Category Archives: Tournament/Competition

Concerning the situation where an athlete competes publicly

More On Drugs

Coach, you need to be informed enough to help your athletes avoid negative outcomes. You work hard in creating a better athlete, a better archer. If you don’t know and teach enough about medications, though, your athlete can be eliminated from the top step, even if she/he makes it there.
I was just reading this article, a ruling where two archers were punished for testing positive for diuretic medications.

Diuretics stimulate the kidneys to lose water, often by excreting more salt, so that blood is thicker.  Some athletes use it to “make weight” such as boxers and wrestlers, who compete against others in weight classes.  Archers?  Not so much.  A 90 pound female archer can whup up on a 350 pound macho male in the blink of an eye!  So these two archers are confoundedly guilty – a water pill is not, in my opinion,going to provide any measurable improvement in archery skills, but WILL remove them from competition most definitely. I’ll mention in passing that often, abusers will take a diuretic in the hopes it will “flush out” (ie, HIDE) the abuse of a more devious medicine.  Not good.

Look, archers, coaches, parents, the rules are very clear and easy to follow.  If you are involved with this sport, and you/yours has a chance of competing well, then the chances are there that a NON-OPTIONAL urine test for a banned substance will be in your future.

It’s incredibly easy nowadays to check the drug your doctor wants to prescribe, BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE OFFICE, for safety with USADA – “yew-SAH-duh” – the United States AntiDoping Agency.  They are charged with enforcing the rules in the US, and they are to the WORLD Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) as the USOC is to the IOC.

Want to know if a drug is safe?  USADA has a great, easy to use tool you access using your smartphone, laptop, tablet, or computer, to verify whether  any medication, either prescription or over the counter,  is SAFE for taking. It only takes a few minutes to preserve an athletic career!  By the way, there are PLENTY of drugs you can buy without a prescription, that are forbidden in competition – test positive for one after you think you have won the gold, and you will never, ever, be the same when they publicly humiliate you and strip you of your medal.

What to do?  It’s easy!

You go to this link, and I’m going to type it out, not embed it: http://usada.org .  You’ll see a page full of things, but we are going to focus on the “substances” choice on the menu across the top:0002

 

Left-click on “substances” so you can see several options you need to know about:

  • A link to a list of everything prohibited which you can download to your device to use when you are off-line.
  • a search tool, “Global DRO Online Tool”
  • Drug Reference Telephone Line (yes, you can actually call a human and ASK them)

Le’s focus on the DRO Tool, since it is always going to be the most accurate and update reference short of a human, and unlike a human, available 24/7/365.  (DRO stands for “Drug Reference Online”).0003

 

Mouse-left-click the DRO icon, and then you go through a couple of screens that you need to take an easy, quick action on, such as what country you are in:

0004

0005You will finally come to this screen, where I have filled in the blanks you will need to fill in with correct answers for who you are: Coach, athlete, etc…

 

0007

 

 

 

I have chosen a diuretic, one that was part of that case mentioned earlier, called indapamide. Once you click the SEARCH button, you will see a list of ALL the different ways indapamide might be available – say, as a tablet, as an injection, or as part of another combination tablet: 0008

It does not matter which you choose, so select the ingredient you want, and click the “View Status” to find out about in-competition and out-of-competition status of this drug.

0009

See the two red words, “PROHIBITED” ??  How simple is that?  Take this drug at anytime in your competitive career, and you risk getting your ticket cancelled.  Note also there is a reference number?  Let’s say it returned that this was “Not Prohibited“.  This would mean that you can safely take the med – so a smart thing would be to print this out and SAVE it to document the fact.  Or, take a screen shot and email it to yourself, just in case.  This is called “due diligence” – doing what is necessary to protect yourself or your athlete from a mistake made through ignorance.  A mistake for which ignorance is NO EXCUSE!

Ok, let’s get to what I think is the most common risk athletes make – treating themselves for common, minor, ailments like “the crud” or the flu –  stopped up sinuses – where you just go to the drug store and get a pill to dry out your runny nose.  When you check “Sudafed” or “pseudoephedrine” (notice you can search on either brand names or generic names, it doesn’t matter), you get a search result for In-Competition of “Conditional“, so you read further down the screen and it says, “prohibited when the urinary concentration exceeds 150 microgram/mL”.

What that means is that you should NOT take this medication in the week before nor during a competition, unless you can accurately calculate the concentration of the drug in your urine at the time of the test.  Without getting too technical, you are NOT up to the task of calculating the volume of distribution, the rate of metabolization and renal clearance, for ANY drug. I’ve done enough math on the half-life for pseudoephedrine and a typical dose, to estimate that a safe margin is no less than 7 days from a single large dose.  In some cases it may be many more days than that.  So when you see “Conditional“, it is safest to actually read that as “PROHIBITED“.  

You should know that virtually no one ever, ever, successfully evades cheating.  USADA keeps the urine samples for literally YEARS, and goes back to test again and again as the machines get better and more sophisticated.  Medals get revoked even 10 years after they were given, because a new test reveals a cheat.

I’m going through this long exercise, showing you how easy and short it is to CHECK a drug, so that you won’t accidentally take something that causes a broken heart, a lost cause, wasted years of striving to be the best.

Coaches, be proactive on this.  Parents, you too!  Do the checks WITH your athletes so they know how to do it on their own.  Give them homework.   “Check out aspirin, Claritin, Afrin, Delsym, and Mucinex-D” and do it yourself, just so you know.  These are some of the most common drugs I get questions about.

