Tag Archives: Programs and Classes

Do You Believe In … ?

Do you believe that there is a perfect shooting technique out there? And, if you mastered that technique you would automatically become a very, very good archer? There seems to be a fair number of archers and coaches who seem to believe this.

As a sport, and maybe representative of the wider culture, we also tend to believe in “talent,” that some people are born with a hard-wired ability to do . . . something. Otherwise, how do we explain young people who have abilities far beyond their years. While we do not deny that people have various physical and mental abilities, there is no evidence for this opinion that stands up to scrutiny. I tend to think it is a manifestation of our own ego protection at work. If that athlete just beat the stuffing out of me, it must be because he has a “natural gift” I was not given (aka It was not my fault!). It is harder to admit the truth: the other athlete prepared better, worked harder, or was just at a higher level of performance that you are currently.

This is the pernicious aspect of a belief in talent, if you believe you either have “it” or you don’t, what becomes of striving to get better?

A belief that there is some magical technique, is also akin to a belief in talent. It is not helpful and it is not based upon any evidence. If you believe that there is some essentially correct technique, the farther from which you get the poorer your performance as an archer will be, you are on the wrong path.

Ask yourself:

  • Is there any other sport in which this is the case?
  • If there were such a technique, should we not have found it by now? (People still argue about the “right” and “wrong” ways to do things.)
  • Do champions show a conformity of technique? Since they are performing the best, they must have technique closest to the ideal.

What I Suggest
Al Henderson, one of the U.S.’s greatest coaches, is reported to have told archers that “the key is to do it wrong over and over again exactly the same way.” I do not recommend one deliberately seek out how to “do it wrong,” but I do believe there is a process and it doesn’t involve a quest for “doing it right.”

Technique is Important, Everybody Needs One An archer’s technique is something he/she develops over time. It is never exactly the same as anyone else’s.

The Farther You Are from Your True Technique, the Harder It Is to Learn It If you insist on a form element or an execution step that is suboptimal for you, you will incur a training penalty in that it will take more effort and time to learn. Once this step is learned, though, there is no evidence that it is any less effective than some other step. There could be a score penalty for doing things that are far from optimal, but experience tells us that many archers can succeed having quite unusual form, so this has not been demonstrated in fact.

Learn Your Shot and Then Own It So, a budding serious competitive archer needs to find a shot, specifically his/her shot. Then, through repetition, they have to own that shot. Once they have gotten that far, there is a continuous improvement stage in which minor adjustments are made from time to time: in equipment, execution, and form, but these are small compared to the initial effort to learn and own a shot.

Technique, Like Talent, Is Not Given, It Is Learned The process is one of exploration to find what works and doesn’t work. Clearly what works is something close to what everyone else is doing, hence the idea of “standard” or “textbook” form. But occasionally, what everyone else is doing turns out to be suboptimal. The example of high jumping technique comes to mind. Everyone used to jump looking at the bar. Now everyone jumps looking up away from the bar.

Finally
In an article about David Vincent, an prodigious baseball statistics creator, especially with regard to home runs, an observer commented “Like many so-called stat geeks, Mr. Vincent was obsessed. His computer skills were a necessary entry point, but unless this subject drives you, you won’t spend time doing it.”

Bingo. Young archers who demonstrate talent are driven, by love of the sport, or love of the attention it creates, or. . . . Part of this drive surely is rooted in success. If one tries, and fails repeatedly, enthusiasm rarely survives.

This was so important that an early motto for youth archery programs was “early participation, early success.” What this meant was to get a bow into a prospective archer’s hands, then shooting at large targets set at short distances to ensure some measure of early success. A new archer having to shoot at 20 yd/m or longer will probably do well to hit the ground with his/her arrows and more than likely not be inclined to come back. (“I tried that but I was not good at it.”) Such a “conclusion” comes well before any skill has been achieved that could be the basis for success on “normal” ranges, so “big targets, up close” became the watchword for beginning archery programs.

The phrase “unless this subject drives you, you won’t spend time doing it” is key. Talent is built, not something one possess. This takes time, time on task. Something about the sport has to supply the energy needed to come back for more. Channeling that energy into some ballet-like search for perfect technique is counterproductive.

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I Need Help Finding a Coach

QandA logoThis question came in to the blog:
“Need a coach. Looking for a coach in or near NE Indiana (Ft. Wayne-ish). I’m finding limited results; some Level 3’s and more Level 2’s. What is the best way to vet out a good coach for indoor and outdoor Olympic recurve? I don’t want some body that hunts with a compound bow, just passed a test, and knows little to nothing of proper form and release of a recurve bow. Please help steer me in the right direction.”

