Tag Archives: Practice

Being Driven Crazy by Psychology

There is a burgeoning field of scientific endeavor which is the study of the acquisition of expertise. I am trying to write a book on the mental game of archery and since there is too much material for one person to study, one needs to do a lot of reading to find out what others say, hence my interest in this subject. Anything that helps us understand how to make expertise more attainable, makes us better coaches.

A promising viewpoint on the attainment of expertise is Ericsson’s work on what is called “deliberate practice.” Ericsson’s claim is that undirected practice has minimal benefits, the main one being making us more physically fit to perform the task at hand … maybe. But if you want to improve the quality of a performance, highly focused practice  is necessary, with the focus on a specific aspect you wish to improve, using directed drills/exercises to that end.

The mainstream press, though, has asked the omnibus question: Is practice all you need to develop expertise? And lately they have brought up a number of topics researchers claim have a role. One of these is “working memory.” Working memory is a hot topic in psychology right now which is why people are trying it out for a leading role in … you name it. (Such is science: when topics are “hot” a whole bunch of scientists jump on that bandwagon. This is probably a manifestation of scientists looking for a place to work in which results are easier to get, not unlike gold prospectors.) working memory is how much information you can cram into your mind and hold it there while you are working; this is definitely “short-term memory.”

Working memory is now claimed to play a role in sight reading of music and any number of other performance-related fields. Apparently the people making these claims haven’t looked at a performance critically. For example, studies show that in order for a musician to play from music they are reading, they have to “read ahead” several notes ahead of where they are playing. It was discovered (by the simple expedient of covering up the music and exposing it at rates the scientists could control), that professional musicians read ahead farther than amateurs. But to the researcher’s surprise, the difference was very small. When reading music and playing, there is an optimum read ahead distance: if you are to close to the playing time, musicians stumble. They apparently do not have enough time to translate the symbols into actions. If they get too far ahead of playing, they also stumble because they tend to forget what they had read before they are supposed to be playing it. So, working memory does play a role in sight reading music (reading as you are playing) but the part working memory plays is as part of a chain of events. Obviously if you do not have enough of working memory, you will struggle at this task. Other studies show that “experts” have more working memory than amateurs in this arena. So, the question I have is: does working memory get improved through practice? If so, then the question (Is practice all you need …) is too broad.

Yet, huge claims are being made regarding the role of this bit or that bit when it comes to practice. How any one of us is to make any sense of the current state of research is beyond me (literally). There seem to be some reasonable conclusions one can come to with regard to practice that have low chances of contradiction later.

  • So, should archers practice? Yes. Practice is a route to better performance. But, how effective the practice is is dependant on how smart you practice. So, practice as focused as you can.
  • Is there a way to project the amount of practice needed to meet a goal? No. Longer practice sessions do not seem to be as effective as more frequent shorter ones. (What “longer” and “shorter” are is ill-defined.) If you want to perform consistently, you must develop to the point you can shoot larger numbers of arrows in a session than required for performance.
  • It also seems that the best physical practice for a performance is the performance itself. So, if you are a pianist, play the piano. If you are an archer, shoot arrows.
  • In order to tell what works and what does not, you must … keep … records of your performance. Memory alone just doesn’t work.

My feeling is the question “Is practice all you need to develop expertise?” as discussed in the mainstream press, supports the meme that there are natural “talents” for particular activities: a talent for math, a talent for the violin, a talent for baseball. This is not only unsupportable by any science (the existent of sport- or activity-specific “talents” has no evidence supporting it) but is a toxic concept; even if it were true, there is no benefit from believing it.

Performers who believe in “talent” tend to quit easier when they encounter difficulties, believing they “just don’t have a talent for math or whatever.” They also shy away from greater challenges because they have no idea how far their “talent” can take them and they don’t want to test something they don’t understand. Plus, since this talent-thing is responsible for their ability, why practice? These reactions to the belief in the concept of talent have been documented and seem to make sense.

If you don’t believe in “talent” then the outcome is determined by how much you learn and how hard you practice. If your performance isn’t good enough, you either need to work harder or smarter (better: both). This nonbelief in talent has this benefit in that we can now see the effect of deliberate practice upon skills developed and it is quite positive.

 

 

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Are You or Your Students Suffering from the Instant Gratification Cycle?

One of my colleagues dropped a student he was working with because in between coaching sessions, his student would either solicit or accept coaching direction from other archers and when they got back together he had done none of what they agreed upon he needed to do to get better. Instead the student would want to discuss a long list of things he had been trying suggested by fellow archers. Requests to have the student check in with the coach before just trying things, but that did not happen.

