Tag Archives: Problem Solving


I have written about plateaus before but other ideas come along and I have additional thoughts, so I want to address plateaus again . . . some more.

For one, you need to verify you are on an actual plateau. Do you keep records of your scores? Some people don’t and are just going on the “feeling” that they haven’t gotten better recently. This may or may not be true. Keeping records of your scores on the various rounds you compete on and, better, charting those scores will be instructive. I remember one guy who felt he hadn’t made any improvement in months. It was just the beginning of indoor season and his first two scores of the season were the same as he was shooting at the end of the previous season. Of course, he hadn’t made any improvement in months . . . he hadn’t shot that round in months. And shooting the same scores as you were shooting previously after such a log break indicates that there has been no loss of scoring ability in that situation, and that is not a negative thing.

Some Things to Try
To avoid a plateau that is due to being in a rut, you should try mixing it up some. Try:
• shifting venues. Shoot at a different range or indoor range. Shoot with different people. Shoot at different times.
• doing something differently. Consult coaches, books, magazines, videos, YouTube, etc. for a form improvement and see if you can incorporate that into your shot. This is not to be done thoughtlessly, as a panacea, but with due consideration. And remember that anytime you try something new, your scores are inclined to dip some. The question (always) is do they come back up higher than they were.
• different equipment. Maybe this indoor season, try shooting Barebow, or if you shoot Barebow Compound, try shooting Barebow Recurve. If you shoot Compound Unlimited/Freestyle, try shooting with a pin sight rather than a moveable sight. Sometimes a holiday from your old routines will reset your systems to get back on a pattern that is “trending upward.”

The basic idea is to disrupt your old routines a bit (not massively!) to give you enough of a different feel as to get your attention, then you bring that attention back to your normal shooting.


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Tying On Nocking Point Locators

One of the themes I address often enough is that “traditional advice” in archery tends to get locked in the past and doesn’t evolve . . . as equipment changes, for example. One possible new example of this phenomenon may be in regard to locating nocking point locators.

When second nocking points became the norm (late 1990’s?) the standard advice was to leave a little extra space between the nock and the bottom locator, otherwise the nock might be “bound” by the locators. There were a couple of things that made this advice suspicious. It was clear that nocks pressed on nock locators somewhat. Hoyt redesigned its nocks, in the brass nockset days, by carving out little half moons from the plastic to make room for the brass nocksets. This was because repeated rubbing of the brass nocksets against the plastic wore grooves in the plastic to the point that the nocks broke.

See the little half moon indent just to the left of the nock groove in the photo? That was clearance for brass nock sets.

But, at the same time, the bowstring between the top and bottom fingers was roughly vertical at full draw, so there wasn’t much pinch there, so it only happened after the string was loosed.

The venerable brass nocking point locator, also called brass nocksets.

So, when we stopped using brass nocksets (too heavy, required tools to put on and take off, etc.) we substituted thread tied on to make our nocking point locators . . . soft, nonabrasive thread.

So, since there was no brass to erode our plastic nocks, we didn’t need the little indent on the nock anymore, but did we need the little extra space between the bottom locator and the knock to avoid the dreaded clamping or binding of the nocks, which would inhibit the release of the arrow?

My experience is that tied on locators are soft and their shape will distort if pressure is applied to them often. That is the locators will change shape based upon the situations they are placed in. Brass locators were not so accommodating, so a space for them was molded into the nocks themselves, but I don’t think this is needed for thread nocksets. And, when you think about it, the job of the second locator is to prevent the arrow from sliding down the string, so if you leave “extra” room for the nock to move, you are saying a “little” slide is okay.

Currently I am recommending no space be left between the lower locator and the nock. If you then shoot a number of arrows, the locators will be shaped by the process. If you want to “lock in” those shapes a drop of super glue on each locator should do it.


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Sometimes a Blurb is Enough

This book (The Language of Coaching by Nick Winkelman) was outside of my price comfort zone, so I didn’t buy it, plus the blurb made me a bit dubious.

