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It’s Not Either Or – Archery is not a zero-sum game

Archery is a sport.  For some it is also a way of life. Or at least a meaningful part of a “normal” life.

After 6 months of thinking on the role of sport, I’ve concluded that a critic was wrong back then.

The act of promoting archery cannot be to the detriment of archers.  I don’t mean “a rising tide lifts all boats” but that could also be true.

After a 5 year history of participating in several community archery events, a club president arbitrarily decided that it was not prudent to continue – it was “outside” of the normal functions as that person narrow-mindedly perceived the function of the club.  As a result, hundreds of kids from one event never got to touch a bow – their path through life remains duller, less enjoyable.  At the other event about 1000 kids did not get to learn about archery in college.  To me the loss is not calculable.

It is incredibly important that any opportunity to share archery is NOT ignored.  You deprive yourself as well as those that would benefit.

Look.  Archery.  You do it because ….??  If you view it as a job right now, think back to when you started.  That was because you … enjoyed it?  Why not help others to enjoy it as well?  As you share your insights, your knowledge, your sport, you learn more about yourself.  You become better by helping others.  So the next time you wear an archery-related shirt be ready to share the sport.  Heck, share the sport without the shirt (umm, do wear some kind of shirt, ok?)

Archery is a sport to be proud of.  You can be proud, you can share, and be a better person thereby.  No risk of diminishing yourself if you speak from the heart and are truthful.

Look Here.

Many of the topics I am moved to share thoughts on come from my students, primarily my college students. :)

When an archer has a miss (not “if”; as EVERY archer will have a miss) it apparently needs must involve some coaching to speed the process of retrieving the arrow(s).

The vast majority of normal missed shots will only miss the bale by inches, rather than yards.  (Not talking about missfires/shoot-through-the-clicker/letting-down-and-shot-anyway/triggered the release whoops early kind of events)

As such, the arrow will fall within a narrow cone or rectangle that barely is wider than the alley the bale sits in.  Yet time and again I’ll watch archers search 5, 10, or 20 yards to the side of the bale for the arrow which will almost certainly be found BEHIND the bale…Teach your archer to note mentally how the arrow missed. Was it to the side because the wind came up/quit right at release?  Was it on the plunger and launched OVER the bale?  It can make a great impact on the limited time we often have to work with the archer if too much time is wasted “in the green”.  And first, exhaust the possibility that it is within a narrow rectangle about the width of the darn target bale!  Only after that, go searching wider afield…

And teach them to go to the target, go ten or twenty feet further, and then take a sight on their scope’s tripod way back on the shooting line, so they have a sense of where the arrow traveled FROM and to….finding an arrow in the turf should not be rocket science and it should not take all day.

What Should I Buy First?

It is hard to know what archery gear to buy first!

A 25″ length riser is the standard size, and most archers use that and modify the length of the bow to accommodate their draw length by choosing either a short, medium, or long set of limbs.

It helps to know a fundamental aspect:  Bows are rated in resistance to drawing (aka, the “draw weight”) in pounds at a specific distance of draw, stated simply as “30 pounds at 27 inches”.
If you pick up a medium length bow (68″ total length of riser and limbs combined) that is rated at 30 pounds@27 inches, and if you draw it back to 28 inches, expect the draw weight on your fingers to rise to perhaps 32 pounds or so.  If you draw to only 26 inches, expect the draw weight to be less, say 28 pounds (or so).  The weight will always vary from limb to limb, as limbs are by nature NOT physically identical even when made by the same craftsman with exactly the same technique.  Just a fact of life.

The increase in weight beyond the labeled amount when drawing more than 27 inches is called “stacking” and varies widely between brands and levels of quality of limbs.  Cheap limbs tend to stack more, as do shorter limbs relative to longer limbs for a given draw length.  That is, a 68 inch bow consisting of a 27″ riser and short limbs will usually have more stack (and more limb tip lateral stability AND more vibration) than a 68 inch bow with a 23 inch riser and long limbs.
The reason why “stack” becomes clearer if you examine the modern recurve limb.  If you consider the cross section of the limb as you move from the base at the limb pocket out towards the string notch area/tip, you will see that the limb gets smaller (lighter per unit of cross-sectioned distance) the further out to the tip you look.

As you draw a bow back, the limbs bend under the energy you invest in them.  But the bending is not uniform, meaning the tip area (the “recurve”) bends differently than the limb nearer to the limb pocket.  The parts of the limb also move in different directions!  The tips move towards the center of the bow much more than the thicker base parts of the limb, which mainly moves towards the archer’s string hand.  It has a lot to do with leverage and angles.