This student was suffering from a malady common in amateur athletic circles. Desiring instant results, if something appears to not be working, they would try something else. The “something else” may be something they just made up or something suggested by another archer.

As archers we are often in the advice business for myriad reasons: archery is a social sport, we all want to encourage newbies and those struggling so they will get better and stay in the game, etc. (As coaches, we are not supposed to offer advice unless asked!) In fact, there is such an established pattern of giving advice, especially older archers to younger archers, that we equip our younger archers with a canned response. If someone offers them advice, we suggest they say “Gee, thanks, mister, I’ll tell my coach the next time I see her/him.” If a young archer merely brushes off such attempts to “help” them, they can get a reputation for being aloof or “stuck up” or worse.

When an archer is trying to get better, they are trying to do things differently from what they had been doing which is always awkward. Whether or not those changes are successful can’t be determined until the “new moves” are practiced until they become “normal.” This means that serious archers need to be patient. Coaches need to explain what “being patient” means in terms of practice time and clock time so there are no misunderstandings. Coaches need to explain to archers that if they flit from one tip to another like a bee harvesting pollen, they will end up with a whole mess of nothing.

Archers need to know what to do with such tips when they are offered. In addition to the above canned response we teach to younger archers, we suggest that they write down such tips so they can discuss them with us via text/email or in person. Sometimes something valuable is suggested. Knowing that Coach is open to suggestions helps build trust in the coach-athlete relationship.

Whatever happens on the relationship front, an archer has to avoid like the plague the Instant Gratification Cycle:

a problem occurs → something new is tried → something works somewhat better  → another problem pops up → etc.

A basic fact of human behavior is the Hawthorne Effect: which is that when something new is tried, things tend to get better … for a short time. The first time this effect was described it was used to explain an experiment done on office workers. The office workers were told that if the lighting were slightly better, it would help their work and when it was brightened a bit  office productivity increased. Then they were told that if it were made even brighter, etc. … and their productivity increased again. Then they were told that the optimal amount of lighting had been determined and the lighting was changed once again, and productivity went up again. The final change was to lighting exactly as it was when the experiment first began. But, after some weeks, the measured productivity dropped back to what it had been before the experiments began.

Some say that the Hawthorne Effect is just a result of expectations on the part of the participants: if you expect to do better (reasonably, not magically, there needs to be a reason) you tend to do better. But the “improvements” are short-lived. This has ramifications when archers are looking at form changes and equipment changes, etc. First impressions are not always valid as they tend to be better than one will get in the long term. So, patience is required to make rapid progress in archery form or in one’s equipment/equipment setup. (Yes, you have to slow down to speed up.) The sure way to slow down someone’s progress is to work on something for only a short time and then switch to another thing, and another,…

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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?

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Sources of Inconsistency

QandA logoOne of my very best Olympic Recurve students wrote about his recent foray into indoor league action. His problem seems to be in consistency.

“My NFAA 300 scores have been good, kinda. A 285 is my best ever. A 281 is my best league score this year. But, that was followed the week after by a score in the 240s, and I just cannot explain what happened to drop the 40 points. I felt like there were a lot of great shots in there, but they’d be going left on the target. Same bow, same setup, absolutely no changes. This was the same kind of thing at indoor nationals where I felt I shot well but the score was horrible. Hmm, I continue to be puzzled. To end that bad league night (last week) I shot a 25 end, the first and only one of the night.”

Since we hadn’t had a lesson in a while and I hadn’t seen him shoot there wasn’t much I could say until we got together. Here is an expansion of part of what I answered.

* * *

Competitive target archery is a search for consistency. In every competitive archer’s beginning experience we learn that an arrow that doesn’t “group” with the others needs to be inspected for damage. We learn tuning procedures that support “tighter groups.” We refine our form and execution. In every case we are looking for the arrows to land closer to the center (accuracy) and closer to one another (precision or consistency).

Accuracy is easier to achieve than consistency. By adjusting one’s bow and arrows and form a bit, one can get to the point that they have round groups centered on target-center. The average positions of these arrows is “dead center” but we are not scored on our average position, but on the actual positions of the arrows, hence the need to get the arrows closer and closer together so that they will all fit into a highest scoring ring (the de facto “optimum group size”).

“Competitive target archery is a search for consistency.”

