Tag Archives: Working with Adults

Getting Serious: Trying Remote Coaching

This is the latest Archery Education Resources column from Archery Focus magazine, from an issue that had a special emphasis: “Archery in a Time of Pandemic.”

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Okay, since your indoor and outdoor ranges are closed for the duration, so . . . what are you going to do? Here are some suggestions.

Keep in Contact
Whether by text message or email or any other means, keeping in touch with your student-archers will help them, some of them in any case.

Encourage Rainy Day Activities
So, it is raining and they can’t go outside to do archery, so what can they do. There are long lists of things that can be done to organize and maintain their archery gear. They can start by sorting their arrows into three piles: (1) Competition Ready, (2) Okay for Practice, and (3) In Need of Repair or Replacement. If they have been learning “archery crafts,” specifically arrow repair, maybe now would be a good time to practice those skills on the arrows in Group 3.

Reading About Archery If your students have books about archery, those can help fill the “archery hole” the pandemic is leaving. Archery Focus magazine is proud that they allow you to send individual articles to your students if you think one of those will help. Just download the issue with the article and then use a PDF program to separate out the article from the whole issue and then attach it to an email or a text and voila. (PDF “editing” programs are available for free). They ask that you do not send whole issues this way as they would like to make money from subscriptions.

Internet Archery There are a number of websites devoted to helping beginners, NuSensei comes to mind. We do not recommend random, unvetted Internet archery excursions (at least until they know what is up) so your job is to “approve” of some of those sites and provide links.

Doing Drills Any drills that do not involve actual shooting can be done and, if they are able to shoot at home in a basement or garage, they can even do shooting drills. Your job, of course, is to provide the drills. Just setting them loose on YouTube may be not the best advice.

Try Remote Coaching
With the advent of the communication tools embedded in the Internet, remote coaching has become a “thing” in archery. Clearly there are not enough good coaches available, so some archers are stuck trying to get coached from afar. People use the telephone, email, text messaging, video communication tools like Skype, and even more specialized tools to allow coaches and archers to have back-and-forth exchanges. Our experience is with email (mostly) and attached still photos and video clips. Many younger archers prefer text messaging and whatnot. The advantage of email is you can “nest” the emails exchanged and keep them in a folder for each student, thus you have a running log of your exchanges.

Helping Them Take Photos This can be done as simply as asking a sibling or parent to take photos using a smartphone and then emailing them from the phone. Or a camera and tripod can be sued and if a brother or sister or parent isn’t available, many camera s come with remote shutters (or you can buy them cheaply enough Bluetooth enabled. Where you are needed is to help them take the photos that will help you help them.

We are working on a “handout” that shows what pictures to take from where and listing what they show but we haven’t finished that yet, look for it soon.

Conclusion
I just noticed that Mental Management Systems is offering online trainings now. I haven’t checked out the details, but if one of their seminars has been on your “to-do list,” you might want to check those out.

Which brings to mind the fact that we have been totally concentrating on how you can help your students, and we have left helping you out. One of our favorite sayings is “you can’t give what you don’t have.” So, you may need to do many of the above yourself. Your batteries may be charged up with nothing to do, so think about enhancing your knowledge and skills in support of your own archery, which on the come around, will help all of your students in the future.

And, bottom line, if it stops being fun, most people stop, so keep investing in what makes archery fun for you!

Postscript We make a standard recommendation that you not “authorize” shooting at home. If enterprising archery students or their parents set up a practice station in their home or backyard that allows shooting . . . safely . . . then that is, we think, a good thing. On the other hand if you supply recommendations or instructions as to shooting at home and an accident occurs or an unsafe practice results in an injury, you may have legal liability. Even if you were to inspect the site and find nothing unsafe about it doesn’t mean that the people using it will use safe practices. Think about a young archer who has a friend over while his parents are at work. We suggest a ten foot pole with a ten foot extension on it is still too short to touch this topic.

 

 

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I Shot a Lot Better Today Than My Scorecard Indicates

If you have been in archery competition for any length of time you have probably heard someone say “I shot a lot better today than my scorecard indicates.” This usually muttered by someone looking at their scorecard with a puzzled look on their face.

There is only one response to such an assertion and that is “No you didn’t.” And no, you don’t have to be rude and say this to the archer making that claim, unless, well, you like them and care for them.

Each and every day, you shoot your capability that day, period.

Sure, things can go wrong: equipment failures, strange gusts of wind, birds flying in front of targets, overhanging branches that were not there before jump out and deflect your shot, sure. But they happen to everyone. Deal with them.

There is nothing better in archery than our individual responsibility for our performances. You can’t blame the officials. You can’t blame your teammates. You can’t blame the conditions (everyone is facing the same ones).

So . . . “I shot a lot better today than my scorecard indicates?” No, you shot exactly as well as your score indicates. If you want to take credit for the good scores you shoot, you also need to take responsibility for the poor scores you shoot . . . and the mediocre scores, and the up and down scores, and the inconsistent scores, and . . . well, all of them.

