My Favorite Vitamin For Performance

I’m thinking today about one thing in particular, having today come across yet another study indicating the lack of a fundamental element of health in athletes.  NCAA Athletes in Southern California…, wherein about one-third of these subjects are either deficient or insufficient in a fundamental nutrient which is critical for health and vital for peak athletic performance.

As with so many such studies, I feel the actual “situation” is much worse than it appears from that study as the typical researcher sets the bar far too low.  In this study they called a vitamin D* blood level of ~32 ng/ml to be the desired level which is wrong.  When mother nature is in control the blood level is actually nearly double that!

There are studies indicating that blood levels approaching 70 ng/ml (but no higher) yield positive changes in muscle performance.  If they had set the bar to 50 ng/ml a far greater percentage would be insufficient/deficient!

TO QUOTE the authors of that study: “Recent studies have demonstrated a direct relationship between serum 25(OH)D levels and muscle power, force, velocity, and optimal bone mass. In fact, studies examining muscle biopsies from patients with low vitamin D levels have demonstrated atrophic changes in type II muscle fibers, which are crucial to most athletes. Furthermore, insufficient 25(OH)D levels can result in secondary hyperparathyroidism, increased bone turnover, bone loss, and increased risk of low trauma fractures and muscle injuries.”  (Atrophic in this sense means the the more critical fast-twitch muscles fail to grow to potential during training – the exercise training is not having the desired effect.)

The Encyclopaedia of Sports Medicine: An IOC Medical Commission Publication, states very much the same thing, “maintaining adequate vitamin D blood levels may reduce risk for stress fracture, acute infection, inflammation, and impaired muscle function”.  The”may” in that sentence is again a timid researcher avoiding responsibility.

What virtually no researcher will go on record saying, is WHAT the ideal blood level of vitamin D should be, always instead cautiously calling “for more research”.  So why am I, a simple pharmacist and an archery coach, confident in calling for at least a blood level of FIFTY nanograms/ml (50 ng/ml)?  Because 50 is the natural, optimal, desirable blood level in humans.   I know this because, if you take ANY person of ANY skin complexion, and put them firmly in the sun’s grasp (ie, scant clothing and NO sunscreen) close to the solar noon, in Austin, Texas during the spring, summer, and even early fall, that athlete will generate enough vitamin D in as little as 15 minutes to an hour, to achieve a blood level of ~50 ng/ml. That’s mother nature, evolutionary process for millions of years, at work.

Darker skin requires more UV-B, lighter skin less exposure so the times will vary BUT what is obvious is that the body generates vitamin D in response to sun exposure, as a means of providing health.  Mother Nature says 50 ng/ml is optimal, in other words.  Some studies in athletes do show improved performances going to 60-70 ng/ml, but I have yet to find any speaking to > 70 ng/ml.  Some people will have issue with my choice of  “Mother Nature” as the controlling entity, so let me say it differently by paraphrasing the words of one of the foremost authorities in the world on vitamin D effects, Dr. John Cannell:  “God designed us, God gave us the ability to respond to God’s sunshine, to generate our personal health.  It is clear to me that in order to be healthy we must not shun that which God designed.  That does not mean we promptly go out and get sunburned to a crisp, but that we act in accordance and prudence to treat our bodies as our temple, with the respect God demands.”

Yes, coaches must focus on the sport in their mentoring, but I also feel the good coach must address in an appropriate way those “outside” elements like diet, sleep, hydration, nutrition (not the same as diet), and yes, sun exposure & vitamin D acquisition.

By the way, the athletes in that study I started out with, where 1/3 to 1/2 were deficient?  They  lived and exercised in “sunny” southern California where they had a superb opportunity to get adequate sunshine (but obviously were not)!  Know that the further the athlete lives from the equator the less sun intensity they will receive.  For example if those athletes were in Chicago, New York, Seattle, etc., the number of months of the year where “good sun” could happen would be far, far fewer and they’d be more deficient.  That means that the study looked at a “best-case scenario” where the athletes were MOST LIKELY TO HAVE GOOD LEVELS, yet even they came up short by a significant number.  That study, were it done in any university north of the Red River in Texas, would show far more deficiency. Period.  Thought: where do YOU coach your athletes – how far north (or south) of the equator?

