Tag Archives: Books on Archery

New Coaching Book Available

My latest archery coaching book is now available on Amazon.com and other sources. Here’s the TOC so you can see if you are interested:

 Table of Contents
Still More on Coaching Archery


On Form and Execution
1  A Defense of Copying
2  An Analysis of the NTS Finger Loose
3  Being Consistent
4  Helping Your Students Explore Balance
5  How to Build Championship Form
6  Relaxing
7  The Physical Requirements of a Good Shot
8  We Don’t Talk Enough About Stillness and Rhythm
9  What Is the Most Important Part of an Archer’s Form?
10  Why the Bow Hand Release is a Bad Idea

On Practice
11  Practice Tricks
12  Why You Should Always Center Your Groups
13  A Practice Prescription Case Study: After a Longish Layoff
14  Enjoying Practice

On Equipment
15  Arrow Overhang: How Much is Too Much?
16  Bearpaw Twinbow Review
17  The Broadhead Planing Effect: Fact or BS?
18  Ultra-Adjustable Compound Bows
19  What the Coach Training Classes Leave Out . . . And Shouldn’t
20  A Stringwalking Puzzle
21  Can You Read Arrow Patterns?
22  The Optics of Apertures

On Coaching
23  Teaching the Finger Release
24  Getting from “Here” to “There”
25  A Coaching Case Study
26  The Overaiming Meme
27  The Stages of Learning Archery, Pt 1
28  The Stages of Learning Archery, Part 2
29  The Stages of Learning Archery, Part 3
30  The Stages of Learning Archery, Part 4
31  Coaches Never Assume
32  Managing Emotional Attachments to Athletes
33  On the Nature of Advice
34  Towards a Common Terminology
35  Watch Your Language
36  What To Look For (At?)
37  What Great Archers Don’t Necessarily Make Great Coaches
38  What the Coach Knows and the Athlete Needs

General Commentary
39  Random Archery Thoughts
40  Alternate Shot Letdown Alternatives
41  ATAs Archery Participation Survey
42  There Must Be … A Better Way
43  The Benefits of Archery
44  Having a Lot of Pull on the Archery Range

SMOCA Front Cover 10%


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So Much to Learn … About Arrows

The following question came in recently from a “non-beginner:” “If an aluminum arrow has a dent in it, is it still usable?”

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Coaches need to be aware of how much our students do not know about archery equipment. It is easy for grizzled veterans of archery to forget how much there is to learn.

As all-carbon arrows become more prevalent, archers get less and less experience with aluminum arrows, even though the pathway up from a “beginner” usually is paved with aluminum arrows. There seems to be a growing opinion that aluminum arrows are “obsolete,” but this is incorrect. Marketing forces are always on the side of “new and improved” (an oxymoronic claim, by the way) and seem to denigrate the prior models as “old” or “inferior.” So, an impression is created that older designs are less capable, limiting performance somehow. This is not true.

There is nothing wrong with aluminum arrows. They, like their carbon counterparts, have strengths and weakness. One weakness is they can be bent and become unshootable. They, can, however be straightened. They are also less expensive than most other options. All-carbon arrows don’t bend, but they do crack and once cracked are not repairable.

* * *

To answer the question asked: if an aluminum arrow is dented, it may be still useable but it depends on the dent (location, size). If the arrow is still straight and groups with the others, it is at minimum a good practice arrow. If the shaft is a shaft that accepts “glued on” nocks, one of the places it can become dented is in the cone-shaped section designed to accept a nock. (This typically happens when a nock gets broken by a subsequent arrow.) And there is a tool for reshaping dented nock cones on aluminum arrows, even if a hole is punched into that section. If the nock can be glued on securely and isn’t “out of round,” it is probably still useable.

Minor dents, along the shaft can be acceptable as long as the shaft is still straight. A hole punched in the side of a shaft is a clear sign of an unsafe shaft, though. Dents near the tip are often negligible because the shaft of the arrow point reinforces the shaft outside of it. But if the tip is “out of round” retire that arrow.

Aluminum arrows get dinged and banged up quite a bit over time so many archers keep a competition set and practice set. As the competition arrows get banged up or no longer group with the others, they get retired to the practice set. Even arrows that don’t group well are fine for blank bale shooting.

