Tag Archives: Coaching Behaviors

Pet Peeves: #2 A Tall Tell Tale

In the previous post I introduced stock photography and websites offering photographs for sale. One of the largest topics for archery-related photographs for sale is based upon the tale of William Tell, a tale in which a cruel politician forces the hero to shoot an apple off of the head of his young son. The hero, of course, pulls off this shot, but I will leave the rest of the story for you to find if you are not at all familiar with it. (I have seen the story enacted as a stage play in Europe; it is a tourist attraction.)

The number of photos on the Tell theme is myriad. Real apples, cartoon apples, people with apples on their heads and fake arrows through their skulls. In actual practice I have seen wigmaker’s dummy heads used to perch apples on to be shot off and other such “novelty” shots at fundraising events.

But there are consequences. Almost every year somebody is shot in the head while re-enacting this shot (see x-ray).

My all time favorite story illustrating this bad idea happened in 1993: a man was shot through the skull with an arrow by a friend trying to knock a fuel can off his head and survived with no brain damage. Surgeons removed the arrow from the man’s head by drilling a larger hole around the tip at the skull’s back and pulling the arrow through. Paramedics saved his life by restraining him when he tried to pull the arrow out himself in the helicopter on the way to the hospital. “If he had succeeded, the flanges slicing through his brain would have killed him instantly,” said a neurosurgeon at the hospital. The arrow’s tip went 8 to 10 inches into his’ brain. He lost his right eye.

Shot through the eye with a broadhead-tipped arrow and all he lost was the eye … and possibly a friend.

Drunken yahoos aside, this is a very attractive meme to young boys.

I discourage talk of it. I refuse to allow humanoid targets, paper or 3-D, to be shot at, and apples are banned at my lessons. I encourage you to do likewise. we cannot eliminate this meme but we can discourage its re-enactment.

(And don’t get me started on Archery Tag. It may be fun but it is a bad idea.)

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Making the Transition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Attempting to Perfect Their Shot (Don’t Bother)

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

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

That was yesterday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Learn Archery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Archers Need to Absolutely Positively Write Things Down

Note This is a follow-up to “The Post Tournament Review Process”

I have to begin by saying that I have known a great many archers who were far better archers than I was who did not follow this advice. They kept everything in their heads (well, part of it; there is way too much info to memorize it all). So, I am not saying that if you do not keep written records that you will not be able to be come very, very good. What I am saying is that it is highly likely that you will not become as good as you could have become if you forgo keeping written records. This I will attempt to convince you of.

In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, the author (the brilliant Daniel Kahneman) points out that there seem to be two systems that we use to “think:”

System 1 This system is effortless, automatic, associative, rapid, parallel process, opaque (in that we are unaware of its workings), emotional, concrete, specific, social, and personalized.

System 2 This system is effortful, controlled, deductive, slow, serial, self-aware, neutral, abstract, asocial, and depersonalized.

Playing a hunch is an example of System 1 thinking; math homework an example of System 2. Setting aside whether these characterizations are true and correct, I think there is enough truth in them to address the recommendation at the top of this post.

It seems the vast bulk of our thinking falls under System 1 and it is that system that values “stories” or as the news people say, “narratives.” When I taught professionally I argued that we are primed to learn through stories. Stories hold things together. They make sense of why things happen. They make it clear why Action B followed Action A, etc. Children are told stories that have morals behind them (“And the moral to the story, children, is …”). Unfortunately we tend to, uh, well, embellish stories. We tend to make the story come out as we want it to rather than just as it did. There is even an adage that says “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

How does this affect archers, you ask? Allow me to answer you via a story.

* * *

Consider the following scenario: in competition an archer shoots their first arrow which lands at 6 o’clock in the 7-ring. What should he/she do? What he/she should do, of course, depends on whether this was a “good shot” or a “poor shot.” This distinction is made absent the result of the shot. If it felt like a normal good shot, it was . . . unless . . . unless say the archer wasn’t paying full attention to their process. If this was the case, he/she might be able to discern that fact through a little analysis. So, if it felt as if it were a good shot, was the outcome a good outcome? Was that 7 “normal?” Here is where problems occur.

