Monthly Archives: September 2012

Communication

This is a quickie redaption of a long post I wrote during the Olympics. I wrote that long and harsh blog post because of what I witnessed once, twice, three times a nightmare on the Lord’s Cricket Field.  It was harsh and too easily objectionable as “peanut gallery cheap seat whinery” so I pulled it soon after posting. It’s premise is true though, and I’ll try to be as objectively professional as I can.

Coaches, you have to know when to open your mouth and how to control your athlete ANYTIME when he is not performing a shot cycle.  When the stands are creating a standing pressure wave 20 feet high of intense noise and distraction, and your archer looks back at you in obvious distress, you better not find yourself lacking in preparation yourself.

KNOW what your athlete needs when she is up, know what he needs when he is down, and especially know what your athlete needs when she is teetering on the edge of self-demolition.  Know what the hell to say, to do, how to communicate non-verbally from your little holding cell of hell so that your athlete succeeds. The smallest of gestures can climb the highest mountain of momentary fear.  I’ve climbed a number of 14K peaks in Colorado, and there is nothing like balancing on a knife edge ridge 100 yards from the summit, wheezing and trembling muscles in the thighs, sheer unmitigated dropoffs of thousands of feet either side, to realize how the smallest of things can make the largest of differences.  There was no “try” there was only “do”.  Like a small gesture from the coach in the right way at the right time. Or the right couple of key “words”.

Example of key words prepared well in advance between athlete and coach: for Lindsey, “Decide” and “Deep Breath” combated and ultimately defeated her Target Panic at the right moments. Her final bronze medal-winning arrow in Beijing, on YouTube, is witness to the words from me she could hear in that insanely crazy moment as you see her take that breath. She does not even remember what the camera shows, so great is the stress at that moment…   But loaded key word terms trained into your athlete should be an arrow in your coaching quiver.

When the athlete dares falter it is your job to already know how to cure that hesitation, to be the Coach with a capital C.  Do not be the coach who just crosses his arms, dons opaque sunglasses, and becomes the stern father figure.  Chances are that will NOT be doing YOUR job.  You must prepare during good days for those moments you will have the honor to do your duty to your athlete.

Coach.  Boy Scout.   Be Prepared.  Act.

It Doesn’t Matter If It’s Not Broke, Coaches Want To Fix It Anyway (Visionary Thinking, Part 2)

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.  “The difficult we do today, the impossible we accomplish tomorrow”  “We can make it better”  “We can rebuild him….we have the technology”(from the 6 million dollar man, that last quote).

How many different ways do coaches mess with every aspect of the archer? Whether it is broke or not, many coaches (and athletes) want to “fix it” to make “it” over into something better.   Fact is, this approach has a history of working, and I think the NTS is a fine example of this.  It deals with almost every part of the athlete possible except I have identified one incredibly essential muscle system in the body NOT part of the NTS.

In today’s archery sport development system, we have scientificasized just about everything but one!

I am proud (as a techie nerd type of a coach) to say that along with everything else we coaches in the USAA do, the National Training System (NTS) is the most scientifically devised method of teaching a series of coordinated movements in the delivery of a pointy stick with precision, bar none.  We teach our athletes to use muscle control in a vitally profound way and we teach our athletes how to do that in a very enlightened way thanks to head coach Kisik Lee.

Just as the hardware has been tweaked nearly out of all recognition to the English longbow of yore which was perfectly adept at doing its job, we are in the process of doing the same tweaking and analyzing and testing and developing of the human body that we’ve done (and are still doing) on the hardware that is the bow and arrow.  The scientists at the OTC (and every other one of the more than 200 countries that participate in the Olys) are constantly developing new tools to tweak and test, analyze and evaluate, the human body.

When I finished reading this book, I read it again immediately because I was instantly thunderstruck by a possibility I “saw” for the last big untouched tweakable thing of the archer’s body. I have never had anyone tell me that they were aware of this, and I nursed an illusion that this would confer an advantage to USA for at least an Olympiad – a cycle of 4 years that defines our metric of developmental excellence. (OK, I’ll agree it really is TWO cycles for fulminant development of an archer’s potential) We could have a huge competitive advantage, until everyone else caught up with us.

In all of my learning experiences at the OTCs including talking to the lead physician scientist in COS, in Coach Lee’s classes, in my coaching certifications, and in my educational processes, no one has ever undertaken what I was envisioning.  Of those few I have asked, none have had a similar awareness of what I was about. How exciting to think you have some idea of a relatively important concept no other person in the world has!

After I met with a specialist physician who evaluated my concept’s validity in a positive way, I was so excited I called the man I view in my mind as the foremost archery wise man, my own coach who allowed me to absorb and learn from him for years, to express my revelation and persuade him that this should IMMEDIATELY be scientifically investigated!  I had the doctor lined up who could conduct the study, I had the plan all mapped out to achieve a proper p-value, man! I was rarin’ to go!

