Tag Archives: Strategies

Paralysis by Analysis

You may know I use golf coaching and golf training literature as templates for their archery equivalents. Golf and archery, field archery especially, have many commonalities. And the world of archery is far behind golf in its coaching literature and supports.

One of the coaching commonalities seems to be that we have dissected our motions into tiny little bits and then exposed those bits to the wrong audience. Dissecting an archery shot into tiny bits for analysis is perfectly suitable, in fact desirable, for coaches. It is a source of misery and confusion for archers. We can see this most clearly in golf.

Note that the archers arms are pointing up and to the left, while the club is pointing to the right. The angle thus created is referred to as “lag.”

I just saw an advertisement for a book entitled “The Release: Golf’s Moment of Truth” by Jim Hardy. In a golf swing the “release” refers to the practice of releasing the wrist cock created by the golfer on the back swing. At address a golfer’s club shaft is aligned with his/her arms. When the club is swung back overhead, the wrists “cock” the club so the club head is farther back than the golfer’s hands. Once the downswing has begun, the club head lags behind the golfer’s hands, substantially, and golfer’s are taught to preserve this “lag” until the last possible moment, because when this “lag” is released, a great whipping action is created, delivering more force to the golf ball, causing it to fly farther (if struck correctly). This releasing of the “lag” is called, most sensibly, “the release.”

All of this occurs in a small fraction of a second, of course, so this information is of no use to a golfer—coaches yes, golfers no. The authors have apparently created a system described by the acronyms LOP and RIT to help golfers break this tiny moment in time into even smaller units. LOP stands for “Left arm, Outward, Pull” while RIT stands for “Right arm, Inward, Throw” apparently a recipe for a good release of the lag in a swing.

All of this information may be good information for coaches, but in a golfer’s mind, they can only lead to confusion.

If you coach Olympic Recurve archers I strongly recommend you read this book. I recommend you don’t recommend this to your students.

We do the same in archery. I have found USA Archery National Coach Kisik Lee’s two books fascinating (and am eagerly awaiting the promised third book on coaching) … but I never recommend them to archers. Why? They contain too much information they can do nothing about. I cringe when I hear archer’s talking about LAN2, scapulae, 60:40 weight distributions, and the distribution of finger pressures on the string. An archer is looking for subconscious competence. When he/she is shooting, there are no conscious thoughts attached to making the actual shot. They are consciously aware of shooting, but they are not thinking about shooting, certainly they cannot be thinking about the details of making the shot. That leads to “paralysis by analysis.” This term was invented around 1956 (I think) but shows up in works going back to Aesop’s fables. In general it refers to overthinking a problem.

A coaches job is to take concrete knowledge (and even hunches) and turn them into actionable things archers can do. Archers then judge those actions by how they feel and how they affect their results. Supplying the background information is usually a mistake. (Some archers, typical those described as being Type As, want their coaches to demonstrate this knowledge, but usually just to check to make sure the coach knows whereof he/she speaks, not because they need that information.)

In golf there are golfers tying themselves in knots trying to increase their smash factors, change their launch trajectories, decrease or increase their spin rates, and create more lag and a better release. If the golfer is a professional, literally steeped in golf for a living, this might be helpful. For an amateur, this is the road to paralysis by analysis. Same is true in archery.

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More on Coaching Males and Females: Same or Differently

A reader sent the following link (http://www.asep.com/news/ShowArticle.cfm?ID=260) for an interesting article on this topic. I don’t know if it is behind a pay wall or not as I am a “member” so to speak of the organization. So, let me know if you can’t get to it.

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Barebow Arrow Considerations, Part 2

Tuning for a Single Distance

Target archery is becoming less interesting. In field archery, one has to contend with many different shooting distances, different footings, different directions (into the sun, away from the sun, into and out of shade, etc.) and different shooting angles (uphill, downhill, sidehill, etc.). Target archery was a contrast to field archery in that the shooting was on a flat field, at just a few distances and the angle of the sun only changed as the sun moved through the sky. Most rounds had three or four distances to contend with. But, now, as Olympic archery is being driven by telegenicity (make the game simpler so viewers can understand) and dragging the rest of the target archery community with it, competitions have devolved to single distance contests(!).