What were the odds for an archer to be tested at an event EVEN if they aren’t part of some elite unit like the JDT or the USAT?  In 2013, a non-games-year, 27 archer urine tests were given by USADA (out of a total of over 9100 tests).  In 2012, a “games” year for both the Olympics and Paralympics, FORTY archery tests were administered. When you consider that at the ranking events and trials there are usually less than 300 or so athletes competing, the odds are actually fairly good someone will get the tap on the shoulder, especially if you finish in the top 6 regardless of your status on a team.

About “Therapeutic Use Exemptions” – aka TUE – they are available on a very, very restricted basis for SOME drugs, IF their committee can be convinced that the prohibited medication is the one and only thing keeping you from dying on the field.  Seriously, it is incredibly hard to get a TUE.  But it can be done.  Read more on…you guessed it…. usada.org .

 

Tendons. Everybody’s Got ‘Em. Antibiotics Might Be A Problem.

Back in 2009 during a coaching meeting at the COS OTC, I made a brief talk about cameras and drugs. I doubt anyone paid that much attention but I want to bring the “drugs” up again. The reason I talked about them, flouroquinolones in particular, was because at that time the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. had just black-boxed them due to a tendon problem.

Remember that tendons are what tie the muscle to the bone.

ALL muscles attach to a bone via tendons.  Catastrophic failure of a tendon is called a rupture, and the tearing of a tendon right off of the bone, an avulsion.  Extremely painful and immediately immobilizing, the athlete may lose a career in an instant.

When a drug company is permitted to make a new drug in the U.S., usually an exhaustive process is followed, including carefully conducted human trials. This makes the safety margin for drugs in the US one of the best in the world, and it also means some beneficial drugs are kept out of the hands of desperate patients.(but that’s for another day).

WHEN a drug has been in use long enough, millions of doses given, there becomes possible the analysis of side effects in a way that was impossible prior to release. Very rare side effects can suddenly be revealed through computer number crunching.

When those appear, the FDA issues a “black-box” warning, stating that the drug has a certain side effect, not strong enough to warrant removing from the market, but a warning none-the-less.

Flouroquinolones (aka quinolones) are antibiotics. Very potent.

They are NOT usually considered the first-line, “drug of choice” (DOC) for any particular infections, but useful when there is a reason not to use the DOC, such as patient has an allergy or the DOC failed to work, or a lab test shows it is more suitable than the DOC.
ANYWAY, the new black-box warning for these drugs was and is that it increases the chances of a tendon rupturing months later, after the athlete forgets he/she ever took it. Know any athletes who’ve ruptured an achilles tendon? (basketball, football, track, etc.)  Or had a “joint/muscle pain” that happened during training/competition, right out of the blue)?
There is a distinct possibility that if an athlete has a respiratory infection, a paralympian gets a staph infection on his stump (very common), or a swimmer has a chronic UTI, they all get a quick script from a doctor or nurse practitioner for Cipro, and then, months later might blow their future olympic dreams during the stress of a competition, or even simply walking across a field. It can happen to archers, as the tendons surrounding the shoulders are subject to repetitive and intense stress.  There is no warning.  No “funny feeling” beforehand.  Just a sudden and massive “pop”, and the loss of the function.  The next stop: surgery.

Coaches:  Talk with your athletes about drugs in general, and cipro/levaquin/etc. specifically.   And include the parents, training buddies, related coaches (ie, you are a private archery coach and the student also participates in baseball, then the baseball coach!), who might be involved in the decision-making process to seek medical attention at some point in the career.

WARN ABOUT CIPRO and the other flouroquinolones!

There are USUALLY other antibiotics that can be chosen in place of CIPRO to do the same thing.  If the practitioner understands the risks and weighs the potential benefits properly, 99% of the time there will be an alternative to a quinolone for any given infection.

Here is a chart of the flouroquinolones:

Generic Brand Name
First Generation
Flumequine Flubactin
Nalidixic acid NegGam, Wintomylon
Oxolinic acid Uroxin
Piromidic acid Panacid
Pipemidic acid Dolcol
Rosoxacin Eradacil
Second Generation
Ciprofloxacin Cipro, Cipro XR, Ciprobay, Ciproxin
Enoxacin Enroxil, Penetrex
Lomefloxacin Maxaquin
Nadifloxacin Acuatim, Nadoxin, Nadixa
Norfloxacin Lexinor, Noroxin, Quinabic, Janacin
Ofloxacin Floxin, Oxaldin, Tarivid
Pefloxacin Peflacine
Rufloxacin Uroflox
Third Generation
Balofloxacin Baloxin
Gatifloxacin Tequin, Zymar
Grepafloxacin Raxar
Levofloxacin Cravit, Levaquin
Moxifloxacin Avelox, Vigamox
Pazufloxacin Pasil, Pazucross
Sparfloxacin Zagam
Temafloxacin Omniflox
Tosufloxacin Ozex, Tosacin
Fourth Generation
Besifloxacin Besivance
Clinafloxacin
Gemifloxacin Factive
Sitafloxacin Gracevit
Trovafloxacin Trovan
Prulifloxacin Quisnon

Last thought:  Some archers are lost to the sport because they develop an intractable pain, a sharp shooting pain in the vicinity of the shoulder, or in the back.  I have no way to confirm how many are due to a small tendon tear, but the odds are good that some are.   Now you know, and so may the odds be ever (better) in your favor…

Nerves. A Coach Often Struggles To Teach The Athlete To Deal With Anxiety Of Performance.

