Tag Archives: The AER Curriculum

Helping with Plateaus

In Archery Focus magazine we run regular columns for coaches and students, elucidating our programs and the way we teach. Recently we have prefaced the titles of these columns with the header “Getting Serious,” because we have covered the basics over and over and, well, that drum has been beat. (Note Subscribers have access to all of the back issues, back to the beginning, so they can search for any topic they need help on.) So, we are now addressing how coaches work with serious archers and how archers can get serious about their archery.

One of the things that beginning serious archers have to deal with is plateaus in their performances, aka getting stuck on a score. When they first became serious, they improved in leaps and bounds, now they are stuck. This also occurred when they first took up the sport. Some of this perception is illusory. For example, we used a scoring system in our first classes to define levels of accomplishment. We used a modified indoor round outdoors with a perfect score being 300 points. The first plateau was 50 points. Then there were others. Many archers jumped past 50 points in their first testing. Some would make 50 point improvements in sequential scores. Progress in scoring was often made fast. But progress of this kind always slows. This is because the first 50 points is easy, the last 50 points, getting from a score of 250/300 to 300/300 is very difficult. You start with just a few good arrow scores taking you to score you wanted to a few poor arrow scores making that score impossible. So the perception of progress is biased toward the “fast” end of the spectrum at first and the “slow” end later.

Our serious archers, though, get used to a certain level of performance and establish a comfort zone, then find themselves stuck on a performance plateau. Often you can hear archers in this state say things like “No matter what I do I score thus and so.” So, coach, what do you do to help?

Helping with Plateaus
Almost always newly serious archers have no perspective as to how much effort is needed to make progress (nor do they understand that progress is harder and harder to make at their end of the scoring range). So, the first thing you need to do is sit down with them and list out all they are doing. For some, the answer is clear why progress is lacking; it is due to lack of effort. Kids are somewhat notorious for attending classes or JOAD sessions once a week and expecting that to be sufficient “practice.” Adding a practice session or two between classes will help a great deal. They, of course, will need help planning what they need to do at those sessions and you should help with that.

For student-archers who are “putting in the time,” the enemy is usually the definition of insanity often ascribed to Albert Einstein, which is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

The weapon needed to conquer this problem is the lowly notebook. More than a few archers spend their practice sessions socializing and not working on their shot or whatnot. Like the dieters asked to keep a log of what they eat, asking archers to keep a log of what they do during “practice” can help identify if a) they are doing enough and b) are they doing the right things.

If you yourself spend any idle time at a range, observe what people do for “practice.” You will see a great many people “just shooting” and others “shooting for score” (a practice round). Neither of these are effective practice. Their benefits are few. One such is they are developing some shooting stamina and another is they are benchmarking their scoring ability (practice rounds are tests, not homework). But there are better ways to develop stamina than just shooting, for example. For recurve archers, instead of just shooting, could do Double Draws or Reversals to build shooting stamina. Double Draws are just that, you draw to anchor, let down to your predraw position, draw again and loose. Reversals are drawing and holding for much longer than ordinary times (done in sets like weight lifting because they are weight lifting). Note Reversals should not involve shooting at the end unless you are very close to the butt. The fatigue they create is substantial and can create wild looses.

Real practice involves working on your shot to get better, so the big question is: what needs to be improved? This is where introspection and notebooks are absolutely necessary. Archers need to become cognizant of where they fail to perform and, if they can, why they fail. Do the poorly scoring arrows come at first or toward the end when a good score is on the horizon? Or do they come in the middle of rounds due to a loss of focus? Serious archers, to be really serious, need to study themselves and their sport to improve their own performances and their own equipment. Keeping notes on what is and isn’t working, another use for the lowly notebook, is very, very helpful. Seriously.


Filed under For All Coaches

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

How to . . . Teach Stringwalking

We teach aiming before we teach sighting so once beginning archers can group their shots we teach them the “point-of-aim” system as a first aiming system. If they do not want to move on to a physical bow sight, we next teach them stringwalking. To help you help you help them learn this, we provide an excerpt from the book “Archery Coaching How To’s.”

General Background Information
Stringwalking was invented less than a century ago, but since archery’s history hasn’t been codified, that is debatable. Basically stringwalking is gripping the string below the arrow, the farther below the arrow the string is gripped, the less far the arrow will fly (in effect the bow is being tilted down). Target distances can be mapped onto the bowstring quite exactly. Since only a small range of distances is covered by these “crawls” down the string, various anchors are used for ranges of distances. Long distances require low anchors while short distances require high anchors. Some archers also switch between using the arrow point to aim with to using other parts of the bow (typically the sight window shelf).

