Tag Archives: Working with Beginners

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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What’s the Best Way to Start Beginners?

To begin with I am not at all sure that there is a best way to start beginners but it seems like a conversation we should have fairly often, if for no other reason but for newer coaches to hear the thinking of more experienced coaches and more

experienced coaches to review their own procedures.

And, since I started with a caveat, here’s another: the answer to this question really depends upon the goal of the training. For example, when the Koreans started sharing how they trained such a large cadre of world-class archery champions, people here in the U.S. were scurrying around wondering how we could adopt their practices. This was mistaken because there is a big difference in audiences of such trainings. There is a big difference between “beginning archers” in Korea and “beginning archers” in the U.S. In Korea they are training champion archers. There is no recreational archery per se in Korea, so their trainings are basically Olympic Development Training Programs. In the U.S., the vast majority of children introduced to archery are participating in a recreation program, a summer camp, scouting, or some other such recreational activity.

And as we have claimed quite a bit: training a serious competitive archer is quite different from training a recreational archer. Our definition of a recreational archer is one who is motivated solely by having fun. Since the number of these here is the U.S. massively outnumber the few who start training to become winners from the get-go, the focus of this article will be upon beginning recreational archers.

What Do We Do Now?
I wish I knew the answer to this question. I have a rough idea as I have worked with and taught myriad camp and recreational archery instructors, Girl and Boy Scout instructors, etc.

Our goals for such programs and sessions are that the participants: #1 Be safe!, #2 Have fun!, and #3 Maybe learn something about archery. This, I hope is obvious, but running a safe program is at its root a societal obligation, having fun is a high goal because as recreational archers if they do not have fun, they aren’t coming back, and teaching them archery has to take a back seat to #1 and #2 therefore.

My take on the components of the beginner experience are (in no order): bows they can handle, arrows that are too long, target faces that are too big at distances that are too close, also anchors are high to compensate for such an environment. Let me address each of these in turn.

Bows They Can Handle In order for beginners, with skills that are unknown, to benefit from instruction, they need to be able to shoot arrows in some semblance of good form. So the bows are light drawing, they are also light weight (youths don’t develop the necessary muscles to hold up a heavy bow until late adolescence), and the bows cannot be too long as they are hard to manipulate by smaller young ones.

To us this means recurve bows with plastic or wooden handles. We prefer three-piece bows because of the cost factors and the ability to swap parts around as they get broken, which are economic factors, not teaching factors. The Genesis bows are wonderful but only for older stronger beginners. The youngest kids struggle to hold them up.

What we see is that in compound country, compound bows abound in youth programs and in recurve country, recurve bows abound. Pleasing parents and kids by providing bows like they see around and about is for marketing purposes, not teaching. I would love to see the Genesis bow have a plastic riser option, creating a lightweight compound bow, perfect for starting beginners.

Arrows that Are Too Long This is a safety requirement, an absolute one. Beginners have no control over their draw lengths and recurve bows and Genesis compounds have no limitations on draw length built in (at least within the drawing ability of a youth). Arrows that are the “right length” can easily be drawn off of the bow by a child drawing to their ear (they will experiment; it doesn’t matter what you say).

Target Faces that Are Too Big at Distances that are Too Close Often this means a 122cm / 4 ft target face at five to ten paces of distance. This has two justifications. One is safety. That big of a target butt that close is an effective arrow stop. Arrows that miss the target can cause damage to the surroundings and can be damaged when they hit something not designed to receive the arrows. These are pragmatic reasons. Beginners want to hit the target. When they do so, it encourages them to hit it again, but closer to the center. This is the teaching purpose. This was summarized with the phrase “Early participation, early success.” Which meant get them shooting quickly and hitting the target quickly.

Anchors Are High A high anchor is taught because it elevates the rear end of the arrow, making high misses less likely (striking the ground in front of the target is a lesser sin than flying over the top). The common claim is that it is easier to teach . . . it is not. Nor is it easier to learn or easier do. (I wish people would stop repeating these claims.) It is just a factor that makes hitting a very close target more likely.