Mike Rowe has a way with words.  Here are some of his best on the topic of being nervous about a looming event.  To be direct, this was on FaceBook, and is copyright (as far as I know) for fair use.  Mike Rowe’s awesome website for his MikeRoweWorks program is well worth your visit and your support.

nervousness by Mike Rowe:

(A woman wrote to Mike to ask about her nerves at adopting the course of welding as a sea-change in her life’s course)

Hi Jenn

Most friends of this page know better than to ask me for advice, primarily because I’m known to give it. So heads up – while I can offer you a variety of words, I can’t vouch for their wisdom…

You’re 27-year old single mom. You’re about to enter what many still consider to be a man’s field. If you’re not nervous, you’re either arrogant or naive, two qualities rarely associated with great welders, and far more difficult to remedy than the apprehension you feel today.

Nervousness is like sea sickness. It’s a normal reaction to an unfamiliar setting. It won’t kill you, and it’ll probably go away as you become acclimated to your new environment. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Because like nausea, nervousness can turn you into a pathetic pile if ineffectual humanity. So it’s best to treat the condition before the symptoms really jack you up.

The first step is admitting that you’re nervous, and not just on Facebook. When I’m nervous or unsure of something, I make sure everyone around me knows it. Especially the people who are causing me anxiety. The more I try to appear “not-nervous,” the more likely I am to shit my pants. Nervous people who deny their apprehension are like seasick people who deny their nausea. It’s only a matter of time till the vomit squirts through their fingers, as they stand gamely on the Lido deck, trying to pretend that all is well.

Back in 1990, I had just been hired as a show host on QVC, and I was nervous. Very, dreadfully nervous. I had no experience on live TV, no prior training, and no knowledge of how the many products I was supposed to be selling actually worked. Plus, I really needed the job. (In those days, QVC hired anyone who could talk about a pencil for more than six minutes, and put them on live television for a three-month probationary period. The washout rate was 99%, and many of those who debuted on the graveyard shift never showed up a second time. Trust me – it was nerve-wracking.)
MikeRoweQVC
On my first night, I was a mess. My palms were sweaty and my stutter was threatening to return at any moment. My first item was something called The Amcor Negative Ion Generator. I had no idea what it did or why anyone would desire a preponderance of negative ions. So when the red light appeared on the top of the camera and the director pointed at me and said, “You’re up,” I looked into the lens and told something very close to the truth.

“Good evening. My name’s Mike Rowe. This is my first time on live television, and frankly, I’m a nervous wreck. Furthermore, I have no idea what to say about The Amcor Negative Ion Generator. So please, if you watch this channel often and have any useful facts about this particular item, call the number on your screen and tell the operator you need to speak with me right away. We’ll chat, and hopefully, sell a few of these things.”

The directors jaw hit the floor, and the lines immediately flooded with calls. For the next three hours, viewers offered all sorts of encouraging words. They explained the purpose of whatever crazy product had been plucked from QVC’s bottomless inventory of and made me feel welcome. In this way, I was trained for my job not by the people who hired me, but by the people who watched me. Interestingly, sales were brisk. And more importantly, my nervousness went away.

Point is Jenn, most nervousness comes out of fear and insecurity, and those things can usually be made much smaller with a big blast of unapologetic honesty. Also, curiousity is a great replacement for nervousness. The things that make people nervous – ignorance and uncertainty – are the same things that make people curious. And yet, it’s hard to be nervous and curious at the same time. Nervousness will keep you from trying new things. Curiosity will force you to. So try to replace your apprehension with a heightened measure of wonder. Be intrigued by the uncertainty before you. Don’t look at your ignorance or your inexperience as the enemy. Look at them as the necessary qualities which allow you to become a more curious person.

Finally, google women and welding. You’ll feel better. You’re learning a solid trade at the right time, and your gender has some real advantages in this career.

Good Luck.

Here ends Mike’s words.  Consider well how you can benefit, apply, these concepts.  As with Coach Wooden, the words are somewhat simple, but the reason behind them a golden nugget for the worthy prospector.

 

Why You’re Most Likely To Get Sick…

Addendum:

Or rather, Pre. dendum.  an article came to my attention, and I want to include it in this treatise on air-travel and infections.  It makes a few good points.  Hopefully this link will be active for the duration.

Fundamentals:

If you are serious about your archery game, you must attempt to compensate for the stresses your body must deal with.   Heavy physical training makes consuming adequate nutritional variety more difficult – how many great athletes do you know that are perpetually fighting some minor infection or flu bug? (lots)
Science has shown for many years that when a human body is “anergic” (lacking in total nutrients needed) that the first thing that gets sacrificed is the body’s primary defense barrier in the immune reaction system.

SO you must insure a good source for as wide of a variety of fruits, vegetables, berries, and proteins as possible, not just before a tournament but like the Olympics, EVERY DAY…  Of course you must also properly hydrate so that your kidneys can freely dispose of the metabolic wastes you produce.  Following the concept of compensation, recovery, and supercompensation is a good way to avoid overtraining and weakened immune function.

Traveling in an aluminum tube at 30+ thousands of feet

We have to get to where the action is.  Rarely will the tournament be at home. There are several risk factors to be aware of – most can be minimized – in flying for 8 to 12 hours (or more) en route.

