Back Tension from Different Anchor Positions

QandA logoI got an absolutely fascinating question about anchor points just yesterday. Here it is:

Hi, Coach Ruis:
I am working on my anchor point and back tension. I typically use a split finger/chin/nose anchor point for my Olympic bow and sight. I also recently acquired a Samick Sage recurve I use for roving/stump shooting. I have been trying to figure out string walking/point of arrow aim for my Samick for stumping.

I started to use a three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor to reduce the string walking crawl sizes relative to a split finger, under chin anchor. Using the corner of the mouth anchor and string walking, my crawls decreased ~75% in size. My precision using the corner of the mouth anchor has also improved noticeably over my under chin anchor (and the bow sounded much happier when loosing).

My question really is about back tension. When using the three-fingers-under/corner of the mouth anchor, all of a sudden I can easily feel the barrel of the gun through my upper back relative to the chin/nose anchor. My draw length increased a full inch using the corner of the mouth anchor, so I am guessing this is the cause of the new positive upper back sensation.

I am thinking that if I could get this sensation with my Olympic bow/chin/nose anchor, this would be a very good thing. How can I make this happen?

* * *

There are quite a few changes going on in both of these anchoring positions. One you do not mention is draw arm position. When using a “high” anchor, corner of the mouth or higher, your draw arm position is different. (Stand up, assume the position of your low, under chin, anchor and then switch to the high anchor position and note the different positions of your draw arm at full draw.) The whole purpose of the low anchor is to be able to shoot longer distances. Back when everyone “shot off of the point” the line of sight across the arrow point and the point of aim (POA) fixed the arrow point in space somewhat. To get more distance it was necessary to lower the back end of the arrow, hence the lower anchor position for longer shots. This draw arm position affects the use of muscles in your back.

Shooting long distances also results in upper body tilt, which changes eye angle and lots of other things that affect “feel.”

Another point you do not mention is head tilt. In order to get a workable low anchor, I must tilt my head up slightly. If I use the same head position as I have with my high anchor for my low anchor shooting, my string fingers, positioned under my jaw line are on a surface sloping down, so when the shot is loosed, the top finger slides along the jaw line … downward which creates resistance and drag. By tilting your chin up slightly the path the string follows as the string flicks them out of the way is cleared.

Such are the sources of different feelings (along with the ones you mention).

My impression is that the high anchor encourages involvement of the muscles somewhat higher in your back, which when bunched up due to contraction are easier to feel. The low anchor involves muscles lower in your back which I suspect are somewhat harder to feel. (When archery coaches talk about using muscles lower in your back, they are referring to muscles lower … in your upper back.) So, I suspect that the difference in “feel” is real and you basically do not want to have the same feeling of back tension in both because that would mean you were using the same muscles when your arm angle was different.

If shooting Barebow as you describe (which I love) is relatively new to you, then the sensations in your back are relatively new and hence more noticeable. With time they might fade to the same level of feeling as in your high anchor shooting. Also, in many shooting techniques, surrogates for back tension are employed. For example, many of the Koreans focus on the feeling of the position of their draw elbow instead of the feeling in their backs. To some extent this is because the feeling of tension in the back diminishes due to humdrum regularity.

Another possibility is that you might need to open your stance when shooting Olympic Recurve. If you are particularly flexible, you may not be engaging your back muscles enough to get a strong feeling. In Rick McKinney’s book, “The Simple Art of Winning,” he claims that having an open stance allowed him to “get into his back” better. I found this puzzling at first, until I found some pictures of Mr. McKinney (in his prime) with his open stance and his draw elbow 2-3 inches past line. If he had been using a square stance, his elbow would have been even farther past line which have had negative influences on his shots. Unfortunately, their success lead to the adoption of the open stance by almost everyone, but this is a source of problems. In McKinney’s and Pace’s cases the open stance reduced their ability to get in line, which lead to a stronger feeling of back tension, strong enough that they could use that feeling to tell whether they were in the correct full draw position. If you are not as flexible as they were, this would be a mistake as it would probably reduce the quality of your alignment (as it does for hundreds/thousands of archers, young and old, I observe).

The only way to tell whether this is in play for you is to experiment a bit. I like to use a 10# bow for this, but any light drawing bow will do. Start with a square stance and draw to anchor and see what your back feels like. With a 10# bow you can play a little, moving your draw arm and shoulder around and feeling the effects of those position changes. Then open your stance by 10 degrees and repeat. Then another 10 degrees, etc. McKinney shot with about an 80 degree open stance when he was shooting in stiff wind (the torsion in your trunk helps stabilize your stance), so you can go as far as you want with this experiment … or as far as you can. ;o) The key thing is if you get a better feeling in your back with one of those stances and you can maintain good line, then this is something you might want to incorporate into your shot. The key element, though, is maintaining or achieving good line. In the Chicago area, you can recognize almost any recurve archer who has worked with me as they probably shooting from a closed stance. (Orthodox sources on form and execution do not even mention closed stances any more.) A closed stance makes it easier for you to get in line and after my students learn to shoot with good line I encourage to explore any other stance they want, as long as they maintain good line.