Other Things We started out in our programs requiring an arm guard and a finger tab. We ended up requiring just an arm guard. This is because an affordable tab for youths that would fit and not get in the way has not been invented yet. For our adult programs, we provided a range of sizes of soft tabs (Wilson Brothers Black Widow tabs being our favorite).

We also didn’t provide quivers to beginners and usually pulled their arrows for them for the first lesson or two. After that we taught arrow pulling and arrow carrying (points in hand, one hand only) but kept the arrows on the shooting line. This was for safety as we wanted the only time the beginner, a bow, and an arrow to come together would be on the shooting line. Secondarily this allowed more than one archer to share a set of arrows.

How We Did It . . . In Addition
At the first session of a series, or a beginners one-off class, we had a procedure we called The First Three Arrows. We took each beginner, child or adult, and walked them through the process of shooting an arrow. (This was much like what we did at fun shoots.) By the third arrow we hoped that they could get through the process on their own. If so, we taught them all how to shoot on a line with others, including whistle commands, and they were off and shooting. (There was a lot of reinforcement . . . a lot . . . this is always the case and will never be not the case, so reinforce away!)

What we were really doing was seeing whether this person could follow directions. We didn’t know this person and had no knowledge of their abilities, so this is the equivalent of an interview. During the first three arrows we give over a dozen instructions and we are seeing whether the student-archer can follow such directions. Children who were too unfocussed or adolescents and adults who had just gone off of their meds, were routed over to another station, where another coach would walk them through the process again. Some passed at that point but rarely, but it did happen, some youths were deemed too young (not the real reason) or whatever to participate. (We refunded their class fees.) In a class of 20 or so beginners, we would get 0-3 that had to go through a second loop of The First three Arrows to be allowed to shoot on the line.

You need extra coaches to do this, but only for the first class in a series (of six or eight lessons) and we almost never had problems scraping up those coaches. We also avoid many problems that could have been serious.

Conclusion
All of the above is a viable way to start beginners . . . but, I assume, not the only way. I would love to hear from you about other ways to do this. Let’s start a conversation.

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Por Favor Numero Dos

QandA logoI 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:APGTA Cover (color)

#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?

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Working with Newly Serious Archers

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.

Should They?
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).

Should You?
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.

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Where to Go from a First Experience with a Genesis™ Bow?

QandA logoDear Coach Ruis,
I have new students that have been trained off the Genesis bow. Therefore, I have questions regarding the Genesis bow:

  1. Are they considered compound or recurve bows? I remember you telling me that they were taught like recurve bows, but I’m not sure if they are classified as such.
  2. Are Genesis bows allowed in competitions? I’ve never seen them being used in competition. If so, what class do they participate in?
  3. If a student were to buy an actual bow after being trained on a Genesis bow, which style of bow would mimic the Genesis the best?
    Thanks,

***

These are all good questions. Basically this is the “where do we go from here” question and I refer to this phase in the development of an archer the “Step Up” phase. This is the phase in which a beginning archer gets their first set of archery equipment that can be fit to them and, as such, this is critical to their continuance in the sport. (Even if we pull this off, they may not continue, but if we don’t get them into decent gear fitted to their form and execution, the odds on their “sticking” with archery go way down.Gensis BowI refer to the Genesis bow as the “Bowling Alley” bow, a bow designed to fit a large range of people (and hence fits none of them particularly well). It is a “zero letoff” bow (not the first, but certainly most popular) and since letoff is the most important property of a compound bow, it is not a great choice for archers interested in “shooting compound.” But since it is a compound bow, it cannot be used in competition against recurve bows and longbows.

Where the Genesis shines is that, unlike all other kinds of compound bows, it has no set draw length and therefore does not need to be fitted to the user. Consequently it is the ideal compound bow for beginning instruction tin compound archery. (I own a couple myself.)

There are so many school kids and others who have cut their archery teeth on the Genesis bow that organizations are making places for archers using them in their categories (as going up against compound bows with letoff would be a really handicap for anyone shooting a Genesis—although it has been done—I saw a guy shoot “Vegas” with one). USCA established the “basic bow” category for them (and other simple entry-level bows), for example.