Why such a long explanation?  It makes an incredible difference to the success of the archer, the choice of how to make the bow long enough.
1. Archer A shoots 5 days a week and has lots of time for cross-training, bulks up muscles and is very fit.  Archer A  LIKES the stacking effect as a way to get feedback the closer to click the arrow gets.  Archer A also thinks it is easier to make a good release with higher poundage, so to get that stacking feeling, a 25 or 27 inch riser with SHORT limbs is A’s choice.
2. Archer B is the same draw length as “A” but cannot maintain the same level of fitness and training effort.  Limb stacking for “B” makes it very hard to maintain excellent form through the click.  “B” needs to cast the arrow the same distance, but perhaps wants more control and feeling and less raw power, so less stacking is a good thing.  “B” therefore chooses a 23 or 25 inch riser with medium or even long limbs.  The limbs will be springier, not stressed as much, and the shot will have less short-frequency vibration (the “thunks” or “clanks”) and more long-frequency good vibration (the “strums”).  There will be less stacking, so the archer will get through click easier with the same amount of effort expended over each inch of drawing done  relatively speaking.  I view “B” as being closer to the sweet spot.
3. Archer C fears stacking and goes with a 27″ riser and long limbs, and ends up with a bow that is very easy (compared to “A”s and “B”s bows) to draw back to anchor and through click, as it never stacks.  But the bow is so long that the recurve part of the limbs never gets the same amount of deformation(stress) that happens in A & B.  The bow simply cannot cast the arrows as far as A & B’s bows would in the hands of archer “C”.
So depending on a lot of variables, there is “too short”, “just right with short/long”, “just right with long/short”, and “too long”.  YIKES.
Now you ask in frustration, “well how do I know what I need?”   Don’t panic and don’t assume you can’t get it right. As a beginning or even intermediate archer, you can get in the right ballpark and not even realize it could be better, because it will still feel great, such quality are the current products on the market compared to the bows of yesteryear!
A few general rules of thumb:
If you can afford it, buy the most expensive thing of each category and you will at least look good (until you shoot your arrows).
Otherwise, (and all of this is just one opinion – get several and decide for yourself…
For your first gear purchase, get the best riser you can afford, and get the cheapest limbs you can get by with in the general weight range you think you can handle.
After the riser and limbs, get the best sight you can afford.  A Sure-Loc can last you your lifetime.
Likewise, get a Beiter Plunger rather than a cheap one for the durability and especially the reliability.
These parts also are completely independent of your strength in drawing the bow and your skill level.
These are “one-time” purchases, as is the riser in all likelihood.  The two things that vary a LOT will be your limbs and your arrows so you want them last.
You should review the stabilizer market, and purchase something “not the cheapest” and “not the most expensive”.  Stabilizers need to perform some basic functions of mass/weight distribution and a LITTLE vibration absorption, and inertial resistance, and it is not rocket science so don’t pay for rockets, until you have the best everything else.
Adolescents who will grow will obviously need different length arrows.  Those archers who increase in strength through training and exercise and technique enhancement will also need different length as well as differently spined arrows (spine is the rigidity of the arrow and has huge impact on arrow grouping on the target and clearance).
BTW – never sell your old limbs – you may need to fall back to them if injured or if you make substantial form/technique changes.
I favor a shorter riser and longer limbs to achieve any given bow length yet there is a lot of flexibility in any chosen pairing of riser to limbs.  Eventually, you do want to buy the best limbs you can afford as well, because the more advanced limbs DO make an impact on you each and every time you loose an arrow.
Arrows come last because the riser and the limbs make the arrows behave a certain and different way.

Your technique, your fundamental method, makes your arrows behave a certain way.  During the initial learning phase, you are changing (hopefully!) so much that making an arrow investment is just not smart.  I consider Easton X10s an investment, and for many even ACEs are an investment.  Navigators and ACCs are a great balance of price and performance, many archers will never need to shoot anything more refined than Navigators or ACEs…Though X10s are the most shot-arrows at every Olympic since their introduction, and I recall a statistic that every medal in singles competition since they were first introduced has been taken with X10 arrows.  If you can afford X10s then certainly enjoy.  But first secure the best riser, limbs, sight, and plunger. THEN and only then splurge on X10s.

Lessor considerations:
Don’t use spinwings until you can (mostly) stay on the bale at your competitive distances.  Instead, start out with a durable vane such as the Easton or Arizona vanes, until you are shooting competitively. And before you switch fully, go half-and-half with a new kind of vane and compare your groups to make sure you are moving towards better.
Big arrows: Shooting indoors is pretty much what archers do when it is too cold to shoot outdoors, and for such short distances many archers feel they need a bigger arrow-diameter-to-target-size ratio to straighten out the arrow in a shorter time/distance, and they perceive an advantage to “line-cutting” score getting so they go with a FAT arrow.  Fat doesn’t matter so much indoors because there is rarely a cross-wind to blow the shafts sideways off of center target.  If you do choose to get a fat aluminum arrow for indoors, realize that you will have to re-tune/re-setup your entire bow and tune each season.
Unless you are headed to the world indoor championships, the Face-to-Face in Europe, or some such fancy hooraw shoot (that means the Vegas Shoot) where you absolutely must have every extra point AND you are not shooting at an elite level already, fatboys might be worth the hassle (and experience) of retuning frequently.  You might notice that most elite archers stay with their serious (outdoors) arrow, which requires only slight tuning adjustments for shooting at 18 meters instead of 70 meters.

Tuning?  Tuning is the adjustments to the bow’s physical parameters to match the way your fingers leave the string and your hand holds the bow and your arrows flex.  Pure and simple. No, not simple.  COMPLEX.  but that’s tuning in a nutshell – adapting hardware to the software(that’s you, archer) so that the pattern of arrows falling on the bale are as closely grouped as possible.  Tuning is a lot of fun, and is an ongoing challenge for the improving archer.  Some say tuning is never done.  Others tune once and then don’t make a change in their setup no matter what, till they can’t stand their performance any more and decide to “change up” everything.  Whatever.

I’ll end this with: “rarely will an archer shoot UP to his bow’s potential. The weakest link in the arrow delivery system is typically the grey matter.  But the effect of pride and excitement in one’s gear cannot be discounted – there IS a placebo effect.  Shiny gear helps you to believe in the force…and the force can be powerful indeed.
Ok, one more thought: give a man (or woman) a fish and he’ll eat for a day.  Teach her to fish, and she’ll feed herself forever.  Buy a bow and you can shoot an arrow.  Learn how to shoot that bow and you’ll hit what you aim at.  Another way of saying, investing money with a good coach is better than simply throwing money at your bow and flinging arrows in a sad hope of getting good at it.

