Tag Archives: teaching

The Relaxation Baseline

I was coaching yesterday. As was typical I had two youths building their shots and an adult needing technical help (tuning arrows). It occurred to me that I hadn’t mentioned, often enough I suppose, the role of tension in building a shot. So, in this post, I will.

If you read high level descriptions of how to make a shot, the descriptions are incredibly detailed, down to which muscles are involved and how tense they need be. Some beginning serious archers seek out these descriptions as a guide to building their shots. As a coach, I really pay little attention to those descriptions for a number of reasons. For one, these “instructions” are for adult athletes in high levels of fitness. For another, these are elite level mechanics being addressed and I don’t think they are appropriate until an archer is at or near an elite level.

To build solid archery form, I focus on the basics. The underlying principle is the same as with doctors: first, do no harm. What I mean by this is do not have your student-archers learn anything that will need to be unlearned later. This is a big problem with trying to learn elite archery form without the body or experience to make it work. Instead of doing what the form requires, we do what we can do which is different from what is needed. Those “bad moves” then need to be unlearned later and more correct techniques learned.

As far as I am concerned consistent accuracy is built upon what I call the Three Pillars of Accuracy and a “Tension Free Shot.” The Three Pillars are: relaxed hands and good full draw body position with proper muscle use. If one’s hands are tension free the bow will shape them accordingly. The string or release hand will be pulled into the flat-backed shape desired and the bow hand (and wrist) will be positioned and shaped by the bow. Obviously this entails learning how to place the hands correctly. Similarly getting into good full draw position without the engagement of the proper muscles will not serve as we end up with a static shot.

Then the goal is to remove all unneeded muscle tension from the archer’s body to provide a relaxation baseline, a tension free shot. For example, the deltoid muscles in the upper arms need to be tense in order to hold the bow (and our arms) up in position, The muscles in the upper forearm need to be tense to wrap the fingers around the string or release aid. But nothing else in the hands, wrists, and arms needs to be tense. We want these relaxed when shooting.

In order to acquire consistency, we need to shoot from the same body configuration. Tense muscles are necessarily shorter than relaxed ones, so if your upper body is tense, your draw length will be shorter than if the unneeded muscles are relaxed. The classic case that demonstrates this is the young Recurve archer just beginning to shoot with a clicker. If they get tense at all in their upper body, because of competition pressure or whatever, it shortens their draw length and makes it harder to get through their clicker. When they struggle getting through their clicker, they get even more tense, try “harder,” making it even harder to get through their clicker. Some young archers have melt downs around this positive feedback loop. They need to be taught that if they begin to struggle with their clicker, their first response needs to be to relax.

So, I teach them that we start building championship form from a state of maximum relaxation (of unneeded muscles) because: the relaxed state of their body is consistent plus they can “find relaxed.” What I mean by “find relaxed” is using relaxation techniques (shaking hands and arms; tensing muscles, then relaxing them, etc.) they can create a state of relaxation they can learn to recognize and find again. But how one creates a state in which a muscle group is 37% tense is beyond me.

Everything is then built off of this relaxed form foundation. Then as their interest and commitment grows, they can experiment with adding muscle tension to their shot. Does flexing one’s core muscles produce a steadier, more consistent shot? Well, the relaxed shot is the baseline from which group sizes and round scores are had and then attempts to shoot with a flexed core proceed from there. Same with using an open stance that requires a twisted torso to get the shoulders back to square (compound) or pointed at the bow (recurve). Try the new form element and see if things improve. If so, keep going. If not, go back.

In contrast to this is see way too much mimicking of adult form by youths. But youths don’t have the musculature to take advantage of all of the elements of an adult shot. Then they shoot for years and end up thinking that their shot is “correct,” which they have little reason to believe as they haven’t tested elements of their shot against any baseline. So, I see JOAD archers shooting from an open stance even though their alignment is weak. I see them shooting heavy bows (metal risers) when their upper arm muscles (deltoids) don’t fully develop until they have their adult musculature, so their form is distorted.

By building a basic, relaxed archery form, they will develop consistency faster and will have a foundation to build a more advanced form from later, should that form be desired.