His conviction, his reply-without-hesitation after my proposal was, “Hey, there is this blind guy from Korea that just set a world record! He’s legally blind!  So your idea is (stupid)…” well, he didn’t say stupid but he did not pull any punches in telling me I had nothing.  And how could I rebut his opinion in light of his fact that some blind guy sets a world record?  This can’t be, I thought, but hey, him being who he was, I could not doubt his words, his statement, his accuracy, his veracity.  True, in my clutched throat, I doubted him, but by metric of that same heart, he’s my master so I. shut. up.  I never lost hope but without his support and the financial support of a foundation to develop the method through scientific study I couldn’t see a path to develop it.

Two years later, in 2012 in London during the Olympics, the world finally learned the truth about this archer who was “legally blind”, who said he couldn’t wear glasses to help him see the target, yet by his scores were without doubt a world-class athlete/archer.  As the Olympic hype-fest press machine got into gear, the “legally blind archer” was eventually revealed to be having a joke on the world. Reported by the Associated Press, his coach actually laughed when asked if his archer was blind.  Turns out he can be classified as “legally blind” because he cannot focus up close, to read, easily.  He is extra-far-sighted, instead.  Blind close, an eagle eye at 70 meters!  Great joke on the world, I thought bitterly.  I suspect he probably doesn’t even need a spotting scope to see his nocks in the bale at 70 meters since he sees the target so much better than most.  And now that the joke is over, he DOES wear sunglasses.

This revelation means to me THAT my previous revelation from 2010 is still worth investigating and THAT it might be completely legitimate. THAT a study could still be performed, THAT it is highly likely that we are not finished fixing the human body when it comes to enhancing human performance delivering pointy sticks accurately 70 meters away into the 10 ring.

How exciting this is!  But wait, I still have no way to perform this, no financial backing to investigate and properly prove out, verify, my theory.  Perhaps the Carmichael Accommodation Method will be proven somewhere else, and they’ll have the joy of producing this quantum advance and naming it the Korean Method, part 5.  Dang.

Anyone have $14K to create the next 6 million dollar man?

Sunglassed! “The frames of my glasses block my sight”, or “Visionary Thinking, Part 1″

Man is a predator.  LIke other predators, our eyes are both facing the same direction, whereas prey have eyes on each side of the head looking outwards because this makes them safer from ….predators.

So we do best in athletic events (ergo, “hunting a paper target”) when we face our prey.  For archers this means turning the face to the target as much as possible.  This can be hard for several reasons, all of which are based in the body’s natural design.

First, joints are only as flexible in range of motion as the owner makes them.  If you carefully and cautiously press your range, usually the joint will gain in range. We call it “stretching”, and it must be done carefully to avoid microtearing muscles (or even MACRO TEARING!)

What is the best way to stretch your neck’s range of motion – improve the tendons, ligaments, muscles so they allow you to zero in on your prey better?  Swimming.  The crawl, where you float face down, flail away with your arms while you kick crazily, and periodically ROLL YOUR HEAD on your spinal axis to the side for a breath.

You need to roll your head to the same side you look to when shooting: Right hand archers should breath from their LEFT side.  Every breath is an opportunity to stretch your joints just a little, to become more comfortable doing this.  Plus your athlete is cross-training, a great thing.

Incidentally, most people have a favored side, a great range of motion, to one side or the other.  Why?  After a lot of reflection I concluded that people sleep on the stomach at least a little every night, some much more so.  And when on the stomach the head must roll to one side if you don’t want to suffocate.  This gives you the same repetitions as swimming does.  Try it and see if you don’t feel a tightness sooner to one side or the other as you look first left, then right, as far as you can.

OK, one last and fundamental reason your athlete is having trouble seeing the aperture while wearing glasses because the frame is “right in the way”.  The neck vertebra (“cervical”) are different than the other vertebra of the spine in one particular way.  They interlock in a way that increases stability and lessens the chance of breaking said neck.

bones of the neck

Image the head tilting forward (to the left in the picture) and see how the bones interlock but have room to arch. But not so much to the back(right side of pic), nor in a rotational way unless tilted to the left (forward).  Credt: eSpine

Want to verify this?  Assume a shooting stance, OR, just sit where you are but sit up, and raise your head as though you are putting your nose just a little up, to contact the bowstring, and turn your head towards the target and draw your airbow.  Turn your head as much as possible to the target till you reach your limit.  NOW, drop your nose down about an inch, and carefully observe how much more further you suddenly can turn your head in an easier way! An inch? maybe more?  Well past where the eyeglass frame would be! It will be “more” because the spurs of bone in the cervical vetebrae interlock more when your head is tilted back/up than when it is slightly rocked forward/down. Don’t allow the athlete to “nose-down” too far, of course.

One fact that USAA National Head Coach Kisik Lee identified during the implementation of his shooting method was that elite and accomplished archers who had never been able to wear glasses because the frame got in the way, were suddenly able to enjoy sunglasses.  They could because he teaches a method that is consistent with the importance of facing your prey, facing the target.