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Eye Dominance Approaches: Signs and Fixes

I had an exchange with a coach in dealing with eye dominance and I felt that maybe I should share with you what we did in our beginner classes.

Our Basic Approach
We did not test for eye dominance, although in our coach trainings we cover just how to do that because many coaches like to do it. Our alternative was to go with their hand dominance (if they were right-handed, we gave them a right handed bow, etc.) and then if they showed signs of struggling with this setup, we would address an eye dominance issue with those archers who showed one of the signs.

Show Me a Sign!
A beginner struggling with eye dominance will show obvious signs because of the light drawing bows they are giving. (Stouter bows would not allow much of the mishandling described below).
One sure sign is trying to draw the bow to the other side of their face. (Yes, it does happen.) Another sign is them cocking their head at an extreme angle to get their dominant eye over the arrow. The sign everybody knows is shooting off to the side (for a right-handed archer, the arrow lands feet to the left, even at short range). Because archers just beginning are often wildly inconsistent, this does not always get noticed. We have even seen young archers shooting right-handed close their right eye to “see better!”

If we see any of these signs we deal with them one-on-one. Now we have an advantage in that each beginner shoots his or her First Three Arrows under the tutelage of a single coach. And, of course, we train our coaches as to what to look for.

The Fixes, Boss, the Fixes!
You probably know many of the “fixes” for being cross dominant (eye and hand dominance opposed). These used to be a more serious consideration until the Koreans admitted they took a cross-dominant archer to the Olympic Games. In the “old days” coaches were told to assign bows based upon eye dominance and that was that.

Switch which side of the bow the archer stands upon does fix this issue and if they are going to do that, doing it sooner is better than doing it later. But, we always ask the archer what their preference is and we always go with what the archer wants. (We assume all archers are recreational Archers until proven otherwise.) we do encourage them to try the other kind of bow, but some do not even want to try and that is okay.

Easier fixes usually involve disadvantaging the dominant eye. You probably know about the “eye patch” solution. We kid archers who take this option that they are doing “Pirate Archery! Arrgh!” Well, the boys anyway (they seem to be genetically disposed to thinking pirates are cool, don’t ask me why). If the student wears eye glasses, you can also just put a strip of transparent tape across their off eye lens. The transparent tape allows light to come in, so it doesn’t affect the dilation of the pupil and therefore doesn’t obstruct light sensitivity in the other eye. Some archers take a pair of clip on sunglasses and break off the aiming eye lens. Then the aiming eye sees better than the off eye.

We have seen more than a few approaches to this “issue” and we don’t think there are any “bad ones” per se. The weaker ones are those that take a lot of time away from shooting or make shooting more complicated/frustrating because recreational archers are defined (in our book) as being motivated by having fun (and little else).

Addendum There are nuances to this discussion. For example, some people have no particular eye dominance, which is the worst case scenario because that archer’s brain has been trained to switch eyes at the drop of a hat.

Also, students with weak eye dominance may find which eye is dominant depends on the state of their fatigue, that is when they get tired, they often switch eye dominance. (I do not know why, if anyone does I would like to know.)

Interestingly, if your eyeglass prescription shows one eye to be much stronger than the other, that will almost always be your dominant eye. If the prescriptions are closer, not necessarily close, together either eye may be dominant, which means it is not determined by the strength of your eyes currently.

And if we ever get together over a beer, I will tell you the story about the time I checked the eye dominance of a guy who had a glass eye. (When I told him his eye dominance, he said “I know,” which few people do, because in his case….)

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Getting Serious: Helping Them with New Arrows, Part 3

Helping Them with More Advanced Tuning

When your archers have mastered basic tuning, they often are curious about more advanced tuning. Let’s jump to the end of the line to look at the Cadillac, no the Rolls-Royce, of tuning: group tuning.

Preliminaries to Group Tuning
This is something an archer shouldn’t undertake unless they have reached a stage where they are consistently grouping well at all distances they are competing in. Since this process is quite laborious, to attempt it before the preliminaries are in place will be a great waste of time. So, this is not for beginners or even intermediate archers.

What Group Tuning Accomplishes
There is a short list of things that group tuning accomplishes. In the early stages it confirms the quality of the tune at all of the competing distances. Later, it is used to expose very small improvements that can be extracted from an archer’s equipment.

Getting Started—Proportional Group Sizes
If a your or your student’s bow and your arrows are tuned well, then consistent groups should be possible and observed. And because arrows are fairly simple projectiles they should show some consistent behavior, one of which is that the sizes of the groups should be proportional to the distances shot.

For example, if your archer shoots three dozen arrows at 30 meters and the diameter of the group is 20 centimeters. If that process were to be shot at double the distance, 60 meters, the diameter of the group should also double, so the group should be 40 centimeters across/high. At triple the distance, you should get groups three times as large, etc. Of course, this is on a windless day with no other influences upon the archer.