Some Science

I’ve been against stretching for several years, when the first studies came out.  They were somewhat low in “P” value, meaning the studies weren’t HUGELY designed.  Here is more information to learn on – why you should NOT stretch before you plan to exercise, and the author gets it right.
This is a copyright blog post from

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/04/03/reasons-not-to-stretch

by Gretchen Reynolds

April 3, 2013, 12:01 am

Reasons Not to Stretch

By Gretchen Reynolds

Most of us grew up hearing that we should warm up with a stretch. Strike and hold a pose, such as touching your toes, for 30 seconds or more, we were told, and you’ll be looser, stronger and injury-proof.

But anyone who follows fitness science — or this column— knows that in recent years a variety of experiments have undermined that idea. Instead, researchers have discovered, this so-called static stretching can lessen jumpers’ heights and sprinters’ speeds, without substantially reducing people’s chances of hurting themselves.

Now, two new studies are giving us additional reasons not to stretch.

One, a study being published this month in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, concluded that if you stretch before you lift weights, you may find yourself feeling weaker and wobblier than you expect during your workout. Those findings join those of another new study from Croatia, a bogglingly comprehensive re-analysis of data from earlier experiments that was published in The Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Together, the studies augment a growing scientific consensus that pre-exercise stretching is generally unnecessary and likely counterproductive.

Many issues related to exercise and stretching have remained unresolved. In particular, it is unclear to what extent, precisely, subsequent workouts are changed when you stretch beforehand, as well as whether all types of physical activity are similarly affected.

For the more wide-ranging of the new studies, and to partially fill that knowledge gap, researchers at the University of Zagreb began combing through hundreds of earlier experiments in which volunteers stretched and then jumped, dunked, sprinted, lifted or otherwise had their muscular strength and power tested. For their purposes, the Croatian researchers wanted studies that used only static stretching as an exclusive warm-up; they excluded past experiments in which people stretched but also jogged or otherwise actively warmed up before their exercise session.

The scientists wound up with 104 past studies that met their criteria. Then they amalgamated those studies’ results and, using sophisticated statistical calculations, determined just how much stretching impeded subsequent performance.

The numbers, especially for competitive athletes, are sobering. According to their calculations, static stretching reduces strength in the stretched muscles by almost 5.5 percent, with the impact increasing in people who hold individual stretches for 90 seconds or more. While the effect is reduced somewhat when people’s stretches last less than 45 seconds, stretched muscles are, in general, substantially less strong.

They also are less powerful, with power being a measure of the muscle’s ability to produce force during contractions, according to Goran Markovic, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Zagreb and the study’s senior author. In Dr. Markovic and his colleagues’ re-analysis of past data, they determined that muscle power generally falls by about 2 percent after stretching.

And as a result, they found, explosive muscular performance also drops off significantly, by as much as 2.8 percent. That means that someone trying to burst from the starting blocks, blast out a ballistic first tennis serve, clean and jerk a laden barbell, block a basketball shot, or even tick off a fleet opening mile in a marathon will be ill served by stretching first. Their performance after warming up with stretching is likely to be worse than if they hadn’t warmed up at all.

A similar conclusion was reached by the authors of the other new study, in which young, fit men performed standard squats with barbells after either first stretching or not. The volunteers could manage 8.3 percent less weight after the static stretching. But even more interesting, they also reported that they felt less stable and more unbalanced after the stretching than when they didn’t stretch.

Just why stretching hampers performance is not fully understood, although the authors of both of the new studies write that they suspect the problem is in part that stretching does exactly what we expect it to do. It loosens muscles and their accompanying tendons. But in the process, it makes them less able to store energy and spring into action, like lax elastic waistbands in old shorts, which I’m certain have added significantly to the pokiness of some of my past race times by requiring me manually to hold up the garment.

Of course, the new studies’ findings primarily apply to people participating in events that require strength and explosive power, more so than endurance. But “some research speaks in favor” of static stretching impairing performance in distance running and cycling, Dr. Markovic said.

More fundamentally, the results underscore the importance of not prepping for exercise by stretching, he said. “We can now say for sure that static stretching alone is not recommended as an appropriate form of warm-up,” he said. “A warm-up should improve performance,” he pointed out, not worsen it.

A better choice, he continued, is to warm-up dynamically, by moving the muscles that will be called upon in your workout. Jumping jacks and toy-soldier-like high leg kicks, for instance, prepare muscles for additional exercise better than stretching. As an unscientific side benefit, they can also be fun.

 

How well do you know your plunger?

It’s amazing how many archers do not understand the nature of the Berger Button/Cushion Plunger and the center-shot setting.

If you are a recurve archer, have you ever taken the time and trouble to explore the effect on tune and arrow behavior which changing your center shot has?  Perhaps you should experiment so you understand cause-and-effect and can tune better.

Start by measuring exactly how “deep” your plunger is so you can put it back to it’s current location if you want to return there quickly and easily (iow, when you panic). :)

Now, whatever its depth was, unscrew the plunger and set it to be about HALF as deep as it was. This’ll be the starting point and you’ll gradually move it deeper (past its original position most likely).   If it is designed like the Beiter Plunger you can tighten the spring by rotating the shroud until there is NO give in the button.  KEEP TRACK OF HOW MANY 360 DEGREE TURNS AND CLICKS YOU HAVE TO GO TO LOCK THE BUTTON DOWN. Again, so that you can put it back where it was at any time.  If another brand, just use the matchstick trick, insert a matchstick or a toothpick, something that eliminates the action of the spring for this exercise.

I like to do this shooting exercise with bare shafts.  Fletchings/vanes only serve to disguise the effects you seek to understand.  Be sure you are close enough to keep the arrows on the bale! Put up a blank sheet of butcher paper with a dot to aim at, or use a fresh target so you can circle each end of arrows.    Assuming you can shoot 3 arrows and get a group, well… do so.  Note how the arrows fly (how much they skew sideways) and where they go relative to your aiming point.  After each three arrows, rotate the plunger IN 1/2 turn pushing the centershot deeper away from the riser, and watch the arrows “march” across the target bale.