Safety?  People are admitted to the ER on a daily basis for overdose of “multivitamins” and iron tablets, which can actually cause death.  Yet, there is an astonishing absence in the literature for any cases of the over-the-counter, inexpensive vitamin D anywhere causing any kind of overdose!  Vitamin D can be accurately said to be safer than water, since more people are admitted with life-threatening “water intoxication” than ever for vitamin D overdose!  In my own professional opinion,  multivitamins are never to be recommended to an athlete. Never.  That’s right – as a pharmacist I quit recommending every vitamin aside from D years ago.  Pardon my Texan but multivitamins are just plain bullsh*t.  Even the AMA recently proclaimed an absence of science to justify multivitamins.

Just so we are clear: vitamin D is not a vitamin.  Vitamins are substances humans must take internally (eat) because they cannot make it, that are necessary for health.  Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is a good example – without it your teeth fall out and you die.  You can’t make vitamin C, so you should drink a margarita often.  (Or, maybe some orange juice or other citrus). :)  But “vitamin D”?  You make it!  Therefore, it is NOT a vitamin.  But just call it one to avoid distress.

To help you arrive at your own dosing regimen I can share what I do for myself:  I take vitamin D based on the formula of 1,000iu per day for every 25 pounds of body weight, always rounding “up”, so for 100 pounds a 5,000iu capsule (commonly marketed) is logical to me, and at 6’5″ and 235 pounds, I usually take 10,000iu per day unless I get some “good” sun which I would rather do than take a pill.  Being a health professional, I also get tested at least once a year for my 25(OH)D level, and it’s always between 50 and 70 ng/ml, depending on the time of year – runs higher in the summer because I try to also get routine sun exposure to boost my levels “naturally”.   Why “round up”? Your body will not activate the D3 into 25(OH)D unless it needs it.  Taking a small amount extra insures that your body stores away some vitamin D for when it needs extra.  If you break a bone, your D levels actually disappear!   If you acquire an infection, your body converts D into cathelicidin (google it).  If YOU TRAIN HARD, your body uses it to reduce inflammation and help build muscle to recover better, to actually achieve supercompensation.  If you have excessive body weight, your needs do go up as well.   For any other elite athlete, I would do as I did with my daughter – dose per my guideline, then get a blood level to make sure you can “check off” this concern, and then deal with other things, knowing you’ve done the right thing and that base is covered.  She won’t get sick as often, won’t risk injury as much, and will benefit to the max from training.

If you are not an athlete, everything regarding D still applies.  If you are an athlete, vitamin D can be that which allows you to focus on the top step, instead of trying to breathe through a sinus infection while you draw down on the X.

* I call it Vitamin D throughout this article – what is measured is actually the active form of the chemical, 25(OH)D , which your body makes from regular, over-the counter vitamin D3 aka cholecalciferol.  Incidentally, what you body makes from the sun’s rays is the same cholecalciferol as the capsules you can buy and take when the sun isn’t available. Sun is better, but the capsule is vitally better than going without.

Vitamin D3 is available in a variety of strengths, over the counter, in drug stores and big box outfits like Costco and Sams, as well as online.  Don’t waste your time with anything less than 5,000iu capsules and be careful online with your source.  I see prices of $17 for 300+ capsules of 5,000iu at Costco.  Years ago, I started buying from BioTech directly over the net because 5,000iu caps weren’t yet available, and I supply *every* extended family member that wants it.  50,000iu D3 caps allow for a less-than-every-day dosing regimen.  I do not like it, as a pharmacist I know that people forget to take meds, and missing once a week can be pretty important.  Missing a daily dose, not such a big impact.  Also, you can refine your dosing a little more easily with daily dosing.  Some might take 10,000iu one day, 5,000iu the next, alternating….  All good.

Cover your bases, coaches.

Knees

Last month during the annual USAA Coaching Conference in COS, we were informed that a slight enhancement to the stance of the shot cycle was being considered.  When weightlifters “lock” their knees and undertake a strenuous lift, they increase the risk of momentarily blacking out due to an impediment in circulation caused by the overwhelming contraction of muscles throughout the body and in particular, the lower body.  There is an Fainting after Strenuous Exertion or two on YouTube showing this effect.