Crawl MontageThe main advantage of stringwalking over other versions of shooting off of the point is that the same sight picture is used for most shots.

Since no shooting rules allow marks to be put upon bow string, bow, or tab, most archers use either the ordinary marks available on some tabs, for example a line of stitches (see photos), or use a center serving material like monofilament serving that will allow them to count down “wraps” of serving. This is typically done by running one’s thumbnail down from the nock locator, counting each click or bump along the way. Each distance that corresponds to a shooting distance is called a “crawl.” Some organizations allow these to be written down, others require them to be memorized. Beginners are urged to take notes so as to minimize mistakes. If their crawls need to be memorized, they can do that later.

Stringwalking is usually only seen in field archery because target archery involves only a few quite long distances (the exception being indoors target archery). Field archery involves shots at many different distances, quite a few of which are at shorter distances.

How Do I Know My Athlete Is Ready Learn Stringwalking?
This is an option for any student wanting to shoot barebow. Stringwalking is only allowed in a few shooting styles so check to see if your student’s “style” is allowed in the competitions they are interested in. The only preliminary skill needed is the ability to shoot off of the point

How to Get Started (Stringwalking)
Basic Setup If the archer knows his “point on target” distance (in the vernacular “point on”) that is the best place to start. Have her warm up until she is grouping nicely. Then take five paces closer to the target and have her shoot using the same crawl (zero because of the three-fingers under string grip). The arrow should hit high. Then ask her to stick the tip of her draw hand thumbnail into the string about a quarter inch down from where the tab is touching the arrow and then slide her tab down until the upper edge of the tab is lined up with the point her thumbnail is touching the string. Then the bow is drawn and the shot taken with the same point of aim. The arrow should hit lower.

If the arrow didn’t hit in target center, if it needs to hit lower a larger crawl is in order; if higher, a smaller crawl. Once a crawl that works is found, the distance and a description of the crawl are written in the student’s notebook. The crawl is described either as a number of wraps of center serving or number of stitches (and fractions thereof) on the archer’s tab.

This process is repeated until a number of crawls are discovered.

Advanced Setup Once a number of crawls are determined work with your archer so they can see that the crawls are linear, for example if one stitch crawl equates to four yards closer than the archer’s point on, a two-stitch crawl will be eight yards, a three stitch crawl 12 yards, etc. Since the crawls are linear, the archer can interpolated between them, for example, in the previous example a one-stitch crawl was 4 yards inside of the archers point on and a two stitch crawl was 8 yards inside her point on, a one and a half stitch crawl (halfway between the one stitch and two-stitch crawls) should be 6 yards inside of their point on.

Crawls are limited to about two to three inches down the string as drawing the string this way detunes the bow.

Going Farther Go back to your archer’s point on distance, this time walk back five paces and shoot the same crawl (zero). This time the arrow will hit low. It should be obvious that crawling will not solve this problem as a crawl will cause the arrow to hit the target even lower. One can combine other aspects of shooting off the point by choosing to “aim off” here. If the arrow landed at 6 o’clock in the blue, your archer could aim at 12 o’clock in the blue to compensate, but soon your archer would be off of the target so a better solution is needed.

What the archer needs is a lower anchor. Most string walkers get by with a high anchor (index finger in the corner of the mouth) and a low anchor (Olympic-style anchor) but some use other variants (middle finger in the corner of the mouth for very short shots, etc.). Each anchor has it’s own “point on” target distance and a set of crawls for distances down from that distance.

Training (Stringwalking)
Initial Stages New anchors have to be trained in. All are best addressed blank bale. Coaches need to give feedback so a good start can be had.

Be aware that clickers can be used to train with, even though they are often not allowed in competition or are just impractical (when stringwalking the distance the arrow is drawn varies with the crawl). New anchors are best trained in with a zero crawl.

Later Stages After some practice with a new anchor has occurred, the archer’s point on target distance with this anchor has to be found, along with all of the crawls inside that “point on.” Notes are taken so each set of crawls and their distances can be compared.

Fine Points When a complete set of crawls (five or so, from which the others can be figured) for both anchors is available, check to see if the two sets of distances overlap. If they do, your archer has all distances covered from her low anchor point on to her high anchor biggest crawl. If there is a small gap between the two sets of distances, then the aiming off technique discuss prior using the high anchor no crawl setup may fill that gap.