Is this enough food for thought? If not, do note that high and low anchors do change draw lengths (and affect tunes thereby). For compound archers changing from “fingers” to “release” or the reverse also affects draw length.

 

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Seek and You Will Find!

While the discussion of the question of whether boys and girls should be coached the same goes on I found some resources that may interest you. Of course, the first thing I found was a paper that seemed perfect (“Sex Differences in Sports Across 50 Societies”) but like so much research now, the publisher wanted $36 to get a copy. (None of which goes to the authors, by the way, which just adds to the reasons why I will not play their game. If anyone wants to buy it, read it and report on the contents, I wouldn’t be opposed.)

Next I found a paper (for free) entitled: “Sex Differences in Sports Interest and Motivation: An Evolutionary Perspective” which you can find here.

And then I found “Gender Equality and (Elite) Sport” which you can get, again for free, here.

Both of these seem interesting enough and apply to the question.

I would like to know what the archery participation rates are in a country like Korea. Participation is, in essence, by invitation. There is no reason that different numbers of boys and girls would be selected as they do not compete with one another and the numbers of Olympic and World Championship medals available to each sex are the same.

It seems that the more people who participate in a sport, the higher the level of performance. This is obvious in an example like Korea which went from an Olympic archery nonentity to a powerhouse, fueled to some degree by a massive increase in participation. (Obviously other supports like coaching and opportunities to practice, etc. also apply.)

 

 

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Tuning the Genesis Bow Follow-up

QandA logoI got a follow-up email regarding the Genesis tuning problem.

With NASP unfortunately we can’t change the arrow in any way and must use the Easton 1820 “Genesis Arrow” so it seems we’re left to play with nock height and repeatable form. Is that how you see it?

This is the case for official NASP competitions. My previous answer was for the broader archery community and competitions out it the wonderful world of archery outside of NASP. Here’s my answer to this email:

* * *

Yep, it is somewhat of a trap. The idea is to have a level playing field (same bow, arrow, target, distance) and I agree with that. Poor kids wouldn’t have the resources of richer kids to get their own arrows and have them fitted and tuned. But then each kid is stuck with identical equipment and to shoot well, equipment must be fitted to the archer and his/her abilities.

The only way to “weaken” an arrow like the Genesis competition arrow is to increase the point weight, and I am not sure that even that is allowed by NASP rules. The significant factor you seem to have control over is draw weight. If any of your kids are shooting anything less than full draw weight, getting them up to that will help. Also, you can do a little testing to see if there are bigger problems you do have control over. One of the things I see on a lot of Genesis bows are streaks on the arrow shelf and arrow rest. These are little smears of plastic left behind when fletches collide with the shelf/rest. For this reason, you want to clean off those surfaces regularly. A bad loose of the string by a beginner and Whack! there is a new streak. You won’t see it, though, if there are myriad others still there.

So for your really serious competitors, get a can of foot powder spray (it has to be powder). Spray the shelf and rest of their bows and have your archers shoot a couple of arrows. If there are any disturbances in the powder, you have a clearance problem. If you are shooting arrows with press-in rather than glue-on nocks (I think the old Genesis arrows had glue-ons), you can rotate the nock so that the fletch that was hitting no longer hits (since the arrow doesn’t start rotating until it is clear of the bow it is usually the bottom fletch). Re-test and rotate the nock until no more problem. Then make all of the other arrows the same by rotating their nocks into the same position. They make nock rotating tools that have built in guides for just this task (see photo below).

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

A nock alignment tool. The little notched arm is moved so it touches the index vane only when the nock is correctly positioned.

Since archers with different draw lengths have different string paths, you will need to test each bow-arrow-archer combination. (Bring lots of rags so that archers can clean up their bows afterward.)

If there are big streaks or the rest is getting hit, check the nocking point height. If the nocking point is too low, they will be launching their arrows “nock low” which is asking for clearance problems.

I do believe that you are allowed to adjust your draw weight, no? Having an arrow that stiff (spine is 0.592˝) would require the bow to be about 40#-45# to be shot correctly at that length, so reducing the draw weight would just make things worse, but turning the bow down just a bit (which changes the string path) may correct for a clearance issue so that may be worthwhile. If there is room to turn a child’s bow “up” a bit in draw weight, that might cure the clearance issue and provide better arrow flight.

 

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Problems Tuning Genesis Bows

QandA logoI get a lot of requests for help and I am glad to provide what I can. One of my readers upbraided me for this because I have been more than a little adamant that archery coaches shouldn’t “work for free.” So, I am being somewhat inconsistent. There are a couple of reasons I do this. For one, I am still trying to learn how to “coach remotely,” so I embrace opportunities to do that. Second, there is so much need for help in the archery coaching community. The main reason, though, is that people are turning to me because they can’t find the help they need. Not that that help isn’t available in every case but that it has been made hard to find. (I really, really, (really) wish the archery organizations would embrace coach support wholeheartedly instead of the current “train ‘em and drop ‘em” approach.) Until such resources are more widely available I will continue to do as much as I can to help those coaches who seek it.