Here’s an excerpt from the blurb:

“Packed with stunning visuals, the book provides over 25 movement sequences that outline different types of coaching cues, including a visual depiction of unique analogies, such as a sprinter taking off like a jet or an athlete loading into a jump like a spring.”

I have heard any number of such “analogies” as mentioned in the excerpt above applied to archery. Examples are: thinking of your draw forearm as being a rope or chain, thinking of your feet penetrating into the ground and growing roots like a tree, having a string attached to the top of your head with a helium balloon pulling your head straight up, and my favorite “imagine a laser beam coming out of your navel, it should be tracking right down the shooting line.”

Here’s the problem. I have seen no evidence of the effectiveness of such things. They seem just to be passed on from one coach to another as some sort of coaching wisdom. I suspect their usefulness is quite limited, compared to other techniques.

There is a significant problem with using such “analogies” while shooting. We now know that our imaginations use the same brain regions that our senses do. If we, say, imagine how some sort of colored object would look, the same regions of the brain are activated as when we actually see such an object and saw how it looked.

Here is an example of where this could go wrong. We now know that our brains can consciously keep track of two things simultaneously. We used to think it was just one, but we now know different. There is a limitation for the two things, however, they must engage different parts of the brain, otherwise they conflict. (This is the source of consciously thinking back and forth between your release fingers and your aim: back and forth you check one and then the other and then back to one again. You are trying to use the decision-making power of your brain, based upon two criteria, and they conflict. BTW, this is why clickers work.)

Consider the moment of release of your bow string. We are mentally doing a number of things: we are aiming visually, we are feeling some sign of our shot process continuing (often the tactile feeling of back tension) and then we have to add the loosing of the string to those two and we are now one over our limit. In almost all cases: compound, recurve, and traditional, if you consciously think about releasing the bow string, you are in for a bad shot. If you think “Relax your fingers.” or “Squeeze the trigger.” you are probably going to shoot a poor shot. Most people focus upon aiming (visually) and completing the shot (tactilely) and allow the release to happen subconsciously. This procedure is practiced up the yin-yang until it feels ever so normal.

Part of this procedure is called the “shot rehearsal” which is typically a visualization of a perfect shot, just before raising the bow to shoot. That visualization is a set of instructions to your subconscious mind as to what you want to have happen, or if you will, it is a goal set for the subconscious mind. If you just prior to the release, imagine some sort of “analogy” you are asking for trouble. That imagining (e.g. “imagine your bow arm is the barrel of a gun”) utilizes the visual cortex, which is needed to aim with and also conflicts with the visual rehearsal you gave your subconscious mind. And the advantage to doing this is?

It is possible that imagining such analogies during practice might be helpful, but if this is done often enough, will not these imaginings intrude into competition shots? Might they not become part of our shot sequence?

I am not just making this up. I had a problem with arm tendonitis at one point and adjusted my shot sequence at one point to “double check” that there wasn’t a problem during this shot. After months of doing this I realized I was reinforcing the problem by spending too much attention and generating too much anxiety around the issue. When I went back to my old shot sequence and endeavored to not think about the issue, things improved quite a bit. It is possible to inject things into our shots that are not at all helpful and I think we should be wary of doing that..


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Your Kids’ Coach Is Probably Doing It Wrong

The New York Times ran an article with exactly the title you see above (dated March 11, 2020). The subtitle might be even worse “Woefully underprepared instructors are contributing to a shockingly high dropout rate among young athletes.”

Here are some excerpts:

“I have played for, coached with and watched great coaches. At every level, there are capable sports instructors providing positive experiences for our children. The problem is, such coaches are greatly outnumbered by those who don’t seem to know what they are doing. This is true of programs both inside and outside of schools.”

“The youth sports industry is heavily dependent on the services of volunteers, typically parents or teachers. While these coaches may have wonderful intentions and enthusiasm for the game, that doesn’t mean they have the skills to provide useful instruction. The National Council for Accreditation of Coaching Education reports that in the United States, approximately 4 million out of 7.5 million youth and school coaches are volunteers. Fewer than 5 percent of youth sport coaches have relevant training; among middle-school and high school coaches, only 25 percent to 30 percent do.”

