RSS Feed

Category Archives: coaching

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.


Coaching J – Episode 1

Coaching J – Episode 1

My dear friend, the one who first encouraged me to think about participating in competitive archery, had to take an almost 9 month break from the sport due to work and injury. Recently we got him back! I’ve been so excited to shoot with J again, and uplifted by his presence. I don’t think I realized just how much I missed him until he came back to the range.

A day or two ago he asked me to be his interim coach and get him back into the form be used to have. I’ve been Level 2 certified for almost a year now, but I didn’t think I had that much to offer him. He is well into being an intermediate to advanced archer himself. Didn’t he need someone more skilled than me? Of course I would help him! I just didn’t know how much help I would really be. Turns out, more than I thought.

J gave me permission to post before and after videos from our lesson today.

The first thing I wanted to do was just watch him shoot. Closely and from several angles. Then video the next end to confirm what I thought I was seeing and be able to show him the trouble spot I found that I thought we should work on first. Here is one of J’s before videos.

I used Coach’s Eye to draw some simple lines to detail the problem area I saw. At the start you can see that one hip is higher than the other, but spine is straight and shoulders are aligned. As the video progresses you can see his weight  shift, and instead of coiling around the spine and keeping the lower body still, he twists at the hips so that his whole body rotates. The shoulder blade winds up where the spine was, the hips twist, and his right shoulder to elbow line lifts upwards.

We worked on foot  placement, because the placement he was using was almost T like, back foot parallel to the line and front foot pointed at the target, which left his base unstable.

We also worked on isolating the right shoulder muscles for movement, allowing just the right shoulder blade to drive the draw process. In the video above the hips were driving the draw instead of the shoulder.

I like people to see what I see and for us to collaborate together to fix the problem. I’m partial to the Socratic method, so I tend to ask more questions and to also explain why I’m asking for a specific change. It’s my hope that in doing so the instruction and change sticks with the person longer. I know that the more collaborative I am with my own coach the more I get out of my lesson. So I showed this video to J and we talked about what changes to make.

This the result, after some practice.

See how his hips are much more even and how they stay still during the draw? Part of that is due to the change in foot placement, allowing a more stable base. Part of it is on focusing on allowing the right shoulder blade to drive the entire draw movement. There is still a bit of twist going on, but it has minimized drastically.

I am so proud of J! It’s extremely difficult to come back to a sport after extended time off. I couldn’t be happier with his decision to return and I’m grateful for his permission to share our experience here on my blog.  J’s last end for the night looked like this!


J's final end at 18 meters. Super group!