Today’s topic comes from a reader of this blog who seeks help tuning Genesis bows. Here’s his email:

I’ve been darn near driving myself insane trying to learn to understand and tune a bow, specifically the Genesis.

A little background: I’m Level 2 certified wanting to do level 3. Just having trouble finding a training that’s close and works with my schedule having five kids of my own. I’ve read many of your books and in fact own 4-5 of them as resources for me and our coaches. We have a very large NASP program of 95+ in our elementary school from grades 4-6. We’ve been doing NASP for 5-6 years. We’ve won a team state championship in our second year and some individual championships. I’ve not done anything to the bows except yoke tuning and nock point tying 3/8˝ high of zero on a bow square and the occasional serving repair at the local archery shop. Perhaps I should be tying the nock even higher.

I’ve talked to other coaches and have picked up a few tips/suggestions regarding bow tuning and done far too many hours of research. Most coaches, since we’re competing against them, I believe are a bit guarded about sharing too much info. However, it seems almost all of our bows make arrows kick to the left for a RH archer no matter what I do.

For bows that seem to have cam lean I’ve tried rotating the bottom limbs, fiddled with the ATA length by twisting strings/cables, and replaced bushings in the cams. Regardless, I still see arrows kicking typically.

I realize that when pairing archers with bows that are not their own in a program it is not a one-size-fits-all situation. However about 50% of our archers have their own bows and I’d like to be able to tune them properly but cannot figure it out.

Also, once we begin shooting as a team we have enough bows for those who don’t own their own bows to each use one of ours thereby allowing us to individually tune. As NASP has grown it’s become more competitive and I’m wanting to keep up but feel we’re being left behind and want to keep our kids competitive and give them every chance possible to win. I’m willing to do whatever it takes we just don’t know what that is when it comes to bow tuning for the Genesis. If you understand these bows I’d be willing to pay you good money for a private bow-tech clinic if you’re ever in the area, not joking. 🙂

I just read the below link where you mention attaching a guide to bow and arrow fitting to the article regarding but don’t see the text document mentioned. Perhaps it would help. https://archerycoach.wordpress.com/2016/03/03/porpoising-and-fishtailing-follow-up-and-the-acg/

Any guidance or assistance is greatly appreciated!

And here is my response:

* * *

The document mentioned in that post was attached to the email sent to the correspondent, not the post. I have attached it to this email in the hope it might assist you.

Everything I am going to say from now on applies to right-handed bows. If you are dealing with a left-handed bow, you have to switch left and right. ;o)

Your kids arrows are flying to the left and you can’t tune it out because the arrows are too stiff. The “Genesis formula” (my term) is to make a bow and arrow combination that can be shot by a great many people. So the bow has zero letoff, which allows it to be shot by people with widely different draw lengths with no adjustment (not so with a bow with letoff) and an arrow that is too long and too stiff for people with short draw lengths so that it will be long enough and not too weak for people with longer draw lengths. But arrows that are too stiff for a particular situation will fly off to the left. Arrows that are too weak, will fly off to the right. (Remember that left and right directions have to be switched for left-handed archers.) Since most youths fall into the shorter draw length category, most arrows used for the Genesis (especially the “Genesis Arrow” are too stiff and will fly to the left no matter what you do to the bow.

This is because the farther you draw a bow, like this one, the more energy is stored in the bow. The more energy stored, the more energy is given to the arrow when shot and the stiffer the arrow needs to be to receive it. (Imagine a whippy thin arrow being shot from a very stout bow–the arrow might break upon release!)

“So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow.”

So, in tuning, we set up the bow and tune the arrow. (Little tweaks of the bow may take place for fine tuning purposes, so this is just a generalization.)

The hard thing with kids is that they are still growing. If you fit them for arrows (see attachment) “correctly” they will over the next six months, grow an inch or half an inch and their draw length goes up accordingly and now they arrows are too short (for safety) and too weak (as the bow is now “stronger” because it is being pulled farther). What we recommend is to fit arrows to youth’s bows that are one spine group stiffer for each extra inch of length you choose. By choosing to use an arrow that is 2-3 inches longer than usual, if you didn’t choose a stiffer shaft, the arrow would be too weak. But with those stiffer shafts, when the youth grows and needs a stronger arrow, that extra length allows the arrows to be shortened (making them stiffer) while still being long enough for safety.

Standard bow setup for “fingers” shooters is to have the bottom of the top nock locator 1/2” above square. The purpose of this is to launch arrows a bit “nock high” to avoid clearance issues with the arrow rest. Genesis bows are not what one would call high precision bows, so some cam lean and other less desirable attributes are to be expected and really don’t contribute to your issues. The problems you are having are likely due to just arrow shaft stiffness mismatches.