This came to my attention as I was helping a student prepare for our USAA national championships and he stated that Barebow Recurve was to be contested at 50 meters … only. That couldn’t be right, I thought, so I looked it up. Yep. 50 m, and only 50 m. <Sigh> This certainly doesn’t make things more interesting for the archer.

Preparing for a Single Distance Shoot
Obviously most indoor target competitions are single distance shoots, but outdoors was typically more varied. What this means in terms of preparation is that a number of options are now available for these outdoor contests that were not before. Here are some of my thoughts.

Try to Arrange Your POT Target Distance to be the Competition Distance Stringwalking puts demands upon an archer’s tune so that arrow flight will be acceptable at all crawls. Lots of compromises are involved. This is because taking a crawl basically changes the tiller of the bow and affects the bow’s dynamics. With just a single distance to prepare for, having a zero crawl is ideal. There is also less variation is placing the tab on the string when the crawl is zero rather than, say, a half an inch.

You Can Use a Bottom Nocking Point Locator to Your Benefit If you have a powerful bow, a small crawl may be inevitable. If that is the case, it is allowed to use the bottom of the bottom of two nock locators a set your crawl. The arrow and bow must be set up to make that crawl the correct one, of course. You are not allowed to put on a half inch long nocking point locator, or set your bottom nock locator a half inch below the nock where it would serve no purpose other than being a crawl locator. But for an ordinary tied-on locator in a reasonable position, well that can be used.

You Can Use a Split Finger String Grip String walkers do not use a split finger string grip, they use a “three fingers under” (3FU) string grip because they will be making crawls. But what if your bow is underpowered for the competition distance? In this situation, with no crawl and 3FU, your arrows hit below the target. One easy fix is to try a split finger grip (you may need a different tab). This results in a substantial gain in cast and if your arrows land on the target, you may be able to find a point of aim using either the target rings or the target stand or the wind flag, or … , etc.

A Permanent Fix is to Find Perfect Arrows If the target distance in such competitions is to be the same for many years, it may be in your (or your student’s) best interest to purchase and tune a special set of arrows. After all, you don’t see the long drive golf contestants taking full sets of clubs out onto the tee box. They just take the clubs they are going to use (a pumped up driver and spares). So, why prepare a bow and arrow combination to shoot multiple distances when there is no need. Field archers use arrows with lower FOC balance characteristics than do target archers, who tend to shoot at longer distances. This is just a manifestation of having different arrows for different applications, so this isn’t anything new, just the same response taken to an extreme.

A Perfect Solution Would Be a Dedicated Bow and Arrows It was the case that some archers used different bowstrings on their recurve bows for different distances in the FITA Round. This allowed them to choose different nocking point heights and brace heights for the various distances, essentially creating a different tune for each distance). A lower brace height could be favorable at 90 m but not help at all at 30 m. At 30 m a higher brace height might be a benefit. The nocking points would be used to get the best tune at those brace heights for those arrows (which by regulation had to be the same). I haven’t heard of this being done, but were I in that position and also well-heeled (I am not), I would be tempted to tune my backup bow and arrows, which can be different (both) from the primary set, for the shorter distances and switch bows half way through. Of course if one needed one’s backup bow at the longer distances, one would be in a bit of a fix, but how often does that happen?

So, the message is: if you only shoot at one distance for many of the events you enter (or your student’s enter) focus on setting up the equipment for that distance alone. If you can afford it, dedicate a set of equipment for just that distance. (This is already being done by anyone who has an “indoor bow” now.)

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How Many Things Can I Work On at a Time?

