Tag Archives: Competition

A Recurve Dead Release Spotted!

Video of the 2017 Shoot Up Finals for the Barebow division at the Lancaster Archery Classic in Lancaster, PA has been posted on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39ppQpTQcz4). Recurve Barebow is more popular around the world than it has been in the U.S. (driven, I suspect, by the popularity of compound archery in the U.S.) but Barebow is on a rebound now and more and more people are attracted to it. Featured in these final matches are: Dewayne Martin, Scott Bills, Bobby Worthington, and John Demmer III.

Interestingly, DeWayne Martin shoots with a dead release, something very few recurve archers can pull off. (More and more I am coming to the conclusion that there are no absolutes in archery (e.g. You must use a “live” release in Recurve.), just some things make shooting “more or less difficult.”

View the video! Flinches! Creeping! Tape on the nose! Tournament nerves! Stringwalking! (Although the announcers were somewhat clueless about the advantages of a crawl.) At 29:18 a close-up of John Demmer III’s quiver (current WA world field champion) shows arrows with two different fletching patterns. This would not be allowed in a WA shoot. The Lancaster Archery Classic uses a mixture of NFAA rules and their own. (It is a private shoot, they can do as they wish. If they apply for a sanction from one of the governing bodies they would have to conform to that association’s rules. Note Many people do not know that the Vegas Shoot, while owned by the NFAA, is a private shoot with its own rules.)

John Demmer III, the eventual winner, and an elite Barebow archer, shoots with a tilted head. You don’t have to do it right, you just have to do it over.

If you shoot Barebow or your students do, watch this video. This gives you a good idea of what is possible, at least indoors. It gives you an idea of what “the best” can shoot under pressure and then you can determine how you stack up or how close your students are.


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Seek and You Will Find!

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

(Be sure to read Part 1 first. Steve)

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

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

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

Now Consider the following table:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Well, what do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Look for my next post.



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How Fast Should You Shoot?

I came up through field archery and didn’t shoot with a clock running until I had been shooting quite a few years. Boy, the first time I did it made me very nervous. (I am one of those people who shows up early for everything; you know the type.)

So, after ending up a nervous wreck from my first exposure to a shot clock, I felt I had to do something about it, so I did.

Most youths who grow up with a clock running don’t have my problems, in fact the clock almost never affects them, because they shoot like Machine Gun Kelly, rat-a-tat-tat; a 3-arrow end takes 24 seconds, a 6-arrow end is done in a minute and a half.

Since archery is a repetition sport, tempo is a key factor in how consistent we can be. If one shoots too quickly or too slowly (than your optimal tempo) your scores will go down. So, a scoring strategy must not interfere with keeping a consistent shot tempo. For example, some recommend a 6-arrow end be broken into two 3-arrow ends with a short rest in between to recover the energy lost from shooting the first three. But, if after shooting three arrows quickly, one takes a break and then shoots the other three arrows quickly, one ends up shooting the first arrow of an end twice and the first arrow does not have a very recent shot to imprint upon. The natural timing of a shot generally sets the second arrow to be shot within 30 seconds of the first because there are limitations to how long you can hold a feeling or thought in memory (and I think, but cannot prove, that 30 seconds is pushing it). If you cannot use the last shot as an example for a pre-shot visualization, you are left with using something you’ve cobbled together from long-tem memory, which is generally considered to be less accurate and therefore less helpful. Because of this limitation, most elite archers shoot each arrow the same way in the same time and one after the other until done with the end.

Most young archers do tend to shoot too quickly but that is a relatively simple problem that involves no particular strategy (like shoot three, rest and then three more). To help deal with time pressure, it helps all archers to know how much time a let down costs. A let down takes about as much time as a shot, so if a three-arrow end (2 minutes allowed) takes 60 seconds to shoot your three arrows, for example, you have enough time to execute three letdowns, but not a fourth before time will run out. I can remember feeling that letdowns cost way more time than they did and I started to feel time pressure very early in the end (clocks are not always visible, especially if one is left-handed). For this reason I measured how much time it took me to shoot three and six arrow ends and then figured out how many let downs I could safely make without fear of running out of time. (For me it was one and two, respectively. If I made two let downs in a 3-arrow end, I had better hustle on that last arrow and it … must … be … shot.) I also taped a count down timer to my spotting scope tripod which I triggered as soon as the “shoot” signal was given. That way I would know how much time I really had.

