Tag Archives: clickers

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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Getting Through the Clicker

This question came through as a “comment” on an older post. I have added a little to it and put it up here in the cue where people can find it. (You can sort through these posts by clicking on any category or tag in the “clouds” to the right. The posts that have those categories/tags applied to them will then burble to the top of the stack.) Also, when you send in questions, please indicate what style you shoot and any other particulars you think bear on your problem.

QandA logoHi Steve, have you got any advice on overcoming mental blocks? I often struggle to commit to squeezing the arrow through the clicker. I’ve worked on the mental program stuff from Lanny Bassham but I’m not quite there.

This is hard to answer without watching you shoot.

The whole purpose of the clicker is to remove the decision of when to shoot and place it onto the clicker and training (clickers are not just triggers). My first suspicion is you don’t have your clicker set up correctly. Here’s a test to check that. Have a mate watch your clicker as you draw through it. (Be sure you are well warmed up.) The drill is: draw through the click, but when you hear the click, continue to expand as hard as you can without losing good form. Do not let the string slide back on your face or do anything else you would not normally do. Ideally, your arrow point should only be able to get 1/4˝ (0.5 cm) past the rear edge of the clicker. If you can get farther than that, your clicker is too far out. If you can’t get that far, it is too far in.

The point here is that the clicker needs to be set very close to the edge of your range of motion (in the funny motion we can drawing at anchor). Since you are so close to not being able to move farther, you will feel a great deal of discomfort in your back (if you are using the correct muscles there). That discomfort is what your subconscious mind uses as a guide to what makes a “shot going well.” Without that guide, getting through your clicker becomes an athletic event. On good days you will get through your clicker in good order, on bad days you will either pull through too easily (if you are feeling frisky) or struggle to get through at all (if feeling sluggish).

Ch 09 Clicker (Andy M)When the clicker is set right, a short training cycle should get you synced up: it helps to have a mate work with you. The drill goes like this: you will either let down or shoot or count to 1, 2, or 3 seconds and then shoot. I suggest that you let down about every other shot at the beginning and mix in the others randomly. As you work through the drill, reduce the number of let downs until they constitute their ordinary share of the five different possibilities. Your mate tells you which of these to do before you do it. (I have typed out sheets of these instructions, randomly sorted after the initial 20 shots or so (which are let down “heavy”) for students working alone to remove the decision making.)

The purpose of this drill is to give you control over your clicker. The two conditions for a correct release are the clicker clicking in good order and everything else is good. So if you are aiming dead center and the clicker clicks but you don’t see gold through your aperture, you must let down. If you make your response to the clicker clicking a conditional response, that arrow is going to be shot and is going to land poorly. This latter drill creates a space in time after the clicker clicks in which this decision is made, so make sure you confirm the good sight picture after the clicker clicks. In time your subconscious mind will take this task over and it will happen with lightning speed.

An elite archer pulls through their clicker almost every time in a clearly defined rhythm … I am sure you want to do this, too, but you have to get there in control of a correctly placed clicker.

In archery the “mental” and “physical” aspects are stitched together and need to be address in proper context. This may be a “mental” problem or it may not be. As I said, it is hard to tell without watching you shoot and interviewing you.


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Got Flinch?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,
Sometimes, at the very end of my practices, I have issues with deciding when to let go of the string. During these times, I might decide to release the string but then quickly re-catch the string. This problem has also occurred in the past during tournaments, usually during the last third of a tournament. What’s going on and how do I fix it?


This is called a “flinch” and it stems from having to decide when to release the string. It is an inherent problem with Barebow Recurve. It is one of the reasons the clicker was invented. The clicker was not just a draw check (designed to fix the draw length at a particular value); it was invented in 1955 by a man named Fred Leder because of “flinching, freezing, and creeping.” The idea was that, when used properly, the clicker obviates the need to make the decision to loose.

Ch 09 Clicker (Andy M)For Barebow Recurve and a number of other disciplines involving finger looses, the clicker-less solution became shooting process and shooting rhythm. A consistent rhythm is created based upon a consistent shot process. My process (Barebow Compound) is when I get to full draw position, I align my point to my POA, check my breathing (I have asthma), and then check my string alignment, then I come back to my point and POA; if both are aligned, I loose the string. All the time I am partially focused on the feel of my rear elbow moving backward (so as to not lose back tension). A comfortable rhythm has been developed around this process.