QandA logoI got a query from one of my students which asked:

That leads me to something I meant to ask in the last email … what happens when you have a list of things to work on? I know from our lessons you can only effectively work on one thing at a time. So how do you choose what? The thing that is most wrong? The thing that is earliest in your shot sequence? The thing you think will give you the most bang for your buck (or time spent working on it). There are so many aspects to a shot sequence it seems inevitable that you will end up with a list of things. Oh, and, of course, each step builds on the previous, so if there is something you are working on early in your shot sequence it has to be there, done the new/different/correct way in order to practise something else.

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I have the most wonderful students! (Good students ask good questions, that’s one of the ways you can tell which are the good ones.)

There is a common misconception that equates “work on only one thing at a time” into “work on only one thing until it is better before you tackle another,” which is wrong. You can work on many things at once, just not two at once. It has to do with feedback.

If you try to work on your bow arm and release at the same time and a group of arrows is better than before, was it due to an improvement in your bow arm or release or both? A potentially awful outcome is that one of those changes made it better and the other made it worse but not enough to not make the whole group better. In this latter case, you are getting a mixed message. When we do something differently we only have a “better” or “worse” outcome to judge whether the change we are exploring is a good one or not. We want to be able to attach those “better or worse” judgments to just one thing. This is my definition of getting good feedback.

So “work on only one thing at a time” limits how many things you can work on simultaneously but not how any things you can work on concurrently. (Sorry for the big words, but being accurate sometimes requires them.)

I do not have any good science to back up my recommendations but here is what I recommend: keep a list of things you think need work but limit those you are working on currently to three. I also recommend that before you shoot an arrow during any practice or competition session that you read that list, the whole list. When you are “warming up” you want to pay special attention to the three items you are trying to change at the moment. If you do not do this and just “warm up,” you will end up gravitating back to the shot you have practiced the most, what I call your “old normal” shot and you will then be send this message to your subconscious mind “it is normal that sometimes we shoot the ‘new shot’ and sometimes we shoot the ‘old shot’.” We want, rather, the message to be “we are committed to the ‘new shot” and no longer shoot the ‘old shot’.” So, read the list with special attention to doing the top three the new way … do it … do it every time you shoot.

As soon as you are warm, the best time to spend working on your top three items is right away. This will lay a foundation for the rest of the practice session being based upon your new shot and not your old one.

Now, as to what order to take on these changes in your shot, you have some choices to make. There is logic and some science behind each of these and I haven’t been able to determine which is better, so my default position is “whichever feels better to you.” My thinking is if you think something is the right way to proceed, you will make better progress than if you are not sure, certainly better than if you are convinced you are going about it the wrong way.

Here are the two approaches that seem wise to me.

Tackle the Changes from Greatest to Least Effect If we could put a score impact rating on any prospective change, under this rule, you would tackle the issue that would have the greatest positive effect on your score first. So, if Change A would improve your score by 7%, it is more worth your time than Change B that might only improve your score by 1%. What this means practically, is that the effect of Change A would also be easier to see while it was happening and that improvement would strongly guide the process and supply motivation. Something with a tiny 1% improvement potential would be hard to see in the first place and would provide little motivation.

This plays out, interestingly, in the history of each and every serious archer. When they first begin, their scores are quite low and they make progress as they learn in leaps and bounds. As they get better, though, it becomes harder and harder to improve and each improvement requires more and more effort. This is, in general, why there are so many really good archers, but few great ones.

The hard part if you adopt this order of making changes is how to assign a scoring improvement potential to each potential change. If you figure out how to do this, please, please let me know!

Tackle the Changes in the Order of Your Shot Sequence This option, I think, benefits archers who most recently have chosen to become serious archers. The previous procedure, I think, benefits archers who have established their shot and are making smaller changes therein. The reason I believe this is twofold: for one you will be making improvements in your scores that are substantial as you work anyway; for another since you don’t have a settled shot yet, you do not want to be practicing a later aspect of your shot that will be changed when an earlier step is modified.

This approach, of course, makes it much easier to identify which you do first, second, third, etc.