Humidity in jet planes is virtually non-existent.  Why is this critical?  Your sinus cavity and throat, even your esophagus and bronchi, are lined with mucous membranes which produce a barrier of thick, gooey, mucopolysaccharides (aka snot) that are rife with white blood cells.  Any foreign bacteria you inhale gets physically stuck on this stuff, digested, and killed.   WHEN you are at a low humidity in a plane, your production of snot goes way down, and the mucous beds actually become much more thin, much LESS of a physical barrier.  You lose much of that first line of defense, so when the person in 12b from some far away country starts hawking up a lung, YOU are more at risk for absorbing his viral or bacterial donation.  Incubation periods vary, but this is often why 2 to 5 days AFTER your flight, you suddenly have a “cold” or a head full of phlegm and the grizzlies. Often that is right when you are supposed to perform at your peak.

Smart frequent fliers realize this humidity-related risk, and plan for each trip by spending a couple of bucks at the drug store buying “normal saline nose spray”, brands include Ayr and Ocean – these are sterile solutions of water with just enough salt to match your body’s own fluids – no stinging or burning.  During the flight, about EVERY 15 minutes, you should inhale in each nostril a shot of spray, and your membranes won’t thin out and your mucous production remains both more thick and effective.  Once you are home, throw that bottle of spray away – it contains no preservatives and so could become a host colony of bacteria over time, sitting in your travel case after having been used.

At the hotel

Another Frequent Flyer (FF) trick:  Run a hot shower, but stopper the tub drain, and leave the curtain open as much as possible without water on the floor.  Locate the bathroom exhaust vent on the wall near the tub, and place a kleenex over it to impede the loss of the steam.  If you have clothes on hangers that are wrinkled, hang them from the curtain rod – the steam will release the wrinkles (don’t spray them with the water, though).  Once the air is so thick you can’t see yourself in the mirror, breathe deeply through your nose, exhale through your mouth for at least 5 minutes.  You are rehydrating your breathing passageways – don’t be shy about clearing your sinuses by blowing them – the mother-nature method is much better than with a kleenex, by the way.  Once your tub is full, do NOT drain it.  Open the bathroom door, and let the steam escape into the room, increasing humidity and making it more sinus-friendly for you throughout the night.  This is especially useful during winter months when the humidity is, you guessed it, low.

Prophylaxsis

No, this doesn’t mean those things wrapped in a foil packet (although those are a good idea, always).  If you fear you are coming down with “something” despite your best precautions, you must be mindful of USADA restrictions on taking certain drugs both in and out of competition. Sudafed, for example, is a definite no-no.   The only true immune booster that you can take without a prescription, that has zero adverse side effects, and actually increases T-Cell production, Interferon production, and improves the motility of your macrophages (your white blood cells get around better to englobe foreign invaders, is known incorrectly as “vitamin D”, and USADA has no problems with it.
It’s not truly a vitamin, but that doesn’t matter – your body can make it, the Over-The-Counter version is called D3 and is exactly the chemical your body makes so there is little chance of an adverse reaction.  MOST people are deficient in it, so their immune systems are challenged.  Taking 50,000iu a day for 3 to 5 days is much more than the minimum daily allowance, but will not be dangerous for the otherwise healthy athlete.  What it will also do in addition to the above mentioned benefits is enable your body to create “cathelicidin”. (hint: follow the link)
Since insuring your blood level of D (test is a “25(OH)D” test) is 50 to 70 ng/ml has been shown to improve balance and muscular strength, it is a win-win.  Since it is safer than water, cheaper than bottled water, it is actually a triple win!  BTW: A ng is a billionth of a gram, which means that not much at all can sure have a hugely beneficial effect on health.

I still don’t feel good

Despite your best efforts, your head is about to explode,  Or, you can’t take ten steps away from the toilet without feeling *very* insecure.  Being a Boy Scout (be prepared) can be a life-saver and keep you competing.

USADA is your friend.  Check ahead of time for what you can pack with you “just in case”.  Pepto Bismol for stomach cramps and upset?  In-competition archery, it’s legal.  Plain antihistamines for sinus symptoms like Claritin or Zyrtec?  OK.  (but NOT the combinations with pseudoephedrine!) Phenylephrine (a weaker version) – ok.  Afrin, a nasal spray that can relieve clogged sinuses quickly and for just a few hours – legal – but do not over use it or it will stop working for you.
LOPERAMIDE (Imodium) – this can be a huge comfort, as it can stop diarrhea – is legal in archery for both in and out of competition.  These are all available OTC, as individually wrapped tablets/capsules, so they travel well and don’t take up much room, and you can carry them with you to the field.  Don’t expect finding these will be easy at your competition city!   And if you are in doubt – always check the drug against USADA’s search tool, and printscreen the USADA results page that say it is ok – the page includes a reference numbeR that *may* be useful in arguing.  Bottom line, check USADA about *anything* that is a medicine, that you are taking to cause a change in your body’s functions especially if it is available without a prescription.  Do NOT remove these tablets from their packaging that positively identifies them.  Mysterious tablets in one’s possession in foreign places can be a distraction from competition!

