Doubling Up On Coaches

You know when you’ve taken your skill as an athlete as far as you can alone.  You are probably self-coached, like most athletes.  The top pros in most sports have coaches even though they are at the highest levels.

Last year, I was entirely self-coached.  Prior to that I’d retained a level 4 USA coach for help.  In hindsight he wasn’t much help. Personally, I think coaching physically challenged him.  He wasn’t in good health and I think he’s expired.

When we moved to Georgia, there has been no coach until now.  Now, I have two coaches. One coach is for archery the other is a mental coach.

I’ve got this friend that won the Ironman World Championship a number of times without a coach.  I know another Ironman World Champion that relied heavily on coaches.  I don’t really know any World Champion archers on the same level.  I’ve met some fellows that have won archery World Championships and have trained with one.  But, the acquaintances are all superficial.  As such, I don’t know if they use coaches although I’ve heard one of them had his coach move in with his family early in his career.

In fact, I am a coach. There’s a wide gap between being the athlete and being the coach.  In my head I understand what to do to hit an X.  In coaching practice I can watch an archer for a few minutes and have an idea of how they’ll perform.  But, I can’t see me.

As a result, I’ve gotten pretty good with a bow.  Still, I think I can be better, hence doubling up on coaches.  I’ll give this a year and see how it goes.

“On a warm summer’s eve……”

The ASA Super Senior Known class is where I wanted to compete in 3D during 2019.  That just ain’t going to happen.

For USA archery style competition I have a target bow.  Speed of arrows is not a major concern.  The distance is always known. Well pretty close depending on how meticulous the range is set.  In a sport where millimeters matter we all have elevation adjustments to compensate for slight variance in distance.

That target bow will be used throughout the 3D season during non-3D events.  The bow can be switched back and forth to manage skinny or wide arrows. But, practicing dots in the morning then 3D in the afternoon and making switches, tweaks, and turns multiple times a day is a waste of time.  Having two bows, one for 3D and one for dots is ideal.

The 3D bow used for competition in 2018 was set up for hunter class.  There is a short stabilizer and a pin sight on it.  In 2018 I competed in the Senior Hunter Class (archers mostly in their 50s. I never shot against anyone in 3D last year older than me.) Most of the archers in my age group seemed to be competing in the Super Senior class (60 – 69 years old.) I wanted to shoot with them in 2019.  After I considered the additional expense to convert my hunter class rig to match the equipment in the Super Senior class the idea was abandoned.

To compete against those archers would mean a new rest, stabilizers, weights, sight and a scope.  The good stuff could end up costing a heap of money. Once the price tag became visible the Senior Hunter Class summoned me home to a cost savings category.

Using what I’ve got on hand, a cost effective proposition, all I’d do is reset the old 3D bow for fatter non-hunting arrows and compete using the older bow in the Senior Hunter Class for 2019.  Sure, the arrows float off the rest when I release them.  The 3D bow isn’t exactly a fast 3D specific bow.  It is more of a one bow does most type of rig.  Part of the fun for others  shooting with me is being able to watch the arch of my arrow.  It is a rare sight from 20 yards to actually see the arrow’s arch.  At forty yards, people have photographed the flight of my arrow using their smart phones.

You think I’m joking – perhaps just a little.  However, I kid you not, this has been said to me during a 3D tournament, “I love watching you shoot, I can really see the arch of your arrows.” Yes, I am using a compound bow. But, after you’ve watched arrows zoom off at nearly 300 fps then you see a launch at 246 fps, the difference looks extreme. In my case, yardage judgement needs to be just right.  Otherwise, you’d see my arrows fly toward a target then appear to just drop out of the air.

It would be fun to compete in the Super Senior Division.  I could with a hunting rig but it would be a waste of entry fee money.  Super Seniors with target 3D rigs have a distinct advantage. While I’m pretty good at 3D, I’m no fool.  Shooting against the Super Seniors around here with a hunting rig would be like drag racing using my 2006 Ford F-150.  I’d get to the finish line but that would be about it.

Using that old 3D bow, today, I needed to set my elevation and windage for the arrows that I’ll use next weekend in my first 2019 Senior Hunter Class competition.  It was not a good day for precision work.

First of all it was really cold.  Cold doesn’t stop me.  Cold isn’t fun.  Plus, it is hard to be precise wearing every article of clothing you own all at once. For example, my right arm feels funny because I can’t fully draw being limited by short sleeve t-shirts, thermal t-shirt, long sleeved t-shirts, regular shirts, sweaters, vests, and a down filled jacket.  Along with the cold that has descended there’s a 40 mph wind which has joined the mix. Archery, precision, 26°F temperature and 40 mph wind is not a friendly combination. Still, I waddled out to the range moving like the Michelin Man.