So, other than the archer, why might one not get proportional groups? Two common problems are excessive drag and clearance issues. If the arrows themselves have excessive drag associated with them (often this is attributed to poor fletching but it would have to be really, really poor to be the main cause because the drag associated with the shaft is far, far greater than of the fletches), the excessive drag will slow the arrows rapidly and as their speed is lost, the arrows become less stable and groups expand. If this is the case, the grouping at longer distances will be larger than expected. Clearance issues are issues in which the arrow, as it is leaving the bow, strikes something on its way out. That something can be a fletch or even the arrow itself. The thing it hits can be the riser or the arrow rest. It can even be the string dragging on the archer’s chin as the shot is loosed. These issues cause unstable arrow flight from the beginning, which the fletches can damp out over time. This results in groups at the closer distance being bigger than expected when compared with the sizes of the groups at longer distances.

Testing for Proportional Group Sizes A perfect place to do this is the practice butts of a field range because there are almost always a wide choice of target distances already set up. If you are at a target range, you will have to set up targets at the distances your student will be shooting. You will need three, better four, target distances and it makes things simpler if you choose easy multiples of the smaller distance, e.g. 20, 40, 60, 80 yards/meters or 15, 30, 45, 60 yards/meters. You can do it at any four distances, but then you will have to do some math. It is also easier if you use the same size target face.

The process is to shoot enough arrows to establish a reliable group size (you can disregard obvious mistakes). You can determine the group sizes either from the rings on the target (use decimal scoring) or by wrapping a string around the arrows and measuring the length of the wrapping string (a rough circumference of the group). Obviously if you don’t have many arrows, you will need to shoot a number of ends and the string technique is a bit messy (if you have four groups of six arrows, you will have four circumferences and you can just average those). The circumference or diameter (width/height) of round groups are direct measures of “group size.”

It is best if all of the arrows are shot on the same day so that the same conditions exist as well as the archer being whatever they were on that day (no day-to-day variations in mood or physical ability).

Making the Comparisons If you were able to pick four easy distances (20, 40, 60, 80 yards or meters) then the groups sizes should line up as well. The smallest one should be able to be multiplied by 2X, 3X, and 4X to get the other three (or close enough). Do not expect these to be exact. The 40 group size might be exactly half of the 80 with the 60 exactly half way in between, but the 20 group size is off. If so, this means that either the test was a bit iffy (you can just repeat that distance to confirm the number) or you may have a clearance problem.

You may have to do this a number of times to get a set of group sizes you feel good about and are “believable” as to what they are telling you. But when you have done this, you will feel that you have a good idea of what your expected group sizes are at those distances (you will know what is “normal” for you).

And That Was the Easy Part
The basic group testing is to make sure that there aren’t any glaring problems with your setup or tune. Once that is done we can get into fine tuning.

To fine tune your bow-arrow system by group testing, the procedure is the same for nocking point height adjustments and centershot adjustments, even button pressure adjustments. You establish a repeatable group size at one of the longer distances in your “suite.” Then you make a minute change in one of the variables, for example, a 1/32ʺ (0.5 mm) change in nocking point position, and then you check the group size again. Another little change, another test, and so on. You are looking for the group size to shrink when it hits a sweet spot. Obviously you need to test changes both up and down in the nocking point, testing each change. After, say, making four 1/32ʺ downward changes in your nocking point, you need to go back to normal and try making upward changes. Ideally we would see the group sizes shrink and then go back up in size around the “sweet spot.” But we don’t know exactly where we are in that scenario, so we have to feel our way along. And, “ideally” doesn’t come around very often, so we take the best we can get.

Clearly this is laborious and should only be undertaken when your archer has settled form and a settled draw weight and a settled draw length. If your student is still growing, don’t do it. If they are thinking about changing bows, don’t do it.

There Just Has to Be Something Easier!
There are quite a number of intermediate tests that are substantially easier to perform, but are not as fine. We will cover a couple of these next time: Shooting at Vertical and Horizontal Tapes and French or “Walk-Back” Tuning.

 

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Getting Serious: Helping Them with New Arrows

I have been very busy getting out some new books (more on those later), so I kind of fell behind in my posting, so this is the first of a series of three posts on the same topic, in an effort to catch up. Steve

Of all of the minefields in archery equipment, the absolute worst is arrows. Many archers with decades of experience seem not to know the basics of arrow selection and tuning. This is why you will be called upon, often, to help serious new archers in getting new arrows.

New Arrows
When archers become serious about the sport, they are often improving at a rapid pace. Part of that improvement involves draw weight increases and also draw length changes, even if they are not still growing (developing form generally leads to a different draw length). All of these changes will eventually require a different arrow, how different depends on a great many things, things like the student’s budget for archery gear, the student’s competition venues (indoor and outdoor archery have different requirements as do 3-D and target).

When changing from one type of arrow (say aluminum shafted ones) to another type (all carbon or aluminum-carbon) is basically like starting from scratch. There is a long list of information needed to make any arrow purchase. Here’s a list:

  • What kind of bow do you shoot (recurve, compound, longbow)? If it is a compound, what kind of eccentrics are on the bow (high, medium, or low energy)?
  • What is the draw weight of your bow at your draw length? If it is a compound, they want to know the “peak weight.”
  • What is your draw length?
  • What shaft manufacturer do you want your shafts from?
  • What size shaft?
  • What “cut length” for those shafts (how long do you want them to be)?
  • What kind of arrow points do you want installed?
  • What weight of arrow points do you want?
  • What kind and size of nocks do you want?
  • What color nocks do you want?
  • What manufacturer and kind of fletches do you want?
  • What size and color of fletches do you want?