Advanced Training (Stringwalking)
Archers are oriented to target center but at farther distances with smaller aiming rings, the arrow point can cover the entire aiming dot. Consequently string walkers have adopted a slightly different target picture. They line up the top of the arrow point with the bottom of the central aiming ring creating a kind of “figure eight.” This creates a very fine position for aiming. Additional rings below the center can also be used as alignment points as can rings above the center but, since the curved lines go the same way, it is harder to get an exact positioning of the arrow point.

An Alternative to the Low Anchor Some archers struggle with the low anchor or the low anchor doesn’t give enough distance. In this case an option is to “shoot off of the shelf.” This involves positioning the target’s central scoring ring so that it touches the outside of the arrow and the top of the bow’s arrow shelf. This creates a great deal more distance as it raises the bow a great deal, but it also aims the arrow off to the right of the target (the target center used to be right on top of the arrow now it is to the left). This is compensated for by either aiming off or moving the string in the archer’s string picture quite a bit to the right (how much so must be determined by experiment). See the sidebar “String Picture and Windage.”

All variations must be trained in with repetition.

Potential Pitfalls (Stringwalking)
1.   Available Crawls Do Not Cover Competitive Distances
Sometimes archers can’t seem to cover all of the distances they need to shoot with the anchors and crawls they can master. Consequently different equipment parameters are needed. Typically these involve more draw weight (which gives higher arrows speeds and more “cast” or distance) and/or lighter arrows (which does the same).

Sidebar – String Picture and Windage
Most beginning archers are unaware that their bow string can be seen at full draw through their aiming eye. Careful positioning of the image of the bow string against the background of the shot can add consistency to an archer’s shot. (Compound archers using a peep sight do not have to bother with this as they can look through a peep hole straight through the string.)

To help your archers explore their “string pictures” and the effects of “string alignment,” have them play with it using a very light drawing bow at very short distances. Some archers line up the string with their arrow point (not a good idea if you are using the point to aim with). Others use the inside edge of the riser, or the outside edge, etc. What someone uses depends on the shape of their face and the kind of anchor they employ. A different string alignment may be needed for each anchor. When “shooting of the shelf” a right-handed archer may have to move his string in his sight picture a couple of inches to the right.



Filed under For AER Coaches, For All Coaches

Finding Your Anchor Position

One of the things archers of all experience levels struggle with is finding their anchor position. We have seen very experienced archers move their heads inches to get a shot off, all the while keeping their hand on their face as if glued. We have had beginners fail to get off their first shot because they couldn’t allow their hand to be close to their face/eyes while there was something in it. Finding an anchor position is neither easy nor obvious.

The Word
A fairly prominent archery coach objected to the word “anchor” because it implied a static situation. Apparently this gentleman was not at all familiar with anchors. The word comes from the device used on a ship or boat for a temporary anchorage (there’s that word again). How a little thing like an anchor could hold a boat, which outweighs it many, many times over, still is beyond me. Boats drag their anchors all of the time, so the objection is silly. Even so you will find people who will not use the word. We do.

Anchor Positions
The whole purpose of the anchor position is to bring the bow string back to a consistent position. Many parts of the body have been used for this purpose. Archers have pulled to their ears, to the side of their head next to their eye, to their nose, to their chin (and out in front of the chin), to the side of their face (several positions) and to their chests (several positions. One enterprising Victorian gentleman sewed a button on his waistcoat to draw his bow to (for long distance shooting).

Any anchor position needs to allow for the string to become tangent to the archer’s line of sight (recurve and longbow) or on the line of sight (compound with peep sight). If the bowstring is on or very close to the line of sight, the brain’s hard-wired pointing abilities form the foundation for accurate aiming. If the string is at all off from that line, the brain is guessing as to aiming. This is the equivalent of shooting a pistol “from the hip” rather than using the sights.

What Do We Want from Our Anchor Position?
Anchor positions need to be stable, secure, and repeatable while meeting the necessity of bringing the bowstring to a position tangent with the archer’s line of sight (recurve and longbow) or on the line of sight (compound with peep sight). In general, the string hand must be pressed up against a part of the archer’s anatomy fairly firmly.

The First Anchor Position
Archers are usually introduced to anchor positions with a “side of the face” anchor: in this anchor the tip of the top string finger becomes tucked into the corner of the archer’s mouth while the rest of the top finger wraps around the archer’s cheekbone. Archers are taught this way because, we are told, “this anchor is simplest.” This is not so. The anchor described is best for new archers because it brings the arrow to one of a very few reproducible spots just under the archer’s aiming eye (see the youth in the rear ground of the cover photo for an example of how not to do it).