“Please, coaches: Take a moment to consider how your behavior affects the athletes. Don’t make my children hate the sports they once loved. Don’t make them switch disciplines every season in a desperate search for a coach who knows how to be a coach.”

“If you are fortunate enough to be called “Coach,” carry that moniker with pride. Seek out education and mentoring and do everything in your power to make sure that my child, and every child, has fun playing the sport with you because they feel valued and accomplished while learning to be competitive.”

Jennifer L. Etnier is a distinguished professor of kinesiology at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, and the author of “Coaching for the Love of the Game: A Practical Guide for Working With Young Athletes.”

Arrogance on display aside (“Please, coaches: Take a moment to consider how your behavior affects the athletes.” So, she assumes coaches haven’t done this because if they had . . . ?) could this be a valid criticism of archery coaches? Possibly. But most academic researchers and writers on this topic focus almost exclusively on team sports. I have stopped buying and reading “how to coach youths” books and articles because of this focus, e.g. Chapter 1 How to Build Teamwork, etc.

Okay, I have a radical idea that is absolutely part of a solution for this “problem.”

Pay the damned coaches!

Archery organizations (primarily USA Archery) are notorious for adding additional requirements to acquire or keep a coach certification (and usually charging for the process, but not always). I resigned my Level 4 coaching certificate and USAA membership basically because they were charging me to provide them services. (Even though I have run JOAD programs in the past, I can no longer coach in them because I do not have a current (L2) certificate . . . not even as a guest coach.)

At a bare minimum, how about if you, coach, make it through an entire JOAD season as Head Coach, that they waive your membership fees for the next year? Or that they establish a fee structure for JOAD classes and how much of that income goes to pay the coaches. (We did this while in a community not exactly “rich” . . . we had waivers for student-archers who didn’t have the means to pony up for lessons. Otherwise you come across as saying “I am not going to pay you for your work but I am going to tell you how to do it,” and that doesn’t sit well with Americans, or really anyone.

When someone is being paid for their service the payer is in a better place to make demands upon those people regarding their service, training, and preparation.


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Things Go Better with Coach!

One Archer, Five Different Coaches
If you took one archer’s shot, videoed it and showed those videos to five qualified archery coaches, you would likely get five different explanations of how to fix their flaws. However, I will argue that any one of them could potentially help the archer improve, but only if a couple of conditions were met.

First, the explanation from the coach for the changes recommended should resonate with the archer, aka the coach speaks their language. They need to respond to the communication in a way that makes sense and motivates them. Second, the archer would need to stick with that one coach’s voice as they continued to work. If they listened to all of the coaches at once, they would be worse off than when they started. You can’t make successful changes with too many voices floating around in your head. This is why “tips” and online videos are not good guides to better scores. (They can be helpful, but only for a specific topic and short term.)

Continuity Is Needed
Continuity is a problem that exists at every level of archery when it comes to coaching. Because changes occur only slowly, our instincts can be to switch coaches more often than is helpful, let alone being the guy who will take advice from anyone on the practice line at his club. Even the best archers in the world can cycle through a number of coaches rapidly when they don’t see immediate results.

If you want to give yourself the best chance of making meaningful changes to your form or execution, you need to stick with the same source of advice for “a while” and allow it to work. I don’t know how long that period is or should be but I also don’t know of anybody who does – that’s the challenge.

Archers develop shots that are unique to them. Yes, they look like everybody else, but they are different. Before I work with a serious archer I want to know what they think their issues are. I want to see them shoot and I want to know what their common misses are. Some archers can effectively shoot in ways that would undermine other archers. We recently had an Olympic men’s individual champion who shot with his string thumb behind his neck and with no sling (and yes, the videos showed him “grabbing the bow”). But if these things, these “form flaws,” are not problems for an archer, would you recommend they change them? Why? (I would not.)

This happens often enough when I work with young archers. These young people often haven’t developed enough muscle to keep their bow arm up through their shot. So their bow arm drops a little when the string is loosed. There is no immediate cure for this (although if their bow is too heavy, I suggest lightening it; young recurve archers do not need side rods or back weights, for example) so I tend to “leave it for later” (although I reinforce that work will have to be done at some point—just not now). If that archer sees another coach, they may see the “dropping of their bow arm” as a major flaw they need to work on . . . right now.