Those educated in physiology are taught this characteristic, as Coach Kisik Lee was, and it was logical to extend this caution to archers who have a similar stance, similar posture (when doing it right) and experiencing the duress of holding 40 or 50 pounds for a time very similar to that required of a weightlifter qualifying for a clean lift.  So, in the beginning of the NTS, we were taught to be mindful of this and to insure that the archer did not lock the knees.

Careful consideration of the current evidence including the absence of archer faceplants,  has led Coach Lee to conclude that locking the knees does not create the same internal obstructions to circulation as in weightlifting.  Today, I received an email that clarifies further what we were taught, from Steve Cornell, the new head of Coaching Development at USAA (and congratulations to Steve!):

“Stance
We are now asking archers to completely lock their knees when they shoot. There is a
universal concept that if you lock your knees you will pass out; however, archers will not
pass out for the amount of time it takes to execute the shot cycle.
Locking the knees provides several benefits in terms of stability, including keeping the
body still during shot execution.  Archers should start locking their knees completely at the
completion of the Set position, but can relax their knees after the completion of each shot.

As you know, archers “coil” – rotate the upper body – from Set position through Setup, and
remain in this position through the shot cycle. We have seen that a lot of archers are having
difficulty keeping their hip position as they coil when they do not lock their knees.

Losing the hip position will reduce the amount of tension the archer feels in their back, and
will also cause the hips to move upon release. Keeping the knees completely locked
through the shot process will allow the archer to keep his/her hips from moving as he coils
to setup and a she releases the string.

We have included three photos to illustrate this concept (Page2). Notice that Ki Bo Bae
(pictured in both images on the left) has her knees completely locked, while the knees of
the archer on the right are not quite straight, and almost bent.  The knees should be
completely locked and not relaxed.”

Now, as a coach, I have been teaching this since January, and I’ve noticed that for some athletes this locking mechanism allows them to stand comfortably in a positive way, coiling, and assume a stronger posture overall, and improve their performance and happiness.

I have also seen that this does not work for 100% of the athletes – in some unique situations going to a “neutral” knee position that is slightly short of “locked”  MAY be warranted.  But every archer should be given the opportunity to benefit from this knee position before you surrender it as a goal to the more perfect shot cycle.

And these photo examples were provided.  Note that this information was sent to each NTS coach.

kneelock

George’s Blog

GTIf you are not privvy to this blog of George Tekmitchov’s I am pleased to bring it to your attention.  Incidentally, George is a long-time engineer and designer of risers at Hoyt AND the “voice” of Olympic Archery for a number of Olympiads (but for not the Paralympics, unfortunately).  George has extraordinary insights in archery.     HIGHLY recommended.

Customizing A BowGrip

There are only a couple of different bowgrips, as they come from the factory.  If you wish to shoot to the best of your ability, or to coach someone into their best, using the NTS, then improving the bow grip is an integral part of your efforts.

In order to achieve a knuckle angle on the bow hand that approximates 45 degrees the grip must be changed to a “higher” grip.  Higher in this case means that the hand becomes more flat/horizontal instead of vertical.  When you grip a baseball bat, THAT is a vertical/low grip.

The lowest bowgrip, for example, is that found on certain compound bows where there are only the slightest mounds of plastic or wood attached to the sides of the riser.  A higher grip allows the recurve archer to bring the pressure point and the bow’s pivot point closer together, and also lessens the angular movement of the bowhand upon release – less side-to-side motion and more “to-the-target” motion.  As the bow moves forward towards the bowsling, the archer’s hand MUST move in reciprocation to the string arm follow-through motion, the index finger describing a “sit” motion down.

Anyway, I learned from Don Rabska in around 2004, how to use plumbers epoxy putty –

about $6 per tube and enough to enhance 3 or 4 bowgrips.

about $6 per tube and enough to enhance 3 or 4 bowgrips.

a compound material that can be found in small tubes in the hardware store’s plumbing section.  It’s much thicker than bondo, and when blended the two parts undergo a chemical reaction and become rock-hard in just minutes.  Perfect for building up a bow grip or otherwise customizing it for your own preferences.

My original writeup for the TSAA website can be seen here.