And, if you order wrong, the sellers are under no obligation to take them back. The error is yours, not theirs. This is not an impossible task, but you will need help. Everyone needs help from time to time, even us.

If you have a high quality archery shop in your neighborhood to send your students to, they can solve most of these things for you. They can show them all of their choices and then can build the arrows you need. Be sure to have them take their bow along because some things need to be measured.

They Will Need Help
Even if there is a quality shop nearby, there are still myriad problems. Have you seen how many arrow shaft makers there are? How familiar are you with them?

We have a base set of manufacturers we recommend as we have experience in working with those shafts and can thereby help more effectively. Of course, if a special deal shows up on another brand, those are always worth considering but caution is always needed in that case.

We have an entire process when fitting students for a new bow (Bowfitting) or new arrows (Arrowfitting) which we have written about before. We use a form and fill in all of the information above as we go (not necessarily the colors). This involves measuring their draw length and draw weight, and determining whether these are going to change in the future and by how much.

We do this and encourage our students to get archery catalogs from online retailers, like Lancaster Archery Supply, so they can look things up and educate themselves. They can also go online and check out the retailers there. If you do have a good local shop, we urge you to recommend them, even if they do not have the best prices your students can find scouring the Internet. They have something to offset the best price and that is personal service. You get very little of that, or none, when buying remotely. And, basically, if enough of you do not support your local shop, it will cease to exist and you will not have that option any more. Of course, if they provide poor service and outrageous pricing, they do not deserve your student’s patronage. As coaches when we refer students to shops, we follow up and ask if they felt they were well-served. If not, we stop making recommendations of that shop. We also suggest you go to the shop, if you haven’t already, and introduce yourself and see what they can offer your students. Some shops specialize in serving bowhunters, many fewer specialize in serving target archers, a few try to do both. Many owners are quite cooperative and will work with you to stock a few things commonly needed or to make things easier to order for your students. Some even have specialist employees that you can direct your students to when they visit the shop.

If they cannot manage to get arrows custom made, someone will have to assemble them. You will probably be called upon to do this many times for many students, if you have the skills involved, but we suggest you also teach them how to do this for themselves. It doesn’t require much equipment or skill, just some practice and a few supplies and tools. And they will be able to do repairs for themselves and possibly make their own “new” arrows in the future.

Tuning Them In
Tuning arrows to an archer and his/her bow is making minute adjustments to the arrows so that they perform as well as can be. This is where being able to assemble arrows, at least in part, is very valuable. The most important tuning parameter for any arrows is shaft length. The basic tuning procedure for new arrows involves buying the arrows or shafts full length and then cutting them in stages until they perform as well as can be. We will address that in the next issue.

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Working on “The Real Problem”

I had a fairly full day of lessons yesterday and a couple of things came up that were instructive that I will share with you.

In one case I had a very frustrated Recurve student who has been shooting well of late, but recently has had a problem with fliers, even clusters of fliers. By this I mean while putting most of his arrows in the gold, suddenly putting an arrow in the blue or black. Sometimes as many as three arrows in a six arrow end were such “fliers.”

“What am I doing wrong?” he wanted to know.

We talked a bit to find out how his shots felt and he said they all felt the same. He also said his tune was “good” and that the environments he had been shooting in were not the cause (wind, etc.). So, I asked “What do you think you were doing differently on the ‘bad shots’?” and he said “Nothing.”

I agreed.

So, before I continue, put on your coaching hat and think on what you think was wrong. I’ll wait.

* * *

Got it figured out?

Here are my thoughts. Please note that I am never sure of any diagnosis. I consider each situation a trail I am trying to sniff out, just finding a direction to go in first, all the while looking for confirmation or at least some response to the changes I recommend be made. (As a former college teacher, I used to joke with colleagues that we were being paid to look and sound like we knew what we were talking about. I do not want to give you the impression that I am some sort of tuning guru.)

Part of my diagnosis was due to knowing my student well enough to know that he was a “blame himself first” person. He took responsibility for everything. Taking responsibility is good but with regard to missed shots, there are three potential clusters of reasons: the environment (wind, twigs in the flight path of your arrow (field archery), hummingbirds (it happens), etc.), your equipment, and you. The key point is that if you do not find the right cause of the problem, anything you do will not only not solve the problem, it will probably make it worse. For example, if you have a form problem and you keep buying new equipment to solve it, well you ain’t gonna solve it.