The first pin to check was the 20 yards pin.  I started at 10 yards – just in case.  It wasn’t long before the song in my head went from “Eye of the Tiger” to “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.

For the record, I lasted nearly an hour until I walked away:

You’ve got to know when to hold ’em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run

I’ll get the bow just right later in the week.  Until then, I’ll practice shooting dots on an indoor range.

Ranked Number 1

The Georgia Archery Association has published the ranking of archers for the State for 2018.  I finished in the top spot.

No, I was not the only athlete in my division. (I can sense sarcasm over the Internet)

There are a whole lot of Georgia archers in the 60 age group. Believe me, those guys that have been shooting for 40 or more years are not going to miss often. Great competition improves everyone’s game. I’m lucky to live in an area where there are so many top facilities, archers and coaches. Thanks, y’all!

Ranked #1

Distractions

Two scores – vastly different.  Each practice was against a Vegas style 3-spot scoring the inner ten.  There was a drop of 4.12% between the scores. One day resulted in 42 tens, the next 21 tens.  That’s huge drop. What happened?

Day one the good day – zero distractions to take away from archery.  Day two – music, a timer, and a break to play with dogs.  Although, the dogs aren’t much of a distraction, they’re good dogs and mostly remain quiet during shooting. The music and the timer, well that’s another matter.

During USA Archery tournaments there is music and a timer.  Without a doubt both can be distractions.  A good song comes over the air and it floats through your head.  You glance at the timer to see you first two shots took longer than usual or less time than usual.  It distracts.

Coaching tip

“Practice the way you compete,” says my coach Big John Chandler.  Adhering to that policy during many practices there will be music playing and a timer ticking. Both of these elements of competition are distractions until you learn that they’re not.

We know that there will be a distraction or two during competition.  If you don’t “Practice the way you compete” little things like a timer and music may impact competitive performance.

Dealing With a Poor Performance

In any sport athletes have good performances, better performances, and days they seem to be able to do nothing right.  Those poor performance days decrease as an athlete begins to excel in their sport. For the best athletes in any field a bad day can still seem amazing to most amateurs and fans.

It happens to everyone that toils away in hopes of perfection.  It happens across every disciple from sports to business.  Make a poor decision in business is can literally cost you.

One of my best friends is the CEO and President of a medical device company.  He has a personal policy that he never signs a contract when he is  sleepy, has had a drink or is angry.  It’s a good policy.  It helps avoid those bad day blunders.  He can hold off a bit signing a contract.  As an athlete, you’re not going to be able to push back a tournament, match, race or game because you may be sleepy or angry and certainly you’d not be competing with alcohol in your system.  But, sooner or later you’re going to mess up during competition.

Occasionally, we all find ourselves in a bind.  We’ve messed up a shot, botched a sprint, or struck out with bases loaded.  A friend of mine shared a lesson he learned from Jack Nicklaus, the golfer, of how he handles those moments where things don’t go as planned.

My friend, Tim Simpson, a senior golf pro that now plays the Champions Tour having aged though the PGF and other tours, shared what Nicklaus had said.

Tim at the 2009 Senior Pro Tour

Nicklaus was being interviewed by ESPN along with Simpson.  He said, “I know I’ll have an occasional bogey. What matters is how I play through it.”

Last year I watched a top archer do poorly on a 3D target during an important tournament.  It was a totally screwed up shot. Until that point he was leading.  After that target he’d dropped out of the money.

He moved on to the final six targets landing six 11s in a row. Another archer commented, “Man, that is the best recovery I’ve ever seen.”

The recovered archer didn’t win; the error had been too great among a strong field.  He ended up third by one point. But, that final run of perfection was amazing to witness.  Had the poor shot gotten deeply into his head, well he could have easily found himself off the podium.

Know that as an athlete you’ll have sporting moments that might be the equivalent of  “brain farts.”  There will also be times when you’ll come through an event golden.  Along the away, you’ll need to learn to work though those “brain farts”. As you improve you’ll see that those “farts” aren’t as smelly was they once were.

What Me Worry?

The range was pretty full of people practicing.  People were filing in to prepare for the big Lancaster tournament up in Pennsylvania. There were occasional bursts of profanities as shots got away from the archer aiming for perfection.  Coaches were coaching students about nerves, remaining calm, and not worrying what other people think.