It is unfortunate but when we enter into a competition, we have hopes for a high score. We think that we will shoot high scoring arrows with occasional poorer scoring arrows mixed in. But when do those lower scoring arrows show up? Good question. Most likely they show up randomly; they can show up on the first arrow as likely on the twelfth arrow or the last arrow. But our expectations for a good score can result in that initial 7 to lead us to think there will be more of them, even worse scoring arrows, leading to a poor score. The disappointment associated with this may lead us to make a change in our sight setting, or execution. Our subconscious minds might translate our disappointment with that shot into changes we are not even aware of. But if the shot was “normal,” then any change is moving the archer to a less successful setup/execution with the result being a guaranteed lower score.

So what’s an archer to do?

First we must recognize that first arrows are problematic. The excitement of shooting is at a high. There is no previous good scoring shot to imprint upon (to use in a mental rehearsal), and there are those hopes and dreams for a good overall score. I remember working toward a perfect score of 300 on the NFAA indoor round (60 arrows, 5-4-3 scoring). I can’t tell you how many times I had the thought “If the first arrow isn’t a five, I’m done,” but it wasn’t just a few. But this only happens when you are chasing a perfect score. The first arrow of any competition may be your lowest or highest scoring arrow.

I ask my students to monitor what their “normal groups” are. For the sake of this story, this student, when shooting at this distance at a ten-ring target face, typically “holds the 8-ring.” This means the vast majority of his arrows score 8, 9, or 10 . . . with a rare 7 from time to time. So, was the score of that 7 just shot “normal” or not? If there is no other evidence to tell you different, shooting a 7 is normal for this student.

If you keep records, you have the opportunity to explore those records to see what reality actually looks like. You can go through a score card on which all of the arrow scores are recorded and identify your lowest scoring arrows. You can then see when they tend to occur. This gives you a number of advantages: one is an ability to distinguish between your hopes/fears and reality. Another is a recognition that lower scoring arrows happen and they probably happen less now than a couple of years ago. (Hey, I am making progress!) Another is that is there is a regular pattern, you can train for that. For example, if your low scoring arrows always happen in the last few ends, maybe your fitness level is not high enough. If they occur on the first few arrows,maybe nerves need to be addressed. Maybe there is a psychological factor.

If, on the other hand, you discard those score cards and take no notes, all you have are your stories. Here’s another example.

* * *

You are in a tight shoot-off with a fellow competitor and you get to the last arrow with the score tied. On the last arrow, you shoot an 8 and he shoots a … 9! Most people automatically blame the loss on that last arrow. “If I had just shot a 10 or even a 9,” we think. But if you go back to the scorecard you probably get a different picture. In this case (I am making up this story), our losing archer had a three point lead that was steadily eroded as the shoot-off continued. What about the arrow scores that caused him the loss of his lead? Had he been leading by three points and both had the same last arrows, he would have won by two points.

This is typical of System 1 thinking. We have oodles of biases built into our System 1 thinking, one of those is we tend to overvalue the most recent events and devalue earlier ones. These biases developed over very long periods of time and are actually useful in many cases, so they are not to be disparaged, but they also can be problematic.

Writing’s Long List of Strengths
I have more than a few thoroughly modern students who, went I ask them to take a note whip out their smart phones and start typing. They do not know they are making a mistake by choosing a poor form of writing. Smart phones are problematic because there is too much information on them and one’s notes can be buried (amongst other things). By having a notebook dedicated to archery, all of your archery notes are in one place, you do not have to look elsewhere, nor do you have to wade through piles of irrelevant stuff to find your archery notes. I like segmented notebooks and put info of one kind or another in specific locations, making it even easier to find.

Conclusion
I am not advocating that you favor System 2 thinking over System 1 thinking, far from it. System 2 thinking is slow and laborious, again think math homework. But some System 2 thinking mixed in can make you a better archer or coach. Doing some System 2 thinking when you have the time to wade through a scorecard or analyze your groupings (in an attempt to answer the question: what is normal for me now?). This can reduce the impulsive nature that is normal for us most of the time. Writing those things down, makes them much easier to remember.

Just being able to tell the difference between a normal shot and a faulty shot is key to making the corrections that are required to shoot good scores. Leaving this up to a “gut feeling” can lead you or your students astray over and over. (The mistake that keeps on giving!)

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The Post Tournament Review Process

What do you do at the end of a tournament? If you are like I was, you would pack your gear, thank the tournament officials for their hard work, get in your car and drive home, thinking about anything but archery, if possible.

