What is the most important thing about watching archery in the Olympics?

In watching the archery competition online at NBCOlympics.com, every

Venue for archery during the London Olympics

coach and many archers will naturally search the screen.  Watch the archer.  Gauge the form against the arrow into the target. Try to judge what determines success and failure.  It’s a normal thing to do, I think, at least for me. I have been doing this constantly since I decided to be a mentor to others.  Savvy is as savvy does.

I look for consistent things shared by the archers.  What I see in the Olympic games shooting in London is that quite a lot has to do with stress. It is a given – these archers are under stress – what can be called “overwhelming stress”.  It clearly shows to me in their muscle movements.  The stressed archer tends to freeze up, to under-do everything.  I often see the athlete comes up short in movements – rotation, alignment, muscle tension, quickness of loose, follow-through. The archer is mentally taut and physically tight, often to the point of immobility. The less relaxed, the harder it is to achieve a normal shot cycle.

You see one hold too long, and instead of letting down, force the shot that goes to 5 ring at 10 o’clock. You see the desperate waving of the bow arm left and right, in a vain attempt to get the arrow back onto track for the gold.  Somehow, the athlete prevails though, through this slow-motion horrorshow of dread.  I marveled at how one Italian archer in the team event, one whom I am familiar with in form and shot method, drastically shut down his method, yet still shot the ten to clinch the gold medal.

Yet – the tightness is not necessarily a condemnation – it can be an actual comfort, if the archer has trained properly in the “tightness of stress” often enough.  Writers often have some line like, “toughness forged in the furnace of competition”.  The more an archer competes, the more (with coaching help) likely the archer is to not freeze up so much that a shot can’t be successful.

Is it a for-sure thing, what I (or you) imagine we see?  No, it cannot be unless you already know the archer’s methods and form. But as a coach you have to practice the art of observation and analysis.  And that is the answer – what the most important thing to watch for is.  The act, the art, of observation filtering everything through all that you know.  Bring your knowledge to bear on what you see.

The coach that can see, that observes truthfully and accurately through the prism of his knowledge – that is the most important thing for a coach watching archery on TV.

Learn to see what you are watching. Dissect the form. Analyze the motions.  Compare what you think you see with the results and with what you know as a student of the sport.  Repetitions will be profitable to the time invested for both the coach and the perceptive archer (who can then see, that even when you feel impossibly tight, when even a breath is hard-fought-for, you can still shoot your shot.)

So, THAT is the most important thing  – anytime a coach has his sport captive on a television or a computer screen – seeing and watching and learning from it.  Oh, yeah, and enjoyment comes in many guises – productive watching is a real good one.

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