Epoxy Putty movie short

Youtube link to video clip

I also came across a very neat website, that sells innovative, inventive products, including one called Sugru, invented by Jane in the UK.  It comes in small sealed foil packets of colored rubberized silicone putty.  If you want to make a color it does not come in, you can combine several colors such as yellow and blue to make green.  It cures in about 24 hours, and at that point it feels soft and rubbery.  JUST right for the flesh-to-bowgrip interface!   You can get fancy with the finish – get some screen mesh, for example, and press it into the surface and peel it away, to leave a high-traction surface. You can press anything into it and remove it, to leave a bas-relief impression – a coin, a seashell, sea urchin shell, a leaf, coarse sandpaper, feather fletching, etc… If you allow it to simply cure after shaping it, the surface will be pretty smooth, so texturing the surface is a good idea, such as apply a mesh imprint.

Put a little Sugru on it… – a short movie

Youtube link to video clip of Sugaru

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall?

You practice, practice, practice…goes the old joke.  If all your archer does is practice flinging arrows, you’ll never get her to Carnegie Hall, though, because it takes more than just practice.

It is a fairly well-accepted rule that in order to be the best at “something”, you have to put in a lot of work, and a general rule of thumb popularized over the last few years is 10,000 hours.

That’s right, they say – Michael Phelps spent 10,000 hours swimming laps, Michael Jordan playing pickup on the neighborhood basketball courts for 10k hours .  There is a lot of evidence when you look at various successful olympic athletes, that something similar about “time invested” applies.  Another argument is that there really aren’t any “child prodigies” for sports, that the overnight sensations are usually people that labored (practiced) anonymously for years until they were discovered (or had honed their skills till they were “good enough”.

I fell in love with this whole concept when I first was told about it during an olympic coaching seminar held for all sports disciplines in Colorado, and I took it to heart since it merged with what through personal experience I felt I already knew.  I also came home with the understanding that it is not merely “doing it everyday” instead of once every four years, but that it had to be purposeful practice.

This concept struck a deep chord, for I had unwittingly performed much this same concept in working with my athlete that ultimately medaled in Beijing. Coach Tom Parrish had told me as early as 2001 that Korean archers (then as now renowned as some of the world’s best) always practiced with a coach so that no bad habits were allowed to creep in.  Therefore, I had resolved to coach my daughter this same way.

For my archer, it was that nearly every arrow, of nearly every single practice day during more than 8 years of dedication, was done with me coaching – analyzing, assessing, judging, providing instant feedback and reinforcement.  The archer was incredibly adept at receiving the observations and adjusting continually.  I would guess this applied for 80% of her practice time – the rest of the time she diligently worked on her skills by herself, almost always with a set of particular element(s) to improve.   She rarely met the “4 to 6 hours per day” workload due to physical limitations.  However, when she was training she put 100% of herself into it, a higher commitment than most athletes can manage for such an extended time.  She was deeply invested in “purposeful practice”, and though I estimate she put in “only” 8,000 hours, it proved enough.  Which brings me to ….

Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence , by Daniel Goleman

This book confirms in many ways the need for the “whatever-the-heck-number-of-hours-you-can-get-out-of-your-athlete” are, to be purposeful, innovative, challenging, stimulating, non-boring, enjoyable, well….you get the idea.  I know it is a fact that in at least one medalist’s case, that if done with the right technique, you don’t need 10,000 hours and that is part of Goleman’s argument.  It can be done with far less, (as well as require far more) – the 10k rule makes the assumption that the individual actually has the core strength in all the elements that define “elite” to rise to the top step.  In reality few will, but I do believe the investment of hours will lead that athlete to be the best that she or he “can” be.

This book should be on your shelf, coach, with ample highlights, underlines, quotes identified, and with the understanding that like the other books in my bibliography up here, it’s both completely right and maybe all wrong.  Take the parts that work best for your coaching philosophy and own them.   If you are fortunate enough to encounter an athlete dedicated enough to attempt 10,000 hours of purposeful practice, you must be prepared to contribute your part to making those hours to be….purposeful enough, useful enough, effective enough, RIGHT enough, to enable that athlete to rise to his or her full potential.  Will it be on the medal stand?

Only the gods of sport will decide upon which head the laurel wreath will rest.

It’s OK To Lock?!