With regard to actual shot tempo, there is a way to find out if you are shooting too quickly and if it is affecting your scoring. Label a set of arrows (1, 2, 3 …) and then shoot them in a practice round in that order. Record the score of arrow #1 of each end in the first box on the score card, arrow #2’s score goes in the second box, etc. (Not from highest score to lowest, just in the order they were shot.) When done with the practice round, average all of the box’s scores giving you an average score for your first arrow, your second arrow shot, etc. If the scores steadily decline, you are shooting too fast, consuming too much energy that is not being replenished before you shoot another, digging yourself an energy hole that guarantees poor scores later in the round.dual_vegas_fntdual_vegas_fnt

We are not robots, so you might have to do this drill several times to see if you are being consistent. Of course, one must also avoid other sources of score variations while doing this (pressing to get better scoring arrows, struggling with the clicker, etc.).

It is not a simple prospect, changing your shooting tempo. The reason for this is that tempo is one of the last things addressed when building a high quality shot. (Who cares how fast you are shooting
if you are shooting incorrectly in the first place?) So, by the time most archers get around to addressing tempo they have shot many thousands of arrows and have constructed a shot with a “normal tempo” that is based on who know what. The simplest approach to making a temp change is through feedback. If your normal shots take 10 seconds, for example, from release to release but you now have evidence that is too fast, pick a new time frame, say 15 seconds, but give yourself a range instead, like 15-20 seconds (or 13-17, etc.). Any shot made within that framework is considered “good” during this exercise (we are not robots). Have somebody time you. If you shoot in less than 15 seconds, your timer tells you “too soon.” If you reach 20 seconds, your timer tells you “let down” and you must let down. Don’t try to “do” anything, just take the feedback and let your subconscious mind do all the work. All you need do is be disappointed when you shoot too soon or not soon enough, do not try to do anything
else. (Try? There is no “try.” Do or do not. Yoda)

Obviously the time frame you choose can be too small or two large and you may need to refine it. This is how that is done: the above exercise is probably best done blank bale because the arrow scores are not really the point. But when you have achieved some consistency there are still two questions: “Am I still shooting too fast?” and “Is this my optimal shot timing?” For the first question you have the practice round drill above, for the second, that requires a target. I will use the example of 6-arrow ends and since it is indoor season, we will shoot indoors. You can obviously adjust this drill for any distance you prefer.

So, set up two three spot target faces, so you have six spots, one for each arrow. Have your “timer” play the same role as in the previous drill except this time he/she must keep track of three categories: shots that are “too quick,” shots that are “too slow,” and shots that are “just right,” no “let down” commands are given. These ratings can be coded on a score card by your helper. Record the arrow scores for each arrow so that you know what the shot timing was as well as the arrow scores. Then you must compile the average arrow score for each of those three categories. If “too quick” and “too slow” got significantly lower score averages than “just right,” then “just right” is probably about right. If “just right” timing got the highest average but “too fast” was almost as good and “too slow” was way behind, then maybe you would benefit from speeding up a tad. There are far too many possible outcomes for me to go through all of them but I hope these examples are enough to give you an idea of how to proceed.

I hope you realize that you have to shoot fairly well to address the topic of shot tempo. If you do not shoot relatively small groups, adding a concern about shot timing may cause your groups to degrade until the results of these exercises are all by meaningless. In the drill just described, compare your group sizes with your normal group sizes (or score the first 30 arrows, or …) to see if they are roughly the same. If so, then you know that the focus of the drill/exercise isn’t adversely affecting your shooting.

A basic aspect of “getting good” at archer is that it takes more and more time to do less and less for your shot. Progress gets made in leaps and bounds when you first start shooting, but the rate of progress slows to a crawl as you reach a high level of proficiency. One example of that is the amount of practice needed to move you from a score of 100 to 110 in a 300 round compared to the amount of time need to move from a score of 280 to 290 in a 300 round. Both changes are just ten points, but the first challenge is blown through, while the latter one defeats some archers altogether.


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Archery Ignorance on Display! Argh!

I guess I should be grateful that Scientific American chose to write a piece about the inclusion of compound archery into the Olympic Games (Compound Archery Shoots for Olympic Inclusion), but it is difficult to do so when the execution was so poor.

Consider the following statements:
In order for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider adding a new event to its roster, the event must be distinct from other Olympic events. Competitive compound and recurve archery differ technically and also procedurally, with different point systems and rules used in each country. Compound archers generally shoot at a six-ring target with a diameter of 80 centimeters from a distance of 50 meters whereas recurve archers shoot at a 10-ring target with a diameter of 122 centimeters from a distance of 70 meters.

