Tag Archives: Programs and Classes

Your Students Need a Club or, Better, a Team

If you have an up and coming archer, one of the best things you can do is get him/her on a team; the better the team, the better the results.

Archery is an individual sport, no? One can learn it alone, one doesn’t need other people. All true, but those “other people” can be valuable assets in the development of any archer. A member of the team who is maybe older, but certainly better can be learned from. Archers of the same ability can push your student to excel or at least keep up. Others can provide peer pressure to come to practice and go to competitions. Other archers have gear your archer may want to try.

When we started our first youth program, it was primarily getting newbies interested in the sport and learning a bit of archery. But soon competitions became a topic of discussion and our choices were to either approach them laissez-faire or embrace them. We decided to embrace them and created a competitive team. This team was not something one could sign up for. It was by invitation only and there were conditions for participation. Those conditions involved attending practices, possessing one’s own equipment, and attending and participating in a minimum number of competitions. The existence of the team was a major item of interest for kids coming through the general program and a goal for some.

When “the team” decided to attend an event, it also tended to sweep everyone together and seep them along. While we provided a very capable coach, neither he nor we provided transportation or lodging, etc. For that we enrolled the parents and the parents were wonderful chaperoning and encouraging the kids.

Archery is a social sport and kids all tend to be conformists. If the best archer on the team is practicing three times a week instead of just two, others will copy them. (Negatives can also be reinforced but our experience is that those are more rare than the positives reinforced.)

We had a case in which an archery mom begged us to let her child participate on the team. The child in question had medical issues that led to social behaviors that made his participation problematic. We put the question of his participation to the members of the current team and they accepted him, but with the proviso that if he didn’t behave he was out. And then they supported him in his team participation. I was, and still am, in awe of the generosity and maturity shown by this group of kids. They not only backed up their generosity but they called their new teammate on the carpet when he started back sliding. The mom of that student credited her son’s participation with a major improvement in his behavior.

So, the benefits to participating on a team are not always obvious or even visible, but with regard to the archery alone I think they are way more positive than negative. And just as parents want to get their children into good schools, if they are serious archers, getting them onto good teams/into good programs is also key.

Those parents and you may need to do some research to identify the really good programs in your vicinity. I hope you have some choice. As archery grows there should be more and more options available to serious competitive archers.


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What’s the Best Way to Start Beginners?

To begin with I am not at all sure that there is a best way to start beginners but it seems like a conversation we should have fairly often, if for no other reason but for newer coaches to hear the thinking of more experienced coaches and more

experienced coaches to review their own procedures.

And, since I started with a caveat, here’s another: the answer to this question really depends upon the goal of the training. For example, when the Koreans started sharing how they trained such a large cadre of world-class archery champions, people here in the U.S. were scurrying around wondering how we could adopt their practices. This was mistaken because there is a big difference in audiences of such trainings. There is a big difference between “beginning archers” in Korea and “beginning archers” in the U.S. In Korea they are training champion archers. There is no recreational archery per se in Korea, so their trainings are basically Olympic Development Training Programs. In the U.S., the vast majority of children introduced to archery are participating in a recreation program, a summer camp, scouting, or some other such recreational activity.

And as we have claimed quite a bit: training a serious competitive archer is quite different from training a recreational archer. Our definition of a recreational archer is one who is motivated solely by having fun. Since the number of these here is the U.S. massively outnumber the few who start training to become winners from the get-go, the focus of this article will be upon beginning recreational archers.

What Do We Do Now?
I wish I knew the answer to this question. I have a rough idea as I have worked with and taught myriad camp and recreational archery instructors, Girl and Boy Scout instructors, etc.

Our goals for such programs and sessions are that the participants: #1 Be safe!, #2 Have fun!, and #3 Maybe learn something about archery. This, I hope is obvious, but running a safe program is at its root a societal obligation, having fun is a high goal because as recreational archers if they do not have fun, they aren’t coming back, and teaching them archery has to take a back seat to #1 and #2 therefore.

My take on the components of the beginner experience are (in no order): bows they can handle, arrows that are too long, target faces that are too big at distances that are too close, also anchors are high to compensate for such an environment. Let me address each of these in turn.