A relaxed foundation cannot be built using a bow too stout (being overbowed), too heavy, or a form too complicated. All of these things lead to the engagement of muscles that are unnecessary and because archery is a feel sport, the feel of their shot is being built on a false basis. (Too heavy bows lead to raised bow shoulders, leaning away from the target, etc. To stout bow leads to gymnastics being exhibited to get the string back, and so on.)

I think the KISS principle applies here.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

What Do Coaches Need?

I took on the task to elevate the art of coaching archery when I  realized I was not going to be able to get anyone else, or any organization, to do that. Okay, so I have a big ego, to believe I can help somehow. Actually, I figured someone has to help archery coaches and if I don’t do it, who will? I did try to enroll others in this task, but.…

There was so much that needed to be done, that could be done, but what should I do? I was told I wrote fairly well and I enjoyed that, so that’s what I decided my contribution could be: to create a coaching literature for the sport of archery. I started by asking the coaches I knew to write a book about “coaching archery” that I would get published … somehow. At first all I got was No,” followed by No, no way, Hell no, uh ah, sorry, no can do … and so on. Recently I have been having more success in getting really good coaches to write about coaching (to the point I am swamped with book projects and have less time to do other things like post stuff here).

So, the point I am getting to … ever so slowly … is that I always have my “feelers” out for anything I can learn about coaching. Recently I saw a copy of an old Archery World magazine on eBay with an article in the table of contents that I knew I had to have (so I bought it). The article was “How the Olympians Will Be Coached” by Bud Fowkes. Bud Fowkes was our first modern Olympic coach in 1972 and this was the July 1972 issue of that magazine. (If you do not know, archery was kicked out of the modern Olympic games after the St. Louis games because of a lack of consistent structure (rules, rounds, etc.). It took almost 65 years to create FITA (Now World Archery) and argue out the details to get back in.)

In that article, Mr. Fowkes states “So, I believe a coach must first be a teacher or at least fully understand the teaching methods before he or she can successfully do the job.” (emphasis mine)

Since it is, as we all know, a small world, I had just gotten off the phone with Larry Wise, one of our most (I think just “most”) prominent compound coaches. And guess who Larry’s mentor was … uh huh, Bud Fowkes. And can you also guess what Larry’s former occupation was? He was a math teacher. Larry understands “the teaching methods.”

Teaching shows up in many, many ways in archery coaching. Obviously, if you train other coaches, that is a form of teaching. If you work with beginners, that is mostly teaching. There are just many, many ways in which being a good teacher equates to being a good coach. It isn’t all of coaching, but a healthy part for sure.

So, I have my next task on my to do list. Explain “the teaching methods” in a way helpful to archery coaches. Luckily, we all have a touch stone. If we had a really good teacher when we went through school, we at least have that memory to help us. Unfortunately, I suspect that those memories are more than a bit vague, but if all you have is a warm feeling toward that teacher, at least you have an idea of what kind of impression you want to leave your archers with.

Now all I have to do is find the time to write the stuff … <sigh>.

4 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

How to Judge Distance to Archery Targets

I got an email with the following question: “Any tips on estimating distance when shooting 3-D?”

Good question!

Archery competitions have included unmarked yardage elements for, well, ever. Obviously bowhunters hunted game for thousands of years with no distances to the prey supplied, so being able to figure out how far to shoot is a valuable skill. Modern competitions, though, have included some innovations, such as rules that ban mental schemes for determining distance to a target! WTF?!

The use of such techniques, being mental, was hard to police, so it turned out if you wanted to win, you had to cheat (along with all of your competitors), that is using the techniques while pretending not to! FITA, now World Archery, went so far as to publish the techniques to “level the playing field” while keeping them as being illegal! (See Understanding FITA Field Archery, an extract from the FITA Field Guidelines booklet published by FITA in 1995.)

Hey, World Archery! How about making these techniques legal? After, all they are just mental skills that everyone can learn to do. Then no one would be forced to cheat to win an unmarked shoot!

The first person to publish these techniques and blow the cover of those using them was Kirk Ethridge in his book Professional Archery Technique, which is still in print because we made it so. (I hot linked it if you want a copy.) I will leave it to Kirk to discuss the fine points as he was the first.

