Tag Archives: Eye Dominance

Teaching Beginners: Dealing With Eye Dominance

I was having an email conversation with my friend and colleague, Ron Kumetz, when he shared this approach to starting beginners with eye dominance included. “I solved the problem of having kids get hung up on ‘handedness’ by marking the bows ‘LE’ (for “Left-Eyed”) and ‘RE’ (for ‘Right-Eyed’) instead of ‘LH’ and ‘RH.’ If you never mention anything about which hand is dominant they never ask questions.”

Ron’s argument is that “a beginner has no particular coordination of their limbs for archery so why not start them off with as few obstacles as possible? If they don’t read any catalogs to see that bows come in right-handed and left-handed versions they won’t know it has anything to do with that.”

He shared that he was “an example of what happens if you try the ‘go with handedness first and see how it goes’ approach.” Ron has very limited vision in his right eye, and he was started shooting right-handed because of his hand dominance.

In our programs (back when we had programs teaching “rank beginners”) we began with the “go with handedness first and see how it goes” approach out of expediency (not having to test for eye dominance or even explain what it is, etc.). And we trained our coaches to detect behaviors showing that a wrong decision was made: tilting of the head to aim with the off eye, archers shooting arrows way left, trying to anchor under the off eye, etc. We also trained them how to get that archer into the right bow, not blaming them or anything really, or accepting “blame” for giving them the wrong bow, etc. These “corrections” were to be made within the first session, the earlier the better.

So, how do you deal with rank beginners? Do you have a special approach that will help others? If so, please share it in the comments!


Filed under For All Coaches

How Important is Eye Dominance When Starting New Archers?

If you are working with an adult beginner, by all means do an eye dominance check as it may stave off problems. But when working with young beginners, well . . . we didn’t.

The reasons are straightforward. #1 there is a lot happening, this check would add to it. #2 Our strategy is to get them shooting ASAP. #3 They probably don’t know enough about their bodies to make an informed decision as to whether to shoot right-handed or left-handed.

When we start a beginning class, we start by teaching them one-on-one. We call this process The First Three Arrows and we train our coaches in how to administer it. While we are teaching them the basics of shooting arrows from a bow, that is not our primary objective. Our primary objective is to determine whether they can follow directions well enough to be trusted on a shooting line. Any child who doesn’t “get it” with their first arrows we send to a side butt where another coach walks them through it again. If after two tries we don’t think they can be trusted with a weapon in their hands in a group setting, we suggest to his parents that he try again next year and we refund their fee.

Those that pass through this process (takes about 20 minutes max) we set up on the shooting line, explain the whistle system and off we go. (We do not let them pull arrows until the second session.)

Handling Eye Dominance for the Young
So, how do we train our coaches to see eye dominance issues. There are two clues. One is an archers arrows flying way off to the side (bow side), but usually this happens (see photo below):

Can you see it? This is very common. The archer’s head is tilted to get the “off eye” lined up with the arrow. The “normal aiming eye” is often shut. Once you see this behavior, you know you have a child with an eye dominance issue that needs to be treated now. We offer the option of shooting “the other way” (after much positive talk). But if that is not desired we urge them to keep their dominant eye closed. We have eye patches they can wear, after we warn them about being popular because they are learning “pirate archery” (Arrrh.).

How do you deal with this?


Filed under For All Coaches

Eye Dominance Approaches: Signs and Fixes

I had an exchange with a coach in dealing with eye dominance and I felt that maybe I should share with you what we did in our beginner classes.

Our Basic Approach
We did not test for eye dominance, although in our coach trainings we cover just how to do that because many coaches like to do it. Our alternative was to go with their hand dominance (if they were right-handed, we gave them a right handed bow, etc.) and then if they showed signs of struggling with this setup, we would address an eye dominance issue with those archers who showed one of the signs.

Show Me a Sign!
A beginner struggling with eye dominance will show obvious signs because of the light drawing bows they are giving. (Stouter bows would not allow much of the mishandling described below).
One sure sign is trying to draw the bow to the other side of their face. (Yes, it does happen.) Another sign is them cocking their head at an extreme angle to get their dominant eye over the arrow. The sign everybody knows is shooting off to the side (for a right-handed archer, the arrow lands feet to the left, even at short range). Because archers just beginning are often wildly inconsistent, this does not always get noticed. We have even seen young archers shooting right-handed close their right eye to “see better!”

If we see any of these signs we deal with them one-on-one. Now we have an advantage in that each beginner shoots his or her First Three Arrows under the tutelage of a single coach. And, of course, we train our coaches as to what to look for.