At some point the arrows will fly better than they have been and keep getting better, cleaner in flight.  Then as you continue changing the center shot, they will start to fly worse.  Keep going for a few ends and simply educate yourself on how the arrows fly, how they look in the bale (esp. if a foam bale – if a straw bale the angle of the dangle is not so diagnostic).  Ultimately you want to return to that plunger setting of “best behavior”.  You then might wish to check this “center shot” position in the traditional, arrow-on-the-bow-and-look-down-the-center-of-the-limbs method just to see how far off it is from the “accepted perfect center shot” (where the edge of the string away from the riser is just touching the junction of the shaft and arrow point joint).  If there is a difference between the “ideal” and your empiric center shot I would suggest it is due to the spine of the arrows and most importantly your release technique.

So which is better?  The one that give you the best groups, of course.

Incidentally, you did the center shot first because it has the more profound, basic influence on the arrow compared to the spring tension, but the spring can have a huge effect on the shape and size of your grouping pattern.

SO, how about the plunger tension now?  same thing.  You will not know until you try all the settings, using the same “little bit at a time” method keeping track as you make half-turns on the tension.  Notice how certain areas of adjustment actually make big changes in the left-right arrow groups, and as you get close to the sweet spot, you get better groups.  But you have to decrease the number of clicks per change as you near the sweet spot or you might go right past it.  Again, this exercise is simply to learn what effect the plunger tension has on the flight of the arrows as well as the grouping.

There is no more commonly used, less understood, hardware on the olympic recurve bow than the plunger.  You can study the engineering and physics of it all day long, and never really understand what it’s good for.  Till you experiment a little…

 

 

Bareshaft Benefits

A short one (I hope):

I found all of my parts were healthy enough to shoot some without pain, so I dug up my old ACEs, 32 inch long, and realized their points were rusty (really) and the vanes toast. 

SO I put together a 27 inch Hoyt GM right hand riser, some long 30 pound WW limbs Lindsey had left over when she went to medium length and dedicated herself to promoting the Hoyt bow products, made a string to match, and started shooting barebow up close.  Amazing when nothing hurts, even when at 38 pounds at click…!  So I moved back to 18 meters, adjusting the center shot and plunger tension to straighten out the arrow flight. 

I found that shooting nothing but bare shafts was a great way to set the center shot, the nocking point, and the plunger tension.  When the vanes are not smoothing out “crumby” things, you see very quickly how good your release truly is, and if you do shoot groups at say, 18 meters you can readily tell from the arrow’s behavior what needs adjusting and tweaking. 

Bare shaft groupings in comparison to fletched groups – this has long been my preferred method to tune a bow in many ways.  Bare shafts alone – a valued addition to the tuning library of options especially when *nothing* on the bow is tuned… 

Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success, by Matthew Syed

First, I think it best if you have already read Gladwell, Coyle, Colvin, Gladwell, Gladwell, Coyle, Ratey, and Gladwell.  (each author mentioned once per book I have read).  But here are some excerpts from Bounce:
Practically every man or woman who triumphs against the odds is, on closer inspection, a beneficiary of unusual circumstances.
Not genetics, but a unique circumstance, such as an older brother excellent as a competitive driver, or a geographic circumstance, where the athlete can walk out the front door of the home and be shooting 70 meters within just a few steps.
“The people who stand before kings may look like they did it all by themselves,” Gladwell writes. “But in fact they are invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot.”
Just because Syed is repeating at great length the quotes from these other authors I cited does not mean the information is not properly applied to the NTS method of training archers.
These differences are not just statistically significant; they are extraordinary. Top performers had devoted thousands of additional hours to the task of becoming master performers. But that’s not all. Ericsson also found that there were no exceptions to this pattern: nobody who had reached the elite group without copious practice, and nobody who had worked their socks off but failed to excel. Purposeful practice was the only factor distinguishing the best from the rest.
No one.  Every exceptional athlete got there by work, not by gift.
research has shown that when top performers seem to possess an early gift for music it is often because they have been given extra tuition at home by their parents.
Parents can make a profound difference.
How long do you need to practice in order to achieve excellence? Extensive research, it turns out, has come up with a very specific answer to that question: from art to science and from board games to tennis, it has been found that a minimum of ten years is required to reach world-class status in any complex task.
I have seen that this number can vary if the practice is of sufficient quality. 8000 hours can be enough for a top step.

Note: not necessarily 10,000 hours but rather ten years?

