Training tonight at the range, working on the anchor point drill that I did with Tony on Sunday. I think it works.
Category Archives: Training
Tony is one of the best coaches I know. He usually coaches kids. He only coaches people who are serious and willing to learn. And in the last six months or so he’s been so busy even his regular students don’t see him much. I hadn’t seen him at all.
I went to the range yesterday to sort myself out after the discombobulation of Saturday’s Winter Games. I hadn’t put in the performance I had hoped to. Not even close. And…Tony’s there. Like magic. I was not going to ask him for help. But he always asks me what I’m working on, and I always tell him the truth. When I explained to him that my old anchor point was wrong and I didn’t know where the new one was yet he was like “those things don’t occur naturally, you have to force it”. And promptly took me to ” the wall ” and watched me shoot.
Then he put an 8 pound bow in my hand and proceeded to fix me. Some things were the same that he’d fixed six months ago (elbow too close to the body). Some were problems I’d noticed more recently but hadn’t been able to fix (not getting completely into my back. Guess what, your torso is supposed to move!) And yes, he fixed the anchor point, too. And then started working on my release.
I have a huge mental block when it comes to release and follow through. I keep thinking that I should be frozen in place, not moving, after the shot goes off. So I refuse to allow my elbow to continue going around the imaginary circle. I freeze all the muscles instead. So that I have almost no follow through motion. I think we wound up spending more time on this than anything else, and he was literally re-mapping what the follow through is supposed to be in my brain. And we made progress! My performance journal is filled with all kinds of excited hand writing and exclamation marks!!
And he’ll let me send him video to look at, and help out when he has time. I feel like the last two weeks or so have been huge jumps for me in a lot of different areas of the sport. Things that I’m really excited about. Tony gave me enough to work on for probably the next six months. But I could already see and feel an improvement in my shooting. I felt like this was the first time I really understood exactly what each movement he asked for was supposed to do and feel like. Before, I’m sure most of what he said just went right over my head. But last night I got it. I really got it. I’m looking forward to shooting tomorrow night and training each movement a little more.
I started out shooting barebow with a traditional anchor. I shot barebow from February 2014 all the way through January of 2015. That is almost a year of using a traditional anchor at the corner of the mouth.
To understand how strong the muscle memories are that we develop, know that in February of 2015 I switched to Olympic Recurve precisely because I thought the form was more efficient. I made the switch mentally. I made the switch materially, with all new equipment. I’ve been making the switch physically for the entire 2015 year.
My anchor never completely made the switch. It moved lower, yes. But it moved to the side of my jaw, not under my jaw. Which caused (or was facilitated by) my draw wrist breaking inward, which caused my draw arm to not quite get into alignment, which caused my elbow to be in front of the arrow, which caused me to shoot very left almost all summer 2015 and also caused my arrows to go low, because there was less energy in the shot because I was not drawing as far back because my elbow was in front of the arrow.
WHEW! Could you follow all that?
WHY was I anchoring on the side of my jaw for so long, you might ask? I can hear it now: why didn’t your coach fix this?!?!? OMG that was such a huge thing you should have fixed it sooner!
No. I’ve spent the majority of 2015 getting straight. First I had to get vertically straight, from feet to head. Then I had to get horizontally straight, through my shoulders. That took months. Months of ab workouts and focusing on my posture at work and almost a year of carrying my purse on the left side instead of the right. Months and months of fine tuning my posture. Months that a lot of men, who don’t carry purses and haven’t had babies, don’t have to lose to correcting posture. I envy them.
Without the large blocks, the front end (bow arm) and the back end (draw arm), the connecting piece (anchor) didn’t matter. Now, neither can be fully aligned without the connection in between them being correct, but both could be badly aligned even if the connection was correct. So we fixed the front end. We fixed the back end. We fixed the front end again. They became stable but not perfect. That’s been my September through December focus.
Only the last two weeks were the large blocks of my form good enough to even address that connecting piece, the anchor. It was now the thing most obviously affecting my form.
So my anchor has changed. A lot. It’s not consistent yet because hey, I only started working on it yesterday. It’s such a small change, but such a huge change. Shooting with this different anchor feels lighter, freer, and more stable.
On the left is all the progress I had made up until yesterday. But I was getting stressed, the tension was showing and my elbow was still in front of the arrow. On the right, after a short break and some breathing and stretching is the progress I made yesterday. It’s not perfect, but I’m more behind the arrow than I used to be.
It will take a lot of time to overcome the old muscle memory developed during barebow to get the new anchor consistent. There is lots of blank baling in my future. And then sight settings to change, because wow have they changed.
I am so excited. Yesterday felt like the missing link had been discovered and my archery had taken a revolutionary turn!
I can already see from these photos what I’ll be working on after the anchor. That chest lift will get ironed out eventually. But I’m comforted by the thought that it’s not as bad as it used to be.
So what does blank baling look like when you’re working on changing anchors?
Lately, and by that I mean sometime in early December, I realized that despite a year of coaching, despite enthusiasm, I wasn’t being very focused about archery. Or work. Or home life. I was juggling like a mad person, doing whatever was most pressing that was thrown in front of my face.
I was moving forward, but I wasn’t moving forward well.