This is why I counsel archers who are seeing me or other coaches short term (something I recommend) that they should always take notes and discuss what was addressed with their “regular” coach to see how it fits into their improvement plan. Even “tips” from others on the practice butts, need to be brought to the regular coach for discussion. One of them may actually help.

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What Is a Good Shot?

In a target archer’s post shot analysis the outcome of each shot (the “hit point”) is compared with a short-term memory replay of the shot just made to see if they match up. If, for example, the replay shows you that you had a minor pluck, which would result in an arrow to the left of center, and you check your hit point and it is to the left of center, then voila, you have matched up cause and effect. You can then include whatever move you focus on to avoid plucking in your next shot.

But, if your mental review of a shot comes up with “ordinary” or “normal” and you look at the target and the arrow is not in the center, can you tell if that is a “good shot” or a “poor shot” with an unknown cause?

Just what is a good shot . . . for you (or your students)?

Is that 9 a “poor shot”? The other arrow is in the X.

Consider a hypothetical experiment. You or a student pins up a pristine target face and proceeds to shoot 100 shots at it all of which were considered good. What do you think the pattern of holes in the target face would be? Generally, we would expect there to be more holes closer to the center than farther away, with the pattern centered on target middle. (If the pattern of holes isn’t centered on target middle, your equipment needs adjusting. Maximum score can only be realized through this centering of your groups on the highest scoring zone of the target face. Tight groups in the 3-ring are not good!)

The question devolves, then, into “how spread out are the holes?” What is normal for expert archers is different from what is normal for intermediate archers. The better the archer, the smaller the group. The ultimate goal for group size is “smaller than the highest scoring ring on the target face.” Indoors, compound archers perform this way in major competitions quite often. This even occurs outdoors from time to time in field archery. In target archery, perfect “distances,” e.g. 30 m, have been shot.

So, archers have to be cognizant of what their normal group sizes are and use those as an indicator of whether their hit points are “normal” or indicating a “mistake.”

Younger archers often go wrong because of expectations. They shoot their first arrow (at a 10-point face) and shoot a 6. They had an expectation of shooting really, really well (often based on nothing more than a desire) and the score of 6 is disappointing, so they feel that something must be wrong and so adjust their sight, for example. This is a mistake. If you do not know what the problem is, or whether there is even a problem at all, the probability of choosing the right “fix” for the problem is near zero. Worse, if the next arrow is also classified as “poor,” which is now more likely because of a mis-set sight, another “fix” might be implemented . . . and another, and another. Said archer ends up “chasing his/her tail,” making corrections for things not wrong, getting farther and farther from a good setup. (Starting from a correct setup, even random changes will move away from the good setup to a poorer one because all paths lead away and few lead back, at least initially.)

A seasoned archer shooting a first arrow 6, might shrug and think “Not a good start,” but quickly get back into his/her shot process, making no changes/corrections/adjustments. If a 6 is normal, it is normal. It can also be disappointing, but that disappointment should not be a motivation.

We have all seen rank beginners (heck, we have all been rank beginners) shoot arrows, be disappointed, then shoot another, then another, etc. making no changes in form or equipment. “Shootin’ and hopin’” is typical of beginners. If they become serious about archery, they need to become more analytical, as described above. They can be taught this and they can learn it. The key to learning how to do this correctly is twofold: they need to know their “normal” group sizes on the various targets they shoot and they need to keep a mental list of their typical mistakes.

The list of typical mistakes, helps identify minor slips while shooting. For example, going back to the archer who had a minor pluck. If the archer’s arrows after an end are grouped nicely in the middle, but one arrow, his/her last arrow shot, is out away from the others to the left, that is an indication of that minor pluck. The shot replay might not have identified that cause, but the result may serve instead. Going back to the target, the archer can apply a correction for the minor pluck (plucks are usually caused by poor alignment at full draw, so a bit of additional attention on getting into good full draw position might be a fix) and if the left arrows don’t show up again, then problem solved.

