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.
Tag Archives: Working with Adults
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.
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.
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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…
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
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!).
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.
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.
Do 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.
I need your help.
I am toying with the idea of creating A Blog for Archery Parents. There are few sources of information tailored to help them support their children in the sport. About the only example of something specific is my book A Parent’s Guide to Archery.
To help me decide whether to do this I would like your take on this idea, specifically if you would respond to these three questions:
#1 Do you think this would be helpful to archery parents?
#2 Assuming the quality of that blog was comparable to the quality of this blog, would you recommend it to the parents of the youths you coach?
#3 Any other insight you might be able to supply.
If I do this I would like to do a good job. I started this blog because there seemed to be so little support available to archery coaches. The same motivation is fueling the idea of a similar blog directed at archery parents. Quality information and a place they could ask questions without necessarily anyone else knowing. (Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, know what I mean.”) Parents need advice and the sources of that advice are few in number and often supplied only orally, so if part of it is gotten wrong, expensive mistakes can be made.
So, what do you think?
Dear Coach Ruis,
In the past, I’ve dealt with students who wouldn’t follow all of my advice. But now, I have a student who not only doesn’t follow even half of my advice, but also argues with me constantly. She always finds an excuse to not do what I want her to do, even if I am able to prove her ideas wrong. How do I deal with students like her?
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It is the teacher’s role to teach … and the student’s role to learn.
And, since this is a voluntary arrangement, I would simply not spend any more time with her. You are providing a service, if someone doesn’t want what you are providing, you don’t help by irritating them by insisting upon it.
At a deeper level, my coaching philosophy involves helping all archers to become independent, to be able to take or leave coaching as they see fit. I can’t do that by taking away their autonomy, by telling them they must do as I say or I will take my marbles and go home.
I suggest you respect your student’s right to ignore you. The flip side is I certainly do not want to spend time with people who ignore my advice and/or cherry pick my advice, distorting it into something it is not. If I must continue to work with such people, I tend to get more formal and less casual and instead of making statements, I ask questions. If they are insisting on doing everything their way, I honor that by making them do it. I can help by asking questions that lead them to think, but I cannot do their thinking for them.
I was watching a teaser for Hank Haney’s instructional video “Lessons Learned from Coaching the World’s Greatest Golfer” and Coach Haney brought up something I had already recognized as a basic principle for coaching archers. When I recovered from the cheap thrill, I realized that he had expanded upon that principle in a way I had not.
The Goldilocks Principle
I have recommended “the Goldilocks Principle” to many coaches, the basic thrust of which is when you are looking to make a change, exaggerate at first. Goldilocks comes into it because if something is too low and you effect a change that moves you to a position of being too high, then you now have boundaries, between which you will find “just right.” (This porridge is too hot. This porridge is too cold. This porridge is just right. Ah.)
An archery example of this occurs while sighting in. If your first sight setting results in your arrow hitting the target very low, you could put a couple of “clicks” into your sight and shoot again. The result will be the arrow will land slightly higher than the first one (if you moved the aperture the right way, of course). Instead, you should move your aperture down quite a bit, hopefully so that your next shot is too high. Once you know where “too low” and “too high” are on your sight bar for this distance, then try half way in between those. If that isn’t very close, then half way to one of those boundaries (depending on where the next arrow lands) until you are very close, then you can go a couple of clicks at a time to fine tune your group location.
Coach Haney referred to those “boundaries” (e.g. too hot and too cold) as being “parameters,” a fine Latin term which means “to be measured against” but there is really no difference between what he was teaching and what I am. But Coach Haney indicated that working with Tiger Woods taught him a great deal. One of those things he shared in his sales pitch for the fill video, namely Tiger’s father, Earl, taught him that “there is a big difference between feel and real.” So Tiger would do a lot of mirror work, trying very hard to exaggerate any change he was making. The reason for this is that when you have practiced something until it feels natural, something I call the “Old Normal,” if you deviate just a little bit it feels like you have deviated a lot. This is why when you ask a student-archer to do something differently, they will move only slightly away from what has been tried and true for a long time. You have to ask them to exaggerate, as Coach Haney said “I have to ask for a foot to get an inch.”
