If You Don’t Monitor You Can’t Manage: A Useful Journal

When I retired I’d planned to put all my athletic efforts into the endurance sports I’d enjoyed my entire life.  Those competitions are hard on the body and pocket book.  By chance I was given a bow that new priced at $78.00.  After a week of playing with that toy bow I wanted a better bow and I wanted to get better as an archer.

One of the focal points for me is in sport is data.  Naturally I began collecting data on my practice and performance shooting a bow.  I still collect and review my data.

The data I collect helps me monitor progress, find areas that need work, and suggests how to set goals.  It has further allowed me to create scholastic works based on talent transfer.

All top athletes monitor their work.  The data for professional athletes and the systems used to gather input have become extremely sophisticated. From chips in football shoulder pads to invisible grids on a basketball court we know more about today’s athletes than ever before.

Archery hasn’t yet been overwhelmed with gizmos promising immediate improvement.  Still, you can find plenty of ‘tech’ on which you can spend your cash hoping to gain an edge shooting arrows.

Archery has been around for a much longer time than any hot new gizmos promising improved shooting performance.  People have been shooting bows since around 20,000 BC.  Early bows weren’t used for sport, they were tools for hunting and warfare. (1) Successful archery was an easy measurement – you ate and you lived.

Archery as a sport had its first recreational competition of modern time in 1583 England. (1) It is also known that Mongols held archery competitions during gatherings before the English: 1194 – 1195. (2) Amazing, data from the Mongolian tournament exists today. The Mongolian archers were warriors, whereas in Britain in the 1500s over 3000 archers competed for pleasure.

Keeping your archery data is important should you want to be a competitive archer.  My friend Robbie Surface, also an archery coach, has designed two journals for archers to record their data.  One journal is designed for 3D the other for target archery. He gave me one, a target style, to try.

First, the journal is narrow enough to slip into my quiver.  If it didn’t fit I’d probably have it lost before too long. The journal contains 100 pages for data entry.  There are entry fields to record practice or tournament specifics.

Aside from points per arrow fields there is an area for Mental Game and Shot Execution.  For me, I use a simple numeric recording for both entries.  While my short hand means something to me it will be meaningless to others.  You can create any notation or system that works for you in these two fields. (3)

I’ve been using my journal, thanks to Robbie, since he gave me one to try.  It is a useful tool and easy to understand – surpassing expensive gizmos that remain on a shelf after the novelty dies.

You can view his journals, target and 3D, online where they are available for purchase at:

https://www.archeryjournals.com

If you don’t monitor you can’t manage.

Reference:

(1) https://worldarchery.org/History-Archery

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mongol_bow

(3) https://www.archeryjournals.com

Just Because I Know Doesn’t Mean I’ll Get it Right

Weeks ago my arrows began landing all over the target.  During the State 18-meter indoor championship I shot my lowest score ‘ever’ when scoring the inner 10 ring.  In the USA Archery Indoor National Championship I earned my lowest score ever at that level of competition.

It all began at the State 25-meter championship.  Throughout the tournament my groups expanded.  From there it has been all downhill.  Sort of reminds me of the recent drop in a coronavirus stock market retreat.  Like the money that is sliding away from my retirement reserves – easy come easy go.

Unlike financial matters where all my eggs aren’t in one basket, in an archery tournament there aren’t any cushions.  With a missed shot in archery there’s no coming back – those points are gone forever.

In an archery tournament, for example a 3-spot with a maximum score of 600 for a day, everyone starts out with 600 points.  Each miss and points are lost.  If an investor has 600 bucks in the stock market and it drops 3% that 600 bucks becomes 582 bucks.  That investor might be able to wait a while and that 3% drop could become a 5% gain or up to 611 bucks.  No such luck in archery.

Or you could consider everyone begins an archery tournament with zero points (which is how it is done) and the better capitalists on the line end up with more points.  Those points are earned with a cool head and wise shot placement investments.   In any of the scenarios my maximal yields have been hurting.