This is desirable because beginners shoot at targets very close in, often 5-10 meters/yards. If a lower anchor was recommended it would conflict with the archer’s innate sense of aiming and the arrows will fly over the top of the target butts. All anchors are somewhat difficult to learn, this one is used because of its practical advantages, not because it is simpler.

Evidence for this can be seen in competitive barebow recurve archers. At shorter distances they shoot with some sort of high anchor (often more than one). At longer distances they shoot using a low anchor. The “this anchor is simplest” reason was probably made up by someone who didn’t have a good answer to the question of “Why?”

Beginners tend to float this anchor; “floating” being hovering the string hand with little to no firm contact with the head. This stems from an innate discomfort in having something that close to your eye and you not looking at it. The first task is to acquire a firm, solid anchor position by pressing the string hand against the face.

More expert archers go to the extreme of hooking the fingernail of their top finger on a particular tooth. All of this is to either give, or give the sense of, having a firm repeatable anchor position.

The Second Anchor Position
The second anchor position most student’s learn is the “under chin” or “low” anchor, also called the “Olympic” anchor. In this anchor the string is drawn to the outside corner of the archer’s chin and then the string hand is brought upward, pressing firmly into the flesh under the jaw bone. This has the added advantage of bringing the string into a position near the tip of the archer’s nose, so positioning the head so the string touches the archer’s nose creates a second contact point which provides a check on having a consistent head position. The archer’s head must be slightly more “chin up” than when using a side of the face anchor because when the string is loosed, the string fingers must be flipped away by the leaving string. If the chin is too low, the finger tips ride the jaw line downward before they get out of the way; they also tend to take the string with them, making for greater vertical dispersion of the arrows.

This anchor is considerably lower than the side of the face anchors, consequently it is preferred for shooting long distances, such as are encountered in the Olympic Games.

Student’s generally are transitioned from a side anchor to this anchor when they need to “make distance,” that is shoot at a significantly farther distance than they have previously.

Many people point to the fact that Korean archers start with the low anchor and use it exclusively, giving that as a reason we should, too. But Korean archers are training for one and only one purpose and that is to compete and win at the Olympic Games, so they are training solely for long distance shooting. In this country, very, very few beginning archers are in serious training. They are mostly shooting for fun. Since hitting the target is more fun than not hitting the target, we recommend they start with a high anchor and only change from it when there is a need.

Why Not Just Stick With One Anchor? This seems to be a good strategy. Olympic Recurve archers use their low anchors outdoors and indoors, but they have a bow sight to position their bows. Part of the problem comes outdoors when shooting longer distances. If the back end of the arrow ends in the same place for all distances, the only adjustment that can be made is with the bow itself. With a high anchor used at long distances, the bow has to be held so high that keeping control of one’s form becomes difficult if not impossible. One loses a sightline to the target, too.

By lowering the rear end of the arrow (the distance equivalent to the distance from the corner of the archer’s mouth to the bottom of the jaw) the bow can be held much closer to being level, where it is much easier to maintain good T-Form and have a good sight line to the target.

If the low anchor is used indoors without the assistance of a bow sight, archers report that they felt like they were aiming too low even while shooting arrows over the tops of their targets. In other words, it is a position that would take a great deal of getting used to. Also, if archers are using a point of aim technique, their point of aim is likely to be on the ground/floor, where no consistent marks can be found. Using the high anchor at the start of lessons provides points of aim that are on the target butt and often on the target itself, simplifying the learning and using of that technique.

Exploring New Anchors
When any of your archers decides to explore a new anchor, there will be some struggle. Anything new will be awkward and clumsy at first. We recommend you start them blank bale (the target face is not supplying feedback on their new anchor position) with a low draw weight bow (we like 10#), and always respecting the First Law of Archery Practice: You may only give feedback on the thing being practiced. Any shot with a good new anchor is, by definition, a “good shot.” Whether the arrow hits any particular point is irrelevant to learning the new anchor position. Use of a target gives mixed messages. You tell your student “good shot” because their new anchor position was done well and the target (which no archer can ignore) says “bad shot.” This does not create a good learning environment and which is why we take the target face off the butt.


Filed under For AER Coaches, For All Coaches

Helping Them with Stabilizers

If you are following the AER Curriculum or not students will get interested in stabilizers at some point. Either a student joins the class who already has one, or a student sees a YouTube video, or. . . . or your student reaches that point in Stage 2 of the AER compound or Olympic recurve curricula.

What you can do to help is the topic of this article.