The Genesis bow has aspects of “feel” in between compound and recurve bows. They are heavy like compound bows but have no letoff, unlike compound bows, etc. So, an archer can go any direction after learning on a Genesis. Before I recommend a bow to a student, I provide them light-drawing compound bows (with let off) and recurve bows to shoot to see which they find more attractive. Once they choose a direction, I then proceed with a bow fitting because they usually have no idea of what they need to buy.

Because newish archers often change their minds, it is not advisable to recommend for them to buy the best equipment available. They may be wasting their money on expensive equipment if they end up changing their minds later. My recommendation is: beginner-level equipment for beginners, intermediate-level equipment for intermediate archers, advanced-level equipment for advanced archers and elite-level (aka “top of the line”) equipment for elite archers. This forms a “price ladder” as well. If an archer commits to the sport and gets coached and practiced up, they will proceed to better and more expensive equipment in stages. (The old stuff can be traded or sold as there is an active “secondary market” for archery equipment.)

I hope this helps!

Steve

 

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Helping Your Students with … The Mental Game

(from the May-June 2014 issue of Archery Focus magazine)

Note There is a great deal of talk about the Mental Game of Archery but almost none on how to get students started. Here’s two cents worth.

***

For beginning archers, the physical aspects of the sport dominate. There is probably very little room for anything else in their  minds. The phrase “archery is 90% mental,” is often heard in archery instruction circles, which is not at all true, although it is close to the truth when it comes to archery competitions. To become a good archer, many hours of practice, building muscles and  technique training and additional hours setting up and testing and tuning equipment all have to happen so that on competition day, the equipment and form and execution are unconsciously dependable. The remainder of the day is largely determined by our archer’s minds: how focused they are, how confident, how consistent they can maintain our performance, etc. So, how do you start helping your students with their mental games? When do you start?

The Mental Game of Archery
It wasn’t that long ago that there wasn’t any mental game recognized. Some archers did it, but most just practiced shooting arrows and making their equipment perfect and hope for the best. Today, all elite archers incorporate mental training in their practice and competition. Many young archers compete and win without a mental program but as they get older, they shouldn’t expect to be doing any “winning” when they are giving away such an advantage. Practice . . . mentally? Yep, do you ever expect them to do something well without practicing?

Getting Started A key to shooting well is your archers must focus their conscious thinking upon what they are doing “now” during any shot. If their mind wanders onto their stance while they are at full draw, for example, the outcome will be a bad shot. They must “pay attention” to what is happening . . . right now.

You probably know why. Archery is a repetition sport. If their minds wander it will (at least) change their timing and such shots will occur at a different pace than the previous ones. We want each shot to be their best shot and the next shot to be just like the last one. We know this from the fact that it is easier to do something you have just done than to do it new for the first time. It is more effective to “copy” the last shot than it is to make up a new technique while shooting the next one.

So what are they supposed to “focus on?” This is the role played by their shot sequence. Basically this is a list of everything they do to take a single shot. Their shot sequence puts names to things they will need to refine physically (improving their technique) but also it is a list of where their attention needs to be while shooting. When they are nocking an arrow, they need to pay attention to where the nock goes on the string, the sound and feel it makes when it slides into place, they need to pay attention to the way the “index vane” points, and they need to check how the arrow sits on the arrow rest (and under the clicker if they use one). They need to do this consciously (in practice) to train their subconscious mind to do it subconsciously (whenever they need it done) just like learning to tie their shoes or ride a bike (and later to drive a car). Conscious attention is needed to develop unconscious competence. Doing any of those things wrong can cost them points (e.g. if the arrow is sitting on the bow’s arrow shelf instead of the arrow rest, their shot will be low, very low).

The next thing they need to learn is the “Rule of Discipline.”

The Rule of Discipline If they follow this rule, they will learn faster than anything else you can do. Basically this rule says “don’t shoot shots you know are wrong.” Here it is in all of its glory:

If anything, anything at all—mental or physical—intrudes from a prior step or from the environment, you must let down and start over.