In the absence of such a process, one’s conscious mind tends to invent new processes when one tires. As you tire, things feel “different” (harder, more difficult, etc.) which allows the conscious mind to go through a “things have changed, I had better adapt” sequence and the consequence is “Ooops, I didn’t mean to let that one go.” One’s conscious mind has to be kept out of the decision making process. That has to become a matter of habit, which is in the realm of the subconscious. One’s subconscious can multi-task, one’s conscious mind cannot, consequently when you start functioning consciously, your attention flits from this to that to that and … “Ooops, I didn’t mean to let that one go” happens. Do this often enough and you can create a syndrome known as target panic which is responsible for a great many archers quitting the sport because they “can’t shoot any more.”

So, decide on what your “shot completion” process is. The easiest way to do this is simply pay attention to what is happening when you are shooting well and normally. You must write this process down (Step 1, Step 2, …). You must read this list every time you shoot, then use that process at first deliberately, but then transitioning into using it “habitually” as you warm up. When you have a rhythm shooting in your process, you will find that you won’t be deciding when the string is to leave, it will “just happen” along the way.

Let me know how this is working for you.



Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A

When to Put on a Clicker

QandA logo

This wasn’t so much a question that was submitted as a search someone made, namely, when should a clicker be introduced to an Olympic Recurve archer?

I have some fairly strong opinions on this, but others do as well. I will explain mine.

I think beginners should shoot barebow until they have fairly consistent form. Then, if they want to shoot a clicker, or I think they are ready, we do a test. It goes like this: the student draws on target and settles in. When their arrow stops moving (back, only back; if it saws back and forth, they aren’t ready) I put a dot opposite their rest hole/plunger with a suitable marking pen (silver Sharpie, whatever). Then they let down. I ask them to relax, take a breath and we repeat. This is done 5-6 times resulting in 5-6 dots on the arrow shaft. I then show the student the shaft. What I want to see is the farthest dots no more than a half inch apart. If they are more than an inch apart, the student is not ready for a clicker. Between the half inch spread and one inch spread, it is your call. If the student is in a rush to be a champion, I’d make him wait. If the student is diligent, patient, and hard working I’d tend to go ahead with the clicker.

“I have some fairly strong opinions on this, but others do as well.
I will explain mine.”

This is obviously a test for draw length consistency. I do not want to introduce a clicker until an archer has a fair degree of form consistency because if that is lacking, trying to learn a clicker will be very frustrating. If you know any clicker stories, I will bet dollars to donuts they center on the frustration of using the danged thing.

Next a good starting point for the position of the clicker needs to be selected. And an excellent place to put the clicker is where the arrow point is when the spread of dots on that shaft is centered on the plunger. Voila! Adjustments, of course, will need to be made but you already have a good starting point

The situation I am trying to avoid is a student with a one inch or longer spread in arrow point location, because about one sixth of the time, the clicker works as we want it to, but one half of the time the student pulls right through the clicker on the way to anchor and another one third of the time, the student is so short at anchor that they can’t get through the clicker at all and have to let down.

I want them to practice succeeding using the clicker and five failures out of six tries is not good practice. And the frustration can deter an otherwise eager archer.

This works for kids, adults, everybody and I recommend it to you.

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Q&A How Does One Develop a Consistent Draw?

Marcus Valdes
of Georgia (who seems to be willing to take advantage of this service . . . Hooray!) wrote asking “how does one develop a consistent draw”?

A consistent draw is not a thing in itself, it is a consequence of other things. It is important to distinguish between things “you can do” and things “that just happen.” The perfect example is the followthrough. The bow does what it does based upon the forces acting on it. All you do is let it do its thing. It is not something you do, it is something that happens. Why bother with it at all, the arrow is long gone? Because the bow is telling you what happened to it. If it behaves consistently, you are behaving consistently. If it behaves “correctly,” you are behaving correctly. It is an instant critique of each shot. (There are other reasons, too.)

A consistent draw requires proper and consistent positioning of both hands on the bow and string/release aid. It requires proper and consistent full draw body position. It requires drawing to the same point each time.