There are, by the way, aluminum-carbon arrows (e.g. Easton X-10s, ACEs, ACGs, ACCs, and the weird “Full Metal Jacket” shafts). These still sell well because of the attributes they share with all-carbon and aluminum shafts. SMFAThey are intermediate between all-carbon and aluminum shafts in a number of parameters like shaft weight but not in cost or toughness. They seem to be tougher than either of the other two options. (This is with regard to target shafts. There are all-carbon hunting shafts you could drive a Humvee over and they would not crack.)

There is so much to learn and few sources to learn from. I suggested to Lancaster Archery (the largest target archery distributer in the U.S.) that they establish a YouTube Channel in which they could explain equipment choices and show basic maintenance tasks. This would give coaches a trustworthy site to send beginning-intermediate archers and archery parents to for such information. I have not heard back from them, but it isn’t as if they have nothing better to do. (Just search YouTube or any othe rsite for archery maintenance information produces the usual mixture of 1-5% wisdom and 95-99% of misinformation/nonsense.) Until such sources become available I will continue to recommend (highly) the book “Simple Maintenance for Archery” by Alan Anderson and Ruth Rowe, now out in a second edition (if you can only find the first edition, that is fine).


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Why I Follow Golf Coaches (Part 2 of ?)

I was watching another video by one of my favorite golf instructors (Don Trajan) recently and he said something quite profound. He was addressing the relationship of foot position to the golf swing and brought up the example of Ben Hogan. If you are not aware of Mr. Hogan, he is a golf demi-god, in the Hall of Fame, etc. But in discussing Mr. Hogan’s golf swing with a biomechanics specialist it was felt that Mr. Hogan was also one of the most supple and flexible golfers ever to have played the game. The estimate was that there are only about a half dozen golfers in this country who have the same degree of flexibility as Mr. Hogan did. Now, Mr. Hogan’s instructional book (Five Lessons: The Fundamentals of the Modern Golf Swing) is an instruction classic with almost a million copies in print. This means that all of the golfers using his book are The Five Lessonsfollowing the advice of someone who has abilities they do not have.

Coach Trajan’s statement was “When you read things and want to do things, do you have the physical attributes to do them?” Brilliant. Obviously this applies to the developmental arc of all archer-athletes who are striving for elite status. They do not have all of the attributes needed to support elite archery technique, so they work on their cardio fitness, they build strength and flexibility, and they refine their form so that they will. But what about the rest of us?

The example I refer to so often is the open stance adopted by so many. Realize that whatever is happening with regard to where your feet are positioned, your upper body has to conform to certain requirements: you have to be a full draw without fighting to keep your bow “on target” for enough time to establish your aim and that you are not moving before you can finish your shot. Whatever you do with your feet, it cannot disrupt your upper body geometry.

SAWModern American Olympic Recurve archery form was developed in the 1970’s and 1980’s by Rick McKinney and Darryl Pace. They won everything in sight and by so doing attracted the most people emulating them. Part of their shots was a quite open stance. McKinney mentioned in his classic book, The Simple Art of Winning, that he felt the open stance helped him to “get into his back” muscles better. Later, people reading his book (including me) took that as “an open stance facilitates use of the appropriate back muscles.” This turns out to exactly demonstrate the statement of Coach Trajan above.

It is my belief that this is an exactly 180 degrees incorrect interpretation. The reason I believe this is that in Olympic Recurve archery, the shoulders have to be rotated to be roughly 10–12 degrees closed. Rotation one’s feet in the open direction opposes the needed shoulder rotation and so cannot help accomplish that. So why did McKinney and Pace do it? My understanding is that they were both very flexible and could get their draw/string elbows considerably past being in line with their arrows. This is a source of variability that is not desired. The open stances restricted their ability to get past good alignment and helped them to become more consistent thereby. So, what help is this for people struggling to get to “good line?” None whatsoever. This is why I so often close up my student’s stances until they can establish good line and then, from there, go on to experiment with other stances.

So, when you read things and want to try things, I recommend you follow Coach Trajan’s advice and consider whether “you have the physical attributes to do them.” If you do not, either you have to commit to creating those attributes or (more often) consider other options. It is probably inimical to good form and execution to assume that just because Coach XYZ recommends this or that, that doing it would be good for you. Everything has to be explored and adopted based upon whether it fits your body and your mind and your goals before such a commitment can be made. A great help in that determination is a good coach. This is one of the main reasons I am working hard to become a good coach.