Bows They Can Handle In order for beginners, with skills that are unknown, to benefit from instruction, they need to be able to shoot arrows in some semblance of good form. So the bows are light drawing, they are also light weight (youths don’t develop the necessary muscles to hold up a heavy bow until late adolescence), and the bows cannot be too long as they are hard to manipulate by smaller young ones.

To us this means recurve bows with plastic or wooden handles. We prefer three-piece bows because of the cost factors and the ability to swap parts around as they get broken, which are economic factors, not teaching factors. The Genesis bows are wonderful but only for older stronger beginners. The youngest kids struggle to hold them up.

What we see is that in compound country, compound bows abound in youth programs and in recurve country, recurve bows abound. Pleasing parents and kids by providing bows like they see around and about is for marketing purposes, not teaching. I would love to see the Genesis bow have a plastic riser option, creating a lightweight compound bow, perfect for starting beginners.

Arrows that Are Too Long This is a safety requirement, an absolute one. Beginners have no control over their draw lengths and recurve bows and Genesis compounds have no limitations on draw length built in (at least within the drawing ability of a youth). Arrows that are the “right length” can easily be drawn off of the bow by a child drawing to their ear (they will experiment; it doesn’t matter what you say).

Target Faces that Are Too Big at Distances that are Too Close Often this means a 122cm / 4 ft target face at five to ten paces of distance. This has two justifications. One is safety. That big of a target butt that close is an effective arrow stop. Arrows that miss the target can cause damage to the surroundings and can be damaged when they hit something not designed to receive the arrows. These are pragmatic reasons. Beginners want to hit the target. When they do so, it encourages them to hit it again, but closer to the center. This is the teaching purpose. This was summarized with the phrase “Early participation, early success.” Which meant get them shooting quickly and hitting the target quickly.

Anchors Are High A high anchor is taught because it elevates the rear end of the arrow, making high misses less likely (striking the ground in front of the target is a lesser sin than flying over the top). The common claim is that it is easier to teach . . . it is not. Nor is it easier to learn or easier do. (I wish people would stop repeating these claims.) It is just a factor that makes hitting a very close target more likely.

Other Things We started out in our programs requiring an arm guard and a finger tab. We ended up requiring just an arm guard. This is because an affordable tab for youths that would fit and not get in the way has not been invented yet. For our adult programs, we provided a range of sizes of soft tabs (Wilson Brothers Black Widow tabs being our favorite).

We also didn’t provide quivers to beginners and usually pulled their arrows for them for the first lesson or two. After that we taught arrow pulling and arrow carrying (points in hand, one hand only) but kept the arrows on the shooting line. This was for safety as we wanted the only time the beginner, a bow, and an arrow to come together would be on the shooting line. Secondarily this allowed more than one archer to share a set of arrows.

How We Did It . . . In Addition
At the first session of a series, or a beginners one-off class, we had a procedure we called The First Three Arrows. We took each beginner, child or adult, and walked them through the process of shooting an arrow. (This was much like what we did at fun shoots.) By the third arrow we hoped that they could get through the process on their own. If so, we taught them all how to shoot on a line with others, including whistle commands, and they were off and shooting. (There was a lot of reinforcement . . . a lot . . . this is always the case and will never be not the case, so reinforce away!)

What we were really doing was seeing whether this person could follow directions. We didn’t know this person and had no knowledge of their abilities, so this is the equivalent of an interview. During the first three arrows we give over a dozen instructions and we are seeing whether the student-archer can follow such directions. Children who were too unfocussed or adolescents and adults who had just gone off of their meds, were routed over to another station, where another coach would walk them through the process again. Some passed at that point but rarely, but it did happen, some youths were deemed too young (not the real reason) or whatever to participate. (We refunded their class fees.) In a class of 20 or so beginners, we would get 0-3 that had to go through a second loop of The First three Arrows to be allowed to shoot on the line.

You need extra coaches to do this, but only for the first class in a series (of six or eight lessons) and we almost never had problems scraping up those coaches. We also avoid many problems that could have been serious.