I hope this helps.

Steve

PS We are working on a series of e-booklets explaining all of this and the attached document is to be part of that, from which we expect to make a little money ($1.99 per booklet?), so I ask that you don’t share the document SMFAwith your colleagues. Of course, if you learn the knowledge provided in it, you will be free to share that with your fellow coaches. ;o)

PPS We have done bow maintenance and tuning workshops before and we might be able to set something up if you would like (we are not so far from one another geographically). There are, however, people in your community who might be able to provide this service cheaper (we need to recover travel and lodging costs, etc.). The purpose of this e-booklet series mentioned above is to provide much of the information you need. I also strongly recommend the book “Simple Maintenance for Archery” by Allan Anderson and Ruth Rowe. It contains step-by-step instructions for many of the tasks need for tuning and maintenance (with photos!). It is now out in a second edition (photo is of first edition).

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Should We Coach Male and Female Archers the Same Way?

I have had this question in mind for quite some time. I have even asked a couple of authors to tackle the topic. Most seem to think of the topic as a land mine they do not want to step on. But, as is said, fools rush in where angles fear to tread.

Let’s tackle this topic!

* * *

There are some general observations that I can pull out of my head that apply to this topic. For example, we don’t seem to coach youths and adults the same way. Both groups have special needs. There are some indications that boys and girls on team sports need to be addressed differently. If you look to the world of professional sports, female athlete earn less than male athletes, universally. Is this a form of prejudice or is there something there?

One of the reasons offered for why these disparities continue to exist is a gender difference in the “willingness to compete.” This has actually been studied and proves out across cultures and around the world: men tend to be more willing to compete than women are. On the other hand, every prediction I have read about women participating in sports has been woefully wrong (women were not strong enough to run long distances like marathons, too genteel to participate in boxing, wrestling, MMA, etc.)

That said there are real physiological and psychological differences between men and women. One of these I used to characterize as “there are very few women who want to be recognized as the baddest dude in town.”

There are group dynamics studies that I find fascinating. A number of these studies addressed how people behaved in single sex group conversations (imagine a circle of friends standing around chatting). These studies seemed to conclude that men saw their participation as a way to show that they were superior to that group and didn’t really belong there, they were just “slumming.” An example of this is a group of guys telling jokes. There is definitely a competition going on and everyone is trying to be the most compelling story teller (a symbol of their superiority?). Opposed to this the dynamics of women in a group is a model of inclusiveness. Rather than trying to prove themselves superior to the group with their conversation, they seem to be trying to prove that they indeed belong in that group. I guess it is easy to see why at parties, the guys often end up sitting around a TV swapping sports stores while the gals end up in another room telling stories that bond them to that group.

Interestingly, when women were asked to compete just against themselves and not against others, they showed as much competitive will as do men. Why is it that women do not choose to compete against others, but are eager to compete when the opponent is themselves? Anybody who tells you they know the answer to this question is probably fooling themselves and possibly you, too.

Archery is a sport in which archers compete against themselves (there is no defense, they cannot affect how the other competitors perform, they can only compete against themselves), consequently my guess is that women are as competitive as men in archery.

So, should men and women be trained the same way … in archery?

The floor is now open!

I really want to hear from any of you who have something to say on this topic. If your comments are illuminating, I may write this discussion up for Archery Focus and you will get your name up in lights! (Yes, you can contribute anonymously, but I am suspicious of any comments that even the author doesn’t want to own.)

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Being Driven Crazy by Psychology

There is a burgeoning field of scientific endeavor which is the study of the acquisition of expertise. I am trying to write a book on the mental game of archery and since there is too much material for one person to study, one needs to do a lot of reading to find out what others say, hence my interest in this subject. Anything that helps us understand how to make expertise more attainable, makes us better coaches.

A promising viewpoint on the attainment of expertise is Ericsson’s work on what is called “deliberate practice.” Ericsson’s claim is that undirected practice has minimal benefits, the main one being making us more physically fit to perform the task at hand … maybe. But if you want to improve the quality of a performance, highly focused practice  is necessary, with the focus on a specific aspect you wish to improve, using directed drills/exercises to that end.

The mainstream press, though, has asked the omnibus question: Is practice all you need to develop expertise? And lately they have brought up a number of topics researchers claim have a role. One of these is “working memory.” Working memory is a hot topic in psychology right now which is why people are trying it out for a leading role in … you name it. (Such is science: when topics are “hot” a whole bunch of scientists jump on that bandwagon. This is probably a manifestation of scientists looking for a place to work in which results are easier to get, not unlike gold prospectors.) working memory is how much information you can cram into your mind and hold it there while you are working; this is definitely “short-term memory.”