* * *

This is a common question which highlights a common problem and I wish I had a handy solution for you.

Since you are aware there are some L2 and L3 coaches in your vicinity I assume you have consulted USA Archery’s Coach Finder function on their web site. Since the recent explosion of interest in target archery, there are many, many more coaches available which is a good thing, but the questions are still: how do you find a good one and how do you find one that has the skills and knowledge to help you, specifically as an Olympic Recurve archer?

Now this is a recurve coach who knows what he is doing, national champion and L3 coach Gabe Querol.

Now this is a recurve coach who knows what he is doing, national champion and L3 coach Gabe Querol.

Obviously you do not want a compound coach, but do realize that the demand for compound coaches is far, far less than for recurve coaches. (Trad coaches are in even less demand.) I came up through the compound ranks and because I took coaching seriously, I spent a great deal of time to learn both Olympic Recurve and Barebow Recurve. Because I have never competed in Olympic recurve, though, I tend to encourage my more advanced students to try other coaches and do, in fact, hook them up with other coaches. It is flattering that after seeing high level coaches, some of these students return to me for coaching but that may be because I am “local” and hence more available to them.

This is part of the problem, the very, very good coaches are quite spread out, so you need to establish your need. Are you an advanced archer or aspiring elite archer? If so, you are going to have to travel some to find the people who can help you. If you are an aspiring advanced archer, i.e. not their yet, you are much more likely to find help locally.

Another option is remote coaching. Recently I have been coaching archers as far away as Portugal, Germany, and Iran. This is done by the archers sending in video clips, often taken at my direction, and me sending comments back. Follow-up discussions are via email or phone. One of my regular students is three states away for the summer and we have been working together this way through the summer. (And for the curious, yes, I do charge for such lessons … but not always.)

How to Find a Good Coach
Step 1 Find a coach.
Step 2 Determine if he/she is a good one.
Both of these steps are somewhat difficult. If, in your case, you think an L3 coach might be helpful and they are local, you have completed Step 1. (The original design of the L2 training program was to create coaches for youth groups, and not to train them for individual coaching. That training has undergone a recent overhaul, but I suspect it is still much the same, so if you are looking for an individual coach (to work with you one-on-one), the L3 training is the first one to address that need.)

The second step is harder. Even highly credentialed and experienced coaches may not be right for you (or you for them!). So, some “sounding out” is needed and you can do much of this via email, text, or over the phone. Do ask your prospective coach about their experience in archery, both as a coach and as a competitor. It is not a common practice but you could ask for references. (I would like to see this become commonplace. Because it is not, us coaches don’t keep references handy and prospective students aren’t offered them.)

Ask if they have had successful students. It is important to consider what you determine as success. If you are on the hunt for championships, you should look for a coach who has coached many champions, no? If you are looking for equipment help, maybe having champions as students is not so important. I currently have a student who aspires to be an Olympian. I have never even attended an Olympic Games, let alone coached an Olympian, so after a while I hooked this student up with a colleague who has coached on the field at an Olympics archery competition. (There is no substitute for experience.) There are not a lot of these coaches available, so I suggest you will not be able to be very “choosy.”

The key aspect of an archer-coach relationship is whether you communicate well. This can only be found out by working together, so if you find a coach acceptable on paper, you need to arrange for a lesson to “give it a try.”

Some coach’s and archer’s personalities clash. Some can’t hear one another. Some fit together “like hand in glove.” To find out about this, listen careful to how this prospective coach says things. Do they make sense to you or do they tend to confuse you? Is there a fit between your needs and your coaches skills? Maybe your largest needs are in equipment or in the mental game, and so is the coach knowledgeable about those topics? Have they had any specific training or just the general training that comes in those rather short coach training classes? Ask lots of questions and see if you get clear responses. As a coach, I am also interviewing you. I want to know as much as you want to know whether we can work together.

Make sure you talk about availability and fees. Does this coach insist upon frequent lessons or occasional? Which do you want? Are his/her fees reasonable? Can you afford them?

A key factor is that the two of you agree upon some common metrics. If you are a compound archer chasing perfect scores on the NFAA five-spot indoor target, you have an obvious metric: the score in that round (and X-counts and …). If you are an Olympic Recurve archer, the metrics are less obvious. (Simon Needham and I are currently writing a series of articles regarding what it takes to get to various scoring milestones in the 72-arrow Ranking Round (500, 550, 600, 650, etc.) so you may have goals that allow that metric to be used.) If you have no idea where you are going, how will you know whether you are making progress?