All of the above is a viable way to start beginners . . . but, I assume, not the only way. I would love to hear from you about other ways to do this. Let’s start a conversation.

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Kids! Teach Your Parents Well!

Back when we were running youth archery programs a regular staple of our programs was a “Parent’s Day” in which the parents/guardians got to shoot some arrows. A key element of these sessions was, if at all possible, to have the kids teach their parents.

This was a deliberate attempt at some role reversal (usually it is the parents teaching the kids) but also it was part of our recognition that archery was one of the few sports that kids, especially teenagers (Gasp!), willingly did with their parents. If the parents could get hooked on archery, there would be a new born family activity. My tag line to the parents was “We can’t let the kids have all of the fun.”

And, of course, teaching something is a sure way to reinforce the fundamentals in the kids.

Sometimes this practice bore strange fruit. There was a lovely family that was coming to our 4-H archery Saturdays. Claudia, my partner, taught the two boys their first arrows and they loved the sport. Soon, both parents were shooting also. After about a year or so of shooting, the “mom” of the family was approached by a member of our club suggesting to her that if she were to switch to Recurve Barebow, she had a chance of making a national team. Less than a year later she was in Croatia representing the U.S. in the World Field Championships. Just a few years later, she was World Barebow (Field) Champion. Not bad for a mother of two, pushing 50 years old.

One of the boys went on to become a collegiate archer and both “boys” are now fabulously well employed and successful. This could be one of those “see what you get of you practice” stories but it is rather a “you never know what might happen” stories.

Our intention then as now was to encourage a whole family to participate in our sport. We think it helps the sport . . . and the families, and we encourage you to do the same.

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Professionalizing Archery Coaching

I see quite a few efforts to professionalize archery coaching. Personally I have undertaken to create a professional literature for archery coaches, for example (see the Watching Arrows Fly Coaching Library on Amazon.com). I am all for that but there are some wrinkles that need to be ironed out. USA Archery is foremost in coach development in the U.S. (which is not much of a brag as there is little to no competition from the other archery organizations).

USAA requires their coaches to take and pass the SafeSport program training (I did and did just before I resigned my position as a USAA coach). They are now advocating archery coaches take a Mental Management course (this was long overdue) and they are currently flogging TrueSport, an organization that has the mission of changing the culture of youth sport by providing powerful education tools to coaches.

So, the “requirements” for being a coach and staying certified are going up. But is that all there is to professionalization? What about support services? Apparently USA Archery is finally offering web site hosting for JOAD programs, even though most JOAD programs already have a web site and probably are loathe to change it over. Other than that . . . there is not much.

What about remuneration? It is interesting that USA Archery judges get reimbursed for their expenses (albeit only slightly so) but their coaches get nada, well, unless you are the national coach.

JOAD coaches get nothing. No pay, no recognition, and almost no support. I suggest that JOAD coaches that make it through a calendar year at the helm of a JOAD program should have their membership fees waived for the subsequent year. I think JOAD coaches should have patches available: one to identify them as a JOAD coach, and others to indicate years of service (5-year patch, 10-year patch, etc.). I think JOAD coaches should get a letter thanking them for all they have done over the past year every damned year. I think . . . probably too much.

If you want people to act like professionals, shouldn’t they be treated like professionals?


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New Blind Archery Coaching Course Available

British Blind Sport is offering an online course for coaches (link below). I looked all over their pitch and couldn’t find what they were charging. (When we buy retail we expect there to be a price tag prominently displayed on everything, no?)

Here is a bit from the pitch “Coaching People with Visual Impairments is packed full of helpful tips, practical solutions and vibrant videos that will increase coaches’ knowledge, assurance and skills of coaching participants with VI, ultimately, making their practice more inclusive. The course is suitable for anyone coaching and is fully accessible to VI learners.”

If you take the course, let me know I will probably ask you to write a review for Archery Focus, but you will get paid for that review.

Here’s the link: https://www.ukcoaching.org/courses/learn-at-home/coaching-people-with-a-visual-impairment


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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.

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?




Filed under For All Coaches

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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Filed under For AER Coaches