Tag Archives: Golf and Archery

Should Coaches Necessarily Be Good Archers, Too?

I was watching a golf instruction video and the coach giving the lesson demonstrated what he was talking about by hitting the shots as described. All of these coaches, even when quite old, still play very good golf. When the PGA certifies its coaches, there is a score requirement, that is coaches need to be able to shoot a very good score on a course whose difficulty has been determined (no cherry picking of a really easy course to set your mark, the easier the course, the lower the score required!).

“If you are a coach what should be expected as to level of your expertise with bow and arrow?”

In contrast to that requirement, in all of my coach certifications, and there are a good half dozen of those, I have never been asked to demonstrate my skill as an archer (or as a coach for that matter). I have only been asked to demonstrate my knowledge by passing a paper and pencil test.

And even further extreme is the professed belief of many compound archers that if a coach is not a current or former champion, they have nothing to teach them.

So, if you are a coach what should be expected as to level of your expertise with bow and arrow?

In golf, there are specialists who deal with the equipment: fitters, club makers, technicians. In archery, not so much, so coaches need to know enough about their equipment, its repair and replacement, set up, etc., to be able to help their students. Archery coaches also need to know about form and execution, competition preparation and strategies, and a lot more (training, nutrition, the mental game, etc.).

And, archery is a sport in which “feel” is important, so experience is necessary. An archery coach who has never shot a bow and arrow is at a distinct disadvantage in being able to communicate regarding how a shot feels. So, my opinion is coaches need to be able to shoot, or needed to have shot enough in their lives to address all of these issues. Further, if you want to coach, say, traditional archers, you need to have some experience shooting traditional longbows and recurves in traditional manners. Do you need to have tried every technique you might want to communicate to a student? Well, in a word, yes. Tried certainly, mastered, no. Mastery only comes from years of practice. Most coaches have a major discipline (recurve, Barebow, compound-release, traditional, etc.) and in that discipline they need to have developed a fairly high level of skill. Do, they need to be “championship level?” I do not know what that means, or rather, it means something different to different people. I have taken medals in tournaments with the word “championships” in their name, but I was hardly an elite archer, ever.

Some times the best coaches come from the cadre of those who were “less successful” but tried everything to become more successful and, hence, are more knowledgeable. I consider myself one of those.

Nobody “knows it all.” So, if you find yourself in the position I found myself, where there were many students seeking help in a discipline that was not your forté, then take some lessons in that discipline, acquire (borrow, buy, rent, whatever) the required equipment and give it a try. Sign up for a tournament in your new style to put some pressure on the pace of your learning. My specialty is compound but I have had more fun competing in recurve and longbow events (possibly because there was no pressure to try to win) and I certainly learned a great deal from those experiences. I got such a baptism, from a bloke who was encouraging me to learn traditional styles by him getting me to sign up to participate in USA Archer’s Traditional Nationals. He even made me a longbow to compete with. I was not in good physical shooting shape at the time and it was a long two days (York, American, and Clout Rounds) so I got very tired, but I had a blast … and I learned a great deal.

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More on the Mental Game of Archery

Regular readers of my scribblings will know that I raid golf instruction for ideas regarding archery. And my last post was on the Mental Game of Archery involved some golf stuff. Well, here is some more: a post by mental game (golf) guru David Mackenzie of Canada. As you read, see if you find anything that applies to archery. (If you don’t end up with “all of it” you need to look closer. Steve)

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The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Golfers
September 25, 2013
David MacKenzie
http://www.golfstateofmind

In my opinion, the top players in the world share 7 things in common beyond having a good golf swing. Here, they are.

  1. THEY PRACTICE IN THE RIGHT WAY

Life is short. So why anyone would want to spend hundreds of hours trying to improve in the wrong way is crazy. Beating ball after ball at the same target at the driving range and coming away thinking you’ve mastered the game only takes you backwards. How many golfers wish they could take their range game to the course? 99% of them. The other 1% (the elite), practice in a way that is challenging and simulates course conditions. Hitting a bucket of balls to the same target over and over is easy and it’s nothing like playing on the course. The top players make every second count when practicing, so they’re working all areas of the game to the max. The first thing to do in trying to get better at golf is to think about the way you practice, and change your routine. I’ve worked with many players of all abilities and one of the major factors in success is the way you practice. Make practice hard and as much like the golf course as possible.