In this case, I felt the most likely cause of the problem was that he had a “critical tune.” This is a bit of jargon that isn’t easy to explain (but I will try). Consider the variable of bow draw weight. For a given arrow, if you start at a “too low” draw weight you will get poor results, indicated by group sizes or positions, say. If you then incrementally increase the draw weight in steps of a pound or two, and continue to test for group size, you will get better results, better results, better results, and eventually poorer results, then even poorer results. If you were to graph these results you would see a line in the profile of a hill. The line would go up, up, up, then flatten out somewhat and then go down, down, down. At the middle of the top of the mesa just described, you will have the optimum draw weight for this combination of bow-arrow-archer. We call that a spine match (changing the power of the bow to match the spine of the arrow). Tune charts suggest that the top of the plateau of the draw weight “hill” is about five pounds wide (approximately!).

A tuning space graph, this one for brace height. In any tuning space variable, you may have more than one “peak” you can tune onto. To get to the highest peak (best performance) it is important to always start tuning from a well set up bow (set everything back to manufacturer’s specifications).

Now there are a lot more variables in the tune of a recurve bow than just draw weight. If you combine all of the variables into one graph (what I call a “tuning space” graph) what we want is a hill with a flat spot on top and we want a tune that is right in the middle of that flat spot. This provides the most “forgiving” tune we can make. The term forgiving refers to your setup’s ability to tolerate variations in your shot and still produce good results. We are not talking about “mistakes” here, mistakes are things done wrong that you could have done right. The variations involved in normal shooting are the quite small differences from shot to shot, simply because we are not robots. Even if you shoot an excellent group, in that group some of the arrows are higher that others, some are more to the left, right, down, etc. If you shot them all the exact same way and the arrows were perfectly matched, each shot would have broken the arrow of the previous shot and archery would be very, very expensive. We all make shots that are almost the same but not quite the same. The range of the variations starts out large when we are beginners and gets smaller as we become more expert, but they never disappear into some form of perfection.

A “critical tune” is a tune where you are not in the middle of the flat spot of the hill in your tuning space graph, but when you are right on the edge of the flat spot. With this tune if you make a variation that pushes you back toward the middle of the flat spot, well, no harm, no foul. But if you make a mistake the other way, a flier is the result. Think of this as walking along the edge of a cliff. If you trip and fall away from the edge, there is no problem, If you trip and fall over the edge … ahhhhhhh!

So, if this student had a critical tune, what does one do?

Well, you could start by cutting arrows shorter or other drastic things, but I prefer to start with adjustments that can be put back and with small adjustments first, large adjustments later. The procedure is to make an adjustment to see if there is an affect.

My recommendation was for this student to shoot a ten arrow group and count the fliers/note the size of the group. Then I asked him to put a full turn onto his plunger/pressure button and test again, then another full turn, etc. What we were looking for was an effect, a change in group size, number of fliers. So, one turn on—no effect, two turns on—no effect, three turns on—no effect. So the button pressure was set back to where it was. (Because you often have to do something like this and then set it back, take notes!) Next he took a full turn off from his original setting and voila, better group, no fliers. He asked “What do we do now? Were we done?” I suggested that that whole turn (a large change, by the way—start with large changes and only go to smaller ones to refine a fairly good setting) that created better test results might be right next to another setting that would create even better results. One more turn and test, one more turn, etc. The idea was to find the flat spot in button pressure tuning space and try to get in the middle of it.

So, we found that spot and I told him he needed to shoot a bit at that setting before doing anything else. My student wanted to know what would be next if more “correction” was need. I suggested brace height tuning. The plunger button is probably the finest tuning adjustment you can make (I did check that the button was neither too weak or too strong, just but pushing on it several times with a finger). I have learned recently that brace height tuning is a great deal more useful than I thought. I was asked how to do that tuning and I told him that it was done the same way as with the button, shoot for a benchmark group and then add 8-10 twists to the bowstring and test again, then repeat. You are looking for a response. If things get worse, go back to where you started (take out all the twists put in) and then take out twists, test, repeat. Again, you are looking for that plateau or range of brace heights that give you the best results and then you want to be close to the middle of that “flat spot.” Once you find that happy middle ground, you can refine your brace height (or whatever) with smaller increments of change.

Happy student, happy coach!

At the core of this problem, though, was that this archer didn’t trust his assessment regarding his shooting. Everything felt well, but since the arrows hit in the wrong place, he must have done something wrong. He was not making mistakes! Just a subset of his normal variations were causing those shots to fall off the cliff of his tuning space hill. This, of course, gets compounded when you think it was because of something you did, so you begin trying slightly different approaches, which makes for greater variation, not less (you haven’t practiced your improvised new shot) and this results in more fliers and more frustration.

Oh, and please note that we are all tinkers and we will, with nary a thought, make adjustments on our bows: we change the plunger button setting, clicker position, we tweak the position of the peep site in our bowstring (compounders), we rotate the nocks on our arrows “by eye.” Often these usually unrecorded “tweaks” accumulate to being a quite different tune from the one you created so carefully during you tuning sessions. People even change arrows, thinking their tune “will hold.” It won’t.

If you need a resource for tuning procedures consider Modern Recurve Tuning, Second Ed.

* * *

Another student reminded me that archer form is a kind of closed system. Any change you make, has consequences elsewhere. In this Recurve student’s case, he had opened his stance a bit to get some of the tension out of his neck. He reported feeling more comfortable while shooting as a consequence.