Archery books and archery instruction often focus 99+% on technique. But intermediate archers on up need also to focus on developing archery skills. Arrows that repeatedly hit to the left of center might be defective internally where the defect cannot be seen. This is why we mark our arrows, so as to be able to identify them, and we make mental notes, such as “Arrow #5 was outside-left of the group.” In subsequent ends, if #5 shows up there again, wise archers rotate it out of the shooting set and save it for inspection later. I put them in my quiver upside down so I do not accidentally pull it out and shoot it again. I also have a tube in my quiver set aside for “extras” and “problem arrows,” and I am very careful when drawing arrows from that tube. When I do so, I carefully inspect it and then transfer it to one of the other tubes to shoot it in order. This is just one of myriad skills that serve target archers on their path to better and better scores.

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You Are Shooting Terribly; Should You Quit?

We have all experienced this if you have competed much at all. Maybe you started well and then your game came apart, or you started poorly and then went south afterward. The thoughts come easily: “Why am I doing this? I am wasting my time. I should just quit and go home.”

Well, should you quit?

I have seen a great many archers do this. It is not unusual at all. I have never heard of an archer being accosted for doing this, accused somehow of poor behavior. They paid their fee. Is there a rule that they must finish? (No, there is not.)

So, there are some real benefits to quitting. There is no sense in trying to deny it. One is simply you don’t shoot any more agonizing bad shots that day. Another might be you don’t have any more embarrassment associated with your poor round. And, hey, there’s a cold beer in the fridge at home.

I can’t imagine that you are shocked that I recommend to my students that they do not quit, unless unable to continue. The reason for this is simple: every round you shoot is an opportunity to learn and build towards something better down the road. When you give up and pack it in mentally for the day, it’s a missed opportunity to improve.

I suggest that my students may want to set a new goal for what remains of the tournament. Obviously they can practice their recovery program. They could also switch to a back-up bow and give it a good test.

What are some other good ideas to support “keeping going?”


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Learning to Control Negative Thoughts

Again inspired by the blog post of a golf coach, this seems to be a new way to deal with negative thoughts. We have all had negative thoughts and, in general they don’t help. So, the question is, how to deal with them? Here are some examples:

“I hate this target (field archers).”

“I am so stupid!”

“Why didn’t I let down?”

“When will we be done?”

Not only do these thoughts not help, they hijack our attentional systems. Questions trigger a reflex known as “instinctive elaboration,” that is when someone asks you a question, the question takes over your brain’s thought process and you feel compelled to answer and make that answer a good one. So, these unhelpful thoughts beget other unhelpful thoughts and pull your attention farther away from your shot process.

We have mentioned any number of ways to deal with poor shots including having a process to do so (called a recovery program), having a post-shot routine that carries you beyond a poor shot outcome, taking the negative thought and re-framing it as a positive thought, etc. but this idea was different and seems worth trying.

Here’s what was recommended if you have a negative thought. Take out your score card and make a mark, a tally mark, and then move on. If there is a spare column on your score card, you can use that or you can put a dot in the inside corners of that shot’s score location. You are not trying to parse the negative thought, merely acknowledge that you had one. Make a tick mark and then move to your next shot. It gives you something to do, while bringing no more attention to the content of the thought.

Over time you will also have a record of these things diminishing . . . or not. This is akin to bringing attention to your diet by writing down everything you eat, but instead of wanting more information in that case, in this case we want less. Make a tick mark and then move to your next shot. Try it, you might like it.

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Monkey See, Monkey Do, Part ?

There is an American idiom that goes “monkey see, monkey do.” This is a common comment coming from parents trying to protect their children from copying their children’s peers who do stupid/dangerous things. The idiom basically claims that simple copying is what animals do (comical animals in the minds of children) even though humans do it more.

I have used this phrase myself when describing the main approach archers and coaches have when transmitted fundamental knowledge about archery. We basically copy what successful archers have done. I have used this story in the past as an example of this and it bears repeating: an archer attended the Vegas shoot, but having a rash or something on his bow hand, he shot using a glove to protect his skin. He did very well and when he showed up the next year to the same shoot, he saw several people wearing gloves on their bow hands. He, of course, did not have such a glove as his malady had been cured.