4 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

Pet Peeves: #2 A Tall Tell Tale

In the previous post I introduced stock photography and websites offering photographs for sale. One of the largest topics for archery-related photographs for sale is based upon the tale of William Tell, a tale in which a cruel politician forces the hero to shoot an apple off of the head of his young son. The hero, of course, pulls off this shot, but I will leave the rest of the story for you to find if you are not at all familiar with it. (I have seen the story enacted as a stage play in Europe; it is a tourist attraction.)

The number of photos on the Tell theme is myriad. Real apples, cartoon apples, people with apples on their heads and fake arrows through their skulls. In actual practice I have seen wigmaker’s dummy heads used to perch apples on to be shot off and other such “novelty” shots at fundraising events.

But there are consequences. Almost every year somebody is shot in the head while re-enacting this shot (see x-ray).

My all time favorite story illustrating this bad idea happened in 1993: a man was shot through the skull with an arrow by a friend trying to knock a fuel can off his head and survived with no brain damage. Surgeons removed the arrow from the man’s head by drilling a larger hole around the tip at the skull’s back and pulling the arrow through. Paramedics saved his life by restraining him when he tried to pull the arrow out himself in the helicopter on the way to the hospital. “If he had succeeded, the flanges slicing through his brain would have killed him instantly,” said a neurosurgeon at the hospital. The arrow’s tip went 8 to 10 inches into his’ brain. He lost his right eye.

Shot through the eye with a broadhead-tipped arrow and all he lost was the eye … and possibly a friend.

Drunken yahoos aside, this is a very attractive meme to young boys.

I discourage talk of it. I refuse to allow humanoid targets, paper or 3-D, to be shot at, and apples are banned at my lessons. I encourage you to do likewise. we cannot eliminate this meme but we can discourage its re-enactment.

(And don’t get me started on Archery Tag. It may be fun but it is a bad idea.)

Leave a comment

Filed under For All Coaches

Pet Peeves: #1 Finger Atop the Arrow

I visit a number of stock photo sites looking for interesting archery photos. There are any number of themes I see that give me the willies. This post and the next are on two of these.

Stock photography is a practice in which photographers take photos and offer them for sale through stock photography agencies. This business used to be confined to well-heeled advertising agencies and the like, but with the advent of the Internet, it is now available to all: all customers and all photographers.

So professional and amateur photographers alike can take photos, upload them to a stock photography site and let the site sell them for them. The site allows customers to use search engines to find photographs they like. I search the terms “archery” and “bow and arrow” along with others.

But many purveyors of archery-related stock photos seem not to be deterred by their lack of knowledge about archery. Take this photo for example:

Does anyone shoot in business attire any more? It doesn’t matter as the expected sales of this photograph are about business folks “hitting their targets,” as in sales targets, or growth targets. However this guy has a death grip on the bow, has four fingers wrapped around the bowstring and is torquing the string so much that the arrow has lifted off of the rest.

There are a great many of such photos available.

One of my pet peeves is archers wrapping a finger over the arrow, ostensibly to keep it from falling off the rest. This is a time honored practice as indicated by this print, made in 1892.

So, if it has been around for so long, why is it not an acceptable practice now?

Good question.

The problem now is two fold: #1 over time the downward pressure on the arrow rest will cause the rest to distort and/or break. Odysseus in the etching had no such problem because the arrow rest was his top bow hand finger; #2 is that this behavior masks things we need to correct. If a student draws his bow sans arrow finger, and the arrow falls off of the rest, either there is something wrong with the rest or there is something wrong with the archer’s form. Not allowing the arrow to fall off and expose the problem allows the archer to continue to practice “doing it wrong.” (This is also why I do not recommend the “Whisker Biscuit” rest to young archers. The arrow cannot fall off of the rest, so all kinds of incorrect practices are tolerated.)

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

Skill and Tempo

I have been thinking a lot about the difference between acquiring archery technique and acquiring archery skill lately. Taking the chance that I may be oversimplifying this in this post, when you have learned archery technique fairly well, you have learned how to group your shots on a target; moving that group into the highest scoring zone of the target requires skill(s).

I was reminded while walking our dog this morning that if you are out walking with another, if the other wants to walk faster or slower than you do, it is quite problematic. Matching your pace to that of an elderly parent is an exercise in patience (and love, and …). Trying to walk a dog who wants to go at a difference pace is also a struggle.