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell points out that most top performers practice for around one thousand hours per year (it is difficult to sustain the quality of practice if you go beyond this), so he redescribes the ten-year rule as the ten-thousand-hour rule. This is the minimum time necessary for the acquisition of expertise in any complex task.
As Ericsson puts it, “There are apparently no limits to improvements in memory skill with practice.”
the new science of expertise. Speed in sport is not based on innate reaction speed, but derived from highly specific practice.
I read this as, “With a sufficient coach, development does not have to be assigned to a schedule.
But we can now see that the solution to the riddle is simple. In essence, Douglas spent more hours than any other player in the history of the sport encoding the characteristics of a highly specific type of table tennis: the kind played at maximum pace, close to the table.
the movement has been encoded in implicit rather than explicit memory. This is what psychologists call expert-induced amnesia.
subconscious performance is proven to be the most elusive but the best
Great shot-making, then, is not about developing “muscle memory” rather, the memory is encoded in the brain and central nervous system. The ascendency of the mental and the acquired over the physical and the innate has been confirmed again and again.
“The most important differences are not at the lowest levels of cells or muscle groups, but at the athletes’ superior control over the integrated and coordinated actions of their bodies. Expert performance is mediated by acquired mental representations that allow the experts to anticipate, plan and reason alternative courses of action. These mental representations provide experts with increased control of the aspects that are relevant to generating their superior performance.”
“One key trait the study found was that these companies valued ‘domain expertise’ in managers—extensive knowledge of the company’s field. Immelt has now specified ‘deep domain expertise’ as a trait required for getting ahead at GE.”
if you want to bend it like Beckham or fade it like Tiger, you have to work like crazy, regardless of your genes, background, creed, or color. There is no shortcut, even if child prodigies bewitch us into thinking there is.
It is only possible to clock up meaningful practice if an individual has made an independent decision to devote himself to whatever field of expertise. He has to care about what he is doing, not because a parent or a teacher says so, but for its own sake. Psychologists call this “internal motivation,” and it is often lacking in children who start too young and are pushed too hard. They are, therefore, on the road not to excellence but to burnout.
neatly emphasizes the power of practice when it is challenging rather than nice and easy. “When most people practice, they focus on the things they can do effortlessly,” Ericsson has said. “Expert practice is different. It entails considerable, specific, and sustained efforts to do something you can’t do well—or even at all. Research across domains shows that it is only by working at what you can’t do that you turn into the expert you want to become.”
call it purposeful practice. Why? Because the practice sessions of aspiring champions have a specific and never-changing purpose: progress. Every second of every minute of every hour, the goal is to extend one’s mind and body, to push oneself beyond the outer limits of one’s capacities, to engage so deeply in the task that one leaves the training session, literally, a changed person.
That is worth stating again: world-class performance comes by striving for a target just out of reach, but with a vivid awareness of how the gap might be breached. Over time, through constant repetition and deep concentration, the gap will disappear, only for a new target to be created, just out of reach once again.
Elite skaters regularly attempt jumps beyond their current capabilities; less elite skaters do not.
If you are not falling down when you ski you are not learning.
Purposeful practice is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. Excellence is about stepping outside the comfort zone, training with a spirit of endeavor, and accepting the inevitability of trials and tribulations. Progress is built, in effect, upon the foundations of necessary failure. That is the essential paradox of expert performance.
As Mia Hamm, one of the greatest female soccer players, has said: “All my life I’ve been playing up, meaning I’ve challenged myself with players older, bigger, more skillful, more experienced—in short, better than me.”
Brain Transformation The ten-thousand-hour rule, then, is inadequate as a predictor of excellence.
What is required is ten thousand hours of purposeful practice. And for practice to be truly purposeful, concentration and dedication, although important, are not sufficient. You also need to have access to the right training system, and that sometimes means living in the right town or having the right coach.
You are also on the path to personal transformation. Literally. One of the most striking things about modern research on expertise is how the body and mind can be radically altered with the right kind of practice. “When the human body is put under exceptional strain, a range of dormant genes in the DNA are expressed and extraordinary physiological processes are activated,” Anders Ericsson has written.
“Over time the cells of the body reorganize in response to the metabolic demands of the activity by, for example, increases in the number of capillaries supplying blood to the muscles.”
A key aspect of brain transformation is myelin, a substance that wraps around the nerve fibers and that can dramatically increase the speed with which signals pass through the brain. A 2005 experiment that scanned the brains of concert pianists found a direct relationship between the numbers of hours practiced and the quantity of myelin. But myelin is not the only theme in the brain change story. Purposeful practice also builds new neural connections, increases the size of specific sections of the brain, and enables the expert to co-opt new areas of gray matter in the quest to improve.
your skull also contains this system, and you too can corral it into action when performing multi-digit calculations. But there is a catch: you can purchase access to this prime neural real estate only by building up a bank deposit of thousands of hours of purposeful practice. That, if you like, is the price of excellence.
In complex tasks, human achievement has many more centuries, possibly millennia, to run before it hits any kind of immovable ceiling. This is not just because the principles of purposeful practice are constantly being elaborated and improved, but also because of what we might call paradigm shifts—completely unforeseen innovations—in technique and application.
SCIENCE AND INNOVATIVE COACHES CAN AND WILL CONTINUE TO RAISE PERFORMANCE.
But careful study has shown that creative innovation follows a very precise pattern: like excellence itself, it emerges from the rigors of purposeful practice. It is the consequence of experts absorbing themselves for so long in their chosen field that they become, as it were, pregnant with creative energy. To put it another way, eureka moments are not lightning bolts from the blue, but tidal waves that erupt following deep immersion in an area of expertise.
technique and education is getting smarter. Similarly, soccer and table tennis standards are rising, at least in part, because technique is improving. So are the training systems, as we have seen. It all adds up to one inexorable conclusion: human performance in complex tasks will continue on an upward trajectory into the distant future, punctuated by innovations that are not merely unforeseen but unforeseeable.

Note: can anyone say, NTS…?