What Stabilizers Do
In archery, a stabilizer is anything that makes it easier to hold your bow steady while at full draw. Most non-traditional bows come with a hole in the “back” of your bow to allow a stabilizer to be fit. The holes are the same size with the same threads no matter where the bow as made, so you can install just about any stabilizer you get your hands on.

A popular short stabilizer amongst target archers.

A popular short stabilizer amongst target archers.

Typically stabilizers are either “short” or “long.” Bowhunters prefer short stabilizers because they are less likely to get tangled up in brush or a tree stand. Consequently all of the shooting styles that are based on hunting require that you use a “short” stabilizer (NFAA styles: BH, BHFS, BHFSL). The last we checked this meant under 11˝ in length (measured from the surface of the bow). Short stabilizers can be really short ~3˝ up to the max, just less than 11˝. Long stabilizers may be any length you want and people have tried stabilizers that have been ridiculously long, but most are somewhere between 24˝ and 36˝ long.

All the stabilizer does is spread out the weight of your bow. The more spread out the weight of the bow is, the harder it is to move, which means once the bow is in position at full draw, it will resist the forces trying to move it during the shot. (Think about it—aiming is putting the bow into a position which will cause the arrow to go where you want. Any movement after that is moving the bow where you don’t want it to be.)PSE Nova One Bow

If you hold a broom by the middle of its handle, you will find it easy to hold and move around. But if you hold it by one end, you will find it much harder to move in two important directions: left-right and up-down. (Try it.) It is still easy to move the broom back and forth along the line of the broom handle, though. If you were to think of a broom being attached to your bow (sticking straight out) it would make it harder to swing the bow left or right or up and down. You would still be able to push the bow in and out toward the target, but that doesn’t create much a problem when shooting arrows—swinging the bow left and right or up and down does. There is also one other thing you can do easily with the broom attached and that is to rotate the bow around the shaft of the broom handle. (If you think the idea of the broom on a bow is crazy we know an archer who used a golf club for his stabilizer!)

Let’s get rid of the broom (but remember what you’ve learned from it). One of the ways to reduce the ability to rotate the bow around the stabilizer is to add what are called “side rods.” Archers typically use a “V block” which is inserted between the long stabilizer and the bow. A V block has two threaded holes in it to attach shorter stabilizer roStabilizer + V Barsds on both sides of the bow (see photos below). This is the typical stabilization setup used by Olympic Recurve archers.

Cartel Carbon StabilizersIf you look closely, many compound archers who use side rods use only one rod. This is because the bowsights used on compound bows are significantly heavier than the bowsights used on recurve bows. The one side rod is used to balance the extra weight on the other side of the bow caused by the bow sight.

And most people shoot for quite a while with just a “long rod” before they then try side rods, so you don’t need the whole setup all at once. And do realize that there is a large number of gewgaws you can screw into your stabilizers: weights for the shaft, weights for the tip, vibration dampeners (Doinkers!), etc. These are used to adjust the weight distribution of your bow or too absorb vibrations left over after the shot (so that you don’t). (If you don’t think vibrations can make you tired, talk to a jackhammer operator sometime.)

Helping Them to Learn to Shoot with a Stabilizer
We recommend that when a student decides to try a stabilizer, that they borrow one. We have a half dozen “loaners” that we let our students use, but you may not have stabilizers for them to try, so they will have to borrow one from another student. Remind that they are not obligated to lend any piece of archery gear, so the person they ask may say no and that’s fair.

If their “style” requires a short stabilizer, then they may be stuck with a short one, but urge them to go ahead and try short and long stabilizers. If they really like what a long one does for them, they might want to switch styles!

Tap and WrenchStart by having them carefully screw the stabilizer into the hole designed for it. This must be done carefully because a number of things can go wrong. If the bow is brand new, there may be construction debris in the hole (metal shavings, paint, etc.). This may cause you to “cross thread” the stabilizer, which is to get the screw threads misaligned. If you force this, it can mess up the threads on both the stabilizer and the bow, which can be an expensive repair. If they encounter a great deal of resistance, we suggest they ask you for help. If the bow is old, a previous user may have cross threaded the hole and not told anyone. We carry a tap wrench and tap the same size as the stabilizer hole so we can “chase the threads” that is run the tap in and out and it will clear up the threads if dirty or only slight damaged (see photo). We don’t recommend doing this unless you are familiar with tap wrenches.

In all likelihood, the stabilizer will screw in easily.