What we tend not to recognize is that the pace at which we shoot arrows, our shooting tempo, is also a key factor in reaching higher levels of performance … but we are often unaware of our own tempo while shooting. And then when we find our good tempo, that idiot with a timer and a whistle keeps interrupting us to go score and fetch our arrows.

To explore this, you can ask your archers to explore shooting very, very slowly and very, very quickly to see if either “works.” They almost never do work (because, I think, every archer wants to show off a little and overdoes it). I then go into “Goldilocks’ Mode” and give them the “too fast, too slow, just right” speech about shooting tempo.

To get tempo on your side, you need to find the tempo that works for you (or for your student) … and then find ways to hang onto it.

You can count off shots in practice to find your tempo, but this is not advised to do in competition (as counting is conscious thinking) unless you have lost your tempo and are desperate to get it back. Like any other part of shooting, shooting in tempo can be memorized.

There are other things to use (metronomes!), counting off your shots on video, etc. A longish exercise is for you, as coach, to time shots with a stopwatch (I time from stabilizer tip moving upward to release) and then logging those times with arrow scores. If you find a “magic zone,” where high quality shots exist, then you can train around that zone. One way is to simply start the stopwatch at tip raise and if they shoot too early you say “Too early, do it again.” If they get to the end of the time zone, you say “Let down!” Eventually more and more shots will occur in the right time, then the archer can relax and concentrate on shooting quality shots alone.

I suggest to you, that if you have advanced archers in your care, some tempo training may just elevate their skill and performances. (Happy archer, happy coach!)

PS For those of you who object to skill being separated from technique, and who claim that technique is involved in developing skill, I say “Yes, and your point is … ?” My point is that it is not just technique that drives better scores. Shooting perfect shot after perfect shot and getting lousy groups because you possess no tuning ability cannot be solved by working harder on your technique. By calling these things “archery skill” we might just get developing archers to focus on such things and even get them excited to learn more and the higher scores than may result from that learning.

If you want to learn more about all of the things you need to know about target archery that doesn’t involve “how to shoot arrows” may I suggest (Warning! Shameless plug incoming! Warning):

 

13 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

Attempting to Perfect Their Shot (Don’t Bother)

Many archers are working to “perfect their shot.” I argue that this is a mistake. What they need to be working on is enhancing their skill. Let me explain.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that you perfected your own shot in practice yesterday. Every arrow was going into the target center, making groups smaller than the maximum scoring area (the de facto definition of “great groups”). Everything felt easy, nothing troubled you. Your mental program meshed with your physical activities like never before. You were at peace and performing like a man/woman possessed.

That was yesterday.

Today, well today is a different day. You are one day older. Today you are feeling stronger/weaker. You are more/less focused. You … I guess you get the point. The old saying is you can’t cross the same river twice, meaning that the water you walked though the first time has flown away.

Surely, though, you will be very, very close to that wondrous state of yesterday? Will you? There is a saying in golf that “a very good round is seldom followed by another.” This saying tells us that you can’t take that performance with you when you go to bed at night.

Why is this so? Well, I can’t say definitively but it seems that the difference between an excellent shot and just a very good one is very, very little. Rick McKinney is fond of saying that to hit the 10-ring on a target at 90 meters, the arrow point needs to be in a specific circle one sixteenth of an inch wide (about one and a half millimeters wide). Arrow point in that circle, and the aim is good, outside of that circle and not so good … and then there has to be a perfect loose to back that aim up.

The difference in “feel” between the two states is almost nonexistent. The visual pictures of the aperture on the target of the two aims are indistinguishable.

Searching for perfect technique and then thinking that is enough to get you on the winner’s podium is a fool’s errand. The reason it is is not just that you are different from day to day (you are, you know this) but that the task is different, too. Even indoors the conditions are not identical from day to day. Outdoors, the conditions vary widely (think wind, angle of the sun, whether you are standing on flat firm ground or squishy mud, or…, or….

What is better to focus on once your technique is solid is your ability to adapt. If you are breezing along in a tournament and you suddenly shoot a wild arrow into the 3-ring, do you think “Hmm, I’ll have to take a look at the arrow and if there is nothing wrong it, add that to the list of things to work on in practice next week.” Of course not! If there is a problem you need to fix it right away. All of the champions in the aiming sports think the same way.