One of the questions I ask all new students is “Why do you want to be coached?” The younger students often shrug and say something like “to get better.” I follow with “What does that look like to you?” In order for me to help I need to know two things: where do you want to go and where are you now. (It is a little like asking for travel directions.) I can evaluate where you are at now in our first lesson, but I also need to know where you want to go to serve you well. You need to know the same things. So, a good sign is if your prospective coach asks telling questions, questions that a “good coach” wants to know (in your opinion, of course).

It would be helpful if lists of prospective coaches also included statements of their specialties, experience, qualifications, etc. but unfortunately we are just getting started in learning how to be good coaches, so those aren’t available yet.

Let me know if this helps.

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Where’s the Support?

I just got a phone call from a former coach trainee who was putting on his own coach training class and had some questions. I was to glad to help, but once again it was pointed out to me that almost no help is being given to the trainers.

If you can recall your last archery coach training class, how did you feel about the level of organization? The quality of materials? The follow-up? You may or may not have been surprised by what you got as you may have had not very high expectations. But the support provided to your trainer was almost nonexistent. There is a “trainer packet” which provides copies of the training materials, a test key, that sort of thing. Of course, your trainer had to buy the training packet. (We get charged to train volunteers who work for free.) From time to time it also included a handout on how to structure the training and even one time a set of PowerPoint slides to use. (I am unaware of anyone actually using those slides. I reviewed them and then set them aside.) There have never been any helpful teaching tips, suggestions regarding how to deal with “test anxiety” that trainees may suffer from, or other practical tips. No suggestions about how to arrange for lunches or training sites (if done at a shop, I always offered a free training for a shop employee as payment). And in this day when you can’t have a meal in a restaurant without the staff asking you many, many times “How was your meal?” and your receipt having a web address to take a “satisfaction survey,” there is an appalling lack of follow-up to coach trainings in this country. (I don’t know about overseas.) I spent some time with a former Executive Director of USA Archery outlining how the group of coaches was a marketing group to which all kinds of things could be sold (“Coach” windbreakers, whistles, lanyards, wind meters, books, online training courses, etc.) and he excitingly took notes, but what we got and continue to get instead is nada, zip, zilch, <cricket, cricket> aka nothing.

All of these examples of the nonexistent “coaching support system” lead us to realize that we needed to actually create such a thing. This blog is part of that effort. The Archery Coaches Guild (www.archerycoachesguild.org) is also part of such a system. The Guild, by the way, is now officially launched. We have sent out thousands of invites to join (which is now free thanks to a helpful sponsor) and we hope to ramp up activity on the website in the next couple of weeks. Come join us. Nobody else seems inclined to offer archery coaches any kind of support, we might as well do it ourselves!

PS If you are reviewing The Beginner’s Guide to Archery Equipment, you have 10 days left to get your review submitted to get a free copy of the eBook that will be produced. You can’t say I didn’t remind you!

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Serving Recreational Archers to Serve Archery

In our programs we make a distinction between recreational archers and competitive archers. Our definitions of such may differ from yours, though. What makes a competitive archer is not just going to competitions; many recreational archers go to competitions, even at the national level. Competitive archers differ from recreational archers in how they train. Recreational archers, in general, will do little that is not fun to do. Competitive archers, on the other hand, will do quite boring drills and whatnot if they suspect it will improve their performance. This category includes, of course, elite archers but also a great many others who still want to win, even if it is in a small subcategory of archers.

Since we are in the business of training coaches, knowing who your audience necessarily informs what a coach will recommend. We had a friend (still do) who kept asking recreational archers to do work only competitive archers embrace and was disappointed when those tasks were not done. Offering boring tasks to a recreational archer is how we determine if they are becoming competitive archers. If they refuse, it is not an occasion for disappointment, merely an acknowledgement of their recreational archer status. Similarly trying to train a serious competitive archer in the same way you train recreational archers will likewise result in poor results. (How about a balloon shoot today?)

A correspondent recently pointed to his disappointment that the “archery organizations” did so little for recreational archers. I have had similar thoughts myself, but I think it is time we recognize the reality of the situation. As long as archery is a relatively minor sport, it is fitting and normal that the archery organizations are focused upon the highest performing segment of their memberships. It is only that way that the sport can achieve a bigger share of the sports spotlight.