On the second day of the USA Indoor Nationals my score plummeted into the abyss and a crappy performance reigned supreme.  Then, I felt a little something and thought “Oh?”  It wasn’t quite  clear what I felt hence the “Oh?’.  Not pain, good Lord at 65 I don’t want an old geezer orthopedic collapse.  The “Oh” was a general familiarization of malformed form.  I couldn’t see it or identify the problem.  But it was there.

I’d like to report that there was divine intervention and from the ‘Oh’ moment forward I landed all tens.  Alas, that is a report I can’t honestly deliver.

The other day at practice “Big John” one of the coaches at Ace declared as I dropped another shot that it was, “A lazy old man shot.”  Then Steve, another coach at ACE, a day or so later, pointed out the same error.  Being a slow learner it has taken weeks to discover what that ‘Oh’ meant.  Big John and Steve both recognized the error immediately. Now I know.  I knew before.  I did it anyway. Heck, if I’d been coaching me and not being me shooting I’d have seen it as well. What was happening in my head was not translating to my body.

I didn’t make the error as often while practicing today at Ace in Social Circle. Today the arrows landed mostly in the center of the target.  I made a effort to listen and do what both coaches had offered. The practice ended up producing my 4th highest X count on a 5-spot.  It felt good.  Now, I just need to remember to do what the coaches have coached.  Much easier said than done.

Slow Down

Over the past month the exercises in my training plan have all been those associated with starting from the beginning.  Weeks were spent shooting at targets 11 yards away.  Then, those targets moved to 15 yards, 17 yards and finally 20 yards.  Each move occurring after scores had reached an acceptable level.  Each arrow was judged not on the score rather whether or not the shot had occurred properly.

Admittedly 100% proper form was not achieved.  At 11 yards the arrow might land in an X but the form may still have been off.  The further back the more pronounced a poorly formed shot scored. With an indoor State Championship less than three weeks away 18 meters is the distance of focus.

Rushing shots or depending on luck are not methods for consistent scoring.  Both of those bad methods to shoot remain in my quiver.  They are hard habits to break.

Two things hamper shooting: rushing the shot and slamming off an arrow hoping for a bit of luck.  We’ve all been lucky a time or two.  On the other hand that luck isn’t always good.

A friend and early coach once told me, “Get one arrow, shoot it, retrieve it and shoot it again – one arrow at a time.” Boring!  Shooting arrows is fun, if it weren’t archers would probably become runners. (I know you are unlikely to run unless you’re being chased – that was a joke.)

I took the advice after years of avoiding the one at a time practice.  I held in the game for 15 arrows from 18 meters before I broke.  It was a boring as I’d imagined.  (I considered going for a run at arrow 10)

Off to a goot start
Okay, one 9 and one 10 the rest Xs

The practice did make me slow down and focus on just one arrow at a time.  The results were painfully good.  It taught me that if I slow down I shoot pretty good. Hopefully, once was enough although I doubt it.

It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

I’ve watched an archer blow a shot early in a tournament and mentally quit.  He’s an excellent archer who rarely misses.  But, for a while, when he did blow a shot he mentally shut down.

His coach was aware of the problem and worked with the archer until he learned to move past those moments of internal anger that were causing him to give up.  Oh, for clarification the miss that might have caused his mental collapse was a 9.

There’s another fellow that I’ve frequently shot against that will nearly always make a bad shot.  His error would make a 9 (a missed 10) seem minor (which it is).  He will make the error; laugh about it, then won’t make another mistake.

Shooting arrows leads to misses.  Shooting a perfect score against a vertical 3-spot (compound bow inner 10) at 18-meters remains uncommon, although it has occurred.  Imagine you are competing at 18-meters, you’ve shot 32 tens then you land a nine. *

Coaching tip

You can let that 9 ruin your day or you can blow it off and shoot 27 more tens.  Know that  everybody will make a mistake.  What will matter to you is how you recover from your mistake.   That archer next to you may be having a better day or not.  You don’t know and you can’t do anything about that athlete.  You can do something about you and remember it’s not over until it’s over.

*My guess is that if you’ve shot 32 tens in a row you already are at a point in your practice and competition where you knew all of what I just wrote.  For those of you who still throw out 8s or less, don’t worry about them.  Regroup and fire off some more 10s.