As a post tournament review process, this sucks. I do not recommend it to you.

So, what should one do after a tournament? There are a number of things and I think all of them are rooted in the Bassham’s oft quoted aphorism “You either win or learn; there is no losing.” The focus here has to be “what did I learn” especially in so far as it will help you perform better later.

Any number of things can be addressed in a post tournament review. The technical side of archery is about physical movement, which you can see and measure more easily. The mental side however, is about thinking, attitude and confidence but it is harder to measure. I think both need to be addressed. The key thing, though, is to avoid dwelling upon mistakes. The more you think about your mistakes, the better the odds you will repeat them (another Bassham aphorism). For example, if in the middle of a round, as a recurve archer, you struggled getting through your clicker, but you applied your first corrective (to run a relaxation routine) and that worked, the success of that action is worth dwelling on. It makes doing that corrective easier in the future and it reinforces your success in dealing with difficulties. If, instead, you whine to yourself and others about how many times you have struggled with your clicker, there is no positive reinforcement of “the fix” and there is positive reinforcement of struggling with your clicker, exactly what you do not want! Commiserating with others is a time-honored activity but that doesn’t make it an advantage.

Obviously if you were implementing process goals during your performance, you need to assess your performance with regard to those and plan on what you will do next time. But what else is there to do?

Rather than give you a list, I will give you a start. This is what I ask of my students when they attend competitions. I ask them to write two lists, within 24 hours of the shoot’s end. Each of these lists must have at least three things on them. The first list is “What did I learn?” The second list is “What will I do differently next time?”

These two lists can be compared with previous lists to learn a great deal. If the same thing shows up on the “What did I learn?” list multiple times, maybe you didn’t really learn it and need to set a goal around actually learning that. If you find the same thing popping up on the “What will I do differently next time?” list, then maybe you need to take that seriously and develop a process goal to make sure you actually do it.

Obviously, the “What will I do differently next time?” lists play a role in preparation for future tournaments, not just the list from the last competition but a collection of the recent lists.

The goal is to develop a regular tournament review process, one you could develop a form for (which is an option but not necessary). Regular means you do this every time the same way. Forms are handy so we don’t forget anything and emphasize that you must , absolutely must, write these things down, a topic I will take up in my next post.

 

 

 

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Emulating Others … and Trying, Just Trying

In the U.S. we have a hard time emulating other countries and I think that trickles down to our organizations emulating other organizations.

I just noticed that USA Baseball has a comprehensive Athlete Development Plan along with an Online Education website that has training videos for coaches, parents, players, “SafeSport Trained,” and Umpires. The catalog of courses for Coaches has 21 courses in it.

Wouldn’t it be nice …

Having a plan is one thing, implementing it is another. The reason I saw this was USAB had a TV add encouraging parents to enroll their children in USAB youth programs where they would be sure to receive proper instruction.

Wouldn’t it be nice …

I also noticed that:

UK Coaching has confirmed that 2018 will see the inaugural Coaching Week launched. Taking place from 4-10 June, Coaching Week will see a week-long celebration of great coaching take place across the nation.
To mark Coaching Week, UK Coaching is inviting people across the UK to share when and where they have experienced great coaching. To help people know what they are looking for, UK Coaching is currently working with agencies to develop the 10 Principles of Great Coaching, aimed to help define great coaching. These principles will help people recognise and understand great coaching.
Coaching Week will see great coaching celebrated across the nation, with UK Coaching working alongside a range of partners and national governing bodies of sport.

Apparently some people are trying to advance coaching.

Wouldn’t it be nice …

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The Problem with Monkey See-Monkey Do Archery

Currently archers and archery instructors are engaging in what I call “monkey see-monkey do” personal improvement planning. If we see a recent champion doing something different, we attribute their success to that new “move,” because, well, no one else is doing that and everything else the winner did was just like what everyone else was doing, so their success surely must be due to what they did that was different and new.

Brilliant logic … just wrong and I mean “Flat Earth wrong,” not just incorrect.

The classic example of this thinking being wrong was a winner of the Vegas Shoot one year did so wearing a glove on his bow hand. The reason was he had a hand aliment that contact with the bow aggravated. This didn’t stop quite a number of people who showed up at the next Vegas Shoot wearing gloves on their bow hands.

There are a number of things operating here that need to be taken into account.