When I work with a new Recurve student (my questioner is an Olympic Recurve archer) I work from what I call the “Three Pillars.” The three foundations (aka pillars of support) for consistent accuracy are a relaxed bow hand, a relaxed string hand, and good full draw body alignment (in this case delineated by the archer’s triangle—see illustration). So, the thing I most often address with a Recurve archer first is his/her … stance. It seems that most beginning Recurve archers have been told that an open stance is somehow required. But rotation your feet counterclockwise when your shoulders need to rotate clockwise to get into good FDP is working against what you want. A closed stance, at least to start with, doesn’t result in an archer’s shoulders fighting with his/her stance to get into position. So, I work to get their hands relaxed, and their body in position. (The same is true for compound archers, with a few details being different).force-triangle-finished

If  that archer is still building his/her shot, I then work through the shot sequence, helping them find their form as they go.

Conclusion
So, you have to decide which route you want to take and commit to it … and … (you knew there would be an “and” didn’t you) I think the best way to proceed is to make an improvement and then move on from each thing on your list. You do not need to make something perfect. If you think you do, you will be spending a great deal of time working on just a few things and you will feel as if no progress is being made.

Make an improvement and then move on. Your shot is an organic whole; you cannot change part of it in isolation and like a chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link, so think of the changes you are making as being on an upward spiral. You will go around and around, through your shot, paying extra attention to each part over and over. But you will feel the progress being made (the list of items you have crossed off as having improved should not be discarded; it is an indicator of progress made). And, each time you come back to the same item (e.g. I need to improve the solidity of my anchor.) it is not an admission that you didn’t fix it before but that you have made sufficient improvements that your improved anchor is no longer quite good enough (Hooray!). Having to work on items again are indicators that you have reached another level.

In order to tell whether you have reached another level or are just going “round and round getting nowhere” you have practice and competition round scores. If they are getting higher or more consistent where they are, you are making progress.

I hope this helps!

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What Archers and Coaches Could Learn from . . . Jordan Spieth

If you follow sports at all you cannot have missed the story of Jordan Spieth who prior to his 22nd birthday has been burning up the Professional Golf Association Tour. So what could a golfer have to share with an archer that would be any help. It turns out to be “a lot.”

Consider any very capable serious competitive archer today. Most of these are compound archers so I will use them as an example. If you have any desire for making a good showing at a major tournament (I will use Las Vegas as it provides the most context), you have to prepare for this event seriously. So, most shoot many practice rounds prior to the event, make travel arrangements and register well in advance of the event. They fly in, check their equipment over to make sure nothing got damaged and try to get in some practice the day before the event.

During the event, they often run into friends and arrange meals around the shooting times to be able to catch up. After dinner, they may park themselves in a bar for awhile for a drink or two and talk with archery buddies. (In Vegas, there may be a bit of effort at “the tables” or “the slots,” too.) Their tactic for the event is to shoot one quality arrow at a time and to say in the present. The results will take care of themselves. Then it is hope for the best.

Sound familiar? Most of us have done this.

Mr. Spieth, on the other hand is more strategic. His goal in being prepared for an event is to perform at a high level at events preceding so he will be high in confidence when he begins. He arranges for living quarters out of the fray. This may be a rental house or in the case of the British Open Championship, he rented two. One he slept in, the other, just a few steps away, is where his friends and family stayed and communal meals were shared. When Mr. Spieth was in residence, the rules are: no TV and no talk about golf (none).

Before he steps foot upon the course, he has a detailed strategic plan of how he is going to deal with each hole on the course. His coach, caddy, and others may contribute to this plan, which includes possible weather variations especially if the winds are variable. His entire focus on the course is on how to execute his plan. His warm-up routine is extensive and includes two putting sessions, putting being one of Mr. Spieth’s strengths. The routine is varied depending on whether he has an early or late tee-time.

While playing Mr. Spieth is in control of his emotions which is to say that he is not a robot. If he makes a bad shot, you can hear him shout “Come on, Jordan!” But shortly thereafter he is back in focus working on his next shot. Because he is in control of his emotions, he seems to perform under pressure as well, if not better, than when he has less pressure.