Coaching Tip

What other people think? Does anyone worry about that? Sure they do and it a pretty dumb thing to worry about.  First of all, if you are worried about what it is other folks are thinking about you know this – those other people are not thinking about you unless you’re one of the super stars other people are paying to watch.  Since nobody pays to watch archery, you’re probably in the clear when it comes to other people watching you. Secondly, if someone happens to be watching you shoot, you’ll never know it.  Your back is to the audience.

Of all the thoughts that will go through your mind when shooting a bow, the thought that someone is watching you really is the least worry among all the worries that you don’t need to worry about.

Win It All – At Least Knowing The Numbers Creates a Goal to Win it All

18-meter practice over the past eight weeks has been an up and down business. It feels mostly down because I hit a peak early on in a six-weeks cycle.  Naturally, going into the final two indoor tournaments of 2018 I was rolling around in the mire of a down turn in performance.  Still I won one of them.  The second, competing against the 21-49 year old men, it was all I could do not to embarrass myself.  Nevertheless, I finished respectably and used the tournament for an “educational” session.

For 2019 I am still working out in which tournaments to compete and the goals for those events and the year.  I keep coming up with an all-encompassing goal of ‘win everything.’  While it might sound brash the data suggests it might be possible.  So, why not have the foremost goal for 2019 to win everything.

2019 has major tournaments early in the year with two state championships in February.  In 2018 January and February were moving months.  For eight weeks I barely got in any practice.  The lack of training showed up with three consecutive second places.  Once I got back to practice things improved and I won the next three State Championships setting a record in one.  Then, I took a second place, at the Georgia Cup, competing against a younger crowd (thanks, Paul – he knows what I’m writing about).  Few more wins and a few more seconds, the younger guys still knocking me down after the Georgia Cup.

So, why would I have a goal to win everything?  It is because my data suggests that’s possible.

Here’s an explanation for 18-meters: In 2017 the top two places in my age group for the indoor Nationals finished with scores of 1155 and 1154.  Over the past eight weeks my lowest two scores totaled 1130 – not so good.  My highest two-day score is 1183 – a winning combination.  During this eight weeks cycle my average score for two-days is 1150, one point above the 2017 3rdplace finisher.  But, when I delete scores associated with a new release, new arrows, changes in stabilizers the average score is 1156. 1156 isn’t the best score; it is an average without variables that impact performance. It also places me one point up over the prior winning score.

You might think that 1150 is the likely finishing point puts me outside of a first place finish. You’d be correct.  The lowest two-day scores of 1130 knock me way down the line. That would place me in 9thplace.

Here’s the thing, a goal must be established.  The overall goal of winning it all is then broken down to achieve specifics in form, training cycles, and 30 arrow quantitative scores.  In each of those elements I am currently below my 2019 goal.  Now begins the cycle to work toward achieving each element of each goal.  When I do that, well I’ll win.

Done with 2018

The 2018 competitive season is over for archery. 2019 is just around the corner.

I didn’t get to compete as often or where I’d planned when I’d first laid out the 2018 season on paper.  But, I did achieve one major goal – I finally made it back home to Georgia.

2018 turned into a hodge-podge of events.  There were constant adjustments to practice and competition to meet the requirement of our relocation. I competed is all sorts of tournaments in age groups from the Senior (21-49), Master (50 – 59) and Master (60-69).  I ended up winning six, taking second five times, and got a third and forth place finish.  I set one state record and earned, for the first time, a bunch of USA Archery pins (I hadn’t done the USA Archery pin thing before 2018)

Those events were in  just about everything from 18-meter indoor, 50-meter outdoor, 3D and FITA Target. As entertaining 2018 was it was a bit chaotic trying to figure out how to prepare for the variety of events. Still, it turned out okay.

Oh,  I ran through three pair of running shoes in 2018.  These Newtons (in the photo below) are the last to go on December 28th. (I only did two races in 2018, both 5Ks.  I won one and got third in the other.)

So long old friends

When Competition Becomes a Learning Exercise

It was a local fundraiser.  The drive to the indoor 3-spot tournament was less than 30 minutes from our home in Good Hope, Georgia.  It was held in one of my favorite towns, Madison, Georgia. The ‘turn out’ was excellent and the range was filled with archers.  My bow seemed to be back in order after a new string, re-tuning and checked for every possible malady. My last practice had been a good one.  It seemed the planets were aligned for a good score.