Whenever I see scoring inconsistency like that reported, the immediate suspect (for a Recurve archer) is lack of line. No one seems to point this out, but in the same vein as the philosopher who pointed out you can’t ford or even step into the same river twice (the original water has been replaced by new) we are never the same archer. Every arrow we shoot, we shoot as an older person, the additional age may be only a few seconds or 24 hours of several weeks or even years of a layoff. As we age, things change. If we work out and get stronger, things change. This results in what I call “form drift” and it doesn’t have to drift far to be “off.” And good alignment is one of the things that one cannot afford to lose without a severe scoring cost. (A caveat here: I just saw a video clip of our current Olympic Men’s champion shooting. He does not have good line. The cost of that is he has to practice almost every day, which he does. You and I cannot afford the cost of poor alignment.)

So, we will meet to see what can be seen but there may also a psychological effect involved. And I do not have any information regarding whether it is “in play” in this case, but it may well be. We all have busy lives. We have school or work and it’s demands. We have families. We have lives outside of archery. Consequently the amount of time we have to engage in a sport is limited. It is not unusual for the indoor season to devolve into a series of mini-competitions with no real practice occurring. We experience success or failure on any particular league night but we don’t do anything with that until the next league night. Anything that might have been learned from the previous experience has long since faded before the next league night, so we drift from one “test” to “the next” and wonder why we are not being consistent. Can you imagine taking a night class at your local community college that meets once a week and each week the teacher gives you a version of the final exam to see if you are ready to pass out of the course, but no other instruction? You would be clamoring for your money back. Don’t do this to yourself.

After every competition, I ask my students to make two lists: one list is “The Things I Did Well” and the other is “Things I Will Do Differently Next Time.” I ask that they have a minimum of three things on each list. If consistency, aka small groups, is on the “Did Well” list one week and then not the next, then your consistency is a variable (not a good thing) and you need to do something about it before the next “test.” If the same things keep popping up on the “Do Differently” list, whatever you are doing to implement that is not working.

Please do not get the impression that I know everything about this topic, far from it. The problem I keep pointing out is that a tiny bit of the solution to every problem is available from that coach there and another bit from this coach here. Until we archery coaches get better organized, we will not be able to definitively answer any of these questions.

Steve

 

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Exploring Balance

Many students, especially younger ones, do not appreciate how important balance is in making quality archery shots. I see this most often in young archers muscling around compound bows that are too heavy. Combine that with a bit too much draw weight and getting to full draw becomes a dance routine.

To help students with their balance, the first task is to expand their awareness. Archers focussed intently upon their targets aren’t getting the messages sent in by their balance system. Here are a couple of things for them to try:

  • Start by having them shoot with their feet together. If they do anything that makes them lose their balance, it will need to be adjusted. (For some skeptical students you may have to demonstrate you can do it.)
  • Have them take their normal stance and then pick up their “away” foot (also known as the back foot) and touch it down on its tip. Basically you are asking your student to shoot off of one foot (with but slight assistance from the other). Again, if they do anything that makes them lose their balance, it will need to be adjusted.
  • Or have them take their “toward” foot (also known as their front foot) and swing it around to the other side of their away foot and set it down. Then shoot again.

Each of these is a variation of the others (so you will probably need only one of these drills;; the others are for the case that one approach doesn’t work: the archer can’t do it, the result is not achieved, etc.). The idea is to make obvious the things the archer is doing that cause loss of balance. The goal is the make the archer aware of the balance issue.

The issue is important because the draw is a large scale movement of the body and the bow. Following those movements it takes some few seconds to resume a still state. (Shots taken while not still have been classified as “drive by shootings.”) The time required to become still is affected by how well balanced the archer is. Obviously, spending a greater amount of time under the stress of the bow because of a jerky or wobbly draw will lead to fatigue more quickly and scores will suffer.

The obvious solution to many young archers is to draw very slowly. This is not a good solution because a very slow draw lengthens the time the archer is under the stress of the draw, just what we are trying to avoid. The best solution is a smooth, strong draw, one that involves a minimum amount of movement getting to full-draw-position and which results in a sense of stillness in very short order. Being balanced throughout the shot gives your archer the best platform from which to perform this action.

But … if they still doubt that balance is important, have them shoot from tiptoes. That will convince them balance is important. (Be sure they are shooting close up because the arrows often go very far afield which is why this drill is not #1.)