Every USAA coach will already know this, but for the rest: When your eyes are rotated to the extreme edge of your orbits, either left or right, your nervous system cannot, will not, maintain the same control of your muscles.  While shooting a bow, if you look out of the corner of your eye, in other words, you will be weaker and holding the string to anchor will actually be harder for you.  Ask a USAA coach to show you proof – it’s fun/funny.

Essentially, my position is that if someone complains about the frames being in the way or the edge of the glass distorting the target, the problem is NOT with the glasses, it is with the coach failing to teach the athlete a proper technique for getting the head into a “Prey/predator” relationship with the target.  We are predators. When shooting a bow, be like the lion sighting in on the antelope.  Or, like your cat looking at a bird through the window – their intensity can be incredibly obvious, and they NEVER watch a prey out of the corner of their eyes.  With good, natural reason.

SO swim some laps breathing out of the correct side.  Drop the chin just a little.  Push the range a little at a time, and soon you will be seeing clearly through your glasses.  Just don’t make them so dark you can’t see the target!

What’s Your Reward?

People must have a reward.  No matter what you attempt in life, if you don’t see a reward worth the effort, you will find an excuse, a reason, to stop do that thing. Why bother if you do not get some benefit, some warm fuzzies, some something?

I think what makes a great coach is finding a way to reward the athlete and derive a reward simultaneously from that deed.  Neatly, it is a FREE reward.  It costs me nothing in other words, in motivating the archer for a positive change.

If you are a great coach then when you reward the archer, you realize that same reward for your own (quietly).  There is such a wonderful feeling when you help an archer succeed thereby documenting internally that you succeeded.

A win can be a small, insignificant-seeming thing to the naive or inattentive, or the uninformed.  A great coach can enable an athlete to acquire a new skill of *any* size and that to me is a win.  For the athlete, of course, and … for the coach.

Win-Win (no trademark) situations benefit both “sides”, by the standard definition.  If you want a win, help your athlete to have a win, and put that in your vest pocket for warmth.  Nothing fuzzy about that concept.

On Scientific Behalf Of Exercise

One of the best archers I ever met just showed up at the field right out of the blue.  I watched in curiosity as he remained aloof, apart, shooting at his own target foam block while UT students went about being, well, college students.

Let’s call him, well, Easy.  Easy would shoot his arrows from a full-blown archery kit setup, hitting target decently at 70 meters, and then set bow down, and RUN to the bale, pull, and RUN back.  Seriously.  This guy was dedicated.  I know him better now, and have tried to informally help him though we have never had a formal coach-student relationship.  He’s a marvelous human in many ways.

I have recently learned WHY he became an excellent archer so quickly, or at least, one reason why.  He exercised aerobically before he exercised anaerobically.  He would get his heart rate up, then shoot.  How many archers do YOU know, coach, that do this?  DO you teach this?  Kisik Lee, National Head Coach, has the Resident Athletes do this at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center.  I have to wonder:  WHY in the world do we coaches follow the path he lays down in shooting technique yet FAIL our athletes by not having them follow ALL of the methods he uses?

Let’s go to the mattresses:  Get a copy of SPARK.  The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (John J. Ratey and Eric Hagerman).  Or, subscribe to my notes in Amazon Kindle, and zero in on the passages I extracted as relevant to archery coaching.

I’ll try to briefly summarize for you lazier folk<G>.  Children in one Chicago school district, over 17 years of doing this, who are led to exercise in a specific way at the beginning of their school day, in controlled study, are able to outscore like aged children in every country in the world in a standarized test (the TIMSS).  Nothing else special – no megabucks spent, just having them exercise. Google “Naperville TIMSS Singapore”  – singapore routinely cleans the clocks of American students in readin’,writin’,and ‘rithmatic.

Got to keep this short: When YOU exercise to 60-70% of max heart rate in a way that requires your brain engages for stability, dexterity, coordination, etc. then your brain releases glutamate, serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine, GABA, and most importantly Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. If you want the science of it, then read it. This book has it in spades – transparent, clearly said, easy to understand, scientific proof of a nature that is reliable enough to be acted on.

Again in short: With these chemicals cascading due to exercise, your brain chooses to use the “flight or fight syndrome” to lay down memory in a more powerful way.

Read that again as though your success as a coach depended on it.

Muscles exercising will create IGF (Insulin-like Growth Factor), VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), and FGF-2 (fibroblast growth factor).  To be simplistic, these migrate to the brain and lay down more brain cells, more blood supply, and selectively myelinate the nerve pathways that are exercised immediately following …… aerobic exercise. If that happens to be shooting an arrow, the brain myelinizes better the skill of pointy stick into the gold, IF THE COACH IS DOING THE JOB A COACH SHOULD DO.

Ok, I’ve gone on long enough.  Get your students to exercise for 10 to 20 minutes before they shoot, and get their heart rates up to at least 120, maybe 160, depending on their age and their health.  Use prudence.  First, do no harm.  But like Easy, they will give you far more progess if you do this.  You will get credit you probably don’t realize you deserve.

Read Spark.  you will find it a great educational opportunity.  To get a taste of why it is pertinent to every archery coach, try this link.

Do some good today.  Make your students’ heart rates zoom before they shoot…