By following this rule they will train your subconscious mind to monitor their shooting and “urge” you to letdown when something is not right, even if you do not notice it yourself! While they are shooting, they are shooting by “feel.” Their eyes are focused on their sight or the target and not upon themselves. If their conscious mind doesn’t focus on what they are doing “now” the shot will be bad, so all they have is how the shot feels at the time. With repetition, they can learn how a good shot feels and use that as a guide to make this call, but the word “feel” is almost the total opposite of conscious thinking, so we use our subconscious minds to monitor those.

We train our subconscious minds what to pay attention to by paying attention to it consciously while practicing . . . and that is exhausting. If you think about how you learned to tie your shoes or ride a bike, it was really hard at first but now it is almost effortless in comparison. That is because you now do these tasks subconsciously.

There has been some misunderstanding regarding the Rule of Discipline. It is not if the coach sees anything wrong, they must let down, but whether the archer thinks there is anything wrong. Beginning archers wouldn’t be able to get off a shot if they had to do it perfectly in the eyes of a coach. What constitutes “right” and “wrong” for an archer evolves as they gain understanding and develop the feel of their shot and the Rule of Discipline helps them develop that “feel” and understanding.

… And the Training?
You are dreading asking them to practice one more thing, aren’t you? To practice their shot sequence, start by using the appropriate terms for the parts. Ask them to make a list of the parts of their shot. Go over it with them. This has physical as well as mental benefits, so they won’t get antsy. From time to time, focus consciously on one of the tasks (not every single one, you’ll wear them out).

For the Rule of Discipline . . . have them use it. Every single shot. If they don’t know how to do a “let down,” demonstrate it for them (note the differences for indoors and out) and have them practice it a couple of times and they will be an expert in no time.

And, don’t worry, there’s more, . . . but only if they want to get better.

Coming Attractions
We follow on from here with the introduction of policing one’s self-talk, it being easy to teach: what it is, how to change negative self-talk into positive, etc. Then comes shot rehearsals/imagery, being the practice of imagining a perfect shot just before raising their bows.

There is much, much more. You can teach these things to your recreational archers as well as your competitive archers. There will be no harm done as the recreational archers just won’t do things they don’t find fun, and you don’t know what will trigger the conversion from a recreational archer to a competitive archer. It may just be that there is some serious, performance enhancing stuff being done here; archery is not just flinging arrows and hoping to win a medal.

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What to Do About Overenthusiastic Archery Shoppers

QandA logoMy friend Tammy Besser sent in a clump of questions for the blog (Bless you, Tammy!) of which this is one: Any advice on how to stop or at least slow down archers who go out and but too much equipment and too expensive equipment, equipment that is beyond their skill level?

The normal situation is people are clueless and need all your help to figure out what they should be buying and when, but these situations do happen. I remember one young archer who, after his first lesson, got his grandparents to buy him a bow and arrows and they went out shooting from the trails of the local state park. (After hearing this story from Grandma and after getting up off of the ground from having fainted due to blood loss to my brain, I explained that it was illegal, dangerous, etc. They didn’t know.)

So, the question is what to do with people whose pocketbooks outweigh their judgment when it comes to archery gear. The answer is simple: you have to educate them. How to do just that isn’t simple; it is hard.

Suggestion #1 Prepare some equipment handouts
The important points to make are: (a) that a beginners’ archery form changes quite a bit and therefore it is almost impossible to recommend equipment until it settles down, (b) buying the wrong equipment can actual retard an archer’s progress to the point they get frustrated and even quit, and (c) getting “advanced” equipment can be a waste of money as many of the features of the advanced equipment can only be taken advantage by expert archers.

I can back all of these up with stories, but if you can or can’t also offer solid advice. Maybe the best advice is that archers need equipment that is matched to their skill: beginners need beginner-level equipment; intermediate archers need intermediate-level equipment; advanced/elite archers need advanced/elite equipment. Cost is an indicator of these stages, but it is not the only one, so make specific suggestions in your handouts.