All elite performers know their personal tendencies, the errors and mistakes they are prone to, and also know how to fix those in real time. This is the core of acquired skill as an archer.

Now you could have your students just go compete and wait for things to show up and experiment with solutions as they perform (exactly how we learned!) but this is a costly approach. If they are just a bit more organized, take a few notes, ask a lot of questions, they can be better prepared for the eventualities.

  • Do you show your students how to inspect their bows and arrows for defects?
  • Do you simulate problems happening during practice rounds so they can practice adapting?
    • Do you ask them to keep lists of their common mistakes?
    • Do you ask them to write down solutions to “problems” whether they worked or didn’t work and examine those in practice?
    • Do you counsel your student-archers to keep their ears open for possible solutions to problems encountered when shooting when talking to other competitors?
    • Do ask your students to take notes after competition sessions?

If not, you are leaving it to “experience” to teach them what they need to learn. And, while experience is “the best teacher,” it is also brutal. For example, would you want your students to learn about target panic by getting it? Or would you like to caution them (sensibly) and then show them how to avoid it?

3 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

How to Learn Archery

The standard approach to learning archery, or really any sport, is to establish a pattern of incremental improvement. Basically this is a “do good, then do better” approach. We teach archers good basic form, not elite archer form, and then we encourage them to make minor changes in their shot, checking to see if these are “improvements” or “just changes.”

These is absolutely nothing wrong with this approach and I do not see that there is anything inherently wrong with it, but it does seem to be wrong to assume this is the only way to learn. There are basic weaknesses in this usual approach. A good example in archery is tuning. Tuning involves making small changes in how your bow and arrows are setup and then testing to see if the new setup is “better.” The problem with this approach is that you may end up with what is called a “false tune.” The approach of “a little bit, a little bit more, a tiny little bit more, oops, too much … back up a little” will find a local “best tune.” But is that the best tune available? This approach is a little like hiking while always moving uphill. You will eventually find yourself at a hill top, but there may be many taller hills nearby. You just had the misfortune of starting on the slopes of a shorter hill. Since it is very hard to get a wide angle view of the tuning landscape we have to resort to starting from a good starting point. In tuning, this is a well set up bow (as the manufacturer recommends, not as your bow has come to be). Trust me, if you start with a bad setup, you will only find bad tunes.

You can also fall into the trap of thinking that you have to be shooting well to learn (“do good, then do better”). Sometimes when you are shooting quite poorly, it is a good time to break down barriers to better shooting.

A way to get off of the “just a little bit of progress at a time train” is to do something really, really difficult, something you thought you (or your student) could not do. One example comes to mind: the thousand arrow challenge. A colleague, Tyler Benner, actually took this challenge and described it in detail in the book he wrote with Kisik Lee, Total Archery: Inside the Archer. Basically the idea is to start shooting arrows (blank bale) at sunrise and before you get to sunset, have shot 1000 arrows. If you have read his account, it is quite brutal. Even if you were to do it with a very light drawing bow, that is a lot of arrows. Even with volunteer arrow pullers/fetchers and a gallery rooting for you, this is very, very difficult. But … if you pull it off, things change for you. Never again will you feel like there is something in archery you cannot do. This is the big payoff.

How many times have you asked a student to do something and their response was “Oh, I can’t (or couldn’t) do that.” It is our out thoughts that get in our way much too often. Whenever some really difficult task is accomplished, it is often the case that rapid progress occurs thereafter. The “really difficult” task can’t be impossible or something that doesn’t get attained, although there are some people who are energized by simply trying something so hard no one expects them to accomplish it.

Such tasks are “doable” yet very, very difficult. We are most definitely not talking about hitting a target at some really far distance one time in 100 shots. Shoot enough arrows and you will hit something just by chance. For many archers this task is shooting a perfect score on a “gettable” round (one that people have already shot perfect scores on) but could be a round that people have almost shot a perfect score in competition and setting the goal of shooting one in practice. Or it might be a scoring level breakthrough (a score of 1400 on the 1440 FITA Round). This may seem like a small achievement, but for the archer who has never reached that point, it is significant. The key, though, is in the preparation and execution. You don’t just keep shooting that round until you get a perfect score, the goal is to always (almost always) get a perfect score or shoot at that level. When you have accomplished something like that, then you feel as if you can accomplish more and, just like a springboard, the accomplishment can launch your archer to new heights.