Hello? The international archery federation, World Archery (formerly FITA), sets all of these rules and they are all quite arbitrary. Why compound archery, the archery that is more precise, shoots at a distance that is only about 70% as far as the recurve people shoot is illogical at best. They compensate by using a target that is 66% as large, but a recent world record was set in the compound ranking round that was 1 point off of a perfect score. Soon we will be up to our hips in perfect scores. The compound people could be shooting at that same target at 70 m or farther and it would be a fair test, but apparently it is too important to salve the egos of the recurve community. (Those gaudy score the compounders are shooting? Well, they only shoot at 50 m and …)

Another factor the IOC considers when evaluating a new event is whether the athletes—not their equipment—are scoring the points and setting records, Dielen says. That is technologically where compound and recurve archery deviate most. Compound bows have a mechanical release aid that assumes some of a bow’s draw weight and also come with a magnified scope, which together make the sport less about physical power and more about shooting accuracy. Recurve bows are more about a complete performance, requiring more physical strength to pull back and hold the string until the arrow is shot.

Hello? The release aid takes none of the bow’s draw force, none! It passes all of it through to the archer. It is physically impossible for it to assume any of the draw weight because it is only in contact with the bowstring and archer. Where is the force it “assumes” supposed to go?

So drawing a 50# recurve bow requires more physical strength than a 60# compound bow? Holding up a 8-9 lb compound bow at arm’s length requires less strength than holding up a 6-7 lb recurve bow? Plus the 60# limitation is by rule. If that rule were to be lifted, you would find any number of archers at draw weights over 60#. Also, why are compound bows limited as to draw weight when recurve bows are not?

And so what if the compound archer has a magnifying lens in his sight’s aperture. That lets him see the target a bit clearer by does not help the archer hold the bow more steady. In fact it leads archers to try to reduce normal motion at full draw (a fool’s errand), thus requiring additional training to get them to accept that.

Recurve shooters must also take into account the archer’s paradox, or the phenomenon that arrows take a curved and undulating path through the air after leaving the bow. This requires skill on the part of the archers, as they need to shoot slightly off to one side in order to hit their target. “The compound bow is a much more efficient system,” says American recurve archer Zach Garrett, who will represent the U.S. at the upcoming Rio Games. “You don’t have to worry about how you make the string leave the arrow.”

This doesn’t require skill on the part of the archer as the correction for the archer’s paradox is set into the bow when the centershot of the bow is set (and matched with a appropriately spined arrow). The archer does nothing special. Consider the poor compound archer by comparison. The recurve archer’s arrow is off of the arrow rest (and therefore no longer touching it) after the arrow has traveled about a third of the way to the point where it comes off of the bow string. Because of the archer’s paradox, the oscillating/undulating arrow bends around the bow so that the fletches pass by the arrow rest when they are at a maximum extent of the oscillation thus making clearance problems with a well-setup bow moot. But the poor compound archer has his arrow sliding along the arrow rest virtually its full length and even if the arrow “lifts off” of the rest, it is still close enough for the fletches to hit the rest as they go by, thus deflecting a perfectly aimed arrow making it a less-than-perfectly aimed arrow.

Compound bows show smaller group sizes at any distance compared to recurve bows for really only three reasons. The compound bows, being heavier, have more inertia and hence are less likely to move or move less than lighter recurve bows during the critical phase when the bow is pushing the arrow out of the bow and the bow is being held in one hand only. The second reason is letoff. The compound bow has eccentric wheels built into them to cause the bow’s peak weight to be reduced to a small fraction of the bow’s peak weight at full draw. This gives the compound archer more time while being under less tension/stress to aim the bow and release the string. The third reason is the mechanical release aid. It provides a cleaner lose of the string, creating less variation in a set of shots. But release aids aren’t a cheat. They are only used by archers competing against others also using a release aid. And they are not easy to use, far from it. From the first time I used a release aid, it was three years before I felt I knew how to use it properly.

This article did correctly address many of the issues associated with the expansion of an included sport (archery). But they quoted a World Archery officials and an Olympic Recurve archer. Could not a compound archer have been consulted or a compound coach? And while the officials quoted are two of the more knowledgeable ones, this is the organization which banned “shoot through” cabling systems for compound bows for a time for fear that the archers could brace their bows by pressing their bow forearm into the cables. (For the compound uneducated, doing such a thing would create large quantities of unresolved forces that would make even hitting the target at all quite an accomplishment.)

So, thank you Scientific American for the exposure for compound archers. But I can’t thank them for all of the mistakes riddling their article.


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Must See/Hear TV … for Archery Coaches?