I could be criticized for using too many golf analogies, but here I go again. If you look at the phenomenon which is golf today, there are entire cable channels devoted to the sport, the PGA Tour has sub tours on other continents. Other continents have their own professional golf tours and televised golf events have sponsors which have little to do with golf or nothing at all (Buick, Rolex watches, etc.). The questions I wish to put to those of you who would like a similar standing for archery is: how did golf get this way?

ty-cobb-the-american-golfer 1931If you go back a hundred years, golf in the U.S. was an entirely amateur sport, mostly played by rich people. Playing for money was sneered at. In the 1950’s, professional golf was a backwater of sports with little prize money. Golfers often made more money from side money matches with well-to-do challengers than they made in the tournaments themselves. The advent of televised golf changed things a lot and the dramatics of highly contested matches (Palmer-Nicklaus, etc.) contributed positively. What attracted advertisers was not the golf but the ratings of the golf shows. So, who was watching televised golf? The answer: ordinary golfers. So, golf’s formula was to get a great many people involved in the game, build an audience for advertisers and then cash in.

The Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) was founded in the late 1920’s with two target groups (no, not professional golfers). They targeted coaches and golf course superintendents. Coaches were necessary to teach people to play well enough that they continued in the game and superintendents were necessary to make sure courses existed and then thrived. You needed places to play golf and people to play the game. This was the formula used to build audiences, not a professional tour. The PGA spun off the PGA Tour as a separate entity and while a whole lot of money is involved in the PGA Tour, most of that is handled by the separate tournament organizations and only a few hundred members of the Tour exist. The rest of the PGA, some 29,000 members is dedicated to serving … wait for it … recreational golfers and, well, some competitive but not professional archers (putting on various championship tournaments for amateurs that required very high levels of skill to win).

So, while many in archery drool over the success of professional golf, it is the recreational base which made it all possible.

So, what does this teach us? I think it teaches us that we need to build a strong organization in support of recreational archers, archers who can demand places to shoot in their local municipalities, like public golf courses serve community golfers. The more recreational archers, the greater the demand. So what is needed for this to happen? A great deal, I am afraid. For our part we have published an entire recreational archery curriculum (see here) and have begun a website to support that curriculum and we are creating programs to train and support archery coaches. We need some kind of effort to secure municipal archery ranges but we are not up to that yet. Can we depend upon our archery organizations to do this for us? I don’t think so. Like the PGA did, it takes a much greater effort to “build the base” than it does to promote the pinnacle and I don’t see anybody or any organization stepping up to that task in the way the PGA did.

What do you think?

 

 

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Helping Your Students by Booking Guest Coaches

We are currently providing our coaching venues with a guest coach for lessons. These are individual lessons in our case, but this works equally well with classes.

Having a guest coach for your class or students individually is a wonderful idea. Having such a guest increases the focus of the students being taught and helps break up practice routines that might have gotten a little stale. Having a voice, other than yours, making the same key points as you do, can only help your credibility. And it is fine when you are preparing for the session to ask your guest coach to emphasize certain things.

Finding A Guest Coach So, where do you find these guest coaches? At some point, you will have been coaching archery for a long enough time that you will have become part of a network of coaches. Some of these coaches will be less experienced than you and some will be more experienced that you. All of these folks are potential Guest Coaches for your classes. You do not have to bring in a “star” even though that is a very cool thing to do. You might even trade sessions with another coach just like you, that is you both can be a ‘Special Guest Coach” for one another. This has merit because you get to work with students with whom you are not familiar. You will have to be on your toes to do a good job for them. Make the effort to plan something different for each group with your coaching colleague so that either something very important can be emphasized or something new can be introduced. If for no other reason that a different coach telling the athletes the same thing as their regular coach and thus giving credence to that teaching, this is worthwhile.

Sometimes, you can catch a “star coach.” A couple of years ago, we got Lloyd Brown, the 1996 U.S. Olympic Coach and current Olympic Coach for Great Britain to come out for a week and conduct some lessons. There was a fee for these lessons and we had no trouble booking him up and he even threw in a JOAD class session for no fee. The fees collected paid for his travel expenses and we put him up and fed him, so it all worked out.

So, how do you do this? We had the advantage of knowing Coach Brown but there is a simple process you can follow that often works: ask them. Yes, just email, text, or phone them up and ask them. This is not as simple as it is being made to sound here as many of these coaches are quite busy. Coordinating with their schedules is very important, but you will find that they can be very flexible and come back at you with, “I will be in your area on such-and-such dates, can we work out something then?” We have found that putting a spare bedroom at their disposal and feeding them at the family table can reduce travel expenses a great deal.

If your network doesn’t include a lot of coaches, check out any coach listings you can find. USA Archery maintains a list of many of their coaches, for example. Check out the names of the coaches in your area and see if you recognize any of the names. Do Internet searches on the names of the coaches in your area. Are they actice and involved in archery nearby? Often these lists include contact information. Connect with them to find out if they provide guest coaching services.