The problem that comes from such changes is that anything you do with your stance should not have any effect on the arrangement of your shoulders, neck and head. If it does, you changed something else, too. In the case of the stance, when you open your stance, you are rotating your feet in the opposite direction you need to rotate your shoulders to get into good full draw position. The fact that the archer reported less neck strain simply meant that he wasn’t rotating his shoulders as far as he was previously, ergo his line was poorer (and his groups spread left-right accordingly).

If your feet are open and your shoulders need to be closed (10-12 degrees by my reckoning) then everything in between is pulling the shoulders the wrong way. To get a benefit from an open stance, a great deal of flexibility is needed.

Neck strain is a common complaint of Recurve archers. It is caused by having maximum draw force on your body at full draw, which means you benefit from the bracing that standard full draw position provides (which directs the forces involved down the lengths of basically incompressible bones). But this means we must get very close to our bows and therefore we need to turn our head farther than if we were shooting a compound bow, for instance.

The only solution of the neck strain problem is to create more range of motion (in both directions!) for the turning of your head. Since this involves neck vertebrae which are quite delicate, you should seek professional help regarding the stretching routines needed to accomplish this.

* * *

Both of these students are “of an age” and I am very impressed when older folks want to continue in the Olympic Recurve discipline. Of all of the archery disciplines it is the most physically demanding, requiring the greatest strength, stamina, and flexibility. Light weight, stiff carbon arrows really help. Dropping down from the draw weight shot as a youth, helps, but nobody beats Father Time. As we age we get weaker, have less stamina, and are less flexible. That so many older archers are still shooting this way is very impressive to me.

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More on Training Differences Between Males and Females

This article is by a weight lifting coach (aka strength and conditioning coach), an activity which is comparable to archery because we do reps of applying forces to moving objects, too. It is also important because our performances vary from day to day and there are differences between males and females regarding this level of consistency. Give it a read, if you are so inclined, and tell me what you think.

Click to access Are_There_Differences_in_Training_Women_compared_to_Men.pdf

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If Self-Image Determines Performance, Then …

I just read a wonderful piece on self-image by Lanny Bassham over at the Mental Management website (“Nutrients of Self-Image”) which I recommend you go read. What I want to comment on in this post is the role of the coach in all of this. Lanny’s main points (said and unsaid) are 1) that self-image determines performance, and 2) that to grow or boost one’s self-image, one needs praise from others as well as from one’s self.

Now you can’t magically become a winner by hypnotizing yourself to believe that you are a great archer, magically creating a non-existent self-image and equally non-existent expert archer. The way to the winner’s circle is not through dedicated bullshit. One’s self-image needs to be rooted in reality. If you regularly shoot in the 270’s on indoor 300 rounds, there is no way to develop a self-image of being a 300-shooter without actually becoming one. But the path to that state is hindered greatly if all you or your student gets is criticism. Praise is positive reinforcement and studies show that works better. It motivates people to work harder and that gets them closer to their goal.

Praise is Positive Reinforcement
So, what should you, as coach, do to supply praise? The keys to me are to praise effort first and foremost. And all praise needs to be rooted in reality. If you have a student who seems to be allergic to practice, praising them on how hard they work is not going to change their behavior, plus onlookers will think you are a bullshit artist or incompetent or both. All praise must be delivered based upon reality. And the important reality is on good work performed. (If they are doing all of the wrong things, they need advice, not praise.) It is up to the athlete to determine if the amount of effort they are putting out justifies itself. Most people “get off of the bus” when they realize that the amount of effort needed to reach their goals is not within them. The ones who stay on the bus are those that see that their efforts will get them to or near their goals.

Business people will tell you that you praise in public, but criticize in private. Hearing another athlete get praised for working hard delivers a message to others nearby. Hearing someone getting hammered by their coach may encourage some others, but it is more likely to discourage more. I think this is wise advice.

In a recent coaching website I saw an article entitled, “How to Deal with Athletes Who Do Not Take Advice.” (That may be inaccurate as I am working from memory but the gist is correct.) I have no problem with these athletes. Bo Jackson was criticized as being an athlete who didn’t take coaching advice. He did okay, don’t you think? (In American football and baseball.) Some athletes are self-directed almost completely and need very little from outside of themselves. The question itself brings up in my mind coaches whose reputation or remuneration is based on whether his team wins or loses and so this seems to be a question for the coach and not the athlete. If an athlete doesn’t want advice, I don’t give them any. Simple. Archery is an individual sport, so pressure from teammates to perform will not be much and the athlete is left to him-/her-self to determine if the effort they are putting out is worth what they are getting back.

I learned this in my teaching days. I made a rule I shared with my students that “I would work as hard for you as you do for yourself.” I did this to save my sanity because I had spent a lot of hours working for students who didn’t give a damn. Do I praise such students on their effort? Of course I did, and still do; it’s my job.

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How Does Remote Coaching Work?