Working memory is now claimed to play a role in sight reading of music and any number of other performance-related fields. Apparently the people making these claims haven’t looked at a performance critically. For example, studies show that in order for a musician to play from music they are reading, they have to “read ahead” several notes ahead of where they are playing. It was discovered (by the simple expedient of covering up the music and exposing it at rates the scientists could control), that professional musicians read ahead farther than amateurs. But to the researcher’s surprise, the difference was very small. When reading music and playing, there is an optimum read ahead distance: if you are to close to the playing time, musicians stumble. They apparently do not have enough time to translate the symbols into actions. If they get too far ahead of playing, they also stumble because they tend to forget what they had read before they are supposed to be playing it. So, working memory does play a role in sight reading music (reading as you are playing) but the part working memory plays is as part of a chain of events. Obviously if you do not have enough of working memory, you will struggle at this task. Other studies show that “experts” have more working memory than amateurs in this arena. So, the question I have is: does working memory get improved through practice? If so, then the question (Is practice all you need …) is too broad.

Yet, huge claims are being made regarding the role of this bit or that bit when it comes to practice. How any one of us is to make any sense of the current state of research is beyond me (literally). There seem to be some reasonable conclusions one can come to with regard to practice that have low chances of contradiction later.

  • So, should archers practice? Yes. Practice is a route to better performance. But, how effective the practice is is dependant on how smart you practice. So, practice as focused as you can.
  • Is there a way to project the amount of practice needed to meet a goal? No. Longer practice sessions do not seem to be as effective as more frequent shorter ones. (What “longer” and “shorter” are is ill-defined.) If you want to perform consistently, you must develop to the point you can shoot larger numbers of arrows in a session than required for performance.
  • It also seems that the best physical practice for a performance is the performance itself. So, if you are a pianist, play the piano. If you are an archer, shoot arrows.
  • In order to tell what works and what does not, you must … keep … records of your performance. Memory alone just doesn’t work.

My feeling is the question “Is practice all you need to develop expertise?” as discussed in the mainstream press, supports the meme that there are natural “talents” for particular activities: a talent for math, a talent for the violin, a talent for baseball. This is not only unsupportable by any science (the existent of sport- or activity-specific “talents” has no evidence supporting it) but is a toxic concept; even if it were true, there is no benefit from believing it.

Performers who believe in “talent” tend to quit easier when they encounter difficulties, believing they “just don’t have a talent for math or whatever.” They also shy away from greater challenges because they have no idea how far their “talent” can take them and they don’t want to test something they don’t understand. Plus, since this talent-thing is responsible for their ability, why practice? These reactions to the belief in the concept of talent have been documented and seem to make sense.

If you don’t believe in “talent” then the outcome is determined by how much you learn and how hard you practice. If your performance isn’t good enough, you either need to work harder or smarter (better: both). This nonbelief in talent has this benefit in that we can now see the effect of deliberate practice upon skills developed and it is quite positive.

 

 

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Is it My Equipment, the Environment, or Me?

When experiencing problems in archery, the key question for archers is: is it my equipment, the environment (wind, rain, etc.) or me responsible for my misses. Since you cannot solve a problem you do not know you have, this is something coaches have to help with as often as not. Believing one has an equipment problem when it is really form/execution is to road to nowhere.

Consider the following story from my friend Tom Dorigatti, a compound bow guru:

Do you remember me telling you that a careless person in the range went running (and I do mean running) past my bow and knocked it flying some 15 feet onto the hard concrete floor? Do you also remember me telling you that the silly thing was just not shooting well, or holding well, and was tossing flyers at will high and/or low out of nowhere?

I put on a new Hamskea arrow rest (taken off my Merlin bow), I checked axles and cams for straightness/cracks, misalignment. I rechecked and checked my measurements again. I found nothing that should be causing this. I do not miss by 12˝ or more at 20 yards, period.

“Well, I went a step farther and took a large magnifying glass and went over that bow from stem to stern looking for anything that may be a crack, or break in the limbs and/or the riser. I found nothing.

I have no way of checking for a twisted riser, however. So, we were down to either a twisted riser or a failure somewhere on the bow that we/I couldn’t detect. I called up Darton and explained what exactly had happened to the bow. I explained how it wasn’t shooting for crap, and that I would like to send it in for them to check out for a twisted or cracked riser. I got an RA Number sent immediately.

From the time I sent the bow in until the time I got it back was 10 days. They had asked for an arrow that I was using out of the bow and how I set the bow for its paper tune. Of course, I tune a slight nock high right tear because bullet holes for me doesn’t cut it.

I called them back after about a week and asked if they’d found the problem. They had. That idiot who knocked the bow flying had splintered (not visibly) all four limbs on the bow! What was happening is the splinters were opening and closing at their will and state, and not consistent because they were failing worse as time went on.

“What is important for coaches to do is to listen to these stories.”