Since we do not know what the source of archery success is, we tend to copy what the “winners” do. My question is: can’t we do better?

This topic came up with a question regarding why various string releases were not being used in Olympic Recurve competition. Why does no one use a thumb release, for example? Part of this, I am sure, is because most of us do not like being singled out as being different. The exception, however, is if one does very well being different. The best example I can think of was Dick Fosbury, a world-class high jumper. Fosbury was almost a circus show because while everyone (and I mean everyone) performed the high jump belly down (in what was called the Western Roll), Fosbury went over the bar on his back! What a maroon! What an idiot! And then he started winning and winning and winning, eventually becoming a stirring Olympic champion (1968 Mexico) causing people to chant for him as he performed. Now, everyone (and I mean everyone) uses the Fosbury Flop or some slight variant of that.

In the case of the Fosbury flop, university researchers studied it and showed it to be a superior form (as it caused the elevation of the jumper’s center of gravity to be lower, actually going under the bar as the jumper went over).

This kind of confirmation is what is missing in our sport. And it doesn’t need to continue this way. We have an Olympic governing body (USA Archery) and a number of other very strong archery associations. How hard would it be to have those bodies create a research program? There are colleges and universities galore around this country. Those institutions have psychology departments (to study clicker panic/target panic/gold fever), engineering departments (to study bows, arrows, tunings, etc.), physics departments, physiology departments, even some sport science departments. Each of these departments has graduate students and undergraduates looking for research projects. Could we not approach these departments with these questions we want answered? Could we not offer some form of funding to support that research (the Easton Sports Development Foundation has been very forthcoming there)? I mean how hard could it be?

As just one example of such a question I give you string finger pressures. I have read in quite a number of books what fractions of the pressure the three fingers should have on the bow string. These are usually given as a set of percentages, e.g. 30%, 50%, 20% on top, middle, and bottom fingers. So, I ask you. Have these been measured or are they just guesses? <Jeopardy music plays in the background> They are just guesses. As far as I can tell, they have never been measured. (I have tried three times to come up with a scheme for doing so and have not pulled that off, probably because I do not know what I am doing.)

Wouldn’t this be a lovely project for a college science or engineering student? Come up with a tab that reports finger pressures on the string. Have a number of archers use the device to see what we can see. A second level experiment might be to give an elite archer feedback from the device to see if that will help them be more consistent. Another would . . . well, I think you get the idea.

Being somewhat cynical, I suspect that we will see “monkey see, monkey do” for some time yet . . . until some enterprising country who is heavily invested in, say, Olympic archery (Korea? France?) decides to pursue a research program to discern what works from what doesn’t and why. Then we will see a stampede of other countries following suit . . . but only if the experimenters are successful, because we will still be committed to “monkey see, monkey do.”



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Finger Release Basics

I was watching a video about the finger release put out by Merlin Archery (UK). I very much like Merlin Archery; they put out quality goods and quality information. In this video, however, while everything they said I agree with, there is much they left out that would clarify what they were trying to say.

I insist that coaches should know what they are talking about (even though I do not always), so here are a couple of statements/claims made about the release and what there is to back them up.

You should not try to open your fingers to effect the release of the bowstring.
This, of course, is spot on, but the videos “reason” for doing this is that it creates more string path variation, which is true, but it doesn’t say why it does so. The why of this is simple: you aren’t fast enough. Your fingers aren’t

Nope! Doesn’t correct for shooting a right-handed bow left-handed, either.

fast enough. So no matter what you do with your fingers, the string, powered by the bow, still has to push them out of its way back to brace. And, if you try to open your fingers, they become stiff (due to the tension of the tendons trying to make the fingers move) and being stiff they are harder to push out of the way. Newton’s third law is involved (action-reaction) the string is pushing harder on the string, therefore the fingers are pushing harder on the string, which makes for more side-to-side string motion (because of the finger’s orientation of being slightly to the side.

