Monthly Archives: December 2012

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.

Birthday Candle?

I was watching a semi-cheesy series on TV when one person let loose with a genius statement, which I shall transliterate for you for my own purposes:

Shooting an arrow during an important competition should be like blowing out the candles on your birthday cake.

You don’t overthink it.  You just focus on the “flames” and you do it – you blow them out.    You breathe in, you focus on executing the shot, and let the arrow go where it will.

How and why do you teach this act of simplicity to your athletes? .

In preparing an athlete for Athens, I did *everything* I could think of to her for the stresses involved.  I feel I failed somewhat in preparing her for Athens, and she still shot world record scores.  I simply did not anticipate the crowd pressure – the cheering throngs, the self-imposed stresses she put on herself, especially when it (inevitably) comes down to that “one” arrow. It was so different from every other competition I had been to, had witnessed, that my imagination was too conservative.

For Beijing, four years after Athens, I had learned and was a much more professional coach than I had been for Athens.  I used those 4 years to analyze my shortcomings and devise remedies, to seek the advice of experts with much more experience such as Kisik Lee, Lloyd Brown and especially Don Rabska.

I taught the athlete how to choose to ignore and how to focus.  I started by simply talking to her as she shot, to get her to shut me out. (I know, NOT a good thing for an athlete to do – ignore the coach?!<G>)   I literally and liberally water hosed her down while she shot, since it rarely rains here.  I banged pots and pans continually while she shot.  I poked a camera in her face.  I used a metronome to help her lay down, to play, a mental soundtrack of pacing like the countdown clock.   Yes, I also waved my hands in the air, right in her face, gesticulating like a wild man.  George Tekmitchov kindly provided an audio file of the crowd noises from the games ,while he announced the archer’s name in an imaginary match – a great aid to visualization exercising which we played loudly over and over as she exercised her mind.

Recently during the London games, I laughed right out loud to myself when seeing the commercials showing a Korean coach screaming face-on to the female archer in a gym shooting.  Then, a few days later, Team USA came back with the head US Para coach, Randi Smith, duplicating this scene with Jeff Fabry (the soon-to-be gold medalist from the London Games and the two-time bronze medalist from prior games) – screaming into his face as he mouth-tabbed an arrow off of his bow.

Note that this was screaming. (not going “BOO”) Consider: the goal is not to scare, but to distract and learn to focus through distractions.   Banging pots and pans continually, not a single firecracker going off suddenly right at full draw..

I laughed because I had also used my training as a player in Judo and Tae Kwan Do to create the most profoundly distracting screams arising from my chi center – guaranteed to freeze you in your tracks for that instant I would need to follow up with a knee to your chin or chest, or groin – to prepare an athlete bound for the games.  The first time I did this she collapsed in a laughing heap it was so startling!  But soon she was able to ignore it completely.  I used every method I had in my imagination to interrupt the concentration of the athlete short of actually striking her physically.  In some countries, as I understand it they do actually push and shove and strike(gently) their archers to stress them – they also require them to carry heavy loads up hills and train with “seal-like” troops in hardships….   so yelling at your archer may seem extreme but failing to prepare him or her adequately is far worse! What exactly are you preparing for?

CIMG5900In Beijing, there were three stands, likewise in London very similar – the two sidelines each holding 5,000+ people, and the small endzone stand behind the archers having 4 to 5 thousand more. Say, 15,000 highly partisan people in Beijing right on top of the shooting line, to watch arrow flinging.

The width of the shooting line in Beijing was perhaps 30 yards, total.  I was able, through the shelter of the para team mates of my athlete, to kneel amongst the wheelchair athletes in order to talk to my athlete, to film her in action.  Youtube  the term “UTARCHER” to see her competing there, and on her final arrow with mere seconds on the clock, listen as I say “deep breath”, and watch her respond, her focus total.  When the shot was done, it took her several seconds to realize, she had won and the match was done. Intense.

As her opponents (each one had been competing in archery for more years than she had been alive) shot, she had to surmount various obstacles.  In one case, her Hoyt Helix bow gave her, without reason or rhyme, an arrow in the wooden frame at 9 o’clock – a complete miss – for her opening arrow of the match.  She looked at me in a moment of unsureness – eye to eye – and I motioned her to ignore it as bullshit – her form was perfect, the flier was “something else” – she shrugged,  came back with a nine, then an 8, and proceeded to win the match despite that loss of ten points. She blew out the candles without thinking.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In these competitions, the two archers alternate arrows. She had only 20 seconds from the moment the opponent shot, to complete her own shot. Of course, the crowd cheers loudly for the opponent, right when the archer is most used to having calm and quiet to start her own shot.  It is so intense that frequently the athlete will not remember anything that happened during the match!  If you have trained the athlete properly it will be as if she is simply, automatically, blowing out the candles, and the crowd noise will be as nothing.

So whats the point?   The coach must train the athlete for the worst case and you cannot wait till the last minute to prepare your athlete for this.  It must be an ongoing process over many months at least.  Use your imagination for what the situation will be and train your athlete to the most stressful conditions you can think of.  I’m not suggesting abuse, but pro-use.  Proactive preparation for the toughest shooting conditions imaginable.  The roar of thousands of people, the pressure of desire to succeed, the nagging doubts we are all prone to, you find ways to deal with these factors early on in the career and return to them often.

TO belabor this point, I want to emphasize that there is a huge difference between EVERY archery competition apart from the “games” (Olympic/Paralympic).  In the games, cheering is uncontrolled, while in almost all other archery competition situations a hush is part and parcel in tournaments, like the gallery for a golf tournament where everyone hushes.  The games are a complete opposite to everything the archer has known previously.  Prior to this level, “golf-like” conditions in the gallery of onlookers is considered good manners – hush hush hush -  but in the games, the bigs, as soon as the opponent shoots her arrow the crowds erupt with noise … just as your athlete has to execute her perfect shot cycle she discovers the entire 15,000+ crowd right on top of her is screaming and banging noise-tubes together, creating a weight of sound pressure that is hard to imagine.  For the unprepared, it can complete unnerve the athlete and destroy her normal shot process!

Teach your athletes to be able blow out the candles when it truly matters.