As many of you know I have been working on a project for quite a few years now to create a sourcebook for the mental side of archery, for coaches and archers to consult. Lately the task is starting to feel like the task Sisyphus was condemned to or at least like Hercules being tasked to clean up King Augeas’ stables. The problem is as soon as I start to feel as if I have a hand on a topic, additional information pops up that I need to wade into.

I have felt, just as an intuition mind you, that the mind-body problem is a dead end, that the mind does not exist separate from the body and the body can’t exist without the mind (plus they are intimately knitted together.. There is a fascinating new TV series that explores what we are learning about our brains and minds which is reinforcing this idea. The six-part series is The Brain with David Eagleman on PBS stations and it is available as videos on demand. David Eagleman is a British neuroscientist.

The episodes I have seen are very watchable and should be of interest to any coach desiring to know what is behind the functioning of our brains. The first episode I saw was “Who Is In Control?” which addresses the various minds (conscious, unconscious, etc.) and it probably isn’t a spoiler to share that our conscious minds spend more effort creating an illusion of control than in actual control.

As another teaser, did you know that purehy rational decision making doesn’t really exist. Our emotions are necessary to make decisions. (They show a patient who has a disconnect there and can only make decisions using her rational powers and trying to pick a can of soup brings her to her knees as she is overwhelmed and frozen by information (not by the information per se but putting a value on it—“Is ‘low calorie’ more important than ‘low salt’ when buying canned soup?” is a rational decision few of us are equipped to make).

As with most BBC productions, it has aired in England and Australia already, so y’all are ahead of us here in the USA.

Bottom Line The Brain with David Eagleman is highly recommended to coaches interested in the inner workings of athlete’s minds/brains.


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Keeping Score When You Don’t Want to Know Your Score

In response to watching the Lanny Bassham video I touted yesterday (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCXnmDMKbdYCek84XHWbx04w), one of you wrote to ask: “If I have to be a guy marking the scorecard and keeping a running total how do I not focus on my score and ignore it? I don’t want to know my score until I am done shooting!

I am a bit stumped here (although, of course, I have some recommendations) so do you have any suggestions?



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Letting Down

I can remember little conversations I had with myself at full draw, conversations that were more like arguments: one part of me wanted to let down the shot, another wanted me to “finish the job.”

The let down has a long and varied history. For most of my archery life it has been a critical part of an archer’s process. It is so critical that I created a principle based upon it, which I called the Rule of Discipline.” This “rule” says: “If anything, anything at all—mental or physical—intrudes from a prior step or from the environment, you must let down and start over. I learned this the hard way, as I learned so much about archery. I saw professional archers doing this over and over but I still had debates in my mind at full draw as to whether it is desirable. If you, too, have such debates, I suggest that if the topic of a let down comes up in you mind, the only thing to do is to let down because you are no longer thinking in the “now,” that is thinking about what you are doing in the present moment. You are thinking about what you might do in the future.

This role that a let down plays is not new, it has been around for a very long time.

I have heard that when one thinks he has gone too far, he will not have erred.
This sort of rule should not be forgotten.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure

To break my debate habit, I decided that if the idea of a let down occurred to me I would let down 100% of the time. (I like making rules.) Of course, I violated that rule in my first practice session post adopting it. So, I did a drill that I later used to treat a case of target panic I had, I went around a 14-target field course, and from each shooting position, I executed my entire shooting sequence up to aiming, and then I let down and returned the arrow to my quiver. So, I drew my bow 56 times and let down 56 times. It was the only way I thought I could establish in my minds (conscious and subconscious) that a let down was a normal thing, an acceptable thing.

Later as a spectator at a Pacific Coast Championships tournament, I marveled at Rick McKinney and a couple of other archers who let down after their clickers clicked. So, the let down became an interest of mine.

The whole purpose of letting down a drawn bow is that the odds of a good outcome when a shot has “gone astray” are very low. We teach archers to “never shot a shot you know is bad.” Why would you do such a thing? Not only is the score of that arrow likely to be low, archery is a repetition sport and repeating an action you have just done is easier than doing it from scratch. So, you just shot a poor shot and, even if you got lucky and it scored well, it is easier to do that bad shot over than to do “your shot” next. (This is why we incorporate a visualization of a perfect shot into our shot sequences, so we have something to follow.) So, archers are trained to let down, to break off any shot that seems to be heading in the wrong direction (sorry, bad pun).