We then recommend you have the student(s) take some shots at short range into a blank target bale. The bow will feel different. For example, bare bows generally rock with the top limb toward the archer during the followthrough. With a long enough stabilizer the bow will rock top limb away from the archer. Because of these effects, if you haven’t introduced a shooting sling of some kind, now would be good. You can find the specifics in the AER Recreation Archery Curriculum Coach’s Guide.

Also because of these effects, they will find that all of their previously determined points of aim or sight markings will now be different (not hugely so, but different). Don’t have them “sight in” again because they may be switching to another stabilizer to try or they may decide they don’t want to shoot with one at all and they will be right back where they were. When they have decided on what kind they want and have acquired their own, then they will need to “sight in” again.

Acquiring a Stabilizer
When they have some idea of what they want they will need help in finding the one they want. If you have a well-equipped pro shop in town, you can just send them there. If you don’t, we use catalogs to give them an idea of what they want at what price and then send them off, probably to the Internet, because big box sporting good stores are unlikely to have much in the way of stabilizers to choose from (short stabilizers are way more likely to be found than long).

While stabilizers help them hold their bows steadier while shooting they also add weight to their bow, so if their bow is already a little heavy (this is typically true for most beginning youths shooting compound bows) they will need to find a very light stabilizer.


Filed under For AER Coaches

Even More on Coaching Archery is Out!

I just checked and my latest book, Even More on Coaching Archery, is now available on Amazon.com. If you enjoyed, or better benefited from, Coaching Archery or More on Coaching Archery, this is more of the same. Let me know what you think (steve@archeryfocus.com). If you like the book, or any of the others really, I would appreciate you posting a review on Amazon.com. Many people say the reviews really help them decide whether or not to buy a book.

EMOCA Cover (10%)

Table of Contents

On Form and Execution
Using a Release Aid (The Right Way)
Teaching Aiming and Sighting
The Whole and Its Parts
The Pre-Draw
The Pre-Draw Redux
BEST Step by Step #1 Overview
BEST Step by Step #2 The Stance
BEST Step by Step #3 Hooking and Gripping
BEST Step by Step #4 Mindset and Set-up
BEST Step by Step #5 Drawing and Anchoring
BEST Step by Step #6 Loading-Transfer to Holding
BEST Step by Step #7 Aiming and Expansion
BEST Step by Step #8 Release and Followthrough
BEST Step by Step #9 Relaxation and Feedback

The Mental Shot
Shooting in the Now
Mea Culpa
Coaching Four Personality Types

On Coaching
Adapting Standard Form
Shot Planning
A Weighty Matter Put in Balance
The Lines of Archery
Following Up on Following Through
Taking Advice
Finding Coaching Wisdom
The Elements of Winning Archery
Drilling for Archery
The Whole and its Parts
Watch Your Language
Practice Prescription, Pt 1
Practice Prescription, Pt 2
How Relaxed is “Relaxed”?
What’s Your Preshot Routine?
How Compound Bows Mislead Beginners
Do As We Do? Do As They Do?
Coaching Precepts
Serious Questions About Teaching Form
Inexpensive Video for Archery Coaches

On Equipment
Teaching Archery Crafts
The French Method of Tuning

General Commentary
 Do As We Do? Do As They Do?
Just How Important is Safety?
Competitive Age Categories in Archery
Golf Envy
Golf Envy, Part Deux
The New AER Archery Curriculum

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Helping Them to Try Other Styles

The AER Archery Curriculum is set up to expose student archers to a great many styles, if . . . if they are interested. But since they don’t know anything about the styles of archery, other than what they have seen, they don’t know what to ask, so you have to help. (Kids who have archer parents have seen a great deal and often have their minds already made up, but we tend to see a lot of people who do not have archer relatives or even friends.) Typically, archers just out of the beginning stage haven’t seen a wide variety of equipment being used, but in the Coaching Resources section of the Archery Education Resources website (www.ArcheryEducationResources.com) you will find a handout entitled “NFAA Shooting Styles.” This can be downloaded and printed out for your files or printed and even handed out to your students.

For your information, the compound styles recognized by World Archery/FITA/USAA are “Compound Unlimited” which is the equivalent of the NFAA style of “Freestyle” and “Compound Limited” which is the equivalent of the NFAA style of “Freestyle Limited.”

How a Coach Can Help Archers Explore
In Stage 2 of the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum, accessories are added to student’s bows in the order of: tab, stabilizer, bow sling, bow sight, clicker, peep sight, release aid (quivers, etc. that don’t require training, per se, can be acquired at any time). Obviously, not all of these apply to any one archer, so let me use the example of a compound archer.