That is the power of feedback. As Chen says: “If you don’t know what you are doing wrong, you can never know what you are doing right.”
Feedback is, in effect, the rocket fuel that propels the acquisition of knowledge, and without it no amount of practice is going to get you there.
For an archer, immediate feedback can come from within, but also must come from a coach’s eye and wisdom.
He also has a coach standing behind him, providing an extra dimension of feedback. His coach is not merely offering encouragement and assessing his levels of concentration, he is also on the lookout for small technical glitches that may have escaped the attention of his charge. The advantage of a coach is that he has a perspective—being able to look from the outside in—that the player lacks.
It is not just that they receive expert advice during training sessions; far more important is that great coaches are able to design practice so that feedback is embedded in the drill, leading to automatic readjustment, which in turn improves the quality of feedback, generating further improvements, and so on.
Almost twenty years after his eldest daughter became the first female grandmaster in chess, Polgar’s insights are repudiated by most academics and ignored by society, despite a growing avalanche of evidence in support. To put it simply: The talent theory of expertise continues to reign supreme. This strangely resilient paradigm has had, and is having, devastating consequences.
a key factor driving success and failure is to be found within the realm of motivation. Sure, clocking up thousands of hours of purposeful practice ultimately determines how far we make it along the path to excellence: but it is only those who care about the destination, whose motivation (to use the phrase in chapter 2) is “internalized,” who are ever going to get there
A coach must recognize that creating drive must sometimes come from the athlete, alone.
What we are seeing at work here might be called motivation by association: a small, barely noticed connection searing deep into the subconscious and sparking a motivational response.
The hand you’re dealt is just the starting point…. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience.”
Armed with a growth mind-set, she interpreted falling down not merely as a means of improving, but as evidence that she was improving. Failure was not something that sapped her energy and vitality, but something that provided her with an opportunity to learn, develop, and adapt.
Excellence is about striving for what is just out of reach and not quite making it; it is about grappling with tasks beyond current limitations and falling short again and again. The paradox of excellence is that it is built upon the foundations of necessary failure.
“Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation, and it harms their performance.”
The coach must never use the cheap compliment, but the true comment.
He praises effort, never talent; he eulogizes about the transformational power of practice at every
opportunity; he preaches the vital importance of hard work during every interruption in play. And he does not regard failure in his students as either good or bad, but as an opportunity to improve. “That’s fine,” he says as his student hits a forehand long. “You are on the right track. It’s not the mistakes; it’s how you respond to them.”
“Every endeavour pursued with passion produces a successful outcome regardless of the result. For it is not about winning or losing—rather, the effort put forth in producing the outcome. The best way to predict the future is to create it—therefore, we believe we have the best training methods to help each athlete achieve their dreams and goals and ultimately reach their ability level in the arena of sports and life.”
This, it turns out, is a strangely difficult art to master, and one that often separates the best from the rest. We know it when we see it: that extraordinary ability of top sportsmen to rise above the anxieties and angst, the doubts and the tensions, that so often paralyze lesser performers. They retain their sureness of touch, their subtlety of mind, all those deep and complex motor is boskills built up over thousands of hours and which can so easily melt in the heat of the battle
Goldacre reports that stimulant medication tends to come in red or orange, antidepressants in blue, and so on.
Ariely, the behavioral economist, has shown that cheap painkillers are less effective than painkillers identical in every respect except for a more expensive price tag. Again, it all comes down to belief. For obvious reasons, we find it easier to believe in a treatment when it burns a hole in our wallet: “At that price, it must be good!”
This book contains much more.  Read it for your own ability enhancement.

Bibliography. ? Whut’s thet?

A list.  A bibliography is a kind of list, a summary, of reference materials wherein you can find gems of value, of wisdom to help you on your path to where you wish to go.  Here is a list of some of the books a coach might benefit from, though certainly not all.

I am a reader. I have read with a great appetite since an early age.  Taking an Evelyn Wood speed reading course at 14 did not hurt, either.  Growing up with a great public library nearby and a paperback novel displayrack full of books (for free for me) in my dad’s drug store was a distinct advantage as well.  OK.  so I read A LOT.  I’ve got more than 200 books on Kindle for calendar year 2012 as I write this on 12-23-2012 (23-12-2012 for my backwards English friends<G>).

Herein I am going to try to summarize some of the readings I have that have helped me to be a better coach, a better team leader, a better person.  Where I can recall, I’ll credit the person that brought me into contact with the book – the wiser person who told me, “you should read this”…

First, Tom Parrish told me to read “Golf is Not A Game of Perfect” at a time when I was struggling with how to get my daughter to a higher level of consistency.  I was worried about her occasional fliers (all archers will have these as they are developing – 5 great arrows and then one amongst them will be off in the blue instead of the gold/red ).  Tom told me something like, “ignore the parts about the sand traps, and the laying-up, substitute the word “archery” anytime the word “golf” appears.  He was right.  It is a superb educational book on the mental aspects of trying to put the itty-bitty pointy stick into the tiny target 76 yards away with some consistency.  Author is Rotello and here is the Amazon Link to the book.

I thought for a long time that Malcom Gladwell was some exotic, immensely intelligent, doctoral psychologist.  His books are literally THAT good.  I think early on that Coach Tom Barker turned me on to this author.  But Gladwell, a “mere” New York Times reporter,  weaves together again and again in his book, fundamental facts from a host of different sources and creates a tightly-woven rug that can hold water.  I read everything he writes, and I am the better person and coach for it.  Some are truly better than others, of course.  Thank you, Tom!

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.
What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures
Outliers: The Story of Success
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Of these, I love Outliers the best because I have always felt myself as something of an outlier. :)
I do dare you to read any of these and not come out of the book with a sense of increased wisdom, power to effect positive change in your athlete, and a different perspective on how to approach your calling.  This author has been passed around between coaches so much that it’s hard to know for sure who first zeroed in on how apt his writings are for the archery coach, but Tom certainly deserves my thanks.

Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist’s Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions, by Susan Barry. As I have said in earlier blogs, she reveals (to me, at least) a way to get a huge percent improvement in performance by training a set of muscles that no archery coach has ever attempted before.  Teach the muscles of the eye to respond faster and more accurately and with more range of motion and you’ll have reached the outer limits of performance.  You think *nothing* of teach your athletes to do the same with their biceps, triceps, lats, and especially their trapezius set, why not with their ocular muscles?  jeez, this ain’t rocket science!  Ask any special-trained optometrist (NOT opthalmalolgist!).  Who told me to read this? NO ONE.  I have met only disdain and dismissal for my insight regarding the potential for training the muscles of the eyes in like manner to how all other muscles of the body are trained.  Someday I will be vindicated, unfortunately I fear it will not be because the US archery team is demonstrating a renewed potential best because of it – some other country will do this first.