MORE PRECAUTIONS

For the seasoned traveling competitor this is an obvious, but…Never drink from a water bottle that has been opened outside of your immediate control.  If you have a doubt about which one is yours, toss it and get a new one.  DO stay hydrated – if you are not feeling the need to urinate every hour or so during competition, you are possibly falling behind in hydration BUT DO NOT OVERDO!  Don’t drink only straight water in hot sweating occasions – alternate with propel, gatorade, etc. for electrolytes and variety in flavor as you are more likely to stay caught up.  NEVER ever accept an open drinking container from another competitor or coach that is not a member of your team, and likewise be cautious with anything taken internally – food, candy, gum, etc..   Another good reason to know your balance needs – when USADA does come calling on you after an event, if you are dehydrated your urine will not be acceptable to the test.  You’ll have to drink, wait for it to percolate through the kidneys, and then test.   If you have been TOO aggressive in hydrating, your urine will actually be too WEAK in concentration, and then you must wait even longer before you are able to provide a testable sample.  Smart athletes gauge the conditions, and drink accordingly.

BEFORE Competition

Sure, you are in a new country with exotic and fun things, including foods.  Before your competition, stick with the “normals” as much as you can, including ENROUTE.

Travel with your comfort foods in your carry-on, along with your finger tabs, releases, (yadda yadda you know the travel drill for your gear!) peanut butter (including the pre-mixed-with-jelly, and the packaged in squeeze tubes kind), beef jerky if that is your passion, craisins, trail mix, etc…  And try to buy several smaller sizes rather than one big size.  Makes for easier packing, and reduces the chances of contamination.

If you want a personal recommendation on a neutraceutical, USADA-safe, that travels extremely well and insures nutrient intake is maintained under *any* circumstances which I recommend and sell, email me.  Athletes the world over (23 countries so far and in a number of NGB-sanctioned diets) are discovering what I have been using and recommending for more than 8 years, it again is USADA safe and has more gold-standard studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals than any other neutraceutical.

Addendums after the post:

If you do develop diarrhea be aware that your hydration needs will triple or quadruple. Imodium is much safer than Lomotil for a competitor, but if Imodium(loperamide) doesn’t work resorting to Lomotil may be a rational decision but be aware that Lomotol WILL alter your senses.

Technical Medical/Clinical Talk

Normally, your large intestine’s main function is to regain water from your gut to help homeostasis.  That means muscles of your large intestine squeeze the water out of your stool, kneading it like bread dough, and return the water to your bloodstream so that you do not endure wide swings in your blood thickness.  That is why when you are dehydrated, like when you go to the AZ cup, you are more likely to be dehydrated AND constipated, with harder, smaller stools.

But things like unusual bacteria (which are not pathological in the traditional sense) that cause diarrhea to the unfamiliar switch the great bowel muscles from the kneading dough mode to a propulsion, get the heck out of dodge mode, forcing the contents that offend your body out as quickly as possible, homeostasis being less important than hydration stability.  In essence, mother nature knows it is better to be dehydrated than retain that which offends and might rot your gut.  IF you develop diarrhea, taking more fluids, especially with electrolytes, is critical for maintaining muscle strength.  After a bout of diarrhea, you WILL be weaker even if you do not feel such is the case.  Rehydration, but with the right mix of electrolytes, is key.  (No, drinking lots more beer is not going to help)

In the timing of competition once begun, it’s likely that what you do in the the short term is what wins out.  Regaining fluids, simple sugars for short-term energy, potassium and magnesium for muscle contractility, these are paramount.  AFTER the event, taking probiotics you carry with you or eating local yogurts, to re-establish the flora in the gut will provide the faster path to normalcy.  It is suspected that the appendix provides the inoculants of beneficial bacteria for the recovery after the diarrhea attack but that takes longer time for the colonies to multiply and spread.  It’s much faster to supply the gut with probiotics, which are encapsulated and USADA safe.

The bacteria making up yogurts in say, America, will be FAR different than that found in perhaps, Turkey or Mexico.  NOT PATHOLOGICAL, (DISEASE CAUSING), JUST DIFFERENT.   During a prolonged stay, for say the Olympics, where the athlete will likely be exposed to foreign bacterias for many days, inoculating yourself early after arrival with native bacteria can actually LESSEN the debilitating effects which might occur during competition by precipitating them during the acclimation and practice periods.  I for one am NOT a fan of having the athlete stay at the Oly village and eat nothing but McDonalds – it might be “safe” from a bacterial sense, but a cratering of nutrition otherwise and very, very bad for supercompensation goals.   NO smart US athlete eats nothing but McDonalds (and yes, Usain Bolt swears he ate nothing but chicken nuggets during his games, but that *may* have been a step up in his dietary quality) on the way to the games so why eat that way in the moments leading up to the penultimate competitive moment in an 8 or 12 year odyssey?  No sense there.

 

“Coach” – What does it mean?

The word COACH is derived from ancient sanskrit “kachhhh” , from the sound made when a flint rock opened up the skull of a warrior in battle – and meant quite literally, “open mind”.   Often confused for the Klingon word, chach, meaning “emergency”.

Um. OK.  Not really the origin for “coach”…..  But today I feel the need to emphasize that a coach with a closed mind is not reaching the potential best.  No matter your age nor your level of coaching certification, you cannot potentiate without an open mind.

I feel a coach must be continually observant to the entire world around him (or her – since I’m male I’m gonna default this time to the thicker-headed gender).

As I have developed as a coach I have been on occasion startled to find out something that helped me to reach an archer, or to make a point with one.  Just as an athlete must constantly be evolving in order to become a better archer, so must the coach be constantly evolving to improve communication and observational skills.