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When to Aim?

Whenever one of you signs up for this blog, I hie myself over for a look at yours (if you have one) to see what you are interested. I get a number of topics upon which to write for this blog in this manner. One such topic is “when to aim?” which, as it turns out is a topic of one of the chapters of my latest book (Still More on Coaching Archery, Watching Arrows Fly, 2014). Here is an excerpt from that book on this topic.SMOCA Front Cover 10%

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The Overaiming Meme

Olympic Recurve coaches have a meme that is considered a cardinal sin if you break it: “do not overaim.” This admonition permeates the writing of recurve coaches at all levels. The USA Archery Level 2 coach training manual, for example, includes a shot sequence with one of the early steps labeled “not yet aiming.” I think this warrants a closer examination.

So what constitutes aiming? Is it just the act of aligning a sight aperture with a point of aim? Clearly this is not the case. Aiming starts from the very beginning of the shot cycle when the archer takes a stance. A condition for accuracy is that the arrow must be in a vertical plane going through the target center for it to hit the center (absent wind effects, etc.). When an archer steps onto a shooting line and effects a square stance, you can see that a vertical plane going through the arrow also goes right across the archer’s shoe tips. This is why we recommend a square stance to beginners, it is a natural aiming stance in that by aligning one’s shoe tips up with the target center, one is also aligning the arrow up with target center. If you take a square stance and get into reasonable T-Form at full draw, you will be aiming right down the middle. So, aiming begins with the stance.

Later in the cycle the bow gets raised, but how far does it get raised? What I teach my students is that it needs to be raised to a height such that when the draw is made and the anchor position is found, the sight aperture is naturally centered on the gold (or wherever the archer is aiming). Higher than that or lower than that results in the archer having to move the bow a substantial amount at full draw, a clear waste of time and possibly a use of the wrong muscles. So, raising the bow is an aspect of aiming. (It has been referred to as “pre-aiming” in the past.)

So, is this too much or too soon? Is this overaiming?

No. Here’s why.

What’s Special About Aiming
As an archer moves through her shot sequence, her attention focuses on just one thing, one thing after another, but just one thing at a time. When taking a stance she focuses on just that. When nocking an arrow she focuses on just that. Beginners have to focus more in that they do more consciously, they have to check the index vane, they have to check that the arrow is nocked snuggly under the top nock locator, they have to be sure the arrow is on the rest and under their clicker (if used). This is all done in a trice and without conscious thought by the expert archer, but it is done and all are attended to.

So, all through the shot sequence the archer’s attention is focused on one and only one thing . . . except during the “aiming” phase. During the aiming phase, the archer must divide her attention between two things: the visual matching of the aperture with target center (or point of aim) and some aspect of her form involved in completing the shot (the draw elbow, tension in the back muscles, etc.).

This is the only time during the shot sequence that the archer’s attention gets divided: during the “aiming” step. The admonition to not overaim is not helpful as it violates the coaching dictum of “tell them how to do it right, don’t describe how they are doing it wrong.” It also is vague and hard to understand. Just what are the characteristics of “overaiming?”

Instead . . .
Instead of this admonition, archers need to learn how to divide their attention during that step.

One simple drill is to have them hold their bow up in an American-style “Raise” position. I ask them to focus on the aperture on the target and then switch to focusing on their bow hand, then their bow arm, then their shoulders, etc. all the time keeping their aperture on the target. (You must include rests because the arms get tired holding the bow up.) Just ask them to move their attention and focus around. After just a few minutes of practice, they get pretty good at it. Then ask them to focus on their aperture and without losing that focus, include their bow hand, or their bow arm, or their shoulders, etc. Then ask them to practice doing this (which they can do at home) with the key being able to focus their divided attention on aperture and their back muscles (some coaches substitute a focus on the draw elbow for the back). Note My piano teacher taught me this. You can’t play different notes with both hands until each hand has learned to play it’s notes by itself.