 

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Archery Form … Is Overrated

I just watched a YouTube video of Oh Jin Hyek describing his form (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bee3Q9sPjzQ), which includes poor shoulder alignment and a number of other flaws. Yes, this is the same Oh Jin Hyek who won gold at the 2012 Olympic Games (London). Also winning a gold at that Games was Michele Frangilli, whose form can best be described as idiosyncratic (and devastatingly effective as he has won everything in sight). And it was not that long ago that Viktor Ruban of Ukraine won an individual Olympic gold medal (2008, Beijing) grabbing the bow (no sling) and with his thumb behind his neck at full draw. The compound world is just as idiosyncratic.

So, why are archers and coaches so obsessed with describing and teaching and trying to adopt perfect archery form and execution? Clearly excellent, or even good, form is not needed to win.

I am not going to try to convince you I know the answer to this conundrum, but I do think we need to start discussing this because for all coaches, we need to know what to emphasize (as well as how to emphasize it and when).

How Could We Know?
I often wonder what climate change denying politicians are going to say when they are proven wrong. I imagine it will be something like “I am not a scientist, how could I have known?” (The cynical me would ask “You didn’t question why the energy companies were giving you so much money?) The same question occurs regarding archery form and execution: what should we be emphasizing? What are the roots of winning form and execution?

I suggest a novel approach: we could ask.

Lanny Bassham’s Mental Management System was created because he asked. He asked fellow Olympic medal winners what their mental state was when competing. He took what he learned and went out and won everything in sight, too, including the gold medal that eluded him his first time around.

We could survey Olympic and world championship medal winners and we could examine them. We could rate their form and their execution, describe their strengths and weaknesses (we have video of most of the competitions, no?). We could look at their performances before and after their winning such prestigious medals to see if the winning was part of a longer-term trend or a surprise.

We could ask. We could ask them and ask each other.

What role does confidence play? (Apparently a lot.)

What role does being comfortable on a big stage play? (Apparently a lot.)

What role does picture perfect form and execution play? (Apparently not so much.)

That these questions are not even current in coaching and archery discussions says a lot about where we are. (Hint: we have no idea.)

What Should We Know?
There are so many questions that need to be asked. What role does shooting distance play? This came to mind because the aforementioned Michele Frangilli still owns two world records for indoor rounds: for the 18m 600 round he shot a 597; for the 25m indoor round, he shot a 598. That’s right, move the targets back 40% and the WR goes up! (Was it the 50% increase in target size? Was it the difference between the magnitudes of two changes (distance and target size)? Were these just his very best performances or did he flirt with such scores regularly?)

I would like to know how best to teach archery 8-year olds, and teenagers, and adults and how to distinguish excellent archers from just the very good and … and….

I’d be interested in hearing from coaches out there about things you would like to know. If I get enough responses/questions sent in I will share them far and wide.

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Nothing Stays the Same . . . Nothing

I was watching the Memorial Golf Tournament this past weekend and one of the professional golfers, Dustin Johnson, mentioned that after two rounds in which he played fairly poorly, he saw a TV commercial he had made a while back when he was playing very, very well and recognized that he had changed his set up. So back out onto the practice range he went to get back to that set up and, bingo, he started playing well again.

“Instead of trying to emulate, to imprint on, some professional/elite archer, why not imprint on yourself, when you were shooting lights out?”

The point here is that, for archers as well as for golfers, nothing stays the same. Everything drifts . . . off. This is why so much practice is required. This basic fact behooves us to keep records. When we are shooting well, we need to take notes regarding our mental states, how our shot feels, everything we think is important. A series of still photos or a video can be invaluable. (A picture is worth how many words?)

Every high-powered sport is using video now. Baseball batters watch video of pitchers. Pitchers watch video of batters. Football players watch video of themselves and their opposition. Golfers watch video of their shots. Companies are now offering motion capture devices to add even more richness to the captured images.

Instead of trying to emulate, to imprint on, some professional/elite archer, why not imprint on yourself, when you were shooting lights out?

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Scoring Well

Every year, the team I coach acquires new archers, many of whom have very little experience. I wrote the following handout on how to begin to score well for them and I decided to share it with you. SPR

Scoring

When you first seriously undertake learning to shoot your focus is upon your form and execution. Form being your body positions (foot positions, hip positions, shoulder positions, full-draw-position. etc.) and execution being the movements made to get from one position to the next. This is necessary. First you must build your shot, then through repetition you come to own it.