An open-minded coach will also be able to see what other coaches are doing and either incorporate the best parts, or just as importantly, avoid pitfalling into the worst parts.

What archer ever picked up a bow for the first time and said, “I want to be the worst that I can”?  If you have not thought about it, surely when you started to realize the personal joy and self-esteem that comes from sharing knowledge and enhancing performance in others, you didn’t choose to “be the worst coach you could”, right?

Short and sweet:  Be constantly alert in your every-day life to what new things you encounter that you can make into coaching tools.  A coach with a closed mind is not much of a coach.

Though chach really does mean emergency in Klingon.  There, your word for the day!

It’s Cold Outside…

SEASONAL ARCHERY:

When the temperatures begin to drop, and the last outdoor tournament has been shot, there becomes a divide of archers into two groups. Many archers change the entire tune/set-up including buying arrows as big around as your thumb, to shoot indoors while others well, don’t change a thing.  There is a separate, somewhat more clever, sub-grouping who have a complete “indoor setup” that sits idle most of the outdoor season, which I’ll muse on later…

FIRST:

Why change?  For many, the motivation is to shoot the highest score.  Not a personal best score, but the highest.  The target archery rule on scoring dictates the underlying scheme – if the shaft of an arrow comes to rest across the line dividing two scores, the archer shall have the higher score.  Therefore, popular logic is, shooting a fat arrow increases the percentage, the odds, that the archer gets an scoring advantage.

PROVIDED THE ARCHER CAN TUNE THE BOW TO THE ARROW AND SHOOT THE SAME AS S/HE WAS, WITH THE SKINNY ARROW/SETUP.  Remember that fat arrows get blown about by the weather elements (wind and rain) much more than skinny arrows – neither of which is a factor at MOST indoor facilities.  I have it on good authority that lots of indoor events in Arizona are very breezy, however.  (kidding here – Arizona does have nice indoor venues)

There are a *lot* of biases to consider – bias meaning a particular view of “influence” both pro and con:

  1. Fat arrows at typical USAA events cannot be larger than a 2315 Easton Shaft-there is such as thing as “too fat”.
  2. Cross winds, as mentioned, have a lot more effect on a fatter, lighter aluminum shaft than on a denser, smaller carbon/aluminum shaft.
  3. In rain, the arrow drop from bow to target can be more pronounced due to the ratios of shaft mass to raindrop mass.
  4. Air drag effect is magnified as well for the big shafts, which is less a factor at 18 meters than at 50 or 70 meters.
  5. The 10 ring of a 40cm target is very small and even if perfectly arranged, the three arrows of the largest legal shaft will barely fit inside.
  6. The larger the shaft is, the greater the chance of an arrow deflection, and not always in an obvious way.  Damaged nocks are a good telltale, but an arrow NOT in the gold might not be due to the archer’s aim.
  7. Making a change from a skinny to a large involves a huge number of considerations, which is both a good learning experience as well as a set of difficulties which many archers fail to overcome.
  8. The size of the shaft actually can change the way the string – fingers interact, interfering with a clean sharp release.
  9. Added cost for different vanes/fletches, arrows, and points.
  10. Time to tune up both at the beginning of the season and at the end where you change back to outdoor setup.
  11. You can probably come up with yet another bias beyond these. ?

Point is, what you do matters a lot.

Ask yourself: “why am I shooting indoors?”   If you want to make a particular team, it’s important.  If you want to just stay strong in your skills until you can once again fling a shaft 70 meters, maybe not so much.  If you are in the sport for fun, you might keep a separate bowkit for indoors and glory in shooting a 20 pound bow!

I have to muddy the waters of what up until now has been an “either-or” proposition.

In the mid ‘aughts, around 2003 or 4, at the NAA National Indoors in College Station, I witnessed a truly great coaching moment.  A Canadian female cub archer and her father-coach (This will be a topic here, soon) ventured from Quebec down to the warmer Yew Ess south to shoot.

First thing, I realized she was holding for a longggg time.  I had seen her shoot at several outdoor events and that was not normally her way.  Yet her shot cycle was slow motion from anchor to loose, and I could not understand how she could maintain the hold with what I knew to be 35+ pounds.  At that point Denis (the father/national level coach) explained with a bemused smile:  “She is shooting only 20 pounds. (“!” goes I)  He said, “For 18 meters, why would anyone shoot more?”  (Now, it might have been 24 pounds – I can’t remember for sure).  Point was, DUH, she only needed a small weight to accurately break paper at 18 meters, why use twice as much draw weight as what is needed????  light-bulb!

She went on that evening to shoot a FITA WORLD CUB RECORD with her superb form (NOT an NTS form, but that is not relevant here) with a well-tuned bow requiring 1/2 or so of the draw weight needed to complete the shot.

Due to the fallacy of “common sense”, I had to that point presumed that an athlete needed to always spiral upwards in draw weight, never purposely dropping down dramatically, if even only for a couple of months.  (not talking about injury & recovery, of which I have more coaching experience than any 5 coaches).

There are several “take-aways” from this for those willing to consider.

A young (adolescent) athlete is undergoing radical evolutions in body – strength, leverages as bone lengths change, hormonal influences are causing super-human changes, balance, emotion, you name it, it’s changing.  So what negatives does a coach risk by DROPPING the demand on the muscle groups for a short period, before re-challenging ?