Survivorship Bias
So, you notice that a winner had a different, maybe a new, move. So is the success rate 100%? Did all of the archers who tried the new move experience success? What if I told you that of the ten archers who had incorporated this new form element into their shots, nine of the ten had achieved success, meaning podium-level making success? Okay, now we are talking! Nine out of ten, surely that proves this is the magic move!

Uh, no.

Just as the winners write the history, only the survivors are even present to tell their story. What if 100 archers had incorporated this new form element into their shots, and of the 100, nine experienced great success, one experienced a bit of success and 90 got so frustrated with their inability to shoot well that they gave up the sport and are doing different things now? Different, no?

The problem with this MSMD approach is we only have the winners (aka survivors) to examine in any detail. The losers aren’t around to be evaluated.

Random Winners
Another problem we have is random winners. I remember seeing the scores shot in a North American IFAA Championship shoot, held in Florida one year. About 50% of the entrants and winners came from Florida. Like most archery championship shoots, this one was open to anyone willing to pay the entrance fee, but the farther away you live the less likely it is you will attend. That is just a matter of fact. And don’t you USAA/WA fans look smug at this, one of the first world championship shoots put on by the newly created FITA organization (now World Archery) was held in Sweden. The vast majority of the entrants were from Scandinavia.

So, there are some basic qualities winners need to have: they need to show up, they need to have archers better than them not show up, … do you see where this is going?

An oft quoted statistic is that 95% of competitions are won by 5% of the archers. I have no idea whether this is true, but I suspect the core of it is: people who win often or consistently are quite few. And they win a lot. The only times these things happen is when there is a truly transcendent player in the mix, like Tiger Woods was to golf, or when the competition is just not that great. I suspect, in archery’s case, it is the latter. In Olympic circles, the U.S. was dominant from archery’s reintroduction into the Olympic Games, but when they faltered, Korea became dominant (at least on the women’s side). Now Korea’s dominance is slipping and I suspect that winner’s circles will become more egalitarian as the quality of “the competition” goes up.

And The Solution Is …?
Gosh, danged if I know, but there must be more reality and science in archery if we are do get away from just mimicry as the mainstream of archery instruction. We need to acknowledge that there are as many “techniques” as there are archers and there is no “magic” in technique. We need to know why things work the way they do. We need to know more about the application of corrections. We need to know more about the mental game, particularly as to its application.

I am looking forward with much anticipation to finding these things out. It sounds like fun!

 

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You Get What You Pay For

I get a “newsletter” from ArcheryTalk.com and occasionally drop in there to see if anything of value is being discussed and occasionally there is. Unfortunately there is an ocean of other “stuff” one needs to sift through to find it.

The topic that drew my eye was entitled “Critique me” which consisted of a still photo of the archer at full draw shot from up the line, accompanied by this text: Just got a new <name of bow> and I was wondering what you guys thought of my form with the new setup. I’m always looking to improve and I appreciate any suggestions! I’m 6´3˝ and shooting a 29.5 inch draw length currently.

That was it.

I wonder what the gentleman in question hoped for in the way of feedback. The audience in question is united by at least one thing: they all have opinions. The problem is how would one evaluate the opinions. As you might expect I don’t think “crowd sourcing” of archer feedback is a good idea. Plus, one photo … really?

I read a few of the comments and a number of commenters said that his “draw length” looked right. Hello? If you wanted to evaluate his draw length you need a shot from above (ceiling downward) or from what I call “away,” that is on the far side of the archer. I also am 6´3˝ and shooting a similar bow in a similar fashion, my draw length is just under 32˝ so I have to be at least a bit suspicious that his draw length is a tad short. (One also doesn’t know if it was measured correctly.)

I hope that any coach asked for input in this situation would respond with “Sorry, no can do.”

For one, it takes a lot of training to be able to develop the skill of analyzing someone’s shot and that means you should probably get paid for the task. (Alright, I tend to try to help people who write in with their problems, simply because there is so little help available and I don’t charge for that service. But I don’t respond to cattle calls, like the one above.) A second problem is the archer hasn’t supplied anywhere near enough information.