After Shootout, and a break, I think that I came back as a more collaborative partner in my own coaching. Instead of waiting for my coach to see a problem and fix it, I started looking for the problem areas I wanted to fix and bringing them to my coach. But until I started using video a few weeks ago at almost every practice and lesson, I still wasn’t laser-focused on specific archery form corrections.
This month’s focus?
Fixing my elbow.
Remember how I was having the problem of the string smearing forward after I had hit anchor? We fixed that problem!
I realize it can be disconcerting to be up close and personal with someone’s face like that, but did you see how the string stayed put once I came to anchor?
Now did you see how far off to the side it was? That’s a problem, right? Well. I think it isn’t. I think that’s actually a symptom of a different problem. Try this view.
See how far my elbow sticks out in front of the arrow? I think that is the real problem. And that problem is my focus for the month of January. Not scores. Not clicker. Just fixing that elbow.
I was mildly chastised recently for not continuing my blogging about archery. And I decided that with a new year and 3 National competitions in my future for 2016 that I would go back to blogging about my archery journey.
So why did I stop?
Summer 2015 was rough. I was promoted in August, and for a full month did both my old job and my new job while management tried to find my replacement for my old seat. That was enormously stressful. Enormously.
Add on top of that the feeling for a while that I was utterly failing at archery and there was no way I was going to write about the tough stuff I was going through. Or the fact that I almost laid my bow down and walked away from it all. My coach and I made a form change that really didn’t work for me, but instead of accepting that it didn’t work I kept trying to force it to work. For months. I should have spoken up and I didn’t, because I didn’t have enough confidence in myself as an archer and an athlete. Add that to the stuff at work and I wound up in tears at the range one day.
I went to the Texas ShootOut and Olympic Team Trials in College Station at the first of September anyway. Surprise! I did not come in last. And it was quite a roller coaster ride of weather events. Then I took some time off. A couple of weeks. And then I went back to shooting but just on the weekends.
It took that stepping away, recalibrating, and then slowly easing back in to see that I want this more now than I ever did before. And that all the time is worth it. That my desire to become competitive has increased instead of decreased.
I’ll admit that 2016 is scary. My coach is about to have her baby. I’m afraid that I’ll probably lose her support for most of the year. So I’ll be left with coaching myself. I don’t feel qualified to coach myself. But I know I can do it. I may just have to reach out to new people for answers to questions.
Today I completed my registration for Indoor Nationals 2016 at Texas A&M in March. I’m also registered for the 2nd annual Texas Cup in Plano in January, and the Texas Winter Games in McKinney, also in January. Texas State Indoor tournament will be in February. I feel like all three of these will give me good feedback for preparing for Indoor Nationals.
This week I’ll be calibrating my clicker, and we came up with an ingenious way of getting a really good clicker set up with minimal guessing using video feedback. I’m looking forward to sharing that video with you all tomorrow! So if you’re on your own and have no one to watch you shoot for an hour or two to figure out where your clicker needs to sit, I have a solution for you!
After shattering my own confidence on Sunday, I went back to the range Tuesday. Of course, I had my coach there to hold my hand. We figured stuff out. I’m working on how to get this split fingered tab to sit on my string. To keep my elbow and shoulder moving down and into my spine so that my index finger doesn’t come in contact with the arrow. And making sure that my bow arm is going through the target, my elbow on my draw arm going through the imaginary wall behind me.
And there was improvement!
I’ve been shooting this distance for less than two week. Shooting Olympic Recurve and split finger for about a month. So I’m not going to sneeze at this. I “lost” my anchor, because I made improvements to both bow arm and draw arm. But that’s OK. I’ll find it again.
One day I’ll grow up to shoot like coach 🙂
Yesterday’s practice was much more about getting the right mental space back, than fixing anything physical. Coach Holly really helped to ground me and get me back into reality.
The Man and I talked later last night. And he helped with mindset too. “You can go to this tournament thinking you want to be competitive. You’ll fail, miserably. And it will take months for you to go back to practicing as much as you have been lately. Months to recover mentally.” Or, he said “You can go, have fun, be up close to the action, learn how things work, enjoy it, and hunt for arrows in the grass because shooting things is fun. Then come home and keep right on practicing. The choice is yours. But I don’t expect you to be competitive, to win anything, for 2 or 3 more years”.
Oh. It was that last line, that he wants me to go but he certainly doesn’t expect me to win. And that he doesn’t think its a waste of time even if I just go play ” hunt for arrows” that really hit me.
I needed permission to just go have fun. I have it. I’m good now.
I didn’t do a very good job of logging my practices this week. So I’m logging them here all in one post. Hopefully. Let’s start with Tuesday. On the 17th I practiced mostly at 30. And took these pictures.
I felt pretty good here because I was grouping. Not super tightly, but the goal was not to be uber dialed in at 30. Just to do well enough to justify the next step.
And I took a pretty nice picture of my set up
Thursday started out good at 50 meters.
And continued right up until dark.
Again. The goal wasn’t to get uber dialed in at 50. Just get good enough to move on to 70. And that happened on Saturday. I shot for almost 3 hours with my coach, and officially shot my first end at 70 meters on Saturday.
And then, Sunday. After a lot of shooting already this week, and a Saturday night of staying up late playing games with a houseful of friends. And maybe drinking. A little. I hopped on out to the range today all full of confidence. Which promptly got shattered.
At least I grouped. Even if it was on the ground 😦
Next practice date is Tuesday March 24. We’ll see if I can get back to 70.