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Coaching J, Episode 2

Coaching J, Episode 2

Last week, there was a brief moment where I was afraid J was going over to the dark side. The side of “I only want to do what’s fun! Does it matter if that messes up my ability to do the fun thing correctly?” And by correctly I don’t mean my way or the highway, but just in a way that won’t lead to injury after a while.

I’m no Obi-wan. I couldn’t just cut him down with my lightsaber of still growing Archery knowledge and leave him behind. I would still support him in his sport, still want to shoot on the line with him. I would just always be inwardly cringing that one day, after the fun, he’d be in the doctor’s office needing steroid shots, or have to put his bow back down to have shoulder or back surgery. Or that it would wind up being too uncomfortable or painful and he’d make the choice to give up archery.

I didn’t want any of that to happen.  I’d just had a friend miss his chance of shooting at the Olympic Trials this summer due to tendonitis in his shoulder. And that  drove home for me how stupidly important good form is. Not just consistent form, but form that does not make us more injury prone than participating in an extremely repetitive movement sport already makes us. We are like baseball pitchers, except we pitch only a fast ball, and only at the exact same speed and in the same way every time. Good form is the only thing saving us from Tommy John (or in our case, rotator cuff) surgery.

I’m lucky, because where my own concerns blinded me into not being able to communicate well with J that one night (my active listening skills were turned off), the Jedi council came in behind me and made my point for me.

And Sunday we resumed right where we left off. I thought long and hard about making a resolution to just be supportive and not criticize. But I knew that if I was being a bone head about something, I’d want other archers to call me on it even if I couldn’t immediately heed their advice. So I trashed that resolution. I decided to be me.

And we went back to feet. I’d already learned from training horses that every move is a process of refinement. So Sunday we refined J’s stance a bit more to give him the most stable base possible.


J's stance, version 2

This is an improvement over the week before, when his back foot would wind up more parallel to the line and his front foot a tad more open to the target, which I think contributed to his hips twisting during draw. They at least made it easier for him to twist, and since we don’t want the hips to move, making it harder for them to do so was on the top of the agenda.

But really, what causes us to twist when we draw the bow in the first place? Not having the back muscles to draw with just the back
Or not knowing how to draw. But J knew how to draw.

10 months off is a long time to keep the back muscles in shape, though. They had a) forgotten how to do their job without being told and b) had lost the strength to do their job for an extended period of time.

We stood on the line together. Every time his hips would twist I would say “no” and he would let down. Every time he was still he got the shot off.

For now, he has to think about things that used to come naturally, like grounding and “tucking the tail feathers”. But it will come naturally again with time and practice.

I’m sure there will be more times where I worry about the dark side, and where we disagree. But I’m sure we’ll make it past those, too.


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