I thought you might benefit from seeing a few exchanges between a student-archer/colleague and a coach (me) showing you how “remote coaching” goes. I did not include all of the photos/videos of the student for reasons of privacy and to keep the length of this post down to something reasonable. Note The student is working with a local coach and learning NTS Recurve and consulting me on the side (because he/she can). This discussion took place over several days.
Steve

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Student
My coach has me working on basically bringing my draw hand down (on the draw) and then back up and under my chin once I was about to anchor. I was kind of hunting around for my anchor. I still am! I was also working on not moving my head around to try and find my anchor too. In trying to make this change to drawing under my chin, I started holding my bow hand too long. Chaos…

Coach
I can’t remember, were you shooting with a “corner of the mouth” anchor before? If so, learning to get to a “low anchor” aka “under chin” or Olympic anchor can sometimes be a struggle. A key point people tend to leave out is that if you are going for a low anchor, your chin needs to be higher than with the side of the face anchor. Ideally we would like to have the jaw line horizontal but not everybody is shaped that way. To give you an idea as to how much the chin has to come up I urge female archers to “channel their inner haughty princess” to get about the right angle.

Also KiSik Lee, or his co-author, confused a lot of people with his first book which had photos and words indicating that one needed to draw 2-3 inches below the chin and then come up. In his second book he corrected that to 1˝ or a tad more … in other words, just under the chin. The key points are you want to get to full draw quickly, into a position you can feel in your back and shoulders, then find your anchor position quickly. Often students, in an attempt to be exacting, work too slowly (trying to be oh, so correct) and as a consequence run out of energy on each shot, hence the feeling of struggling. The draw needs to be smooth and strong and quick but not rushed. Honestly, most men tend to draw too fast (at first) and most women tend to draw too slow (at first).

If you look at YouTube videos of some of the Korean women, you will see smooth, strong, confident draws that are quite quick but there is no rushing involved. Of course, that is what many tens of thousands of practice shots will get you, so don’t expect that level of performance. (They are, in effect, professional archers who train and compete six days a week.) But you can see in their form what the idea is that you are striving for.

Once you have practiced this a lot, you will find it is easier to relax unneeded muscles while executing your draw which will make it even easier.

For some reason, many coaches do not point out that you should do the bulk of your practice on a new form element with a stretch band or a very light drawing bow. (I use a 10# bow a lot in my coaching.) Once the student (You!) gets the hang of the move, then you can move up from 10# to 14 # to 20# to full draw weight quite quickly. It is much harder to try to learn a new move at whatever your full draw weight is.

Student
Yes, when I first started writing to you I was using a high anchor and started having string slap issues when I switched to a low anchor. Soon after I started corresponding with you, I found a coach. I believe I asked if you had heard of him, but I guess the archery world is big (even though it can seem extremely small at the same time). Ah, one thing that is bugging me is that I can’t seem to get my hand snug along my jaw. I do use a stretch band and I’m having success there. But once I put on my finger tab and pull my bow my hand seems to be nowhere near my jaw. I’m getting nice contact between my lips and the string though. I’m not sure if I’m putting too much emphasis where it’s not needed.

I have been watching Khatuna Lorig and Mackenzie Brown. My coach wanted me to especially watch Mackenzie because her coach uses the NTS. You’re totally right about drawing too slowly. I am guilty of this and it does make me tired. When I see pros shoot, they come to full draw so fluidly that it’s hard to see the “steps.”

I still have the 19# recurve bow I borrowed from my summer archery club. I’ll try and work with that after I work with my stretch band more.

Coach
Many people have a steep jaw line and the NTS “recommendation” of a lot of hand contact along the jaw is just not possible. (You need a bit of a square jaw for that to happen—see the photo of Coach Kim Hannah, her jaw line is more vertical, so she can’t do the full NTS anchor position.) Have your daughter take a still picture of your head and shoulders at anchor to see what you have going. A video isn’t necessary (unless you would like that).

Regarding the string slap, did your coach talk to you about rotating your elbow so the crease is near vertical?

And if you are using a ledge on your tab I would suggest you reconsider that. The only use for a ledge is if you are having trouble reaching the target. If not, take it off, put it in a Baggie, label it and set it aside for experimentation later. A ledge really interferes with the NTS “hand along jaw line” position.

Also, these tabs that are providing places to put your thumb and little finger are just providing leverage for digits you do not want involved at all! (IMHO, of course! ;o) We teach beginners to make a Girl Scout salute (same as the Cub Scout salute but I like to tweak the boys). From there, they are to curl their fingers and slide them up under the arrow. This makes a classic three-fingers-under string grip. Once they reach anchor, they are allowed to break the contact between their thumb and little finger (by relaxing them) and voila (see photo—see pad of thumb and little finger nail touching). Once they get used to these positions they can adopt them with little effort and attention. The little finger is loose and is just in a relaxed (curled) position. The thumb is slightly extended but it ends up below your jaw line, out of the way. If the thumb is up anywhere else, it blocks getting into a good anchor position.

Looking at your photo at anchor, you chin is up nicely, maybe a bit too far! If you were to lower your head a tad, you would get a “nose touch” that is the string would touch your nose. As long as this doesn’t affect your release it gives you feedback as to whether your head is in the right position.