So Tiger would do mirror work when he was trying a change a bit of his swing or he would ask his coach when his club (or hand or …) was in the right position. Then Tiger could associate that particular feel (which always felt very exaggerated to him) with the real position he was trying to create.
In other words, he used his own sense of the feel of things to calibrate the change.
This involves the athlete more actively in making the change. They are not just being a good soldier, doing everything (or trying to do everything) commanded by their coach. The coach is there is provide the feedback the athlete needs to match up the “feel” he is having with the “real” situation. This puts the athlete more in charge of his training, which I believe is always a good thing in an individual sport.
I believe there are Principles of Coaching Archery. I believe we share some of these with other sports. What I call the Goldilocks Principle is used in golf and, I suspect, other individual sports.
If you look at these two sports (golf and archery) both have been around for very long times. So why is golf so much farther advanced when it comes to coaching than is archery? I am sure that it has something to do with golf being restricted to the well-to-do by and large and that the wealthy would pay for instruction where the poor and middle class could not afford it. But there is more. Part of it involves the transmission of information between and among golf instructors and coaches and the codification of that knowledge. Now, I really don’t believe everything the PGA teaches about coaching golf is correct, but at least you can acquire those teachings. You do not have to start from scratch.
I think it would be a “good thing” if us coaches were to make a list of as many of these archery coaching principles as we can identify. I can think of no better information to pass along to the next generation of coaches. As it has been, we have left each new generation to learn what they could on their own. We can do better.
Okay, coaches, what happens when an archer you are coaching gets “serious” and wants your help? Well, this can end up being the equivalent of “going steady” so let’s discuss this.
What Does “Getting Serious” Mean?
Our favorite mental coaches, Troy and Lanny Bassham, say there are three levels of training:
1. Training to Learn
2. Training to Compete, and
3. Training to Win
The vast majority of archers are in Category 1, no matter what they say.
Training to Learn All beginners are in this stage and are learning how to shoot arrows from their bows. We often say they are “finding their shot.” These students are characterized as ones learning how to shoot correctly or well. They have their own equipment but haven’t fitted it well or tuned it enough for consistent accuracy. They may attend competitions and be “competitors” thereby but are primarily focused on learning their own shot as part of the process. They are just getting started on the mental game (with maybe Self-talk and Process Goals). At this stage, shooting large numbers of arrow is not recommended.
Training to Compete Archers who are training to compete have a number of things going for them: (a) they have their own equipment, (b) their equipment is fitted to them and tuned (somewhat), (c) they have “their shot” down and are merely tweaking fine points. At this stage, shooting large numbers of arrow is recommended.
In addition these archers are learning competition rules, strategies, how to set their bow up for indoors and out, they are absorbing the mental game and applying it to competition. They shoot practice rounds from time to time and compare those scores with their competition scores. They start a journal for archery.
Training to Win Archers in this category have all of the attributes above in Training to Compete but have already shot quite large volumes of arrows and continue to do so. We say they “own their shot” even though minor tweaks and adjustments are being made (as they always are being made). Archers focused on learning to be a consistent winner may have a physical fitness plan involving strength training and cardiovascular exercise. They may have examined their diets and optimized what they eat to support competing. They have a full-fledged mental program or are developing and implementing one.
They have plans for practicing and plans for traveling and competing at tournaments and have a calendar of event to keep these in mind. They train 5-6 days a week and wish they could train more. They have a performance log that includes all of their notes and details and plans, etc.
Archers can “get serious” in any one of these categories. Signs they are is that they want more time to shoot, they want more lessons and more coaching, they want more and better equipment, but so do all other archers so that is not much of a sign.
This is a tougher question. It depends a lot on the student and the family. First, we don’t think very young archers should specialize in any sport to the exclusion of others. You’ve probably seen all kinds of movies in which a young person commits him- or herself to some athletic goal and through obsessive spunk and desire wins through. What these inspiring movies don’t show you are the cases in which the young person wants something so badly, obsesses over it and fails miserably. Those stories don’t make such great movies.
But you have heard stories, about driven sport parents and crushed kids, etc. We prefer well-balanced kids. If they want to fully commit to the sport, there will be plenty of time when they are 15 or 16. They don’t need to do nothing but archery from the age of eleven.