Suggestion #2 If you do group instruction, schedule classes where the topic is equipment.
Do bow and arrow fittings. (I include a handout on where and how to shop for archery gear based upon local providers. Help students who have their own equipment to realize what they can do to tailor that equipment to improve their shooting. Do equipment checks. (I had a younger student who has been struggling with left-right arrow patterns. So, I took her plunger off of her recurve bow to find out that three of the four set screws that held the settings of the plunger were missing, meaning her centershot and side pressure were changing with every shot!) Beginning archers do not know how to check their own equipment, nor how to document it. You might want to pass out bow/arrow documentation forms at those meetings. (I posted one at http://www.archeryeducationresources.com/Coaching_Resources.html if you want an example of such a thing.

Suggestion #3 If there is a local archery shop in town (Hallelujah!) create a relationship with them.
Go there, introduce yourself. Ask about what equipment and services they offer that your archers might need. If they are cooperative, refer students to that shop. (I used to have handouts to pass out including the shop’s name, contact information, directions on how to get their, hours of operation, and if there was a specialist in beginner’s equipment who to ask for.) Work with them over time to serve your students better. It will be good for their business, your business, and your archers.

And, of course, whatever they buy they will need help with setting it up and adapting it to them. This is especially true for all y’all who don’t have a good archery shop nearby.

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Hot Off the Press!

ACHT Cover v2I 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

Introduction
General Caveats

How To’s
Equipment

  • 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

How To’s
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’s
New Experiences

  • How to . . . Introduce Field Archery
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Target Archery
    ·   How to . . . Introduce Competition
    Sidebar: Who Competes? Against Whom or What?

Appendices
Having a Written Coaching Philosophy
Coaching Rationales

If you read it, please post a review on Amazon.com to help others with their buying decisions. Thanks.

 

 

 

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Should I Emulate/Recommend Elite Technique?

Often what we read about how to shoot arrows from bows are descriptions of elite technique. Unfortunately these authors rarely include “this is what you need to do to build this technique.”

Some coaches, on one hand, recommend that you emulate what elite athletes do until you become one. This “fake it until you make it” approach might work but I doubt it. As an absurd example, consider a young high jumper who puts up a bar at seven feet and then tries repeatedly to jump over it. Such an approach is quite unlikely to help anyone. Consider young athletes in any other sport, say baseball or football. Would you recommend that they try to do things like the pros do? Probably not. The reasons are manifold. First, they probably do not understand the game well enough to even comprehend what you were asking them to do. Second, it is unlikely that they have developed the requisite muscle strength to do those things. And, third, it is unlikely that they will have developed enough skill and coordination to do those things. (There’s more.) So, what do youth coaches in those sports recommend? They emphasize “the fundamentals.” In other words, you teach the basics to build a foundation upon which those more refined skills might take root, later. At the same time they teach and encourage conditioning and strength development.

This, I believe, is true for youths and also for adult beginners, who might have more fully developed musculatures in general, but probably not their “archery muscles” so much.

It is my position that there are some things elite archers do that you and your athletes should not do. I urge my students to adopt good basic form to learn how to execute good shots with good alignment. I teach relaxation. I teach the shot cycle. I teach the mental game. I teach equipment maintenance and tuning. There is much to learn before the elements of elite technique come into play.

If you need another analogy consider a beginning archer: if you were to offer him or her a full professional-level bow and arrow setup, would it improve or hurt their development? Would their scores skyrocket or would they struggle to use “touchy” or heavy draw weight elite equipment?

If, and when, my students decide they want to become very, very good, then I will recommend some of the things the elites do, realizing that many of those are built upon a well-built basic form and upon excellent physical conditioning.

I call upon authors of works describing shooting techniques to (a) clearly identify to whom they address their comments and (b) build foundations to learn those techniques including all necessary preliminary stages and bridges between them. This has not been the case so far, but I think it would advance our sport a great deal, especially if a consensus can be achieved among coaches regarding these things.

 

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