Are you familiar with periodization?  HELLO, RON!  This became a “DUH” moment for me when I was first introduced to periodization at the Colorado OTC, and I put two and two together.  Wow.  I don’t know if Denis was practicing periodization on purpose, but he was doing it.  Wow.  Talk about a wake-up slap to the face!

The more important take-away to me:  A coach that forces an archer always to shoot the maximum poundage possible is not using every arrow in his quiver.  Can you not for a moment imagine how it feels to go down by 20 or 30 pounds, in a well-tuned system, and still lambast the hell out of the ten ring (in a 40cm target at 18 meters)???  There is mental training of all sorts, and rewarding the archer for a couple of months by allowing a coasting of muscles results in a blossoming of mental strength and positive feedback.  Frankly, the coach that ignores positive mental reinforcement isn’t much of a coach.

Hey.  Would that not be a great “vacation” mentally during the off-months indoors?  Sure, it would likely require the coach to implement a strength re-acquisition program leading into the outdoor season.  But I would feel certain that’s NO biggie for a coach to handle (aka: periodization), and for an adolescent athlete, such challenges are part and parcel of leading to super-compensation.  Coming away from the winter with a positive attitude of “can-do” is priceless!

If you can afford a library of limbs so that the archer can bump a continuous pound-a-week or so, such a cycle makes great sense.   Just sayin…

Thanks, Denis, for teaching me a lesson that took me several years to fully understand.

Oh, by the way….that archer, Marie Pier, did NOT change her arrows from X10s to guppies.  In that, I was pretty much always on the same page – elite recurve archers can probably benefit more from the same size arrows year-round and learning to tune into better 18-meter grouping behavior than from switching to shooting logs.  The technique of release is highly underappreciated, and staying with one thickness of shaft gives much more benefit than the tenuous-at-best linecutter notions, when the relevant events are all happening outdoors for that athlete as well.  

If your goal is only the national indoors, then guppy away.  If you aim for the USAT / Jr.USAT / PARA USAT, then you *have* to perform at 70 meters (or 50) and only using carbon/aluminum shafts such as ACEs or X10s will optimize your release.  This dictates what you should be shooting indoors! <hint>

So it’s cold outside.  Unless you are Aya (see photo), Whut Are Yew Gonna Do ?CalendarGirl

Dedicated

 

 

As a coach, you must decide what to do, based on the goals of your athlete.  Your goals must be harmonious with your philosophy as a coach, and with your respect for your athlete.

A final thought – For most youth, the winter months are the time of “school”, where academics are weighted more heavily by both the parents and the athlete in the scheme of things compared to the spring/summer months.  Taking it easier on the athletic aspect of training during this period could be a smart thing for more reasons than are obvious at first.

Goallllllllllllllll !

In some countries, the announcement of a soccer goal is a very overblown undertaking.  Well, maybe you have to be “other-than-American” to NOT feel that way about pushing a round ball into a square opening with your feet.

The topic is what a coach should do, to motivate their athlete especially when the athlete is a youth archer.

The biggest problem is the parent.  Every child will nominally take their cue, frame their perceptions, from the alpha parent.  In sports that is usually the father or alpha “male” if a single-gender pair.  If the parent has experience with team sports like baseball, T-ball, football, Pop Warner, Soccer, etc. then they inevitably mark progress and count coup by wins, trophies, and vanquished foes.

This will lead to failure in archery.  Or at least, a pre-disposition to frustration.  Why?  Unless you want to set up a match where you are shooting AT your opponent, there are many complications to only judging excellence by whether you end up on the top step of the podium at your JOAD, your local, your state. your regional, or your national event.  Winning 1st at one of these events is certainly great, but NOT an endorsement of being the best “you can be”.

On the other hand, teaching the athlete that generating a consistent trail of “personal bests” is the best if not the only real assay of “gold” material.

Parents want to make a big deal of tangible assets like a trophy, naturally. It is a fun thing to hold!  And don’t deny that a trophy can form a positive element – but try to steer the parents (and thence the athlete) to valuing progress in personal bests over the singular momentary luck of the event.

Why?  ON ANY GIVEN DAY, any one of a large group of athletes MAY end up on the top step.  Just use Michele Frangilli, a truly world-class, record-holding archer for more than a decade or two, who went to the Olympics for Italy on numerous occasions, and finally prevailed to a team gold medal in London 2012.  On any given day Michele with his unique style can clean the clock of *any* competitor, but as with every other elite, can on any given day lose by as little as a millimeter distant to the center.  That is one element that makes olympic-style archery such a greatly exciting competitive sport.  And as London demonstrated, given just a little attention by the media, the public is captivated by the nature of the single athlete standing alone on the line to perform wonders. (or, ok, else a team of THREE doing the same :) ).

Back on track – If a parent is allowed to fixate an archer’s self-esteem to a piece of plastic trophy, then the archer will likely not achieve potential, nor retain the sportsmanship character that is so uniquely a part of target archery in this present-day reality.  The path to the top step involves many things, not the least of which is proper metrics for understanding self-excellence.  When was the last time you improved your personal best?  Remember how good that felt?  Help your athlete feel THAT.

Coach, keep it real.

When Should You Make A Change?

At some point the coach is faced with the decision  – whether to make a change in the athlete’s form.

Aside from the “if you keep doing that you are going to hurt yourself” as a need to change, all other choices are optional.   There is rarely a critical “you HAVE to make this change or else…”, contrary-wise, I think a good opportunity to enhance technique exists ALL the time.