There are modern trends away from this signpost of a well-trained shot, though. The decision to cut the time for each shot in the head-to-head competitions under World Archery (in the Olympics, World Championships, etc.) has had consequences. The head-to-head format was adopted to make our sport more telegenic and therefore audience attracting and the amount of time given to shoot each arrow has been cut from 40 seconds, to 30 seconds, and most recently to 20 seconds for the same reason. But there is an inherent conflict in this rule change. One of the reasons to call of a shot is timing. If a shot is taking too long, it is conceivable that it could take up more than half of the time given to complete the shot. This does not leave enough time to execute the let down and shot the shot in good order. So, we saw archers in the 2012 Olympics (London) shoot a 10 followed by a 6. A replay of the video showed that the archer was taking too long on the second shot and muscled their way to finish the shot. After a bad score is better than no score.

I don’t know if this is good for archery. I suspect not as archery is a precision and repetition sport. Time constraints, especially unreasonable ones, affect both of those.

So, do we teach letting down or do we try to learn some new way to fight through an ill-timed shot?

What do you think?


Filed under For All Coaches

Arrow Sense and Nonsense

QandA logoI got this question from a fairly new archer in Portugal:

When I was watching some archery videos I noticed that some archers in indoor tournaments use X7 aluminum arrows with at least 4˝ feathers and others use Easton X10 arrows; that’s just a matter of preference, right? But usually aluminium arrows are better for 18 meters and carbon/aluminium arrows are the best for longer distances, isn’t that so?

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It is wonderful that we now have a video storehouse for archers to browse through. (Thank you, YouTube!) And, at the same time, I have to warn you about what you see. Just because people do something doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do, it just means (usually) somebody was successful doing it.

Please realize that there is a lot of copying amongst archers. Less successful archers copy the behaviors of more successful archers. I consider this to being due in part to our evolution (Monkey see, monkey do.). There is a story that at the Las Vegas Indoor tournament a quite successful archer was dealing with a bow hand injury and so wore a glove on his bow hand. The next year, quite a number of archers showed up with gloved bow hands! (There is no advantage to using a glove other than keeping your hand warm (Vegas is hot indoors) but there are potential disadvantages from doing so.)

The use of “fat” arrows indoors was caused by the more demanding competitions of compound archers. Since arrows that barely touch the line of a higher scoring ring get that score, then having large diameter (aka “fatter”) arrows should help. Arrows that might have missed touching that higher scoring ring. Whether this applies to other than compound archers remains to be proven, but many a Olympic Recurve archer trades in his/her X10s for 2012 aluminums (a popular shaft of about the right spine) when shooting indoors.

I was “taught” that (by watching what others did and then copying) but, being an experimental scientist, on a couple of occasions I used a set of “thin” aluminum-carbon arrows to shoot an indoor NFAA 300 Round (60 arrows at 20 yards, 5-4-3-2-1 scoring). I then took a small piece of large diameter shafting and placed it over any hole that looked very close to touching the next ring and I found out that “fat shafts” are worth about a maximum of 1-2 points per round. If you are in a position to be needing those 1-2 points to win, then maybe it is a good idea.dead center arrow

The whole idea of using 4-5˝ feathers on indoor arrows is another “monkey see” phenomenon. The argument goes that indoors, with the distance being so short, “steerage” is more important than arrow speed. (Feathers/vanes cause the arrows to fly straighter by actually slowing them down through aerodynamic drag.) So, they took the idea from bow hunters to use large feathers as they were reputed to supply more steerage. Unfortunately this is another example of trickle down misinformation. Hunters used 4-5˝ feathers when the only thing available was feathers. Since they had arrows with heavier points (with the blades necessary for bow hunting) they felt the large vanes helped them “steer” the arrows better. Well, 4-5˝ feathers do steer arrows better than 2˝ feathers, but feathers also have a neat trick. When the arrow is first shot, feathers “lay down” and give less drag by creating much less surface area (feathers are made of individual pieces called barbs that “hook” together which is why you can separate them in so many places, these barbs slide against one another resulting in a very small feather during arrow launch). Arrows with feathers are therefore faster than arrows with equal sized plastic vanes because of this “lay down” phenomenon. In other words, feathers offer less steerage than vanes do over the first 220-40 meters or so. So archers desiring more steerage should use 4-5˝ vanes, not feathers.

So, I found myself shooting large diameter aluminum arrows with 4˝ feathers indoors because … because all of the other kids were doing it. Do you know what I was shooting when I shot my one and only 300/300 round (with 42X)? I was shooting small diameter aluminum-carbon shafts with 2˝ Flex-Fletch vanes.

The collective wisdom of archery is a mishmash of ideas from different eras and different styles passed around uncritically. I recommend that you always try to think things through and ask a lot of questions (even if they seem to be “dumb” questions). If something doesn’t make sense, there are probably good reasons why.



Filed under For All Coaches, Q & A