You should never, ever, again mention the phrase “target panic”.  It is a stupid phrase and lacking in accuracy and truthfulness.  Instead, you will find you have to deal with “shot choke” or “hesitancy” in your elite athlete.  Beginner athletes never get this.  Only excellent archers find a plateau where their frontal cortex reactivates, overloads, and blocks the action that SHOULD be an entirely autonomous function.   To help you understand why this is more of a choking sensation than a panic situation, please read
CHOKE, by Sian Beilock.  Read it twice.  And quit planting the seeds of destruction by using the phrase target panic.

Emotional Intelligence 2.0, by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves – the title pretty much implies all you need to know about why it is something you should learn from.

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else – by Geoff Colvin.   Puts lie to the notion that there are “overnight wonders” and “natural professionals”.  The 10,000 hour rule is a truth.  NO ONE EVER BECAME ELITE without myelinating their neural pathways properly over a period of thousands of hours of doing that “something to be great in”.  If that sentence doesn’t make sense to you, well, read the book and learn.  It is a fundamental truth that every coaching certification course I teach includes.  Bill Gates, the Beatles, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Michael Jordan, you name the athlete, they ALL put in at least 10,000 hours of purposeful practice on their way to the top step.  If I had to choose only one book, this one would probably be it.

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How – Daniel Coyle – Again, pounding away on the fact that we only think someone is “big for their age” or “naturally athletic”.  Our society builds a false premise that we continually fall for. (as coaches and as parents).  Learn how NOT to expect too much from your athletes and how to get more from them at the same time.  OK, maybe I would choose this as my “one and only” book to seize on.  It’s so HARD TO CHOOSE from!

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck – learn how profoundly influential  attitudes are in controlling success, and how to guide your athlete through a variety of pitfalls and traps.

A quick jaunt aside to a fictional yet educational story about shot choke.  “The Art of Fielding is mere baseball fiction the way Moby Dick is just a fish story” (Nicholas Dawidoff).   Book by Chad Harbach.

Sport Supplement Reference Guide bvy William Llewellym – a total waste of time.  NO ARCHER needs to take ANY special supplements.  He or she must eat 9 to 12 helpings of a variety of raw fruits, vegetables, and berries every day, in addition to appropriate levels of animal protein (if not a vegan) and fats, so that the body can extract all of the micronutrients needed to create new cells in the body on a continual basis.  More so when in training, as heavy training produces results by destroying cells and counting on the nutrients being available to rebuild the destruction better, stronger, and more efficiently.  Like the NGBs for France, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, I find that the science, the documentation in peer-reviewed, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, certification by the NSF, to be so compelling that I have not only taken it myself for 10+ years but also commend it to my athletes:   http://www.winningwithjuiceplus.com  – a capsulated formulation of a neutraceutical product consisting of 25 fully-ripened, raw, cold-juiced/treated/lyophyllized fruits, vegetables, and berries manufactured under stringent parameters that are totally USADA and WADA safe.  You don’t need an “out of balance hyper dosage of anything”.  Just a totally rounded realistic source for mother natures’ best natural nutrients so that your body can pick and choose just what is needed at just the right time during rebuilding and supercompensation.  You also need to insure your athletes are getting therapeutic daily doses of what is called “vitamin D” by either adequate sun exposure to skin, or else Vitamin D3, 5000 iu per 100 pounds of body weight. (in lieu of semi-monthly blood test of the 25(OH)D which MUST be at a level of at least 50 ng/ml, and below 80 ng/ml). A ng, by the way, is a billionth of a gram.  So it don’t take much to make a world of difference in athletic performance when it comes to vitamin D3.

Rome 1960 by David Maraniss – This book fosters a greater understanding of the singular largest athletic event to be held every four years in the world.  The good, the bad, the WHY and the WHEREFORE of this juggernaut of power and monied interests on behalf of the youth of the world, called upon to gather every four years…

The Tell-Tale Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human by V.S. Ramachandran  -  Dr. Rama will be awarded the Nobel Price in my lifetime, and hopefully his, IMHO.  If you want insight into how the human brain greets consciousness, how it learns by simply watching, and how the magnificence of it all comes together, this book is a must.  You can also use TED.COM to view his 10-15 minute presentations which I recommend prior to you buying the book.  If it doesn’t ring a chime in your core, you probably should not be a coach.

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey .  Ok.  Despite all the excellent books I have already listed, this book.  This Book.   THIS FREAKING BOOK!!!!  If you know the Miller children of Napiersville, IL, then you will have a starburst of comprehension midway through this book that transcends what you THINK you know about learning.  It is an incredible slap in the face of our conventional wisdom about how schools should operate.  It paints a vivid and clear yet simple and cheap path we could be following to create excellence in our students at *any* level, in any pursuit of learning not just archery.  But it certainly applies to archery!!!
and in greatest position of honor, two books who by author name alphabetically should come last, but by greatness should never be anywhere but first:
Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court
and
The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons on Leaders and Leadership
by?
John Wooden, of course.   His example lesson to me is simply, be as selfless as possible. Be honest to the athlete and to the sport, as well as to yourself.  BE MODEST.  Have a method for everything and a reason for your method.  Train not to the top step but to the top performance of the athlete.  All else will take care of itself.  And as I recall a certain “head coach” grabbing a trophy from the athlete and dancing in a bizarre way on the field with the trophy over his head as though it was his, it aint’ about the coach. It’s all about the athlete.  They win.  We coach.  If we do it right, we open the door for that win, but the athlete walks through that door and kicks butt.  Our tears of joy must come through the success of those we mentor.
Ahem. Teared up there for a minute.  You have some reading to do.  Please feel free to post comments with the titles and authors of books YOU have found useful, so that I and others might benefit as well?  and a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, to you..
and I’ll add more books in the next year…

 

 

Give it a rest

As a coach it is easy to assign tasks, goals, work.