Note, also, in the second photo that the string and arrow are gone and your hand has not had time to move much, so who cares what it does thereafter? By observing the movement of your body parts after the release, though, you can infer the conditions during the release. We would like to see the string hand move straight back away from the target and stop with your fingertips just under your ear. This is not something you do, this is something that happens determined by using the correct muscles to pull the bowstring directly away from the target and then your fingers giving way when your back muscles are still flexing. Since you can only move so far in that position (range of motion) your fingers end up under your ear and stop because your shoulders cannot move any farther.

You look good in this photo.

Student
Thank you very much for the feedback. I have been concerned about the nose touch too. I will try to angle my head a bit and see what that does. My coach said it sometime almost looks like I’m moving my head away from the string. I’ve been trying to think about the release too; not plucking the string. I’ll continue to work. 🙂

Coach
If you can pluck, you are either out of line or not pulling with the right muscles. The release is something you shouldn’t think about. Observe it (take videos, whatever) and then adjust things. If your hand moves in any direction other than straight back, it is not your release that needs fixing, its your line or the muscles you have chosen to use.

The nose touch is not an essential. Play with a light weight bow . Get to full draw and move your head around. The key elements are that you have to have your head turned far enough (so your nose doesn’t block your vision), your eyes need to be level (for optimal vision), and your chin needs to be up (just a little bit, as we discussed before). Everything else is nonessential. So, if you can get all of that and a nose touch, it is gravy! Enjoy!

PS One of the joys of archery is you can do some rather hard work and see a benefit in short order. Often in work or family matters, projects go on and on and on (teenagers!).

Student
I picked up my 19# bow to work on this. So luxurious to have more than one to choose from. I find that when I work with the stretch band and I release it, my hand does go back to my shoulder. When I release with my bow my hand ends up somewhere around the right side of my chest. I’m working on it in a relaxed way.

Coach
The key is your draw elbow. If you maintain the arc of your draw elbow through the shot, it stays high and your hand will slide back until your fingertips are no farther back than under your ear (end of the range of that motion). This is the true end of the shot, for your body. We wait until the bow finishes its “bow” as a bit of overkill because that bow’s “bow” has information in it that tells us about the forces acting on the bow at the time of release, and … well … enquiring minds want to know such things. In order for your hand to go back farther, touch your shoulder, etc. your elbow must drop downward, which is a movement unassociated with the shot itself and so does not affect the shot and is, at best, an affectation, but one that misleads because how well you do that movement doesn’t tell you anything about the shot.

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Do You Work Out?

dumbellsDo you workout to benefit your archery … or just for health and well-being … or even to lose a little weight? Well, there is a syndrome that is prevalent that you need to know about.

Workouts for archery generally focus on strength development, but can include stamina/cardio elements, too. The experience of any number of people, though, in pursuing physical improvements through a regular physical workout routine, is that they don’t always seem to work. Studies show that when ordinary people pursue bettering their physical performance through a workout program, that the average result is almost always an improvement. But more recently, studies have looked more closely at individual variation (one of my favorite topics) and found that there are very wide ranges of results (very wide!). People on simple strength programs got stronger, on average, but for some people in these studies such programs had almost no effect and some even got weaker! Exercise scientists are now calling those who get no benefit from such programs “non-responders” in that they do not have a “normal” response to exercise. (Maybe we just never really knew what “normal” was and now we are beginning to understand.)

This explains the oft-heard complaint, that people “tried going to the gym” but they don’t seem to be any better off, so they quit. Unfortunately the quitting was accompanied by a feeling of failure and some shaming from others for being someone who doesn’t follow through, aka a “quitter.” Now we know that this is not a moral failing or a lack of will (our usual go to’s when we criticize someone else), it is quite probably a lack of effect.

The silver lining to this cloud is a study that was done that took a wide variety of subjects and asked them to subscribe a number of different exercise routines in three-week stretches. When they worked up the results, they again found the wide range of responses to the programs, with there being some “non-responders” in every group, but each and every participant responded positively to at least one of the regimens. So, being a “non-responder” is not a general label, it is just a case in which many people do not respond to one particular program, but they can and will respond to another.

When I recommend exercise to archers, it is usually for strength building, mostly deltoid strengthening for steadiness, but also core and leg strengthening for advanced archers, also some cardio for steady breathing and nerves. If some of these programs do not work, do not take it personally nor should you let your students do so, try looking for a different mode of exercise or a different program to which you or they will respond. And if you/they don’t respond to something straightforward, try something related but different.

For example, I have been told that Tiger Woods doesn’t do visualizations before he takes shots. He was never able to get that to work. Instead his “shot rehearsal” (maybe a better label for what we do) focuses on the feel of the shot, so his rehearsal is tactile rather than visual.

So, if you or a student are not able to increase the strength of your deltoids and holding up a heavy bow is a problem, maybe you should look for a lighter bow? Of course, my standard warning applies: the person we are best at conning … is our self (we have more experience at it). So do be sure you have committed to an exercise regimen, and are performing the exercises correctly, before you look at results. Don’t just assume you are a “non-responder” for an exercise you do not like because it is convenient.

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