Leave a comment

Filed under For All Coaches

Why Archers Need to Absolutely Positively Write Things Down

Note This is a follow-up to “The Post Tournament Review Process”

I have to begin by saying that I have known a great many archers who were far better archers than I was who did not follow this advice. They kept everything in their heads (well, part of it; there is way too much info to memorize it all). So, I am not saying that if you do not keep written records that you will not be able to be come very, very good. What I am saying is that it is highly likely that you will not become as good as you could have become if you forgo keeping written records. This I will attempt to convince you of.

In the book Thinking Fast and Slow, the author (the brilliant Daniel Kahneman) points out that there seem to be two systems that we use to “think:”

System 1 This system is effortless, automatic, associative, rapid, parallel process, opaque (in that we are unaware of its workings), emotional, concrete, specific, social, and personalized.

System 2 This system is effortful, controlled, deductive, slow, serial, self-aware, neutral, abstract, asocial, and depersonalized.

Playing a hunch is an example of System 1 thinking; math homework an example of System 2. Setting aside whether these characterizations are true and correct, I think there is enough truth in them to address the recommendation at the top of this post.

It seems the vast bulk of our thinking falls under System 1 and it is that system that values “stories” or as the news people say, “narratives.” When I taught professionally I argued that we are primed to learn through stories. Stories hold things together. They make sense of why things happen. They make it clear why Action B followed Action A, etc. Children are told stories that have morals behind them (“And the moral to the story, children, is …”). Unfortunately we tend to, uh, well, embellish stories. We tend to make the story come out as we want it to rather than just as it did. There is even an adage that says “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

How does this affect archers, you ask? Allow me to answer you via a story.

* * *

Consider the following scenario: in competition an archer shoots their first arrow which lands at 6 o’clock in the 7-ring. What should he/she do? What he/she should do, of course, depends on whether this was a “good shot” or a “poor shot.” This distinction is made absent the result of the shot. If it felt like a normal good shot, it was . . . unless . . . unless say the archer wasn’t paying full attention to their process. If this was the case, he/she might be able to discern that fact through a little analysis. So, if it felt as if it were a good shot, was the outcome a good outcome? Was that 7 “normal?” Here is where problems occur.

It is unfortunate but when we enter into a competition, we have hopes for a high score. We think that we will shoot high scoring arrows with occasional poorer scoring arrows mixed in. But when do those lower scoring arrows show up? Good question. Most likely they show up randomly; they can show up on the first arrow as likely on the twelfth arrow or the last arrow. But our expectations for a good score can result in that initial 7 to lead us to think there will be more of them, even worse scoring arrows, leading to a poor score. The disappointment associated with this may lead us to make a change in our sight setting, or execution. Our subconscious minds might translate our disappointment with that shot into changes we are not even aware of. But if the shot was “normal,” then any change is moving the archer to a less successful setup/execution with the result being a guaranteed lower score.

So what’s an archer to do?

First we must recognize that first arrows are problematic. The excitement of shooting is at a high. There is no previous good scoring shot to imprint upon (to use in a mental rehearsal), and there are those hopes and dreams for a good overall score. I remember working toward a perfect score of 300 on the NFAA indoor round (60 arrows, 5-4-3 scoring). I can’t tell you how many times I had the thought “If the first arrow isn’t a five, I’m done,” but it wasn’t just a few. But this only happens when you are chasing a perfect score. The first arrow of any competition may be your lowest or highest scoring arrow.

I ask my students to monitor what their “normal groups” are. For the sake of this story, this student, when shooting at this distance at a ten-ring target face, typically “holds the 8-ring.” This means the vast majority of his arrows score 8, 9, or 10 . . . with a rare 7 from time to time. So, was the score of that 7 just shot “normal” or not? If there is no other evidence to tell you different, shooting a 7 is normal for this student.