Do They Want To? Many parents love what the sport of archery does for their kids: get them away from their computers, get them outdoors in the sunshine, get them physically exercising, helps them focus mentally, gets them interacting with other kids, etc. Sometimes they want their kids in archery more than the kids want it. You must be on guard for this as assuming a motivation is coming from a youth when it stems from his parents is not a good mistake to make.
The Signs Indicating They Want To Simply put, when they start acting like a Category 2 or Category 3 learner, they are getting more serious. When they want to practice on their own initiative is a good sign, when they want to practice more, when they want more coaching, when they want top read instructional books, when they want to research archery on the Internet (and don’t get distracted by YouTube kittens), are all good signs.
We talk about “signs” because words are often just words, actions speak much louder. What they do is much more important that what they say. To this end we respond to requests from students for more information on a topic with a short discussion to clarify what they want to know, then we ask them to send us an email reminding us of the request and we will send them the desired information. The number of emails we get is far, far fewer than the number of oral requests. (even when we ask them to write a note in their notebooks about the request).
Occasionally, when working with earnest young people, your desire to support their efforts overwhelms your good sense. Before you agree to help a student “get serious” you need to look at your own capacities.
Working with a serious archer may involve: private lessons (even several times a week), email correspondence, examining videos taken by the student, taking videos of the student and discussing them, helping them with purchasing decisions, helping them fit and tune their equipment, all one-on-one. You need to ask: do I have the time? Do I want to do this; is this what you sign up for? And maybe most importantly, am I capable of doing this?
We believe that part of learning as a coach is getting in a little over your head. This puts pressure on you to learn and grow. But the key word is “little,” getting in a lot over your head may be hard on you and hard on your student. No matter what you decide, you will (not may) have to decide when to pass that student off to a better coach.
Whatever happens, we wish you the best of luck and will be here to support you. Send questions into the Coaching Blog and we will get back to you as fast as we can.
I promised (threatened?) I was writing a “how to” book for archery coaches. Well, Archery Coaching How To’s is out and available on Amazon.com! In this book I tried to describe what I consider to be teaching techniques tf contents:
Table of Contents
- How to . . . Introduce Clickers
· How to . . . Manage Draw Weight
· How to . . . Teach Release Aids
· How to . . . Introduce Slings
· How to . . . Introduce Stabilizers
· How to . . . Introduce Bow Sights
· How to . . . Introduce Finger Tabs
· How to . . . Introduce Peep Sights
· How to . . . Introduce New Arrows
Form and Execution
- How to . . . Teach the Use of Back Tension
· How to . . . Teach Shooting Off of the Point
· How to . . . Teach Stringwalking
· How to . . . Introduce Anchors
· How to . . . Teach Different String Grips
· How to . . . Teach a Finger Release
· How to . . . Develop A Strong Bow Arm
· How to . . . Create A Good Followthrough
· How to . . . Create A Surprise Release (Compound)
· How to . . . Adapt to New Bows
- How to . . . Introduce Field Archery
· How to . . . Introduce Target Archery
· How to . . . Introduce Competition
Sidebar: Who Competes? Against Whom or What?
Having a Written Coaching Philosophy
If you read it, please post a review on Amazon.com to help others with their buying decisions. Thanks.
I do need your help. I started this blog as a source of support for archery coaches (many whom we have trained, but all y’all). I kind of fell asleep on the job and then made two quick posts yesterday from which I got quite a few comments. What I need to make this blog useful to you is just your questions and suggestions. If you write a question in a comment, I will answer it to the best of my ability or find someone who can. You can even send it as an email (to email@example.com) if you want to be anonymous. (I will not use your name if asked to do that.) That will get me back to this blog more often. And if you have something substantial to say about coaching archery, I welcome guest posts, just send me an email. (If it is really good stuff, I may ask you to put it in a form we can use in Archery Focus magazine and then you’ll be famous . . . well, at least you’ll get a check.
Help me now!
(If you got the reference in the title of this post, you are officially old—it is Bruce Springsteen, I think paying homage to James Brown.)