I had an archer who wrote me and ask why his arrows hit to the left of the target. Well, there is a long list of reasons for this, the primary one being that is where he was aiming, but a common source of lefts or rights for “fingers” archers is having the wrong arrow spine. The problem is if the archers is right-handed, his/her arrows will fly to the left if too stiff for the bow and the right if too weak. But if the archer is left-handed, then the reverse is seen (arrows hit right if they are too stiff, etc.).

So, the information that is needed to ask any question is somewhat large.

I saw another AT question that asked: if you were just considering axle-to-axle length of a compound bow, what would you buy? Again, the question lacks enough information to provide an answer. You need to know what the bow is being used for to answer this question. Bowhunters favor shorter bows as they tend to shoot from cramped positions or have to walk through brush and can’t afford to snag their gear along the way. Target archers prefer longer bows as they are easier to hold still (the largest stabilizing force in a compound bow is the mass of the riser and how far it is distributed out from where the grip is (same principle as what makes a long rod work, just a lot more mass involved). And they have plenty of space to wield such bows.

So, please do send in your questions … and if you want a good answer, consider all of the information that might be needed to answer them, then include some of that. And, I strongly recommend you not ask “the universe” to answer your question. You will get too many answers that you cannot evaluate the quality of.

 

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Paralysis by Analysis

You may know I use golf coaching and golf training literature as templates for their archery equivalents. Golf and archery, field archery especially, have many commonalities. And the world of archery is far behind golf in its coaching literature and supports.

One of the coaching commonalities seems to be that we have dissected our motions into tiny little bits and then exposed those bits to the wrong audience. Dissecting an archery shot into tiny bits for analysis is perfectly suitable, in fact desirable, for coaches. It is a source of misery and confusion for archers. We can see this most clearly in golf.

Note that the golfer’s arms are pointing up and to the left, while the club is pointing to the right. The angle thus created is referred to as “lag.”

I just saw an advertisement for a book entitled “The Release: Golf’s Moment of Truth” by Jim Hardy. In a golf swing the “release” refers to the practice of releasing the wrist cock created by the golfer on the back swing. At address a golfer’s club shaft is aligned with his/her arms. When the club is swung back overhead, the wrists “cock” the club so the club head is farther back than the golfer’s hands. Once the downswing has begun, the club head lags behind the golfer’s hands, substantially, and golfer’s are taught to preserve this “lag” until the last possible moment, because when this “lag” is released, a great whipping action is created, delivering more force to the golf ball, causing it to fly farther (if struck correctly). This releasing of the “lag” is called, most sensibly, “the release.”

All of this occurs in a small fraction of a second, of course, so this information is of no use to a golfer—coaches yes, golfers no. The authors have apparently created a system described by the acronyms LOP and RIT to help golfers break this tiny moment in time into even smaller units. LOP stands for “Left arm, Outward, Pull” while RIT stands for “Right arm, Inward, Throw” apparently a recipe for a good release of the lag in a swing.

All of this information may be good information for coaches, but in a golfer’s mind, they can only lead to confusion.

If you coach Olympic Recurve archers I strongly recommend you read this book. I recommend you don’t recommend this to your students.

We do the same in archery. I have found USA Archery National Coach Kisik Lee’s two books fascinating (and am eagerly awaiting the promised third book on coaching) … but I never recommend them to archers. Why? They contain too much information they can do nothing about. I cringe when I hear archer’s talking about LAN2, scapulae, 60:40 weight distributions, and the distribution of finger pressures on the string. An archer is looking for subconscious competence. When he/she is shooting, there are no conscious thoughts attached to making the actual shot. They are consciously aware of shooting, but they are not thinking about shooting, certainly they cannot be thinking about the details of making the shot. That leads to “paralysis by analysis.” This term was invented around 1956 (I think) but shows up in works going back to Aesop’s fables. In general it refers to overthinking a problem.

A coaches job is to take concrete knowledge (and even hunches) and turn them into actionable things archers can do. Archers then judge those actions by how they feel and how they affect their results. Supplying the background information is usually a mistake. (Some archers, typical those described as being Type As, want their coaches to demonstrate this knowledge, but usually just to check to make sure the coach knows whereof he/she speaks, not because they need that information.)

In golf there are golfers tying themselves in knots trying to increase their smash factors, change their launch trajectories, decrease or increase their spin rates, and create more lag and a better release. If the golfer is a professional, literally steeped in golf for a living, this might be helpful. For an amateur, this is the road to paralysis by analysis. Same is true in archery.

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