Win or lose, he is focused on what he can learn or could have learned from his experience and how he can work to improve on what he has been doing. Improvement is recognized as being incremental and to keep it going he requires input from his coach and caddy and then plans are made to make those improvements.

He knows that, as a golfer, his form is built around “feel” rather than technique, so has set up practice and warm-up activities accordingly. Self-knowledge is a foundation stone of his approach. Knowing who he is and how he performs is key to his approach. There is no fantasizing involved. There is no “go out and have fun” involved. Instead there is an immersing into and engagement with what he is doing on the course. The fun is in the winning. On the course, there are light moments but they seem to be of the “isn’t this a beautiful spot” or “aren’t we lucky to be doing this” variety, almost always just with his caddy, a former elementary school teacher, who is temperamentally suited to helping a young archer keep on his chosen path.

Mr. Spieth is aware of where he is in the history of the game of golf, but doesn’t indulge in thinking about that when he is at the course. In this manner he compartmentalizes his thinking as he compartmentalizes this personal life. A time and place for everything.

Now, the young Mr. Spieth has made many millions of dollars in his short professional career and will make countless more millions, so he has more resources than you are I. And that is irrelevant when it comes to planning, thinking, strategizing, and all of the other aspects of an effort he makes to win a tournament.

So, is there anything to be learned from young Mr. Spieth’s approach to the game of golf which has allowed his to soar to almost unmatched heights at the age of 21? You be the judge.

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Scoring Well

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

Scoring

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

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

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

Here are some suggestions on how to score well:

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

There is more … much more.

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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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In Which I Question You …

I ran across this interesting blog post today. After reading it, the question I put to you is “is shuffling your feet a good way to deal with competition tension/pressure?” What do you think?

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Want to hold your bow steadier? Shuffle your feet!
Posted by Bart Shortall on January 05, 2015

Do you remember practice sessions where you enjoyed small amounts of pin movement, and the thought crossed your mind, “why can’t I always hold this steady”? My significant event that led me to reevaluate my form/mechanics was a state indoor championship years ago. Practice sessions had resulted in high X count 300’s (NFAA), with a comfortable amount of movement in the X-ring. Soon as the tension built with the scoring and competition, my movement went from inside the X to barely inside the 5ring. Mentioning it to the guy next to me, he noted “shuffle your feet”!

Of course, my mind was set on nervous tension being the culprit, and watching this well intentioned gentleman miss half of his X’s while leaning back with a hard angle bow arm, I just dismissed his advice. It wasn’t until a few years later when I attempted another indoor event, where this trick came into play. My form and experience had improved in the time between events, but as soon as the nervous tension arrived, pin movement and frustration set in. Running thru the shot sequence in my head, I knew everything was in order, so the only thing left to do was “shuffle my feet”! The pin movement instantly was cut in half and the X’s became very easy and a 2nd place finish was my reward. Now was time to go to work and find out why this helped and how to incorporate it into my routine.

There are so many elements to aiming steady with a compound bow, with the draw length and correct body alignment being the top two in my opinion. What I found, was shuffling your feet improved your body alignment. Correct body alignment and draw length provides strength and ease of holding the bow at full draw. It cuts down on muscle tension, and makes aiming easy. When you’re aiming easy, duplication of shot execution makes your groups tight and consistent!

. . .

Not only did I learn a vital element in archery that day, I learned a good lesson in life as well. We all can learn anything, at any time, from anyone. Have a great archery season!

 

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Competing While Injured—Just Say No

QandA logoI recently got a letter from a student addressing an injury and a competition: “I sprained my shoulder somehow. Anyway, I haven’t been able to shoot for two weeks (except for a fun shoot), and I don’t think I’ll be able to practice this week either. The Iowa Pro-Am is quickly approaching, so I was wondering how I could get practice in without actually practicing. I’m thinking about using 18 lb limbs for practice, but I’m still afraid that it might be too much for my shoulder.” There are a great many things I write about … and this is one topic for which I am definitely an authority. (I am currently recuperating a shoulder injury incurred last June—this is November; I don’t heal as fast as I did when I was younger.)