Run Around and Run Around

Athletes run.

I’m a pretty good archer.  I’m a better cyclist and better runner.  Since beginning archery cycling and running have been adjuncts to archery training. Since beginning archery I’ve better at archery and less good running and cycling.

Certainly, I do not log the miles running and cycling I did before shooting arrows. Nevertheless, I run almost every day and ride up to 6 times a week.  But, I do both to stay fit for archery.

Now, you may be 25 years old and don’t yet see the reason to do either in order to shoot a bow well.  Hear me now and believe me later, your youthful fitness will not last unless  you work to keep it. If you don’t use it you lose it.

If I am going to miss one of the two, running or cycling, during a day it will be cycling.  Running is a demand by River, my lab.  She will herd me out the door.

Nice way to begin a morning – trail running
On a trail with River whose spotted something to chase

River is 9 years old and runs as well as she did at 2.  We run trails, which avoid traffic.  We both enjoy it.

Running can pay back in archery tournaments.  Those long hours standing on a range are rough.  There are times I’d rather have been running rather than standing and slowly walking for three and a half to four hours.

If you head out early enough you can catch some nice views

Archery over long periods of time takes a mental toll.  As you fatigue from a lack of fitness mental mistakes are more prone to appear.  Running can improve your fitness and may reduce the possibly of an error that is associated with being physically drained.

Peaks and Valleys

In every sport with every athlete there are peaks and valleys in performance.  In archery there are times when it seems easy to find the X.  There are times with arrows seem to circle the X just missing.  It can be frustrating.

Maintaining a log of data you can review your peaks and valleys.  Over time, with consistent practice, those gaps between highs and lows diminish.  The gap remains, only the intervals between them narrow.

When you begin entering a slump pause to evaluate what has changed?  Is it fatigue or over training?  Is your form slipping?  Is your mind elsewhere?  Did anything drift with your equipment?

The answer to a dip in performance may make itself obvious.  Sometimes having your coach watch you practice and that extra set of eyes may notice something amiss in your process you’ve overlooked.

If you don’t have a coach at hand try something different.  An easy approach to helping discover what is wrong is simply changing your release.  If you have two different releases they’ll activate slightly different. The change may help you keep or regain your edge.

If you’re over training take a break.  You should have recovery days planned within your training plan.

If all else fails check your gear.  Things can shift with a bow.  Cumulative incremental shifts can add up.

Expect that all days aren’t the same. But, you can work through anything.

“You’re in pretty good shape for the shape you are in.”

That’s about the size of it.  Dr. Suess couldn’t have said it any better had he been a spectator at an archery tournament.

Archers are not the most fit of athletes.  Oh sure, archers can stand real still.  That alone is a skill.  But, as a long tournament wears on that standing still part becomes less still. Being fit can help you sustain the still focus you need for archery.

USA Archery sent out the first edition of the Athletes Development Model.  In it the authors break down age groups.  When the model reaches the 15 – 17 year old age group the instructions includes: Training will include mental, strength, cardiovascular and coordination training.  They further suggest strength training along with nutrition training.

That remains a theme for athletes until the age of 60 where they drop the strength, cardiovascular and change it to – May include light strength and coordination training.

Here me now and believe me later, if you are over 50 and are not doing any resistance training like lifting weights you are going to lose muscle mass.  If you’re over 60 and have neglected cardiovascular training you’ll be in for a surprise should you start.

You don’t need to be a lean cardio machine to be good at archery. However, being fit at a young age and hanging onto that fitness can pay dividends as you age. 
Even if you’ve never held onto any general fitness working to improve your health through fitness training is a good thing.

Give a Dog a Bone

River has a serious problem leaving me alone while I’m trying to practice archery. She’d much rather I played stick, chase, or run with her.  So, self-centered. If she is given a bone, I am entirely forgotten. Until the bone is gone.

Oh, River is gong to run
You can see the yellow signs now posted on either side of this trail

It isn’t like she’s been ignored all day.  After breakfast we run for a few miles.  We avoid busy roads running mostly over trails in the woods we own and along the easement of nearby property.  Until recently we cut through undeveloped land filled with trails. Those paths are now unavailable because a couple of guys think they’ll shoot deer on that land.