  1. THEY ARE ABLE TO STAY IN THE PRESENT

Staying in the present means that you give whatever you are doing your complete, undivided attention with no distractions of the past or future. In golf, this means you’re not thinking about your score, how your playing partners might be judging your performance, why you think you just sliced that tee shot or 3 putted the last hole. All your energy is on the process of hitting shot at hand and then enjoying the walk in between.

It’s easy to see how counter-productive it is not to be in the present – just think back to your last round where you started playing well and then thought about shooting your best score (into the future), only for your game to unravel. The same thing happens when you start to think about bad shots you hit (in the past). Being solely in the present is easier said than done I know (like everything else it takes practice), but there are good techniques to prevent these tension causing shifts in thinking. I’ve got plenty of techniques for getting better at staying in the present and relaxing in between shots in my Ultimate Mental Game Training System (2016 Edition).

  1. THEY CONTINUALLY WORK ON THE FUNDAMENTALS

Good players understand the importance of the fundamentals as it’s the foundation for a good golf swing. How you grip the club, how far you stand from the ball, how good your posture is, how good your ball position is and how well you align to the target are all way more important than just trying to swing the club correctly. The fundamentals need to be worked on continuously as it’s easy to get into bad habits, even for Tour players. It’s always worth a check up from your local pro to make sure you have these right. Alignment is the one that requires the most maintenance. You could argue that a consistent tempo is also “fundamental” to a good swing.

  1. THEY PLAY WITH VISUALIZATION AND FEEL, NOT SWING MECHANICS

The eyes are probably the golfer’s most important asset. Once they commit to a target, the top players imagine exactly how the shot will look, even what the ball’s going to do when it lands. How clearly you define your target and your shot shape before playing each shot will have a huge impact on how well you execute it. It quietens your mind and allows your subconscious play the shot, as opposed to conscious control with technical thoughts, which just doesn’t work as well.

  1. THEY WORK ON A HIGHLY REPEATABLE PRE AND POST-SHOT ROUTINE

The top players in the world all go through the exact same routine before (and after) every shot, even down to the number of practice swings and looks at the target. The routine acts to prepare you as best as possible for the shot, and going through the same sequence right up until you swing, means there’s no time for negative thoughts to creep in. Focusing on your routine also distracts you from the importance of the shot you are about to play – it makes every shot feel the same regardless of the situation. Your mind stays quiet.

  1. THEY KNOW HOW TO CALM THEMSELVES DOWN WHEN THE PRESSURE IS ON.

I’ve worked with enough players to know that the good ones know powerful techniques to calm themselves down to prevent nerves turning into panic and negatively affecting performance. They are very self-aware and know how guide their minds away from negative thoughts and towards positive ones. They use nerves to their advantage. There are many ways to do this such as breathing techniques or having special thoughts/places to go in your head in between shots. This could be looking up at the sky or the trees, anything to switch off your golf brain so you’re not thinking about your score or swing. I recently heard of a player that would try to solve math problems in his head when it all got too much out there! So there are countless ways to do it.

  1. THEY KNOW THE POWER OF ACCEPTANCE AND MOVING ON

Being able to accept every shot whatever the outcome should become a key part of your game. The optimal state for golf would be to become emotionally indifferent to good and bad shots. Most Tour pros have acceptance built into the routine and they tell themselves that although they have a positive intention for the shot, if it doesn’t go where they want it to, it’s better to accept it and move on, than get disappointed or frustrated. Try verbalizing this in your head before your next shot. Also, try making a deep breath or the action of putting the club back in the bag your signal that the shot is over and it’s time to get back into the present. There’s plenty of time to analyze your round when it’s over!

Ingrain these things and make them a habit!

 

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Where Are My Archery Underpants?

I just noticed that there is now available for purchase, golf socks and golf underwear. These are not just items offered for sale to golfers that are ordinary items, these are designed to facilitate a better game for golfers! So, add those to the golf gloves, golf shirts, golf pants, golf rain gear, golf hats, golf glasses, and all of the other items of clothing made available for golfers which are designed to make them better on the course.

So, imagine that … someone designed men’s underpants to allow the free movement of hips and legs required by the modern golf swing. Well if they can design men’s briefs to do that, why can’t they design men’s briefs that help someone be really, really still? Maybe they could be so uncomfortable that if you move, you get tactile feedback. (Ow, ow, ow!)