The Fixes, Boss, the Fixes!
You probably know many of the “fixes” for being cross dominant (eye and hand dominance opposed). These used to be a more serious consideration until the Koreans admitted they took a cross-dominant archer to the Olympic Games. In the “old days” coaches were told to assign bows based upon eye dominance and that was that.

Switch which side of the bow the archer stands upon does fix this issue and if they are going to do that, doing it sooner is better than doing it later. But, we always ask the archer what their preference is and we always go with what the archer wants. (We assume all archers are recreational Archers until proven otherwise.) we do encourage them to try the other kind of bow, but some do not even want to try and that is okay.

Easier fixes usually involve disadvantaging the dominant eye. You probably know about the “eye patch” solution. We kid archers who take this option that they are doing “Pirate Archery! Arrgh!” Well, the boys anyway (they seem to be genetically disposed to thinking pirates are cool, don’t ask me why). If the student wears eye glasses, you can also just put a strip of transparent tape across their off eye lens. The transparent tape allows light to come in, so it doesn’t affect the dilation of the pupil and therefore doesn’t obstruct light sensitivity in the other eye. Some archers take a pair of clip on sunglasses and break off the aiming eye lens. Then the aiming eye sees better than the off eye.

We have seen more than a few approaches to this “issue” and we don’t think there are any “bad ones” per se. The weaker ones are those that take a lot of time away from shooting or make shooting more complicated/frustrating because recreational archers are defined (in our book) as being motivated by having fun (and little else).

Addendum There are nuances to this discussion. For example, some people have no particular eye dominance, which is the worst case scenario because that archer’s brain has been trained to switch eyes at the drop of a hat.

Also, students with weak eye dominance may find which eye is dominant depends on the state of their fatigue, that is when they get tired, they often switch eye dominance. (I do not know why, if anyone does I would like to know.)

Interestingly, if your eyeglass prescription shows one eye to be much stronger than the other, that will almost always be your dominant eye. If the prescriptions are closer, not necessarily close, together either eye may be dominant, which means it is not determined by the strength of your eyes currently.

And if we ever get together over a beer, I will tell you the story about the time I checked the eye dominance of a guy who had a glass eye. (When I told him his eye dominance, he said “I know,” which few people do, because in his case….)


Filed under For All Coaches

Q&A Should My Bow Match My Dominant Eye?

Marcus Valdes wrote in with this question: I was relieved that I bought the proper handed bow. Turns out my daughter is right-handed, left eye dominant. So is my wife. So should I be buying them left-handed bows?

This is where a coach needs some discernment. Just because one is cross dominant (right-handed/left-eyed or left-handed-right eyed) doesn’t mean they have to go with their dominant eye.

A good argument can be made that being cross dominant is best, even though way less than 10 percent of the populace is. That argument is you want the most important arm (the bow arm) to be your stronger arm and the most important eye (your aiming eye) to be your stronger eye. Since most people are right-right or left-left (hand-eye), this leaves them out. Only the cross dominant qualify for this setup. And then I am entirely backwards. I am right-handed and left-eye dominant and shoot right handed. (Figure it out . . . I’ll wait.) Yes, bow arm and aiming eye are both the weaker of the two.

Realize that, as a coach, you have to discern who your audience is. If I have an archer who is a gung-ho competitor, wants to be world champion, etc. I am going to treat them differently from an archer who “just wants to have fun.” If my archer is a recreational archer, I am going to use their comfort while shooting as a guide, not some theoretical best case anatomical scenario. If my archer is hell bent on winning, we will discuss how best to shoot, including the complete roles of eye dominance and handedness. (They still get to choose, which is my coaching style.) And . . . if they have been shooting for 20 years, you have to consider whether the effort required is worth the gain.

You can have the best of both world’s, though. If you have suitable low draw weight bows for them to try, let them try both ways and then they can choose what works best for them—trust me, they will have a preference. (This is also congruent with our “try before you buy” philosophy.)

Also, there are signs that one’s eye dominance is problematic (pulling the string to the wrong side of the face, shooting very wide to the left (RH archer), etc.) and we generally don’t switch beginners over until we see one of them (or the archer expresses a preference) and sometimes not even then—there are ways to cope with using one’s less dominant eye (close it half way while shooting, put a piece of cellophane tape across the glasses in front of the non-aiming eye, use an eye patch (Arrrh, pirate archery!), and there are even some commercial devices that attach to your cap or your bow sight.

Anyone else want to chime in on the role of eye dominance in beginning archery?


Filed under Q & A