If you keep records, you have the opportunity to explore those records to see what reality actually looks like. You can go through a score card on which all of the arrow scores are recorded and identify your lowest scoring arrows. You can then see when they tend to occur. This gives you a number of advantages: one is an ability to distinguish between your hopes/fears and reality. Another is a recognition that lower scoring arrows happen and they probably happen less now than a couple of years ago. (Hey, I am making progress!) Another is that is there is a regular pattern, you can train for that. For example, if your low scoring arrows always happen in the last few ends, maybe your fitness level is not high enough. If they occur on the first few arrows,maybe nerves need to be addressed. Maybe there is a psychological factor.

If, on the other hand, you discard those score cards and take no notes, all you have are your stories. Here’s another example.

* * *

You are in a tight shoot-off with a fellow competitor and you get to the last arrow with the score tied. On the last arrow, you shoot an 8 and he shoots a … 9! Most people automatically blame the loss on that last arrow. “If I had just shot a 10 or even a 9,” we think. But if you go back to the scorecard you probably get a different picture. In this case (I am making up this story), our losing archer had a three point lead that was steadily eroded as the shoot-off continued. What about the arrow scores that caused him the loss of his lead? Had he been leading by three points and both had the same last arrows, he would have won by two points.

This is typical of System 1 thinking. We have oodles of biases built into our System 1 thinking, one of those is we tend to overvalue the most recent events and devalue earlier ones. These biases developed over very long periods of time and are actually useful in many cases, so they are not to be disparaged, but they also can be problematic.

Writing’s Long List of Strengths
I have more than a few thoroughly modern students who, went I ask them to take a note whip out their smart phones and start typing. They do not know they are making a mistake by choosing a poor form of writing. Smart phones are problematic because there is too much information on them and one’s notes can be buried (amongst other things). By having a notebook dedicated to archery, all of your archery notes are in one place, you do not have to look elsewhere, nor do you have to wade through piles of irrelevant stuff to find your archery notes. I like segmented notebooks and put info of one kind or another in specific locations, making it even easier to find.

Conclusion
I am not advocating that you favor System 2 thinking over System 1 thinking, far from it. System 2 thinking is slow and laborious, again think math homework. But some System 2 thinking mixed in can make you a better archer or coach. Doing some System 2 thinking when you have the time to wade through a scorecard or analyze your groupings (in an attempt to answer the question: what is normal for me now?). This can reduce the impulsive nature that is normal for us most of the time. Writing those things down, makes them much easier to remember.

Just being able to tell the difference between a normal shot and a faulty shot is key to making the corrections that are required to shoot good scores. Leaving this up to a “gut feeling” can lead you or your students astray over and over. (The mistake that keeps on giving!)

8 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches

The Most Basic Value of a Normal Shot Routine

Often overlooked is the basic value of a normal shot routine for making archery shots. As coaches we do use a shot routine as a framework for teaching the fine points of the physical shot. I argue that the shot routine is a framework for an archer’s mental program. But there is a fundamental benefit to an archer in having his/her own shot routine, not a routine that their coach uses or some other archer uses. This, of course, involves the archer being committed to using an ordinary routine which involves convincing them it is worth the effort to practice and learn it.

We can use arguments like “Archer X uses hers” and “Archer Y uses his,” and golfers have normal shot routines, as do pool players, and tennis servers, and rifle shooters, etc.

There is a concrete benefit from such a routine that can be demonstrated with a shoelace. If one begins to tie one’s shoe, the process continues automatically. In fact, it takes an effort to stop midway. Why is this? Well, it is a simple matter of “one thing leads to another,” but it doesn’t unless a chain of things is created such that B follows A and C follows B, etc. This used to be easier to explain when we listened to phonograph records and CDs. We would just let them play and then shortly after several such plays, we would know the order in which the “cuts” occurred on the album. Interestingly, if the second track had just begun, you would find it more difficult to come up with the name of the next song on the record than if it was nearing its end. This is because we associated the start of Track 3 with the end of Track 2 and so the automatic connection isn’t made until we neared the end of Track 2.

So, an archer’s shot routine essentially drags the archer from the beginning of the shot to its end. They don’t have to go “Okay, I have finished the draw, what should I do next?” Nor do they have to worry about skipping steps or doing them out of order. (These things do happen when we get under pressure and such things indicate flaws in our routines.) This is why golfers who are playing for purses of millions of dollars always talk about focusing on their routines as the pressure mounts. (Would that archers had such problems.)

3 Comments

Filed under For All Coaches