Now for those who scoff at my desire, and claim that there are so many more golfers than archers, so their market is just bigger, which is why so many golf products are available, let me say that there are about 25 million golfers in the U.S., more or less, according to the National Golf Foundation’s yearly study on participation. According to the 2015 Archery Trade Association survey, there were 22 million archery participants in 2014 and they didn’t count kids under 18! In addition, the number of archers is growing at a substantial pace while the number of golfers is actually shrinking. So much for that argument.

Seriously, the actual reason there are no “archery underpants” available is the usual (Hint Follow the money!). The 2UNDR underwear that prompted this post and which claims “2UNDR underwear will change your life, on and off the golf course,” are $30 per pair. Now you know.02undr

Also, seriously, when are the purveyors of archery goods going to wake up and recognize the size of this market? We seem to be locked into the idea of the market we had back when we thought there were only a few million archers in the U.S. Well, the economy still sucks and they aren’t going to use any of my money (I don’t have any) to expand offers anytime soon, so I guess it is still a matter of “follow the money.”

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If I Just Had Better . . .

As regular readers of my diatribes know, the literature for archery coaches is quite sparse and so I often find myself slogging through materials designed for golf instructors and coaches for inspiration, knowledge, wisdom, etc.

Recently I was reading an article entitled The Biggest Myths in Golf  by Adam Young, the author of The Practice Manual, and as I am wont to do, I translated as much as I could into archery to see if it held up. One segment of this article is this:
The main messages I want everyone to get is that
• There are much wider acceptable boundaries of swing style which will produce function
• Lots of things held dear as technical ‘musts’ are nothing more than old wives tales
• Pros have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
• Skill is different to technique
• Form can (and does) arise from function.
• Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
• Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
• There is more to a golfer than their swing style. Trying to get good at golf by only improving your swing style is myopic, at best.
I understand that many of you will have strongly held beliefs challenged after this article.
Good. Maybe it will open your eyes to why you are not as good as you should be.

As you can see golfers obsess over their swings and their equipment, like archers who obsess over their form and their equipment. And by so doing, both golfers and archers miss out on a great deal.

Now, Translating the Above into “Archery”
The main messages I want everyone to get is that:
• There are much wider acceptable boundaries of form and execution which will produce function (aka results)
• Lots of things held dear as technical “musts” are nothing more than old wives tales
• Pros have more skill – let’s work on developing skill
• Skill is different from technique
• Form can (and does) arise from function.
• Using motor learning research, we can figure out better ways of learning
• Direct technical changes should be a supplement to a good training program – not dominate it
• There is more to a archer than their technique. Trying to get good at archery by only improving your technique is myopic, at best.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More We Can Learn from Jordan Spieth

(excerpts from NYTimes “Jordan Spieth Reassesses a Career Path From the Top, Where Time Is Short” 8-24-15)

Megastar golfer Jordan Spieth was asked to address a bevy of young archers as he was preparing for the FedEx Championship series to begin. He gave what adults would call sound advice. (Mr. Spieth just turned 22.) For example, he advised the youngsters not to cut short their education, as he did.

“‘It wasn’t the smartest choice that I made,’ Spieth said, referring to his decision to drop out of the University of Texas early in his sophomore year to turn pro. ‘I got lucky, and it ended up working out.’

“He cautioned against focusing only on one sport before one’s teenage years. ‘Until I was 12 or 13, I played more baseball than I did golf,’ he said. Spieth mentioned that he had also played football, basketball and soccer. As a result, he said, ‘I learned how to be a teammate, learned how to fall in love with golf as an athlete who plays golf versus being a golfer who tries to be an athlete.’

“Spieth ultimately chose golf, he said, because he was good at it but also because he was an adrenaline junkie who viewed contending in a major on a Sunday as the next-best thing to a free fall to earth lasting two hours.

‘Your blood starts running; you get nervous; you get the adrenaline,” Spieth said. ‘For golf, when that comes up, that exhilarating factor, you have to learn to control that for an extended period of time.’

He added, ‘I’d be somebody who’d go jump out of an airplane because it would get your heart rate going.’ He smiled and said: ‘I don’t recommend that, by the way. For me, the fact you can keep feeling that, learn how to control it and use it to your advantage, that’s something I didn’t find in any other sport.’”

In other words, young Mr. Spieth went into competitive golf because nerves from performance pressure were there. And watching golf, like watching archery, is the sporting equivalent of watching paint dry. They are not what most people would think of as a sport for adrenaline junkies. And we thought competition nerves were a negative factor! Maybe we ought to start viewing them into a positive!

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Why I Follow Golf Coaches (Part 2 of ?)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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