The riser was checked and it wasn’t bent or twisted. Darton replaced all four limbs on the bow, and set it back up to factory specifications, which so happens to be exactly where I had it set anyway! Of course, I checked all settings before even trying to shoot the bow, and I guess it was right by them, since they told me they checked the tune after they’d rebuilt the bow.

Now the thing shoots like it is supposed to and I’m not fighting the nose-dives and wild arrows. It is shooting as tightly (or a touch tighter) than I am able to hold, so I don’t have any complaints.

In spite of the fact that the bow had been “abused” (not my me, though), Darton replaced all four limbs, reset things, and sent it back at absolutely no charge to me.

I now have a bow that holds steady now, after months of fighting it and blaming myself. because of the “shake,” when all the while most all of it was broken/failing limbs. I was lucky … because those four limbs could have broken all at once at full draw and … that is not nice to think about!

My sight movement since I started shooting has always been an up and down movement. Rarely do I ever have a side to side swim of my sight. I don’t have very many left and right misses either. So, I should have known that there was something really out of kilter with the bow when it kept getting worse and worse as time went on. But, I blamed form, and that shake because I went through all the measurements of the bow and they were spot on.

My suspicions really arose when it got to the point I couldn’t find anything else. I knew I was fighting the bow constantly. I had a friend shoot the bow and he said he struggled to keep the bow up close to center; it was like he had to fight the bow to keep it from having the sight drop out the bottom, too.

Another thing that put me onto the bow being screwed up was paper testing. I always shoot six different arrows when paper testing, not just a single shaft. Who the heck knows, you could pick a good one or you could pick a bad one, but when all your arrows give the same tear, you know things are good. With the “broken” bow, I was getting several tears per my tune, then a wild nock right tear of 2-3˝, then back to a “normal tear” for a couple, then a another wild tear. And it wasn’t the same arrow each time. Sometimes I could get three or four in a row, and rarely five or all six. That finally convinced me that something on that bow was moving around or changing as the bow was being shot.

“So, coaches, keep your ears open. Ask questions of the story tellers. Keep mental notes.”

The reason I am sharing this long story with you is because it was a long story. Here was a very, very careful archer, an archer who documents his equipment very carefully, an archer who is very cognizant of his own shot details, and an archery who has loads of experience and it still took him a great while to finally come to grips with the real problem.

When recurve limbs have interior defects, they eventually show up as limbs that look deformed, but compound limbs are shorter and typically solid fiberglass and do not necessarily show signs of internal damage.

What is important for coaches to do is to listen to these stories. From them you can glean knowledge but also they can give you an appreciation of how hard it is to diagnose some equipment problems. Because Tom is such an experienced bow mechanic, it took him longer to eventually send it back to the manufacturer with a note “It’s broke, can you fix it?” It is a matter of pride for both Tom and I that we can fix almost anything that goes wrong with our gear and it can cost us time and money and effort to overcome this belief.

It is also important to listen to these stories for examples of good and bad behavior on the part of the manufacturers. Darton showed itself to be a quality company. I have had equally good service from other manufacturers. But when an archer has a bad experience with a seller or manufacturer, he then tells that story repeatedly for the rest of his life! This contributes a lot to a feeling of negativity floating around archery and it is nice to be able to note times in which a positive result happens.

So, coaches, keep your ears open. Ask questions of the story tellers. Keep mental notes. The deeper you get into coaching, the less obvious equipment problems become (the easy ones are detected and fixed easily). There aren’t any textbooks or training programs on how to help your student-archers with equipment problems … yet, so you have to find ways to educate yourself otherwise.

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Compound Letoff—More is Better, Right?

Letoff is what makes compound bows special. Without letoff, compound bows are just a mishmash of wheels and pulleys. But, with letoff, wow!

If you are unfamiliar with the concept, compound bows incorporate mechanical advantages to have the draw force of a bow ramp up faster than recurves and longbows and then when they reach “peak weight” the force drops off down to a much lower “holding weight” at full draw (see illustration). Because of that faster ramp up, the total energy stored in the bow is greater for a 40# compound bow than for a 40# recurve or 40# longbow, even with the force give-back from the peak weight to the bottom of “the valley.”

The most typical “letoff” is 65% but when they were introduced they were 30-40%, then 50% became popular, then 65%, and now bows with as high as 80% letoff can be purchased. The letoff percentage is how much of the draw force is taken off, so a 40% letoff would reduce the peak weight by 40% at full draw. A 60# compound bow with 67% letoff leaves the archer only holding 20# at full draw, twenty pounds! The other 40# or so has been thrown onto the cabling system so that, in effect, the limbs help pull one another.compound-draw-force-curve

So, being Americans, we think that if letoff is what makes a compound bow special, we want “to get me some more of that,” and the more the better.

Unfortunately this is not necessarily a good thing.