You want to have the release hand move back in the same plane as the arrow moves forward.
Again, this is spot on but the reason why was omitted. If the release is clean the string hand will move away from the bow in the same plane that the arrow is leaving it . . . if . . . if the archer is pulling straight back away from the bow. So, why do we want this? We design the bows so that the string moves back toward the bow in, or very near, the central vertical plane of the bow, that is the bow is designed for maximum energy transfer when the string returns to its brace position in a straight line. In order to get the string to do that you have to pull away from the bow in that same plane. If you are pulling in that direction and release cleanly, your hand should move in the direction the force applied through it was moving: force straight back, motion straight back.

They do mention plucking as a common release flaw, but characterize it as something the archer is doing; it is not. Plucking occurs because the force being applied is not straight back, but straight back and out away from the archer. When the release occurs, the string hand moves back and away from the archer’s face because that is the direction the force is pulling it. The key point here, is that if you are pulling straight back alone, the hand will fly straight back upon the release. If it flies in any other direction, the pull was in the wrong direction. The pulling force determines the direction the hand will move.

A common mistake beginners make is to have a “floating anchor.” The anchor position is an inch or more out in space to the side of the head. Coaches then tell these archers that the hand must be pressed against the face and so, the archer . . . sensibly . . . bends their wrist to make the touch, leaving their elbow out to the side where it was. This can be considered a sure-fire recipe for plucking. It is named “having a flying elbow.” To pull straight back, anatomically, the draw elbow must be straight back (in the same vertical plane; it always comes down to that central plane of the bow).

There are drills . . . and they can be misleading
There are drills for improving the release but they can create more problems that they cure. In the video, they mention the Two Anchor Drill.

The Two Anchor Drill?
In this drill the first anchor is the normal one, the second anchor is the earlobe or similar point and the drill is to get the draw hand to go from Anchor Point #1 to Anchor Point #2 from release to followthrough

This is all well and good, but this is not something that the archer is to do, it is just something that is to happen. Basically, if the archer does everything else correctly, they will hit the two anchor points automatically (the hand moves straight back and as long as the arms are kept up, there is a limit to the range of this motion and it is typically when the fingertips of the draw hand hit the ear). But students are often literal-minded. They start by trying to move their hand that way. (“There is no try!” Shut up, Yoda!) This is quite wrong. Using the “second anchor point” as a recognition factor is fine, but using it as a target for a movement is problematic.

Another common example of this mistake is the instruction for an archer to touch their shoulder with their fingertips at the end of their followthrough. I am convinced this was a made up drill given to an archer to show them the path their release hand needs to take and that archer achieved some success doing this and so other archers copied them. This is a stupid move. (I apologize if you have used this drill before, but please stop.) Here’s why. Reach out and touch your shoulder with that arm’s fingertips. In what direction is the elbow pointing? In my case it is almost straight down. Where do we want the elbow to point? At full draw it is roughly straight back, away from the bow. It is traveling on a somewhat flat arc, slanting slightly downward as the elbow goes to anchor and through the followthrough. To get it to point straight down is to change its path considerably and if this happens right after release, the normal distribution (aka Bell curve) of this in space and time will have part of it happening before the string leaves the fingers on some shots.

I have also seen people shoot a static release (aka dead release) and then flip their hand around to touch their shoulder, the two motions being completely disconnected and hence of no value.

So What Should You Recommend?
The only people I recommend working on their release much are compound people who have been using their release aid incorrectly. For “fingers” archers, I generally focus on the key that their fingers are to be relaxed at the point of release and if they do it correctly, their draw hand will slide straight back alongside their face as a consequence. This establishes the correct cause-effect relationship. I also recommend good full-draw-position, one in which the draw elbow in coplanar with the central vertical plane of the bow, the arrow, the sight aperture, the long rod, etc. (I teach them how to check other archers and they can teach other archers, or their patents, or . . . , to do this check for them.) If their draw hand isn’t reacting correctly, they know it probably has to de with relaxing their string fingers or the positioning of their draw elbow, two places where a corrective action will actually work.



Filed under For All Coaches