Another activity/drill that will enhance an archer’s ability to divide their attention is “slow shooting.” This is just working through a shot but at a substantially slower pace than normal. Instead of a shot requiring 6-7 seconds, it takes 30-40 seconds done this way. The archer must also focus on what they are supposed to be focusing on. Mindless drills may tone the body but do not sharpen the mind. You must caution them to avoid flitting back and forth between the two task (maintain sight picture, finish shot, maintain sight picture, finish shot, . . .).

Another drill might be to ask them to focus only on their aperture position while shooting an end. On the next end they are to only focus only on completing their shot and not at all on their aperture. A third end they need to divide their attention between their aperture position and finishing their shot. This drill is based on the Goldilocks’ Principle: the first end is too much aperture focus, the second end is too much body focus, and the third end is “just right” or at least close to it. Often the third end shows a much better group than either of the other two (as it should).

A Fine Point
When writers do address this topic (almost never directly) they tend to mention visual focus on the aperture, which is correct, and a visualization involving the draw elbow or scapulas a means of making sure execution of the shot is continuing, which is incorrect. The power of visualizations is that they involve the brain triggering the same muscles that will be used during the activity visualized, so they are great for rehearsals. But the visual cortex is being asked to do two visual tasks in this approach, which has to lead to some confusion. Instead the visual focus on the aperture’s position needs to be combined with the tactile sensations in the back or draw arm that can be associated with correct execution.

But . . . Isn’t this a Form of “Multi-Tasking?
Recently psychologists have studied “multi-tasking,” that is doing two tasks at once, and have argued that this is often not what people think. Instead of two tasks being done simultaneously, the minds of the people doing these tasks were switching back and forth between the two and each task thus suffered in quality. The simultaneity was an illusion. Examples are given such as trying to do math problems while listening to a Presidential speech and extracting salient information. I believe they had brain scans to back up their claim. But it is not the case that if this is true some of the time, it is true all of the time.

Arguments by example, how scientists explain complex things to ordinary people like you and me, can be opposed by counter examples, so let me offer a few. About in third grade most American kids are presented with the task of “rubbing their stomach and patting their head” (or is it the reverse?) from a “friend.” At first none can do this as it seems impossible. But after a short period of practice, many can do these two different tasks simultaneously (maybe not so well, but practice usual stops when the feat is achieved). Some of these kids may grow up to play the piano during which each of their hands is doing something different and simultaneous, or maybe a virtuoso rock ’n’ roll drummer who can play complex rhythms, sometimes with different meters, simultaneously with both hands and a foot.

To end this argument with a sports metaphor, consider a baseball batter. He might have to track the curved path of a ball thrown from a variety of “release points” at near 100 mph close enough to the batter cause significant bodily harm were he hit by the pitch while swinging a baseball bat to intercept that ball to hit it the opposite direction. If they can do those tasks simultaneously, I think we can do our task simultaneously, our target is not even moving! All it takes is practice.

Please note, I am not refuting or rejecting the psychologist’s research. I believe they are absolutely correct when it comes to two simultaneous and complex conscious tasks, but the subconscious mind seems capable of attending to a great many tasks simultaneously.

Perhaps it is time to bury the “overaiming” meme. It was never particularly helpful. It is not an instruction of “what to do” but rather “what not to do.” And I don’t think it accurately described the issue at hand.

There was a time in the late 60’s, early 70’s when the clicker was being adopted that a number of archers were using it as a draw check only and would hold for several seconds after the clicker “clicked.” Many of these archers were taking too much time at full draw and could be described as over aiming, but no one is doing that now.

Coaches inherit too much stuff that has outlived its usefulness and I think this is one of those.


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Practicing Alone and Mental Programs

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,
About a few months ago, I decided to start practicing by myself. About 90% of my practice is in complete solitude, and my practice has become extremely productive and efficient. However, is it bad to practice alone? My thought is that since I practice alone, I won’t get accustomed to other people; overtime, I’m concerned that this might spike my anxiety during tournaments, where there are lots of people.

Also, I’ve recently implemented a “mental program” as recommended by Lanny Bassham. Am I supposed to think about my mental program before I make each shot, or while I make each shot? I’ve noticed it’s almost impossible to do the latter.


Again, these are very good questions.

