gear on eBay effectively.

Listing Titles
One of my pet peeves is sellers who provide useless information in their listing titles. They list their item in a category, say Compound Bows, and then proceed to list everything you do not need to know. People who start their Listing with “Compound Bow” in such a category are wasting time and space. I skip over listings that have stupid titles as I have little time to waste. Start your listing titles with useful information, such as “2005 Mathews Conquest 4.” You do not need to tell me what color it is as you have included a photo. You did include photos didn’t you?

What else do you think your buyer might want to know? How about draw weight (range)? How about draw length (range)? These are very crucial and should be in your header.

An ideal header for a bow might be “2005 Mathews Conquest 4, 60-70#, 29.5˝ DL.” From this I can tell the manufacturer, the model year, the model of bow, the draw weight range, and the draw length range. Take a look at any compound or recurve bow listings on eBay and note how many people leave out one or more of these crucial things.

Currently I am looking for a Mathews Conquest 4 bow with a 40#-50# DW range, so my search terms are “Mathews Conquest 40.” I don’t mind wading through a few Conquest 3s or even Conquest 2s for sale and their draw lengths can be changed with readily available module changes so I don’t search for the DL. And, I don’t really care about the year of manufacture.

Good article titles really help people find your gear to buy.

Photos
I can’t tell you how many unhelpful photos I have seen. I just share one with you to exemplify what not to do.

Is this any way to sell a bow?

This looks like one of those “can you find the …” photos. All this photo tells me is that the camo on this bow will let me blend in with the rugs in Las Vegas casinos. For your photos, use a contrasting, neutral background so the item you are trying to sell will stand out.

Show photos of the things people want to see, including areas of high or low wear. If there is a defect, take a photo and include it. If you are shooting a compound bow, don’t take photos of the backsides of the eccentrics, show the front sides! That is where the modules or adjustments are made in the draw length. Don’t take pictures of limb surfaces unless there is something to show. If there is a label showing the DL and DW characteristics, shoot that. If the label is tucked into a limb pocket, which is the trend in recurve bows nowadays, take the limb out and shoot the label.

Item Descriptions
Go overboard here. Include everything you know about the bow. At the end you can say “I don’t know anything more than I have listed here so don’t ask.” which will help you avoid incessant questions about your item for sale. I can’t tell you how many times I have had to query the seller for basic information they should have included; it is not just a few times.

Additionally
Selling surplus gear on eBay is a good way to get some money back from prior purchases to fund current purchases. Before you set a price, search eBay for the same article to see what other people are asking. Asking too little for your gear will make someone happy but can make you the poorer. Asking too much means your item sits idle and you have to relist it for a lower price.

If your local club or organization does not have a way to list your surplus gear, eBay is a viable route to sell it on. For Recurve folks I generally suggest they keep one set of limbs that is lower in DW for the occasions in which you have had a lay off or an injury requiring you to build back up to shoot your “normal” bow. It is always a good idea to drop your DW when learning a new form element. Having a backup bow can be valuable, too, so keep that in mind when you decide to sell some of your gear.

 

 

 

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Puzzling Archery Book Sale Offers

$14.95 (Kindle $8.99) … brand spanking new!

Caveat emptor—buyer beware! I have a general search running on eBay for archery books. I rarely find anything I have not already read, but, well, the search is free…. Lately, actually for quite some time when I thought about it, I have noticed the books that Claudia and I have produced being sold on eBay for prices well in excess of their list prices. At first I thought these were mistakes. Why would anyone pay $50 for a $20 book, available now on Amazon.com?

Well, now I know. There is a cottage industry out there of “sellers” doing this. They find something desirable, in their mind, that is available on Amazon.com and then they list it on eBay with an upcharge. When someone buys that thing, they go on Amazon.com, purchase it as a “gift” and have it shipped to their buyer. After small fees are deducted, the “seller” gets pure profit out of the upcharge. Some times this is small but occasionally I see prices 4-5 times what the list price is. I believe these outrageous listings are there to make the other listings look reasonable. (“Hey honey, there’s this $90 book I want but this other guy is selling it for $40. What a deal!” But it is only $20 new.)

$24.95 (Kindle $9.99) … brand spanking new!

If you are interested in any of our books (published under the Watching Arrows Fly or Archery Education Resources marques) do check for better prices on Amazon. In fact, check all Internet book prices against Amazon’s prices (they usually list the MSLP along with their discounted price).

It bugs me that people are being scammed on products we create.

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How to Learn Archery

The standard approach to learning archery, or really any sport, is to establish a pattern of incremental improvement. Basically this is a “do good, then do better” approach. We teach archers good basic form, not elite archer form, and then we encourage them to make minor changes in their shot, checking to see if these are “improvements” or “just changes.”

These is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and I do not see that there is anything inherently wrong with it, but it does seem to be wrong to assume this is the only way to learn. There are basic weaknesses in this usual approach. A good example in archery is tuning. Tuning involves making small changes in how your bow and arrows are setup and then testing to see if the new setup is “better.” The problem with this approach is that you may end up with what is called a “false tune.” The approach of “a little bit, a little bit more, a tiny little bit more, oops, too much … back up a little” will find a local “best tune.” But is that the best tune available? This approach is a little like hiking while always moving uphill. You will eventually find yourself at a hill top, but there may be many taller hills nearby. You just had the misfortune of starting on the slopes of a shorter hill. Since it is very hard to get a wide angle view of the tuning landscape we have to resort to starting from a good starting point. In tuning, this is a well set up bow (as the manufacturer recommends, not as your bow has come to be). Trust me, if you start with a bad setup, you will only find bad tunes.

You can also fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be shooting well to learn (“do good, then do better”). Sometimes when you are shooting quite poorly, it is a good time to break down barriers to better shooting.

A way to get off of the “just a little bit of progress at a time train” is to do something really, really difficult, something you thought you (or your student) could not do. One example comes to mind: the thousand arrow challenge. A colleague, Tyler Benner, actually took this challenge and described it in detail in the book he wrote with Kisik Lee, Total Archery: Inside the Archer. Basically the idea is to start shooting arrows (blank bale) at sunrise and before you get to sunset, have shot 1000 arrows. If you have read his account, it is quite brutal. Even if you were to do it with a very light drawing bow, that is a lot of arrows. Even with volunteer arrow pullers/fetchers and a gallery rooting for you, this is very, very difficult. But … if you pull it off, things change for you. Never again will you feel like there is something in archery you cannot do. This is the big payoff.

How many times have you asked a student to do something and their response was “Oh, I can’t (or couldn’t) do that.” It is our out thoughts that get in our way much too often. Whenever some really difficult task is accomplished, it is often the case that rapid progress occurs thereafter. The “really difficult” task can’t be impossible or something that doesn’t get attained, although there are some people who are energized by simply trying something so hard no one expects them to accomplish it.

Such tasks are “doable” yet very, very difficult. We are most definitely not talking about hitting a target at some really far distance one time in 100 shots. Shoot enough arrows and you will hit something just by chance. For many archers this task is shooting a perfect score on a “gettable” round (one that people have already shot perfect scores on) but could be a round that people have almost shot a perfect score in competition and setting the goal of shooting one in practice. Or it might be a scoring level breakthrough (a score of 1400 on the 1440 FITA Round). This may seem like a small achievement, but for the archer who has never reached that point, it is significant. The key, though, is in the preparation and execution. You don’t just keep shooting that round until you get a perfect score, the goal is to always (almost always) get a perfect score or shoot at that level. When you have accomplished something like that, then you feel as if you can accomplish more and, just like a springboard, the accomplishment can launch your archer to new heights.

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