One can design a bow where there is almost 100% letoff and you would be under almost no strain from the draw at full draw. But for target archers this is definitely not a good thing. We want to have enough holding weight to get a clean launch of our arrows. Even with release aids, a very low holding weight (aka a high letoff) means that only a small force is needed to change the launch position of the rear end of the arrow. Therefore it is easier to mislaunch arrows. This is the same consideration with recurve archers who do not have enough draw force “in hand” to get cleanly off of the string. (The hardest bow I have on hand to shoot is a 10# recurve bow. Getting off that string cleanly is very difficult.)

Most compound target archers seem to have gravitated to about 65% letoff. I say “about” because exact letoff cannot be built into a bow. If you change draw weight, or brace height, or any number of things on a compound bow, you can change the letoff involved (not hugely, but some).

Hunters are more prone to use a bow having 80% letoff as they will only be taking a few shots, may have to shoot from an awkward position, have larger targets to hit, and may have to wait for a moving target to clear obstructing brush or turn for a clean shot. The extra letoff allows more time at full draw.

More time at full draw is the advantage of letoff. Because of the lessened strain on the archer at full draw, they have more time to align their bows correctly and then aim carefully. When peak bow weight happens at full draw, as it does with recurves and longbows, time at full draw is necessarily short and less care can be afforded.

 

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An Archer’s Quandary: Reading Targets and Arrow Scores (Part 2)

(Be sure to read Part 1 first. Steve)

I will now answer the question about how to teach your students to address the scores of their arrows as they shoot them. It requires you to understand some more about typical patterns. The critical issue is to distinguish normal shot outcomes (which need no correction) from abnormal shot outcomes (which do).

For rank beginners, there is no problem as their arrows are all over the place. The first goal is to shoot a round in which all arrows score. Then the task is getting them to shoot “round groups” centered on the target center. (This needs to be checked and addressed. I have students divided target faces in quarters and count how many holes in each quarter. They should be roughly equal (this assumes a left-right and up-down balance equals “round”). You can also have them count how many arrows are in each ring.)

Once these have been achieved, then your students will start to “see” patterns in their arrow scores. Some will require action, others not. If your archer mistakes one kind of arrow score as indicating a problem and it is not or vice-versa, his/her score will suffer, largely because their mental state was not adjusted to correspond to reality.

Now Consider the following table:

Table of Scores vs. “Holding Ring”
(Normal Distribution)

Holding
Ring
RR
Score
360 Round
Score
300
Round
Score
10 717 359 299
9 692 345 288
8 664 332 277
7 637 318 265
6 610 305 254
5 583 291 243
4 556 278 232
3 529 265 220
2 502 251 209
1 475 238 198

This is an attempt on my part to define what “holding the Y-ring” stands for. To say an archer is “holding the 8-ring” is to imply that all of his/her arrows are 8s, 9s, or 10s, but this definition doesn’t correspond to reality. So, I defined the term to mean that three standard deviations of the arrow positions are scores corresponding to the rings implied. If you don’t know what that means, it means that 95-96% of all arrows shot will have scores of that ring or higher. So, out of every 100 arrows 4-5 will be out of that zone. For a 300 Round (10 point scoring, 30 arrows, like a Vegas Round—see column at the right in the table) it means that 1-2 arrows will be outside of that zone.40cm_3_spot_vertical

So, as an example, let’s take someone who is “holding the 8-ring.” In a 30 arrow round, 1-2 would be outside of that zone (8-, 9-, and 10-rings), presumably they would be 7s. I assume that this collection of shots includes no “fliers,” that is obvious “oops shots.”

Here is how you use this information. If your archer is shooting round groups, centered on the target (required for max scores), then you can use their average round score to tell what their “holding ring” is. If they shoot scores are in the mid-270’s, they are “holding the 8-ring.” If they shoot scores in the mid-240’s, they are “holding the 5-ring.” Just look for their score in the right-hand column and slide over to the left hand column of that row.

Holding the 8-ring means that one or two 7s will be “normal” for them. A round in which there are no 7s is possible and a round in which there are 3-4 or more 7s is possible. But an arrow outside of the 7-ring is a strong indicator of a mistake having been made and some adjustment needs to be made, and they should run their routine used to analyze bad shots when such shots occur. But, if they try to adjust something because they shot eight ends without shooting a 7, then they shot two in one end, they would be making a mistake. Two 7s in one round is “normal.” The fact that they occurred one after the other is a small, very small data set (two arrows) and no conclusions can be drawn from them nor should there be.

Now if this archer shoots a five, there is definitely a problem (especially on the Vegas target which has no five ring unless you are shooting a one-spot version of their target face).

If your archer improves so that they are shooting scores in the high 280s commonly, then they are “holding the 9-ring” and 1-2 8s in a 300 Round are “normal” and 7s, 6s, 5s, etc. become arrows that need to be labeled as shots needing some sort of correction. I repeat, you can’t know for certain, as these are based upon probabilities, but each archer really needs to know what “normal” scoring is for them.