So you must focus on each of these in their turn. This is what a shot sequence does for an archer. It lists what is necessary to do and when it is necessary to do it. Can you think of reasons why it would be a bad idea to set your feet . . . last? (I’ll bet you can come up with quite a list.)

Some people think that putting a clicker on their bow will cause them to have a consistent draw length. I think this is backward even though a great many archers were trained this way. (And which is why clickers have the reputation of being pains in the keester.) This is using a clicker to force a consistent draw and, as I said, a consistent draw is a consequence of other actions, not something you want to try to create, so this is a mistake. We suggest that you need a consistent draw before you install a clicker. The test we use is to take a marking pen and ask the student to adopt their full draw position. we then put a dot on their arrow opposite the hole their arrow rest is in (or any other reasonable close recognizable spot). They let down, rest for 15-20 seconds and repeat. When I have 3-5 dots I look to see how far apart those dots are. If the farthest spots are an inch or more apart, no clicker. If the spots are well less than an inch apart, a consistent draw (by feel!) has been achieved and a clicker can be installed.

To achieve a consistent draw, a student needs to pay attention to their hands, their posture at full draw, and their draw hand anchor position. Trying to be consistent in those will result in being consistent in their draw length. A clicker can then make things even more consistent, but realize that we want a consistent draw length with good form, not just by itself. And you now have a test to see if your draw is consistent.

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All Coaches Have Opinions (Yes, We Do!)

I was reading a guide to teaching Olympic-style archery I found on the Internet. In rather large bold letters right on the first page it said: “There is a perfectly good reason why the use of a clicker is mentioned here and again later in the text, the standard concept of leaving its use until some point further into the learning process is rubbish.” The point a clicker was to be taught was apparently the third session (lesson).

The reason this stood out for me is I had just finished some work on an Olympic-style archery curriculum and the clicker was being introduced quite late. Still, the opinion of the Internet author was so vehement, I spent some time to reconsider my position.

“Their” Opinion
Later in this quite short document the authors claim:  It is important to get the novice using a clicker as soon as possible so that their style will improve and they are not “hung up” about using this important and very necessary piece of equipment. Apparently this is an indication the authors are aware that clickers do not find favor with beginning archers and they have found an approach that works. They also seem to claim that by using a clicker, the archer’s “style” will improve. The authors are British and I am going to guess that by “style” they mean the same thing we do by “form.”

I have never seen an archer’s form improve by the introduction of a clicker. In fact, it seems as if it always gets worse at first, and quite a few don’t recover. As to how to introduce the clicker they say: If a consistent draw is being achieved set the clicker a couple off mm in front of where the arrow is at full draw. Explain that this is a draw check and all that is required is to draw the bow until the clicker goes off and then loose. At this stage there is no need for anymore explanation than that and it is important to let the archer practise using the clicker without attention to how it is being used. Fine adjustment of clicker position and execution can only be learnt when they have experience of using it.

The problem I see with this is not the approach that is used here, it is the “If a consistent draw is being achieved . . .” requirement. This is correct, but for this to happen in a student’s third lesson must constitute some kind of miracle.

In my opinion I believe that clickers have a bad reputation for two very good reasons: 1) they are introduced before an archer’s draw length becomes fairly consistent, and 2) they are taught poorly.

When to Introduce a Clicker If an archer has otherwise good form (a requirement), introducing the clicker is dependent upon the consistency of his draw length. Here is why. Just for the sake of argument, let’s say an archer’s draw length varies between two values an inch apart. If you set the clicker for the middle of this range and then one eighth of an inch closer to the bow for safety, then when he draws on the 5/8 of an inch side of that one inch range farthest from the bow, the clicker stays on the point, which is good. But when he draws on the 3/8 of an inch side closest to the bow, the clicker falls off before he is ready. So, approximately three shots are pulled through the clicker before anchor is achieved for every five that are not. This is frustrating for the archer and has the potential of causing a disaster in the form of the archer trying to consciously control his draw length. This is not something we want him to do.