Most archers practice alone, at least some of the time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. But, if you never acclimate yourself to a noisy venue, you may have problems blocking out distractions when they occur. One of the ways you can “practice” blocking out distractions, is to play music you do not like during practice, preferably loudly. Obviously you may not want to annoy your neighbors or others nearby, so you will be tempted to use headphones. If you do, be sure that the cables involved will not get caught during a shot. (The new wireless ear buds look promising for practicing athletes.) I would like somebody to put together a nice compilation for this: maybe some babies crying (loudly), fingernails on a blackboard, a bunch of pots and pans clanging together (loudly), etc. One year the French Olympic team practiced while drill sergeants screamed in their faces (with suitably bulging veins, if the photos were any evidence).

Another aspect of becoming a consistent winner is learning to monitor your personal space. Some venues have very narrow lanes, while others have wider/regulation ones. If you expect a crowded venue, practicing with others will help, especially if you can stand close to one another as you shoot. If you have no one available to practice with, try shooting close to a wall, or stack up some cardboard boxes as a stand-in for an archer “in your face.”

Something almost impossible to prepare for is rude or out-of-control competitors doing things in an attempt to put you off of your game. This is exceedingly rare, but it does happen. Experience is considered to be the best teacher, but it is also often harsh and brutal.

Mental Programs
Mental programs are quite various. There are programs you run when things go wrong in competition (usually called “recovery programs”) and planning (for practice, competition, equipment changes, etc.) is part of the mental aspects of the sport, etc. It seems, though, that you are asking about the mental processes that are run while shooting. If this assumption is wrong, let me know.

There is a dictum for archers: practice consciously, perform subconsciously, which you have discovered (“Am I supposed to think about my mental program before I make each shot, or while I make each shot? I’ve noticed it’s almost impossible to do the latter.”). So, during practice, you consciously think about what you want your subconscious mind to take over for you. This is done by only working on and focusing on, just one aspect of your shot at a time and linking the feedback you give yourself (a good shot … or not?) to that one thing. While working on your bow hand, if your bow hand was correct, whatever happens to the arrow just shot is irrelevant, that was a “good shot” (which is why we take down the target face while working on form—it can only provide mixed messages).

The foundation of  archery mental programs are:
(a) your shot sequence, which provides a framework for the physical shot and the mental steps that go along with them;
(b) what I call the Rule of Discipline “if anything, anything at all—mental or physical—intrudes from a prior step or from the environment, you must let down and start over.” If you override this rule you are telling your subconscious mind that it is okay to shoot bad shots, that it is okay to improvise, neither of which is good; and
(c) various bits and pieces that work for you.

Here is an example of a mental program, linked to a shot:
(a) You take deep breath or two and physically and mentally relax
(b) Some people use a “trigger” which is a word to get you started but it is just as easy to take an arrow out of your quiver as your trigger. (Do not use taking your stance as a trigger point here because you often only take your stance once in an end.)
(c) When you get to the point just before you raise your bow, make a first-person visualization of a perfect shot, including the arrow landing dead center. Include all sights , sounds, odors, everything you can; make it vivid! If you just shot such a shot, you have a perfect model; if you do not, you must use strong memory skills.
(d) During subsequent form steps, some people use key words to help with weaknesses they are working on; for example, I used “strong bow arm” while drawing for quite a while.
(e) At full draw, some archers use a memorized bit of a song to keep them on rhythm; they aren’t singing it per se, but that music is running through their head,
(f) Last is a mental evaluation of the quality of that shot, which is compared with the outcome (I shot a good shot, why isn’t that a 10? Oh, the wind picked up!) and a plan for adjustments to the next shot are made.

In order to link your mental program to your shot, you have to use it on every practice shot and every competition shot, starting … oh, I don’t know … how about NOW!

This is just one example of an “ordinary shooting” mental program. Everyone is different and may need different “pieces.” But all of them have your conscious mind focusing on things that will not interfere with your subconscious program, just supporting that programming from “afar” as it were.

I hope this helps.

PS I wrote an entire book on creating a strong mental program (Why You Suck at Archery). There are many reasons WYSAA described (with recommendations to correct them) but the primary reason (covered in the entire second half of the book) is having no mental program at all.

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Send in Your Questions!

In case you have missed this point, I am willing to answer your archery questions. If you click on “Q&A” (in the Categories—right), you will see the questions already asked and answered. Also, if I can’t answer your question I will try to find someone who can.