One of the many restored antebellum homes
Morgan County Court House in Madison, GA

Madison, Georgia is a beautiful historic Southern town.  It is one of the major historic attractions in the Peach State with around 100 antebellum homes that have been restored.  When we moved back to Georgia it is one of the towns we searched for a home.  In fact we found one, however it was in the city limits and there is a law against shooting a bow within city limits.  Had that not been the case, we’d have likely ended up living in a restored home.  We didn’t and archers will understand the decision not to settle there. Madison is close enough to where we ended up building that we can visit on the spur of the moment.

Downtown

The tournament was held in the new Morgan County High School gymnasium. Arriving an hour early I was lucky to have gotten a parking place that wasn’t a half of a mile away. At first I thought I’d gotten my information wrong – there seemed to be too many cars. But, no the morning line was packed full, as were the bleachers.

Ready for Christmas

The Morgan County high school gym in no way compared to my high school’s gym.  This modern gym was more like what I’d experienced in college.  Not all the bleachers were open. The upper bleachers behind the line were packed with friends and family that had come to watch the tournament.

Obviously, the bleachers down range are empty

The target of the day was a 3-spot.  I’ve been practicing against a 3-spot for over a month.  While my scores have been mimicking the Stock Market, my more recent practices had diverged and begun to rise. I knew I’d be shooting against some good archers in the 21-49 year old age group.  I felt ready, and I was for a while.

My first twelve arrows had all been smack in the center.  Number 13 followed suit, as did arrow 14.  At full draw on the third arrow of the end, with 40 seconds on the clock the whistle sounded. Three blows of the whistle.  It wasn’t time to pull arrows.  Did something happen and the next two blasts got halted due to some injury?  No one knew.  We all stopped shooting.

Looking down the line at the judge he made no comment of gesture.  Everyone waited.  Then, we waited some more.  The clock was down to 26 seconds, 25, 24, 23 – people began shooting.

Not me. I was worried.  Whatever had happened something was wrong or had gone wrong. Ten seconds.  I looked toward a friend on the line and he  shrugged and said, “Just shoot.” Eight seconds.  I shot with 1 second remaining.  Eight.

I knew I was now out of it.  An eight against these archers meant I was now on the range for practice.  For a flash I considered packing my gear and heading home I was so disappointed.  I didn’t, I stayed and worked though the 8.

I don’t know if the whistle hadn’t have incorrectly sounded whether or not the day would have gone better.  I expect it would have been better.  What it did do was provide a teaching moment, albeit a rare one.  Still, having a major distraction and getting through it was good practice.

Coaching tip

In any competition things outside of your control can happen. An athlete needs to be prepared to deal with the distraction, block it and move forward. I doubt I’ll have this sort of mistake happen a second time.  If it does, I’ll be better prepared.

An Impressive Younger Crowd of Archers

When I compete or practice in a group I am generally the oldest person in the crowd.  This is especially true during indoor practice or league shoots. Heck, while practicing at the local indoor range, I’m older than the parents that have driven their children to train.

At large events there will be people my age and older. During an outdoor competition last summer there were a couple of archers in the 70’s. Excluding league events where there are no age divisions, I’ve shot in 12 tournaments so far this year.  Of those I competed in my age group six times and in younger divisions six times.

In the senior division (the younger group), I won 3 times, got two second places, and one third.  In the masters (my age group) I won twice, got three seconds and a fourth. You’d think I had a slight edge against the younger fellas but the bulk of the loses came during the time we were moving and my practice wasn’t great.

Being the oldest person in a crowd is a bit weird.  There’s very little common ground for conversation.  Most of the people I routinely see on the range are more concerned with getting a drivers license, turning 18 so they can move out of their parents’ home, or where they’ve applied to college.  On the other hand, I worry about my portfolio, trade wars, and what my grandchildren are going to break next. (Either bone or property, I never know)

What strikes me most of the youngest sub-section of the group I see most often and shoot against on a weekly basics is the overall high degree of good manners and respectfulness of others they exhibit. There average age is 17 with a range of 15 to 22 years old. Each of them would make their parents proud.

They also make their coach proud.*  As a group they have a 70% win rate at tournaments.  Not just the local events, but national and international competitions. While taking a break on the range yesterday I was flipping though an archery magazine and there on the pages was one of the archers, highlighted for winning at a World Championship.

Here’s the competitive frustration about shooting with and against them – missing one X takes you out of the money on league nights.  A nine among this crowd doesn’t cut it.

It’s fun to shoot with this group.  But, I wonder, after some of them leave for college, get roommates, cars, and jobs will their performance falter.  For a few yes, the writing is already on the wall.  For others, will their future hold decades of shooting that provides an income to exceed that of those that sought a more traditional route to self sustainment? Probably.

  • There coach, Big John Chandler is a USA Level 4 NTS Coach.