Will There Be Fees? Do realize that coaching archery is not a charity function (although it may feel like that from time to time). We assume that fees will be charged. Our current guest coach is charging $65/hr for adults and $50/hr for youths 18 and under. These are quite reasonable in our area. Coaches of lesser resume will generally be charging less. (we recommend that fees be adjusted to the loacl economy. If the area is not so rich, we recommend reduced fees. If affluent, well. . . .) One of our most gratifying guest coaching gigs occurred when we broached the idea with our JOAD program’s parents and one of them offered air fare vouchers he had accumulated and another offered room and board. A third set of parents offered to pick him up at the airport (45 minutes away) and take him back and drive him around in the interim. If you have a large program, you may experience the same generosity from your archery parents.

Preparing for Your Sessions If you book a guest coach, there is some preparation involved. If individual lessons are involved, you need to inform people of their availability and sign up takers for slots in your schedule. Make sure you tell people where and when and what the fees are and how they can pay for the fees (cash, check, PayPal, etc.). We provide our Guest Coach a schedule, all addresses, directions, etc. ahead of time if we can.

If the Guest Coach is coming to take your class(es), make sure that your students know that ahead of time and ask them to prepare. The simplest thing to ask them to do is to prepare a list of things they are working on. (Our lists are always a minimum of at least three things.) You might also ask them to prepare questions they could ask the coach. This is why a handout/flyer is a good thing for this event as you can provide some background on your guest coach, which can lead to good questions being asked.

What’s In It For You? We ask this question a lot. What is in this for you? This sounds like it is more work than doing your class or lessons yourself, and you are right about that. But if you manage to get a really good coach to come give lessons, this can turn out to be a master class in coaching for you! By all means, sit nearby and observe your Guest Coach working. (We recommend you don’t make comments unless asked.) Watching a master coach go about his or her business can provide a great deal of inspiration and ideas for you to pursue in your coaching. Take a notebook.

So, this is not all about “them,” this is also about “you” and how you become a better coach.

 

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Why Don’t Some Students Listen?

QandA logoOne of my favorite coach trainees sent in the following concern (he is currently coaching a college archery team):

“A common problem I’m noticing is that 75% of my students don’t seem to take archery seriously. For example, half of my students don’t come to practice regularly. For those that do come to practice, if I tell someone to do X, they will do it and say they understand it. But then on the following week, they’ve completely forgotten to continue doing X, or they have restarted making the mistake that I taught them to prevent. Others say ‘Well I know you told me to do this, but I just don’t feel like doing it.’”

“Is this normal with teaching? I have expectations that aren’t being met because people don’t regularly come to practice or follow instruction.”

To which I responded: Often our mental construct of coaching is from having observed highly competitive sports in which team members come close to killing themselves to “make the team” and then work their asses off just to stay on it, let alone play much. (I was an archetype for this kind of athlete.)

Actually, your students exemplify the current state of education as a whole, not just archery. So many students have gotten adequate grades/moderate success without any struggle that they have become very dilettantish (not their fault, but their problem).

Because of this we distinguish two groups of archery students: Recreational and Competitive. Our definitions (just ours) are Recreational Archers are in it for social reasons; they are characterized as not doing anything that is not fun. Competitive Archers are training to learn how to win/become better. They are characterized as those who practice and who will do dull drills to get better. Both types can be seen at any archery competition, so “attending a competition” is not a criterion either way.

Add to this scheme the proverb that “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

I preserve my sanity through the following rule: I will work for a student only as hard as they work for themselves.

So, recognize that some team members are there only for the fun of flinging arrows and for socializing with other team members and some are there to get better. I spend the bulk of my time with the latter, but don’t neglect the others because you do not know whether or when the “switch will flip” and they become Competitive Archers. The usual scenario for youngsters is they are encouraged to attend (or dragged to) a competition and they do surprisingly well. Then they have the thought, “If I tried harder I think I could get good at this” or “win” or some such.

You might want to try to arrange a “dual meet” competition with another archery club as an introduction to competition. You might flip some of your team’s switches.

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What I Learned from ATA’s Archery Participation Survey

In a previous post I referred you to what in my knowledge is the first scientific study of participation in our sport. Here’s the link again if you missed it—www.archerytrade.org/uploads/documents/ATA_Participation_2013_Report_FINAL.pdf. Thanks to the Archery Trade Association for making the report public.