A Compound Archers’ Choices The first thing a compound archer has to choose is a finger tab. Most beginners don’t use a tab for the reasons that their bow’s are so light drawing they aren’t needed and the cheap program tabs that are available are often counterproductive as they don’t fit the archers. We only give out tabs to students who complain their fingers are starting to hurt or who request them. But as draw weight goes up a tab becomes more important, to protect the archer’s fingers and to provide a slippery surface for the string to slide off of. Since tabs have to be fit to the archers, we expect them to buy one.

Then, if they don’t have their own bow and arrows yet, they come next.

Note Somebody always asks why their kid can’t start with a full compound kit. The answer is: if they already have a full compound kit (sight, scope, peep, release, etc.) we will work with them. We do not recommend that anyone try to learn the use of all of these accessories in a class setting because there are too many things to learn at one time and you only have a small amount of time to devote to any one student in any class session. We break down shooting into pieces and feed it to our students a piece at a time. This keeps frustration low and interest high. And it shows our students many of the styles of archery along the way.

Back to our compound student—after the tab is taught and learned and they have their own bow and arrows, the next choice is a stabilizer. If the student opts for a “long rod” or long stabilizer, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Barebow.” If he/she subsequently adds a bow sight and a peep sight, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Freestyle Limited.” If, down the road, they then incorporate a release aid, they are in the NFAA style of “Freestyle.”

If, on the other hand, our blossoming archer prefers a short stabilizer (≤11˝), with just the bow, tab, and stabilizer, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Bowhunter.” If they follow that choice with a pin sight and peep sight, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Bowhunter Freestyle Limited.” And, if they trade their tab for a release aid, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Bowhunter Freestyle.”

So, they can end up trying almost all of the recognized styles of compound archery. Of course, they can turn down any of those choices. It is their sport. But, trying different things is fun, and most want to see what that “doohickey thingamajig” does for their accuracy.

Trying Different Bows
We see students swapping bows all the time in our beginner classes. Of course, they are our program bows and they are much alike (in draw weight, etc.). Once you get into classes with Stage 2 students, though, many if not most of them will have their own bow and arrows. They still want to swap bows. This is true for kids as well as for adult students. Trying something new is a normal part of our makeup as a “curious animal.” This is the reason why we recommend a mix of recurve and Genesis compound bows for beginning programs. Students get to try both to see which they favor.

Most beginning students don’t get to see a traditional bow let alone shoot one, so if you have one on hand, you will get students wanting to try it. (You can use such “novelties” to spice up a dull session, for example.) We tend to favor Bear Paw bows as they make two light drawing longbows that are quite affordable.

I also keep on hand a “real” compound bow (one with letoff), with an easily adjusted draw length and very low draw weight for introduction when it seems productive. At least they can pull the bow to see what “letoff” really is.

The most important thing for you is to supervise these “bow swaps” or “first time tries” because the unfamiliarity of these new bows leads to “dry fires,” hit bow arms, and dropped bows. We watch each such archer’s first one or two shots attempts to make sure they are safe. You should, too.

More Help You Can Provide
It will be a big help to your students if you have some equipment you can make into “loaners.”

We have a pile of loaner stabilizers (most purchased “used” for under $5) and some loaner tabs and bow sights. Our motto is “Always Try Before You Buy.” Buying unfamiliar archery gear only to find out it doesn’t do what one thought, is not a route to happy student-archers. So, have a list of recommendations of quality entry-level stuff available. If working with kids, always include the parents in the discussion of any purchase recommendation, because no parent wants to see their kids come home jacked up because they want them to buy something for their archery. It doesn’t hurt to make up a sheet of recommended places to shop for archery gear in your community, or lacking such a resource, trusted online retailers.

You need to keep track of anything you lend out, because if you don’t it won’t be long until your supply of “loaner” equipment is exhausted and nobody knows who has what.

One of the joys of archery are all the different manifestations of flinging an arrow from a bow. With a little forethought and preparation, you can help them realize their choices. Good luck!

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Should I Be Using the AER Recreational Curriculum?

When you were trained as an AER Archery Coach, we provided you with activities to take archers through their first series of classes. You learned all about The First Three Arrows and what to do thereafter, but if you have been coaching for some time, you probably have students clamoring for a second level class.
So what should you do?

Moving On Up
When we first got involved in supporting archery coaches we knew we were going to need a curriculum to share with you. So what we did is to write a curriculum for recreational archery classes. This is how it goes.