NTS coaches have long known that one fundamental key is the alignment of bones – the bow forearm bones (radius and ulna) into the humerus with the hinge vertical for optimal stress resistance, in example.
And we’ve also been taught that locking the knees, placing the near-to-the-joint leg muscles under tension can actually decrease blood flow and possibly lead to instability and even fainting.

Extreme example of muscle-contraction caused fainting
After several years of observation, Coach Lee has concluded that the risk of archery-induced NTS-method fainting is zero. As he mentioned in a recent seminar, “never see any archer faint, and lots of archers lock their knees”.  And he had a video that he showed without much comment – showing the knee joint and how when the joint is “locked”, the boney aspects interlock in a more favorable way.  Mother nature designs, evolves, our body’s joints to serve well certain functions.

Now, archery is NOT one of them.  But standing stock-still is – and if done with little or no cargo onboard to load up the body, the locking stance of the legs will provide an enhanced stability FOR SOME ATHLETES!  Not necessarily for ALL, but it is both safe and appropriate to evaluate in your archer whether this will provide better performance.

The locking knee in diagram is similar to the video Coach Lee showed – that one is not available to me – but this displays the same slight rotational aspect as the knee “locks”.

In short, it’s OK if your archer likes to lock her knees to get a more stable shooting platform, provided it does not cause pain, and is not allowed to interfere with the rest of the posture requirements of the NTS, AND that it provides a verifiable advantage.  (Straightened lower back, the arrow stays over the rear edge of the ball of the foot of the archer’s back foot, chest down, shoulders down, etc….)

So let your archer try to find a more sturdy leg platform, more comfortable, more natural, stance.

“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!

BB and BBB – A method for practice

Let’s consider aiming at a target.

When the human brain’s optical system is employed, there are specific, well-identified regions of the brain that work in specific groupings – one group of neurons is used to process colors.  Another, for shapes.  Yet another for Text (shapes with refined meanins).  And, these different areas that are interconnected.  Your eyes and brain also filter images needed for say, less than 30 seconds.  For more than 30 seconds. Different areas….different roles. An incredible number of separate nuclei that are simply refined for special needs – and the plastic brain is ALWAYS building on, creating new, clusters of neurons to match the demands the athlete creates anew.

The frontal cortex has mirror neurons, that very likely is a profound part of consciousness – a real-time facility for learning and data acquisition that replaces “instinctual behavior” to a degree.  To learn about mirror neurons, there is no one better at explaining them than Dr. Rama’s TED talk. Any coach interested in teaching needs to understand this critical aspect of human learning. (present as well to a differing degree in other higher primates)

Think of the thinking/learning/action brain and the information-acquisition brain & eyes system as two similar computers that each operate at 1 megahertz. (ok, that’s not all that’s needed to express computing power, but just go with the example for now).  So if you combine the two, the net throughput is not 1 + 1 = 2 megahertz.  It’s more like, 1.5 megahertz – the speed is less.  BUT, the bandwidth, the total data density, is up at (in this crude example) 4 or 5 megahertz!

One picture worth a thousand bytes…so to speak.  But the brain can only route & re-route a limited amount of data, and when your brain’s datapipe is processing at a maximum, you can’t deal well with more.

Also, the “action-reaction” portion of the frontal cortex is like the RAM of a computer – It’s a finite, limited, gigabyte of memory “stack”, where it can create a reality of a certain number of items at one time.  BUT. When you ask it to take on a new item, your brain readily dumps some item from RAM to deal with the new request.  And the item being viewed, sent into the RAM, then goes on to other areas for actions, like shooting an arrow, or aiming a bow (two different things!)  Evolutionary pressures dictate that our brain has a switch for what must be retained in these conditions, to hang on to what might be needed “next time” in order to survive.

THIS, this, is why when a student exercises sufficiently to raise the physical body into the “flight or fight” adrenalin level, he will RETAIN what he then learns far better, than if he was sedentary before the learning event.  Reasoning is, you might need to retain that event in order to survive
next time.  No matter what you are learning, whether it is a chemical formula or a method for an outer foot sweep against your opponent. (or using your lower scapula to achieve that last bit of transfer to get to the true holding of the drawn bow).  Read John Ratey’s “Spark” for the reasons why.  ALso, I have promoted this subject somewhat into the ground in the past.