Notice the phrase.  “enhance technique”.  NOT “make a change”.  It is often to the athlete’s better interests for the coach to approach a desired end (a different way of doing something) in a less-obvious manner.

Look, I am all for being clear and loud and just saying what needs saying IF NEEDED.  Just realize that if you TELL the athlete you are making a change, you might be presenting your effort TOO forthrightly and actually distracting from the lesson.

“You are doing much better keeping your forearm in line with the arrow – I bet you are feeling much more power in your (lightly touch the lower trap) back, right?”  instead of, “Let’s see if you can make your string forearm get into alignment with your arrow.  Really move your scapula towards the spine during loading”.

Which impetus for change will be the best for any given athlete?  Only the coach knows for sure, and only then (perhaps) after trying both.

What? Oh, the title?  WHEN should you make a change?  Maybe I’ll be able to deal with that next time, if nothing changes…though if you are still really wondering, then this post probably missed its mark.

Flair!

“He’s plucking the string”.

There may not be a mis-diagnosis more common than that one.  A bystander will see the string hand fly out to the side, and assume plucking is the cause.  It is likely to be something ELSE.  Telling an archer to “not pluck” is poor coaching technique.

Rather than a true pluck (like plucking the string of a guitar), it’s more likely to be a combination of several common problems:

    1. The archer has far too much tension in the string forearm, making a relaxed release impossible.
    2. The wrist is cocked out because the string forearm is not nearly in line with the arrow.   In this case the archer can easily see the string elbow if using a mirror as the target.  Simple physics causes the hand to fly out from the jaw during the moment of release when muscles are relaxing.
    3. If the elbow is behind and in line with the arrow, the archer is “in alignment” more and there is no elbow to be seen in the mirror.  If the string arm is not put into alignment by the archer, the bow tends to try to do it during the release process.
    4. Because of the cocked wrist and excess tension in the forearm, the archer has a harder time of simply relaxing the string fingers, and is prone to making an active “letting go” effort which causes the fingers to go straight out after the string is loosed.  A relaxed release results in the fingers actually curling up, not sticking out like a porcupine.

Coaches, in plucking cases it is important to study the archer’s release with a tool like Coach’s Eye or a high-speed camera like a Casio Exilim.  Most archers know their string hand should end up behind and near the neck for followthrough and will MAKE the hand go there no matter how hard it is.  A camera will reveal that the string hand makes a detour out because of the physics and tension then goes back near the neck to where it should have gone immediately.

It’s NOT plucking, and telling an archer “don’t pluck” is worse than useless.  Get at the root cause of the hand flare and “plucking” will vanish.

Simple.

With any archer and particular with newer, less imprinted archers, there is a conflict – does one (coach) worry about where the arrow goes, or how it gets to go there?

Most NTS coaches will give lip service to “what happens on the line determines what the arrow does”.

When the arrow leaves the bow, what can the archer do to change where it goes?

Right.

Equally as strong, and extremely more important, is that the shooting of a bow is a result of a second, or 8, of effort.  If you can accept that from the moment an arrow is nocked on the string until it leaves the bow is a “shot cycle” then you can divide that time up into “steps”.   Like walking down the aisle to your wedding.  It’s a series of steps that leads to success or (unfortunately) failure.

That time can be divided into fragments, so let’s call them steps.  Pieces.  Parts of the pie.  a sum of the pieces.

In the National Training System (NTS) we must teach the archer to adopt techniques for a variety of steps that together make up a successful shot.

So when faced with a new archer where does the coach start?  With the ground.  Work from the ground up.  (now, I will admit to first always, dealing with any parts of the archer that might lead to either danger or injury)

Why?

In the NTS, Kisik Lee has demonstrated time and again that for say, step 5 to work easily and properly, the archer must have done step 2 in an excellent way.  To shoot an arrow in a best way, the archer must accomplish each preliminary step well in order to succeed in the most effortless shot cycle.

If you skip step 2, when you get to step 4 or 6, you cannot succeed in that step because step 2 set up failure.

For example, and there is no better graphic,  if you fail to place your bowhand on the grip with the meaty part of the base of the thumb just slightly to the inside of the centerline of the bow, then you cannot achieve a 45 degree angle of bowhand/bow riser, and you then cannot set your elbow into an easy vertical orientation.  If you cannot set your elbow vertically, you will then be unable to tense your tricep enough to hold the upper humerus into the shoulder socket assembly.  This would in turn adversely affect your draw length, your ability to smoothly CLICK, and your aim thereof.

If you allow an archer to skip proper foot placement or shoe choice, or knee locking, or butt tucking, or chest position, or hip rotation, then the archer will have trouble later on in the shot with succeeding in other parts of a shot cycle.

MANY times I see another coach trying to “fix” a problem they see, without understanding that the actual cause of that problem happened much earlier in the shot cycle.

Please, if you coach, do not speak when you first think to – do not assume you have the archimedes moment (EUREKA).  Instead, please assess whether what you are about to pronounce, is actually truth.  Accurate.  RIGHT.
It does no good to correct a bow shoulder problem if you do not first solve the posture of the archer.

In solving the posture the shoulder (or other downhill step) may actually take care of itself.  A chain reaction of benefits.  Remember the NTS is not a trophy nor an accomplishment, it is not a static thing.  It is DYNAMIC, a process in motion, always dependent on “what happened before” to achieve success in the end.  Skip a step and the archer will not succeed.