Prior Collective Wisdom

Before I get into comments about this study, here is my take on what the collective wisdom of archery folks was regarding the numbers of archers and bowhunters in this country. Estimates of the numbers of bowhunters were in the 3-3.5 million range with target archers probably greater in number but that being only because of large numbers of kids shooting arrows in summer camp (and that those kids notoriously didn’t continue in the sport). The actual number of adult target archers was considered to be a very small fraction of the number of bowhunters. The number of registered members of all of the target archery associations combined is less than 50,000 and many of those are duplicates as many of us belong to more than one such organization.

Archery manufacturers are focused primarily on bowhunters in this country as they say that there isn’t much money to be made selling to target archers. Contrary to that stance, my personal assessment (an informal one) is that individual target archers buy more archery equipment and more expensive archery equipment than do bowhunters. Archery manufacturers don’t sell clothing, deer stands, scents, food, cook stoves, calls, blinds, hunting licenses/permits, travel, lodging, etc. which makes up a great deal of the bowhunting market. Cabela’s, by the way, makes most of its profits on clothing.

In support of the claim that archery equipment of target archers tends to be higher end than that of bowhunters, consider how many X10s, Nano Pros, and the like are sold and what they cost compared to hunting shafts. About the only area of archery equipment that bowhunters out spend target archers is in arrow points. Target archers favor more expensive optics, bows, shafts, etc. You don’t see many bowhunters buying computer programs and apps to determine their sight marks, nor do you see them buying $350 sights with $150 scopes or $300 release aids, for example. (Think about all of the handheld releases Carter Enterprises sells in target colors. Those aren’t being sold for bowhunting.

The Survey

Interestingly, the survey only counted adults. Of the kids (under 18) that participate in archery, I suspect that the vast majority are target archers only but that is just a guess.

The survey firm conducted 8335 phone interviews, weighted according to all of the appropriate parameters. All surveyed were adults (in 2012, 23.5% of us were under 18 years old and 76.5 were older, and since the population was 314 million people then, that works out to there being 240 million adults in 2012); 8% of all surveyed participated in archery (69% male, 31% female, and younger than the average adult, tending to be more rural than urban, more concentrated in the Midwest) which works out to 19 million archers in 2012not counting kids! Wow!

4.4% of the 8% were “target archery only” participants (55%, 10.5 million)

0.8% of the 8% were “bowhunting only” participants (10%, 1.92 million)

2.8% of the 8% were “target archery and bowhunting” participants (35%, 6.7 million)

If my math is right, that means that 3.6% of those surveyed had an bowhunting archery experience in the survey year while 7.2% had a target archery experience. Shockingly, there are more target archers than bowhunters!

Shockingly, there are more target archers than bowhunters!

With regard to equipment, 75% of those surveyed used compound bows (no surprise) but in response to the question “Where did you shoot a bow and arrow in 2012?”

72% said “back yard, private land, friends place” and

16% said “Private club or facility.”

Another really telling question was: “What influenced you to become involved in archery?”

46% responded “A relative or family member”

17% said “A friend”

Other than “Scouts” all of the usual culprits (NASP, JOAD, camp, school, after school programs) accounted for 1% or less of the reasons people got involved. In fact, all of the “usual culprits” added up to a mere 7% of the total.

Comments

Clearly we need to a better job of marketing our sport in that all of our proactive efforts (fun shoots at county fairs and sporting gatherings, kids’ programs, school programs, etc.) only account for 7% of the people in archery now (of course, that may be changing).

It also seems it is in the best interests of archery equipment manufacturers to promote target archery significantly more than they have in the past. If I am right that a new target archer is worth more in sales than a new bowhunter, there are significant amounts of money to be made selling to target archers.

A little research on the internet showed that 11 million kids every summer attend summer camps (American Camp Association/ACA estimate). I didn’t pay for the ACA’s data report but they have published the facts that over half of their camps are “resident” camps and that in those camps, archery was the third most popular activity. So, as a rough estimate, I would say that 4-6 million kids experience archery in camps every year. I also happen to know that archery youth groups don’t have populations anywhere near that big so I suspect that one of the biggest problems is program accessibility. If every one of those kids who got jazzed on archery at summer camp and on their way home drove right by a convenient archery facility, I can’t imagine that they would not be clamoring to “check it out.” My experience is that our archery clubs and ranges might as well be camouflaged, they are so well hidden.

What do you think?

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Tab or Glove?

Beginners often start archery without using either a tab or a glove and this is fine because if their bow’s draw weight is quite low, which it should be, the pressure on the fingers is quite low, so the chance of harm to the archer is also quite low. Our rule of thumb for beginners is we will give out a tab if an archer complains of finger soreness (or they just want one).