The Basic Structure of the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum
The AER Recreational Archery Curriculum consists of three lines of instruction called Tracks, namely: the Olympic-Style Track, the Compound Track, and the Traditional Track. In addition to providing instruction in each of these Tracks we allowed for many variations within them. In the Traditional Track, for example, a student can choose longbow or recurve, from wooden arrows with a self bow to carbon arrows and high tech modern recurves (FITA Barebow). In the Compound Track almost all of the variations allowed in compound competition are encountered: short stabilizers, long stabilizers, pin sights/target sights/no sights, tabs and release aids.

Because we knew that neither you nor your students would want to be locked into a particular style, students are allowed to change Tracks. We don’t want this to be done frivolously, but this is recreational archery and if a student thinks another style would be more fun, we encourage them to try it. This is also why we recommend that you have both recurve and compound bows available in your beginner classes, so that by the time the archers are ready for this curriculum they have a good idea which track they prefer.

Each Track has four Stages: Stage 1 Getting Started, Stage 2 Getting Better, Stage 3 Achieving Mastery, and Stage 4 Owning the Sport. Stage 1 is pretty much what you were trained to teach when you first became an AER Coach: solid, basic barebow form up to shooting off of the point using program equipment. The other Stages lead students through improvements in form and execution and acquiring their own equipment until finally they are relatively independent, that is they only need coaching because they are having recognized problems or they decided to become “competitive archers.” (Remember that our definition of a “competitive archer” is someone who is training to learn how to win, not just to compete.)

Each Stage has Signposts. Signposts are indicators of accomplishment that point the way forward. Here is an example from the Olympic-Style Track, Stage 1:
2. Exhibits good archery posture  Sometimes  Often  Always
Stands relaxed and straight up and down, doesn’t lean left, right, forward, or
backward. Knees straight but not locked.
This skill is described/demonstrated and when a student (or you) wants an evaluation of how they are doing, you rate his/her performance as doing this skill correctly Sometimes, Often, or Always. In order to proceed from one Stage to the next, a student must get “Often” or better on each of the Signposts they have worked on. On the AER website will be an AER Coach Support page which includes lists of these Signposts for each track for you to use as a kind of grade book and your students to use as a progress tracker. We call these lists ICPs (for Individualized Curriculum Plans) and they are in MS Word format deliberately so you can modify them should you choose to.

Students must do all of the Signposts in Stage 1 (in every Track on the safety Signposts, they must get “Always”) but thereafter, which Signposts are necessary is negotiable. In order to provide you, the coach, with flexibility, we allow Signposts to be skipped (until later or even entirely) and for the Signposts to be reordered.

If a student moves on, they have your ICP with your ratings on it to take with them to inform their next coach. (As a matter of privacy, you do not generally keep copies when they ask for their “official” ICP.)

When new students show up, you need to do an evaluation to see which Signposts they have already mastered so they aren’t starting working on things already learned, nor are they overwhelmed by things too advanced for them.

Teaching Students Using the AER Archery Curriculum
If you choose to use this curriculum, you are provided a number of things. In the Coach’s Guide, you are provided with a structure for archery classes and what kinds of things to teach within that structure. Of course, each Track consists of a series of Signposts, which your students work through at their own pace. Since each student can be given a copy of their ICP (we suggest you print them and hand them out free . . . well, at least the first one). Consequently they should know what it is they are working on at any point in time. Reviewing your copy of their ICPs should tell you where each student is in the curriculum and what they are working on.

In this manner, students who progress very fast can speed along and those who need more time can take it. Parents of student archers can follow along. Competition starts whenever they feel ready and appropriate events are available. We have competition prep and guidelines, also.

The Archer’s and Coach’s Guides
Because students and their parents often want to know what they will be learning we are making the curriculum available to them in the form of The Complete Archer’s Guide to the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum. In this book, the entire structure is explained along with each Track, each Signpost, and instructive text describing what is to be learned.

This text is not required to take a course using this curriculum, it is provided for just those folks who want something like it (a kind of textbook for the archery course). So that you will know exactly what is in The Archer’s Guide, every page of it is included in The Coach’s Guide. In addition, there are copious annotations included suggestions and tips on teaching the form, execution, and equipment learning going on. Also, there are many dozens of additional pages of appendices included to provide you with background knowledge as well as sources of additional information you may need. (One of our coaching precepts is that coaches need to be continually learning about their subject.)

The AER Recreational Archery Curriculum books are available at http://www.amazon.com and http://www.archeryeducationresources.com (just search for Archery Education Resources).

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