It is very easy to overload your student(s) with too much.  Especially right before a big tournament, especially the official practice day prior, the archer (and you) will want to “get out there and shoot a buncha arrows”.  This often is a prescription for failure, or at best, mediocrity.  Ironically, the more important the event the more likely the athlete will make this mistake and shoot their best arrows on the practice field.  You are the coach, and you must guide and control your athletes with your superior experience and knowledge.

The best thing a smart coach will know is when to stop the archers – when to give…it…a…rest…!

Most level IV coaches are familiar with periodization.  This is the term for a scientific approach to creating an elite performer out of a potentially excellent athlete by varying the training workload, the nutritional intake, the resting recovery periods, *everything* associated with development and maintenance of excellence…

In short, you can’t get to the top step by simply shooting 300 arrows every day.  You have to shoot varying numbers of arrows, lift weights, maybe swim laps to gain “wind”, mentally train, practice, train train train, smarter than simply tossing arrows downrange.

A critical part of the stair-step pattern of evolution of excellence in an archer is the RECOVERY phase, where the athlete simply does little or nothing in the sport, for days at a time, and the body responds to the “vacation” from heavy training by ….rebuilding it better than before.  During the recovery phase you do not stop coaching.  You coach on nutrition.  You coach on mental strength, visualization, you exercise the grey matter of the athlete and leave the red matter to rebuild and recover.  You do not stop coaching, ok?

I am reminded of a superb movie by Bogdanovich, called “The Last Picture Show”.  It is set in a small dying town in north Texas, one my mother lived near as a child.  The basketball coach (heck, he was the only coach so he did football, dodgeball, basketball, and probably “health education”, as my own high school coach did<G>) – anyway, this red-faced coach with the physique of a compound archer stood in the gym as the guys ran laps around, screaming,  “RUN, yew little piss-aints, RUN”… as if that was all there was to creating an excellent basketball team.   Running the asses off of your athletes is hardly ever the way to the center of the gold.  You have to know to let their physiques rebuild and recover before you tell them to take another lap or two…

Supercompensation is the fancy name.  “Better than before” is the truth, and you cannot force a human body into supercompensation by working it to exhaustion, to death, to the edge of collapse.

You want your athlete archer to shoot a PB?  Give her a few days to a week prior to a big event virtually nothing to do but visual training, mental training (shoot arrows in her imagination), and outstanding chances are that she will reward herself (and therefore you) with a good, enjoyable performance.   Fer pete’s sake, just give the athlete a rest at the right time.   No more, “run, you little pissaints, run!”.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

It takes a certain amount of intent to hold a bowstring while a shot is made. Most often the intent, the tension, has nothing in the real world to relate it to the job description, other than “I must not let go till I am ready”.

Seldom if ever does the coach pay appropriate attention to the amount of effort the archer chooses to expend in holding the string. Finger placement? Yes, we do teach that. Thumb and pinky location during the draw, flat relaxed string hand, fist knuckle under the boney jawline? Yes, we should be teaching this as well. But we should teach the athlete to be a minimalist when holding the bowstring!

When was the last time you taught an archer to find that minimal amount of effort to keep the string from slipping away? Chances are extremely good that your athlete is using too much, far too much, strength and effort to grip the bow string.

Ahh. That may be it. The archer should not GRIP the bowstring, merely hold it, hook it, with a static hook of fingers. Of the two verbs “grip” and “hook”, to me grip sounds like it intends more effort.

To walk the knife edge between too little and too much, one must find precisely where “too little” is.  Standing 5-10 ft from the blank bale, have the archer go through set, but only so far. Then align and create the gunbarrel while the hands are still only partially above “set” position, increase the draw slightly and allow the string/arrow to slip out of the bow and into the blank bale (no aiming!). The focus in the archer’s mind must be on minimal effort – just enough to not let slip till the draw is say, half-way. Do a dozen reps of this. Then the archer should draw a little further, say 3/4 of the way, letting slip while still moving to draw. If the archer does not have the string accidentally slip out a few times, he or she is using too much effort to hook the string and is instead holding it.

You are also insuring that the string hand wrist is bent in a relaxed direction. You can demonstrate this bend to your athlete by holding the hand and arm out in the “stop” gesture and simply let the hand droop down by relaxing the wrist.  This is the same wrist bend needed for drawing the bow in the NTS method. By the way, this bent wrist is visible in every picture of any astronaut asleep in zero gravity – a totally neutral/relaxed position.

Back to the drill – once you are sure the archer is balancing on the edge of “not enough strength to hold the string/arrow back”, allow the archer to go to a normal set, set-up, and draw, and the instant the archer reaches anchor, he should instantly relax the fingers. (no clicker at this point and don’t say, “let go”).

Have the archer repeat the “low resistance finger hook” (not GRIP) on several practice sessions, and then whenever you sense a slow release is happening. Lightning, explosive releases happen best when the archer is only hooking the string with 0.1 pounds of excess effort. Without training most archers pulling say, a 30 pound bow, use 40 or 45 pounds of effort to grip the string. Before the string can be loosed and the arrow let fly, the archer must somehow shed 15 or more pounds of gripping effort which takes too much time.  This is part and parcel of why many male archers think they have a great release at 48 pounds and a so-so release at 38 – at 48 pounds they are probably just barely able to hold that string<G> while at 38 they are overgripping by 50% excess effort…This excess must somehow be reversed in order to allow the string to slip away.

Young archers must be taught to be minimalists at controlling the string.  I often employ the visualization technique with the athlete – “let the energy flow from your hand through your arm and into your back, and HOLD it all there as you feel your arm relax and your back muscles power up”.

Holding the bowstring should never be a contest of power, but a demonstration of minimalism.  Crisp, explosive releases from from proper hooking in the front and holding in the back.