Then if you find you like competition, another aspect arises—scoring. Being able to shoot repetitively, creating nice tight groups is one thing, scoring well is another. An example is a student I had who worked very hard to make sure her sight settings were good and would go to a competition and shoot tight groups but not score well. On one occasion, her arrows were bunched well below the center of the target. She kept shooting, hoping things would work out and when we asked her why she didn’t adjust her sight so the arrows would land in the highest scoring zone, she answered that her sight marks were good, she must be doing something wrong and she just hadn’t figured out what. Compare that behavior with the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal winning archer, Simon Fairweather. After warming up and shooting two ends of three arrows in his gold medal match, he shot his first arrow in competition. He looked through his spotting scope, then reached up and adjusted his sight setting. The lesson? If you want to score well, put the damned aperture where it needs to be to make the arrows go in the middle.

Even if everything were perfect during practice and warm-ups, when competition pressure builds up, you change making things different. tension makes muscles shorter, making it more difficult to get through your clicker or into your full-draw-position, for example. This changes the feel of your shot. It doesn’t feel right any more. This is the challenge: making whatever changes needed to score well without trying to invent a new way to shoot in the process.

Here are some suggestions on how to score well:

  1. You must “trust your shot.” Improvising new techniques to score well is counterproductive. This can happen subconsciously!
  2. If your arrows are grouping off center, change your point-of-aim, crawl, sight setting, etc. so that your groups become centered. This is a basic condition for scoring well.
  3. Know thyself. Learn about how you respond to competition pressure. Take notes. If you shake more at full draw under pressure, note that (it doesn’t necessarily affect your scoring much), etc. Learn about what you need to eat and drink and do during a competition to perform your best.
  4. When things go wrong, troubleshooting must address whether the problem is your equipment, the environment (includes your target), or you. If you get the source of your problem wrong, you will not have solved the problem but probably also made an unneeded “fix” that makes scoring worse. I had a young student who was given a target with a soft center (they thought she would hit it much so it shouldn’t be a problem). End after end, she found arrows in the grass she was sure should have hit the target. Those arrows were going through the soft spot unnoticed and received scores of zero instead of 10s, 9s, or 8s.
  5. Track your competition and practice scores and compare them. If you are scoring 10% below your practice scores in a competition and you think that is a problem but it is, in fact, normal for you, you just created a problem that doesn’t exist and any “solution” to that problem will make your scoring worse.
  6. At the end of every competition, make two lists of at least three (3) items each: #1 Things I Learned and #2 Things I Will Do Differently Next Time. Do this within 24 hours of the end of the shoot. Read these lists to develop practice plans and to prepare for the next shoot.

There is more … much more.

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There are Archery Coaching Principles

I was watching a teaser for Hank Haney’s instructional video “Lessons Learned from Coaching the World’s Greatest Golfer” and Coach Haney brought up something I had already recognized as a basic principle for coaching archers. When I recovered from the cheap thrill, I realized that he had expanded upon that principle in a way I had not.

The Goldilocks Principle
I have recommended “the Goldilocks Principle” to many coaches, the basic thrust of which is when you are looking to make a change, exaggerate at first. Goldilocks comes into it because if something is too low and you effect a change that moves you to a position of being too high, then you now have boundaries, between which you will find “just right.” (This porridge is too hot. This porridge is too cold. This porridge is just right. Ah.)

An archery example of this occurs while sighting in. If your first sight setting results in your arrow hitting the target very low, you could put a couple of “clicks” into your sight and shoot again. The result will be the arrow will land slightly higher than the first one (if you moved the aperture the right way, of course). Instead, you should move your aperture down quite a bit, hopefully so that your next shot is too high. Once you know where “too low” and “too high” are on your sight bar for this distance, then try half way in between those. If that isn’t very close, then half way to one of those boundaries (depending on where the next arrow lands) until you are very close, then you can go a couple of clicks at a time to fine tune your group location.

Coach Haney referred to those “boundaries” (e.g. too hot and too cold) as being “parameters,” a fine Latin term which means “to be measured against” but there is really no difference between what he was teaching and what I am. But Coach Haney indicated that working with Tiger Woods taught him a great deal. One of those things he shared in his sales pitch for the fill video, namely Tiger’s father, Earl, taught him that “there is a big difference between feel and real.” So Tiger would do a lot of mirror work, trying very hard to exaggerate any change he was making. The reason for this is that when you have practiced something until it feels natural, something I call the “Old Normal,” if you deviate just a little bit it feels like you have deviated a lot. This is why when you ask a student-archer to do something differently, they will move only slightly away from what has been tried and true for a long time. You have to ask them to exaggerate, as Coach Haney said “I have to ask for a foot to get an inch.”