PS My tenth book “Still More on Coaching Archery” is almost ready to send to the printer. I will announce that when it happens. Shortly thereafter a book by Van Webster “Teaching Archery” will be published.

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Another Hot Off the Press Announcement!

We have formally launched the Watching Arrows Fly Coaching Library with the release of Larry Wise’s new archery coaching book Larry Wise on Coaching Archery. This book is now available on Amazon.com and I just put the finishing touches on a Kindle version for those of you who prefer that (plus it is only $9.95 — and for some strange reason the two editions are listed separately, so you have to search for the Kindle edicition separately).

If you don’t know Larry Wise, he is one of the premier compound coaches in the world. Currently he is helping the USA Archery folks write up the National Training System for compound archers. His new book is full of advice for compound and bowhunting coaches and was written also for those coaching themselves. This book fills a very large hole in the coaching literature as Larry address not only what to teach but how to teach it.

LWonCA Cover v4 (large)


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Hot Off the Press!

ACHT Cover v2I promised (threatened?) I was writing a “how to” book for archery coaches. Well, Archery Coaching How To’s is out and available on Amazon.com! In this book I tried to describe what I consider to be teaching techniques tf contents:


Table of Contents

General Caveats

How To’s

  • How to . . . Introduce Clickers
    ·   How to . . . Manage Draw Weight
    ·   How to . . . Teach Release Aids
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Slings
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Stabilizers
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Bow Sights
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Finger Tabs
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Peep Sights
    ·   How to . . . Introduce New Arrows

How To’s
Form and Execution

  • How to . . . Teach the Use of Back Tension
    ·   How to . . . Teach Shooting Off of the Point
    ·   How to . . . Teach Stringwalking
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Anchors
    ·   How to . . . Teach Different String Grips
    ·   How to . . . Teach a Finger Release
    ·   How to . . . Develop A Strong Bow Arm
    ·   How to . . . Create A Good Followthrough
    ·   How to . . . Create A Surprise Release (Compound)
    ·   How to . . . Adapt to New Bows

How To’s
New Experiences

  • How to . . . Introduce Field Archery
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Target Archery
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Competition
    Sidebar: Who Competes? Against Whom or What?

Having a Written Coaching Philosophy
Coaching Rationales

If you read it, please post a review on Amazon.com to help others with their buying decisions. Thanks.





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Catching Up

Egad, it has been a while since I have posted. I have been quite busy, so I will try to catch up shortly. For now, an announcement … Ta Da! My new book is out. It is available on Amazon.com. If you are a subscriber to Archery Focus magazine, we sent you an email with a discount on this book, so look for it (it is probably in your Trash). This book is for beginning-to-intermediate coaches and coaches teaching outside of their primary expertise, e.g. recurve coaches coaching compound students. It provides a system for teaching many of the topics encountered by such coaches. Here is the Table of Contents:

·  How to . . . Introduce Clickers
·  How to . . . Manage Draw Weight
·  How to . . . Teach Release Aids
·  How to . . . Introduce Slings
·  How to . . . Introduce Stabilizers
·  How to . . . Introduce Bow Sights
·  How to . . . Introduce Finger Tabs
·  How to . . . Introduce Peep Sights
·  How to . . . Introduce New Arrows

Form and Execution
·  How to . . . Teach the Use of Back Tension
·  How to . . . Teach Shooting Off of the Point
·  How to . . . Teach Stringwalking
·  How to . . . Introduce Anchors
·  How to . . . Teach Different String Grips
·  How to . . . Teach a Finger Release
·  How to . . . Develop A Strong Bow Arm
·  How to . . . Create A Good Followthrough
·  How to . . . Create A Surprise Release (Compound)
·  How to . . . Adapt to New Bows

New Experiences
·  How to . . . Introduce Field Archery
·  How to . . . Introduce Target Archery
·  How to . . . Introduce Competition
Sidebar: Who Competes? Against Whom or What?

Having a Written Coaching Philosophy
Coaching Rationales

Let me know what you think and if you like (or not) write a review on Amazon.com!

ACHT Cover v2


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Have You Read This?

Have any of you read the new book by USA Archery, Archery? (I do wish they had come up with a less used, more descriptive title.) I just started reading the book. Tell me what you think.


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