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I am going to go straight to the bottom line: It is inadvisable to attend a tournament with unstable form, it will only burn bad habits in that will take a lot of training to remove. Competition intensity makes “learning” faster.

Unless you can draw without pain, I would forgo the tournament.

The idea of using very light drawing limbs when you start up again is a very good one. Go for form first, strength second. I would start, though, with mimetics to see if I experience any pain while in ordinary archery postures. If I do, I would continue rehabbing and forgo shooting completely. If I can do the mimetics pain free, then I would start work with a stretch band. If I can do the stretch band exercises pain free (for more than one session, don’t rush it—the pain may not show up until the next day), then I would try a light drawing bow.

Injuries are common amongst archers but how to rehab them is not common knowledge. One of the bedrock principles of any rehabilitation program is to never compete when injured. Of course professional athletes do this all of the time . . . and then they re-injure the same body part or, worse, because they are compensating for one physical weakness, they overload another physical system and injure that. All kinds of subconscious processes will be invoked to minimize any pain you are in and, voilà, you will have a new shot in short order, one you did not design.

Also, do not take pain killers to allow yourself to practice or compete, even aspirin or other OTC analgesics. They will mask the pain and allow you to worsen your own injury. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to do something different. The best you can do is rest and follow a good rehab program (I am currently using the “Fix My Shoulder Pain” program which seems reasonable).

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Rather Fight than Switch?

QandA logoHi,
I was reading your blog site and wanted to ask a question. Like many people I’m naturally right-handed but from an early age I taught myself have a level of skill with my left hand. Though not completely ambidextrous I can write, shave, saw, etc. with either hand.

Recently I’ve been coaching a number of left-handed students so I taught myself to shoot left-handed. I wonder has anyone else done this? Don’t think I’ll win any medals but it has helped with coaching and course laying. I found it a very educational process as you reapply learnt and known skills but reversed or, rather, flipped.

It also means the students don’t have to try to learn from you whilst trying to flip round everything in their heads. So I was wondering, have you or your readers done this?
Thanks for all the articles and posts.
Rob
http://offthearrowshelf.wordpress.com/

***

Rob, I will get around to answering your question (I promise!), but first a couple of comments (I am, if nothing ellse, long-winded).

I am strongly in favor of coaches trying everything, especially if you want to coach it. Much of archery applies across the board, but if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you can make some really bad mistakes (I can attest to this). In my “career” as a coach I have learned Barebow Compound, Barebow Recurve, and Olympic Recurve, and Longbow, first hand because (a) I was curious, and (b) I wanted to coach these.

Since I took these up rather late in life, I am not very good at any of them. In fact, I don’t think you have to be particularly good at all of the “styles” you attempt, but you do need to be good at one of them (my primary style when I was younger was Compound Unlimited, now it is Compound Barebow). If you never achieve expert status in any style, it will be hard to work with advanced or elite athletes, not just because you will have no “standing” as someone who never achieved in that style, but because you will lack understanding of the nuances and commitments involved.

My favorite story about deciding to “stand on the other side of the bow” was from George Chapman, a champion archer and champion coach (associated with PSE because he was there at their beginning). He won the Indiana State Championship shooting right-handed and then because of some reason (injury, target panic, ?) he switched to shooting left-handed and won the same title the very next year! For people considering the “right-left” change, please be aware that “results may vary!”

Now, to answer your question, I have tried several times to shoot left-handed (from my “normal” right-handed shooting) but never to the point of any proficiency. Now, I think I am too old and clumsy to pull it off.

But … (you knew that was coming, no?) it is a good idea to at least try it. One of the better tools in a coach’s tool box is “mirroring,” which is standing face-to-face with your archer on the shooting line and demonstrating (mimetically) what you want them to do as they shoot. This has to be opposite-handed to what they shoot so that you look like a mirror image of what they are to do. If you have not actually shot that way, your body positions when “mirroring” may be faulty, so at least some practice that way is wise.

Check out Rob’s blog where he will repost this article and answer the question for him!

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