To be clear, the reason to use “finger protection,” that is tabs or shooting gloves, is not just to protect the fingers from the pressure of the bowstring. It also provides a slicker surface for the string to slide off of and helps the fingers act together, in concert, when coming off of the string.basic tab

We strongly recommend tabs for beginners rather than shooting gloves because the fingers of a shooting glove are not tied together and can act independently. Having the string fingers linked helps them come of the string as a unit, as I say “as a chord and not an arpeggio.” This doesn’t mean they can’t use a glove if they have one, it just means that they may encounter less success with one. Since the bows beginners use are light-drawing, there is little tension on the string, which means the string fingers can distort the shape of the string quite easily. This is a source of inaccuracy. If the string fingers act together, rather than as three separate fingers, this “sting torque” is minimized.

shooting glove

Good archery tabs have a fairly sturdy and stiff body that assists in keeping one’s fingers together while on the string. Simple tabs are often just one thickness of leather (or, ew, synthetic leather) and don’t perform this function well at all. Traditional archers often prefer such a tab, but they have practiced long and hard to make sure it does not handicap them.

Olympic Recurve archers often use a tab with a metal plate for a body, which shows you how important they think that stiffness is. We recommend the Wilson Brothers Black Widow Tab for a number of reasons. It comes in a wide variety of sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL) to fit archers hands. (A tab that is too small or too large is more trouble than it is worth.) It is adjustable (it has a Velcro band that fits one’s middle finger) and it is inexpensive, costing typically about $10. Fancy tabs run from $30-75.

Tabs need to be broken in and if you or your archers are really competitive, we recommend you buy two and alternate their use. In this manner, if you lose your tab, you have a spare. Or if you are shooting in the rain, you can switch to a dry tab after a while. If your “back up tab” is not broken it, it will perform quite differently from its broken in predecessor, which is why we suggest you alternate using the two. Each will have about the same amount of wear.

Tabs can also be adjusted by trimming away excess material with scissors or a very sharp knife. If your hand is “between sizes” but the next larger size and trim it down.

The Black Widow Tab

The Black Widow Tab

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What Age to Start?

QandA logo

I just got an email from Paulette Krelman asking “Could you please let me know what is the age recommeded for a child (boy) to start with archery?” This question comes up very, very often because, well, how would a parent know? Here’s the answer.

The rule of thumb for starting kids in archery is the age of eight. This involves the child having not just the physical maturity to handle the activity but also the emotional and social maturity to be in a group and to be able to follow safety rules.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having said that we know of a child who started shooting at the age of two (really). But this was a case of the child having archer parents. So there are kids who arile they shoot. Since this is not possible in a group class setting, you may want to attend such a class and ask the instructor, either before or after the class, whether your child is “ready.” The instructor may have your child sit in on a class session or may ask them some questions or may try teaching them how to shoot or some combination of these, but they are likely to spend only a few minutes making the assessment. There is no formal process for doing this, so their estimate is just a estimate, but at least it is an informed one.

 

I wrote a book for parents of archers or potential archers covering such questions (and more, like how do you know you have a good class/instructor, what about buying equipment, etc.) and I recommend it to you (A Parent’s Guide to Archery). It is available on Amazon.com.

APGTA Cover (color)

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Working with Adult Beginners

Claude and StudentAn interesting thing happened about a year and a half ago. The Chicago Archery Center put out a Groupon offer for a set of four archery lessons at their center. A whopping 1400 people bought a Groupon! But that’s not the most fascinating thing; that was that the vast majority of those purchasers of archery lessons were young . . . adults. As you are aware, archery is undergoing one of its typical growth spurts, probably fueled by popular movies, like Brave, The Avengers, and The Hunger Games and by television shows like Arrow. Many of these archery newbies are adults. Working with adults is different from working with kids. Let’s explore this.

Are Adult Beginners Different?
We teach all beginners in much the same way but we see three different groups, each of which have to be addressed at least somewhat differently: pre-pubescent youths, post-pubescent youths, and adults. Pre-pubescent youths do not have much muscular development, so the lightest weight equipment is used and “fun” is emphasized over everything but safety. These are pre-teens who usually looking at archery for recreation and not as a competitive sport (but there are exceptions, of course). Post-pubescent youths have more muscular bodies but are often growing rapidly, so much attention must be paid to their equipment so that it fits them, especially if they are getting serious and purchasing their own equipment. Allowances for growth must be made especially in arrow selection. (We go over this in detail in our bowfitting seminar.) Adults, on the other hand, do not have growing up to deal with, but we still start them with lighter weight equipment because archery form, posture, etc. is best learned with as little stress as possible. Once proper posture and technique is learned, draw weight can be increased fairly rapidly, as long as it does not degrade an archer’s form and execution.