So Tiger would do mirror work when he was trying a change a bit of his swing or he would ask his coach when his club (or hand or …) was in the right position. Then Tiger could associate that particular feel (which always felt very exaggerated to him) with the real position he was trying to create.

In other words, he used his own sense of the feel of things to calibrate the change.

This involves the athlete more actively in making the change. They are not just being a good soldier, doing everything (or trying to do everything) commanded by their coach. The coach is there is provide the feedback the athlete needs to match up the “feel” he is having with the “real” situation. This puts the athlete more in charge of his training, which I believe is always a good thing in an individual sport.

 

Conclusion
I believe there are Principles of Coaching Archery. I believe we share some of these with other sports. What I call the Goldilocks Principle is used in golf and, I suspect, other individual sports.

If you look at these two sports (golf and archery) both have been around for very long times. So why is golf so much farther advanced when it comes to coaching than is archery? I am sure that it has something to do with golf being restricted to the well-to-do by and large and that the wealthy would pay for instruction where the poor and middle class could not afford it. But there is more. Part of it involves the transmission of information between and among golf instructors and coaches and the codification of that knowledge. Now, I really don’t believe everything the PGA teaches about coaching golf is correct, but at least you can acquire those teachings. You do not have to start from scratch.

I think it would be a “good thing” if us coaches were to make a list of as many of these archery coaching principles as we can identify. I can think of no better information to pass along to the next generation of coaches. As it has been, we have left each new generation to learn what they could on their own. We can do better.

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How Many Arrows Should I be Shooting?

QandA logoI got an email from one of my Olympic Recurve students who ask the above question. It was in the context of getting a bit fatigues at the end of an indoor 600 round (60 arrows, 10-0 scoring).

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As a rule of thumb, I think for “heavy shooting days” (to be alternated with light days and medium days and rest days) you should be shooting double the number of arrows in your most rigorous current round. So, that would make it 120 arrows for heavy, maybe 60 arrows for light and 90 arrows for medium. (For NFAA indoor archers you’d have to double these as an indoor 600 round is 120 arrows, 5-3 scoring.) As one’s championship desires become greater, those get upped. Many Olympians preparing for the Olympics do 400 arrows per day for their heavy days. The idea here is if you know you can shoot 120 strong shots in a day (as you have done it repeatedly) then shooting 60 strong shots is a piece of cake. On rare occasions you might want to do a super load day and shoot a much larger number of shots: in the scheme above, maybe 200-240. This is the psychology behind the 1000 Arrow Challenge, once you have shot 1000 arrows in a single day, it is very hard for you to respond with “I can’t do that” for almost anything else in archery.

You have to prove to yourself that you can shoot large numbers of quality shots. Each shot you shoot has to be with your full physical and mental shot routines. If you cheat and just “fling arrows” to run your count up, you will know this and the “experience” won’t really count.

* * *Indoor BB Shooting

Now, this is a very experience archer I am talking to. If he were less expert, the rules are quite different. I express this as “you have to find your shot before you can own it.” There is no real value in shooting high arrow loads if he hadn’t yet found his shot, the shot that uses his body best, aka optimally. If he weren’t there yet, shooting high volumes of arrows would create a feeling of “normal” around a shot he needed to change. Any time an archer tries to make changes, the “old normal” exerts a pull away from the “new normal” they are trying to create and back toward the old shot, making progress that much more difficult. With this student, we rebuilt his shot a couple of years ago and now he is refining and maintaining that shot, the one he will use for quite a while. (An archery shot is never “done,” rather like a knife it needs to be honed and occasionally sharpened as it is used; otherwise it gets dull and ineffective.) The score this student made in the local tournament was almost identical to the one he made to take a medal at the state indoor championship last year, even though he struggled somewhat due to a layoff from practicing.

Outdoor Blank BalesSo, if a student hasn’t yet found her/his shot, I discourage large volumes of shots and encourage working on their shot more. A balance can be found so they can have fun competing as all archers want to do, but really, really serious archers wouldn’t think of competing without having a settled shot, so if they were rebuilding their shot, for example, they will avoid competition until they can prove to themselves in practice that their shot is up to snuff. Otherwise, under competition stress, it will probably break down and they will have a good chance of developing bad habits as they struggle to score, that will just have to be weeded out later.

 

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