Now consider that your archer has a quite consistent draw length, gotten by focusing on body position and tenseness of back muscles, etc. and his draw length varies between two values only a quarter of an inch apart. If you set the clicker for the middle of this range and then one eight of an inch closer to the bow for safety, the clicker stays on the point almost every time (with only a little more draw necessary to finish the shot.

Because the archer only pulls through the clicker rarely, he gets to draw the bow as he has always done, which reinforces that subconscious movement. He gets to practice using the clicker every shot rather than five times out of eight.

Now I made up the “one inch” and “one quarter inch” draw length ranges, but the point is clear: the smaller the variation in draw length before the clicker is introduced, the less likely the archer will feel the clicker is an impediment and the more likely he will pick it up sooner.

The phrase “If a consistent draw is being achieved . . . ” is key but I do not expect anything like the consistency necessary by the third or even the thirteenth lesson necessarily. Let me put it this way, if you put a clicker on a student’s bow and they experience frustration, take it off. It is too soon. How to Introduce a Clicker I have heard how the clicker is introduced to Korean student-archers, I have read how a number of others have done it. And I have read the above “At this stage there is no need for anymore explanation than that and it is important to let the archer practise using the clicker without attention to how it is being used. Fine adjustment of clicker position and execution can only be learnt when they have experience of using it.” I find none of them sufficient. So, here is what I am recommending (these are the student instructions):

How to Shoot a Clicker
Start by stripping sight and stabilizer(s) off of your bow and step up to an empty target butt. Your coach will be directing you and this is how it will go. You will slide an arrow under the clicker and your coach will ask you to draw the arrow while you watch the clicker. Your goal is to get to a comfortable full draw position with the clicker still on the arrow but quite near its falling off point. Adjustments will probably have to be made.

After any adjustments to the clicker’s position, you will draw to full draw (watching the clicker) and then “finish the shot” by extending to the target with your bow arm and rotating your rear shoulder toward your back. When the clicker “clicks,” you will be doing one of several things (as directed by your coach):
• letting down
• shooting, or
• pausing for 1-3 seconds and shooting.
Your coach will tell you which to do each time. When you first start, at least every other shot will be a “let down.” Drawing through the clicker and letting down is also called a “clicker check” as you can check whether your back and shoulders feel they are in the right positions at that point. This is something you will want to do every time you warm up to shoot and then later interspersed with your warm-up shots.

What is being done is your subconscious mind is being trained to assess the status of your shot at the point in time that your clicker clicks and then either a) finishing the shot (if everything is good) or b) letting down (if anything is not good). Your subconscious mind can do this with lightning speed; your conscious mind would take several minutes to do the same thing! What you do not want is what is called a conditioned reflex (a reflex that is trained). A “click–release” trained reflex will cause you a great many poor shots. What you want is “click–check and if okay–release.”

This training can be tedious, so it is okay to take a break and shoot without the clicker for a while.

Also, if you are still growing, the position of the clicker will need to be adjusted often. It also needs to be adjusted often if your form isn’t fairly solid which is why we have waited until now to teach you the clicker.

The instructions for the coach are to train the student on the clicker for short sessions spread out over two or three lessons. Gradually the number of “let downs” is reduced and the number of “count to two (or one or three) before shooting” are reduced until the instruction becomes “shoot if the shot feels right.” On the second or third session the stabilizer, sight, and target can be reintroduced (target last). The student is to not use the clicker unless he is with the coach until the coach gives the “okay.” Then the student must shoot it continually thereafter. The objective is to integrate the clicker without distorting form which is already good. All the clicker can do is tell you whether the arrow has been pulled far enough through the clicker, it cannot tell you if it has been done properly, consequently it cannot help you learn good form; all it can do is make your draw length even more consistent.

Can Anything Be Concluded?
Both of the above techniques are still just opinions. Can both work? Is one better? Is one right and the other wrong?

I strongly feel that archery can be taught well in quite a few ways. I strongly encourage coaches and archers to share their methods . . . and their opinions . . . and their justifications of their opinions, because there may just be some superior ways to do things.

But while we are sharing, I feel that one’s opinions of other’s techniques need to be factual and not visceral, “. . . the standard concept of leaving its use until some point further into the learning process is rubbish.”

Good coaching is positive, good coaching focuses on the solution and not the problem. Good writing on coaching should do the same.


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