How We Treat Adults Differently
Adults have a number of traits archery coaches to be cognizant of; here are a few:

Adults Can Overpower Light Weight Equipment By “Light Weight” we mean bows with low draw weights. Adults can overpower the equipment trying to force it to do what they want rather than learning how to get the equipment to show them how it operates best. The first job in learning to shoot well is learning how to relax. Youths often don’t have the option of muscling their bows into a particular behavior, so they can often learn to relax quickly. Some adults struggle with this. Constant reinforcement regarding relaxation is needed.

Adults are Self-Conscious About Appearing Incompetent One of our coaches went to a family reunion and took some bows, arrows, and a target to teach the kids how to shoot. One particular young lady was shooting very well in short order and this was pointed out to her parents and grandparents. When Dad and Granddad were coaxed into giving it a try within two arrows they were competing with one another and their quite young daughter/granddaughter to see who could score better! (Of course, scoring was not being emphasized.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs adults we want to appear to be at least competent and especially do not want to appear to be foolish. This is akin to teenagers wanting to look “cool” and it is as big a handicap. Our best recommendation is to encourage adults to channel their “inner child” (ask them to revert to being a 12-year old again) and just enjoy what they are doing. Encourage them to avoid thinking about how they might look to bystanders. (Most of the bystanders are other beginning archers in any case.)

Adults Control Their Own Money No parent wants some archery coach getting their kid jacked up about all of the expensive equipment they will need to progress in their sport. So, we make every effort to educate the parents and involve them whenever we make a recommendation regarding a purchase of any kind (organization dues, competition fees, equipment, etc.). With adults, you generally control your own purse-strings, so we talk to you directly.

It is perfectly acceptable for them to use your “program equipment,” as long as all they want to do is shoot arrows for fun. But once they address archery as an endeavor deeper than that, they need their own equipment. Usually the thought comes to them “if I did a little work at this I could get pretty good” or they get home and find that shooting arrows has made all of your “problems” disappear for a while. (Not only does it do that but their problems come back to them in the order of their importance, at least to their subconscious minds anyway.)

In order not to be limited in what they do, they need a bow of the right size, weight, and especially draw weight and draw length. The last two are the two pillars of archery performance and without them, not much can be done. Program equipment has all been chosen to be “enough:” that is long enough (arrows), light enough (in draw weight), light enough (in physical weight), but it can’t possibly be expected to fit every participant and it does not.

If they become interested in purchasing them own equipment, our guiding principle is that folks should buy equipment that matches their level of expertise. Experts should buy top-of-the line gear, intermediate archers should buy intermediate-level equipment and beginners need to buy beginning level equipment. This does not mean all beginners who want a compound bow need to get a Genesis, or other zero-letoff bow, a bow with letoff is good to have, but just not a really expensive one. Not only is the higher end equipment harder to afford, it is harder to use, that is it requires a higher level of expertise to use it to effect. If you want to become more expert in making equipment recommendations we teach a seminar for you in bow and arrow fitting and even if you haven’t taken the course, you may be able to recommend equipment to your adult students that will fit them and their recreation budgets, too. As always, limit yourself to your own competence. If you don’t know much about compound bows, tell your student that they will be better served going to a local shop. Do tell them that they are looking for “beginner level” equipment,” though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdults Often Want Explanations Kids are usually told they need to just do what adults tell them to, so often we give suggestions and they just go about trying. Adults, on the other hand, are used to making their own decisions. Consequently you will need to supply explanations if asked. We recommend you wait until asked for an explanation because our definition of boring is “an answer to a question you didn’t have.” Archery class is supposed to be fun.

We also insist that “the athlete is in charge” in that unless there is a safety violation involved, they pretty much get to do what they please (in the context of the class. Archery is an individual sport and we can’t promote your independent excellence as an archer but denying you the right to make your own choices. If a student insist on drawing his bow with a two finger grip on the strip, please do tell them that we recommend three fingers on the string (to avoid damage to the nerves in the fingers from the pressure of the string) but if they insist, it is their sport and they can do what they want.

So, we encourage adults to ask away . . . but they need to recognize that in a class setting you have many people to pay attention to and you may have to ask them to hold their questions while you attend to one of your other charges. You are not being rude; you are doing what we want you to do. Just monitoring the safety of all participants, our #1 goal, requires a great deal of your attention.

If they are taking pleasure from their excursion into archery, one of our staff has written a book for adult beginners: “Shooting Arrows: Archery for Adult Beginners.” Recommend it to those who want such a thing.

Shooting Arrows Cover v4 (small)

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