I just wanted to seed the ground, err,  lay the groundwork, for why it is better some times to practice shooting a bow without requiring the brain to deal with the aiming portion.  IN PART, the neuronal path for shooting a bow is different than the neuronal path used for aiming an arrow.  So if you separate the two, and only imprint one path, the notion is that you get more intensity on that path, and you can bring to bear on the activity MORE brainpower!  Dis-engaging the very big neuronal pathways tieing the eyes’ inputs to the brain’s refined/precision action clusters allows the focus to be on the muscle sensorium instead.  If you don’t care about what you hit, you can care more (sensate more) about how your body functions.

If you have some kind of cross-wired complication that is preventing you from succeeding in both shooting and aiming such as hesitation or “shot-choke”, then doing just the shooting allows you the chance to improve muscle-memory pathways to have a more dominant role in the shot cycle.

 HOW TO:
Blank Bale practice should be performed at a close-enough distance that missing the bale is not a factor.  So it will vary based on the ability of the archer.

There should not be a typical target on the bale.  There should not be any colors that resemble the FITA target, nor any geometry beyond the Whitetail replaceable core.  IF THE ARCHER is really struggling, placing either white butcher paper or a heavy paper 122cm target reversed on the bale may be called for to eliminate even the 2-foot large circle on the whitetail or Stanley Hipps targets.

If you have ever practiced looking at “Magic Eye” images then you know how you should tell your athlete to control the eyes during blank bale (BB from here on out during this article).  When you try it first, you should de-focus your eyes, and instead turn awareness inward to other elements of sensations, such as muscle strength, bone alignment and positioning, for example.  The archer simply shoots arrows towards the bale with no intent of aiming.  With a little practice, the athlete will learn a meditative means to the exercise, which is to be encouraged.   It is critical that all elements of the NTS (other than the aiming) be diligently practiced by the athlete and enforced by the coach.

This is superb for warming up.  The archer must be taught that there is *nothing* about blank bale to be judged, other than the arrow must leave the bow and hit the foam (anywhere).

This is where the most important thing the coach can do, is insure form is retained, and most especially, ask, “How did that feel” ?  Promote awareness in the athlete about the link between how the motion feels and the efforts expended.  The athlete MUST judge the shot’s feeling, not the arrow’s position.  Coach, look for the sudden smile that will appear when she “gets it”.

Now for BBB: BLIND Blank Bale.  Just as the athlete gains enhanced tactile knowledge from the BB, the more advanced archer will be able to continue the learning path ever upwards by closing her eyes during the shot cycle.  At first, closing eyes during transfer until after follow through.  As confidence grows, instruct the athlete to move earlier in the cycle with the closing of eyes.  Do not move so early that the archer cannot stay near “on-center” with the arrow!  This is a gradual process.

As the archer becomes more adept, you can move him back further from the bale so that the sound of impact is separate from the sound of the bow at release, carefully and gradually.  The intent is to hone the body image, the muscle control, and the mental confidence and to more closely resemble audibly the real-life shot cycle.  But you must not allow a single miss to happen.  Remember, this is a confidence builder, not a show-off opportunity.

Also, taking a cue from the coaches at the OTC, putting the bale’s stand up on stilts allows the athlete to retain the same posture for up-close BB shooting as if for shooting out to 70 meters (for example).

I have found it useful to have the athlete “shuffle” the stance between arrows, so that there is a minute change from side to side to reduce nock damage (You do use pin nocks, so that “robin-hooding” is impossible, right?!?)….  Do not allow the archer to AIM at the previous arrows!

The absence of the target allows a portion of the brain to be left out of the shot cycle, but in a good way.  In particular this can be excellent for someone with a choke syndrome, but any archer can and will benefit from BB exercises if you coach them correctly.

BBB and BB are both very useful exercises – the coach must decide just how much of either is useful to the training of the athlete.

And, I rush to say, coaching the athlete to purposeful aiming is incredibly important as well – string position, alignment, pitch/yaw/roll of the cranium (head<G>), these things must not be left to chance either.  Just not harped upon, strictly enforced, ALL the time.

BB and BBB are surprisingly effective exercises when done correctly.

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.