A Caveat
Now, having said all of that, you must reinforce that we are not robots. Consistency is not something easily achieved or demonstrated and should not be expected, at least at a high level, from any but the very, very, very best archers. All of us have good days and bad days and once an archer achieves some ability, their scores are much closer to perfect than to awful, which means there is a lot farther one can drop from one’s average than one can exceed one’s average score. If your archer has a 280 average on this round, he/she can only exceed his/her average by 20 points, but can fall below that average by many times that 20 points.

Even Brady Ellison, who has shot indoor 600 Round world records of 598/600 and 599/600 recently is going to shoot an 8, one day soon. And, in practice, he may have a really horrid day and shoot a 294/300. The difference between elite archers and the rest of us is their high and low scores are much closer together while also being, of course, much closer to perfect.

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An Archer’s Quandary: Reading Targets and Arrow Scores (Part 1)

This is a quandary all archers face when they are approaching a high level of expertise. It actually occurs all of the time, although when groups are larger it is harder to see and often goes unnoticed. Here is an example:

You are shooting a 300 round indoors (10-0 scoring a la Vegas) and you have shot 10s and 9s only for the first eight ends. Then in the ninth end, you shoot a ten and then two 8s. Is something wrong?”

Well, what do you think?

If you think there is a problem, well, you are wrong.

If you think it is not a problem, you are also wrong.

I did not give you enough information to tell which it was.dual_vegas_fnt

You see, it depends on who is shooting and what is “normal” for them. If that were me, then I could tell you eights are normal … for me … and that seven ends of all 9s and 10s was not normal. But I have known archers for whom this would have indicated a problem of some sort. One of my archery club colleagues in California kept shooting perfect 300 scores on the NFAA five-spot target. (I noticed that because I was trying to shoot my first such score.) I asked him when was the last time he didn’t shoot a 300 score, and he couldn’t remember. It had been years, he said. The 5-ring on that target is equivalent in size to the 9-ring on the 40 cm indoor target, so shooting all 10s and 9s on that target was “normal” for him. (It was not normal for me.)

Also, what your thinking would have been if I had told you one of those 8s came in the fourth end and the other in the eighth end? If you thought the two eights were a problem in the first scenario, are they indicative of a problem when spread out, too? Most would say “no.”

We all seem to think that a string of good shots should continue, but this is an illusion, one of the so-called “gambler’s illusions” which includes winning streaks, basketball players “hot hands,” and many other phenomena.

When Brady Ellison shot his most recent world record for an indoor 600 Round, he shot is lone 9 in an otherwise perfect round (599/600) on his thirtieth arrow (out of 60). How would you feel if he had shot his nine on the first arrow? Or his last arrow? (Oh, he came so close!) The score would be the same, but the feelings are different. In one scenario we think he made a good recovery and a strong comeback. In another, we can tell stories of how the pressure got to him and he crumpled on his last shot. In all three, same score, same WR.

What we have to be aware of is our own propensity to see patterns, whether they do or do not exist. Consider the idea of “streaks.” These go against what we are taught is the “law of averages” which is properly named the “law of large numbers.” We are told that if we are gambling, winning more than a few hands in a row is not normal. We think that wins and loses should be mixed evenly. None of these are true.

We are told and believe that if you flip a coin often enough you will end up with half  of the flips being “heads” and half “tails.” People have actually undertaken experiments in which they flipped coins 10,000 times or more to check this “law.” To the contrary I remember reading an article in Scientific American magazine a very long time ago described an experiment in which a computer was programmed to simulate flipping a coin. They expected the law of large numbers/averages to show a 50:50 distribution of heads and tails in short order and then stay that way forever. Contrary to ordinary thinking, starting with ten heads or ten tails in a row is not at all impossible, but however it began, the totals would rapidly approach a 50:50 distribution and then stay there. But this is not what they saw. They saw a 50:50 distribution of heads and tails in short order and then they had a long streak in which heads flips dominated creating a number of head flips greater than the number of tail flips, then this “streak” was followed by a long stretch of 50:50 flips, but then there was a longish streak of tails creating a number of tail flips greater than the number of head flips, followed by a 50:50 stretch. This continued, as far as they could tell, forever.

The length of the 50:50 stretches was, in total, the vast majority of the tosses. But the long stretches of mostly heads or mostly tails (winning streaks?) resulted in almost no time being spent at exactly 50:50. This behavior is not governed by luck as a computer does not operate via luck, it is the ordinary nature of random events. All of these things are “streaky” by nature and not consistent as we would expect.  (BTW, the 10,000 coin toss experiment came out 5,067 heads, 4,933 tails.)

Now, clusters of archery shots are not random events, but if one were to shoot a long stretch of all 10s and 9s, and then shoot two 8s, would that be a sign of something going wrong or not? We are conditioned to see patterns, especially if they are negative. (I can’t tell you how often I have had the thought “Here we go again” while shooting, but it is not a small number.) The problem is you can’t tell, because the stretches are not predictive.

But wait, “What do we do? You haven’t said!”

Look for my next post.

 

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