This truly sucks – but alternate paths remain available

During archery practice, River needs to stay calm.  She’s not too bad so long as I toss a stick between ends.  If I fail to comply all barking will break loose. Sticks do the trick for a bit.  A bone is better.

During practice I play music using my phone to help simulate the noise at a tournament

Running is part of my archery training.  Being in as good of condition as I can I believe helps during long tournaments.  If you compete you know you’ll be on your feet for hours. There’s a lot of walking involved.

At 50 meters and 30 meters I practice on two targets to save arrows. The orange flags are distances measured using a tape measure rather than a range finder. These are set at 5 yard increments from 20 to 100 yards.

The tournament this weekend is one where my age group will shoot: 70 meters, 60, meters, 50 meters and 30 meters.  At each distance there are 36 arrows shot in 6 arrow ends. This works out to a total of 1.75 miles of walking back and forth.  Here’s how I got that it:

Overall fitness is a bonus for archers

70 meters is @ 77 yards.  Round trip to the target is 154 yards.  There are 6 ends and 2 “Official” warm up ends.  That means 8 round trips of 154 yards or 1232 yards.  At 60 meters, or 66 yards, the total is 792 (6 ends only – no practice, same for the other two distances), 50 meters, 55 yards or 660 yards, and finally 30 meters, 33 yards, for 396 a total of 3080.  The sum of the distances in miles is 1.75.

That isn’t all  –  you’ll end up adding another 800+ yards per day walking to and from the car, to registration, visiting friends and firing off “unofficial” practice arrows.  The total walked is going to be closer to 2.66 miles.  Not far to walk unless you never walk a lot. This can be especially taxing when the temperature is expected to reach the upper 90’s while you’re walking back and forth and trying to hit a target with an arrow in between the hiking. Running can help reduce the impact of being unconditioned in such a situation. So, River and I run.

Putting 6 arrows in the center of an 80 cm target will ruin them. It has to be done in competition, at practice using multiple targets can save vanes, nocks, and arrows that are occasionally Robin Hooded
Give that dog a bone

River is a great running partner.  Afterwards, during archery practice she’s often times less than an idea spectator. Give that dog a bone.

“You have received a green light from the third party background screening vendor”

USA Archery coaches must have a background screening completed every couple of years.  The coaches, of course, must pay for the check.  Mine came due a few weeks ago.  I paid my fee, someone checked me out and from USA Archery sent this email:  “We are pleased to inform you that your background screening has been successfully processed. You have received a green light from the third party background screening vendor, SSCI.”

I suppose the other coaches involved with sports under the USOC guidelines must do the same, but I don’t know.

Coaches also have to take and complete all sorts of courses aimed at keeping athletes safe.  Those too, for me, came due.  I spent an afternoon completing the courses and taking the exams.  It is part of the “Safe Sport” program.  There is no fee associated with those courses.

The background screening and “Safe Sport” programs are necessary to stay active as a coach.  I’m a level 3 NTS coach.  There’s a level 4 being taught in Statesboro, Georgia.  For that I’m on the wait list.  Another Level 4 is open, but it is in California.

When I started this archery experiment it was based in part on talent transfer.  One of the goals was to achieve a specific level of skill comparable to cycling or triathlon.  I have reached that point. There are four other goals: One to win a National Championship, two win a World Championship and three to earn a pre-set amount of money through the sport.

There are three areas where I’d like to achieve a pre-set financial target through archery are: Shooting, coaching, and this website.  If I wasn’t retired from my prior career this would definitely have been put in a holding pattern or more likely have never gotten off the ground. Fortunately, I’m in a position where I can continue the experiment. Along the way I’ll have to move forward with the coaching potential, keep writing, and continue to practice.

Building Your Training Program

Each of you has a level of training, or a workload, that will maximize your performance.  Finding it is a trick.

There’s an excellent archer, multi-time World Champion, who practices archery for an hour per day.  Another famous archer, a great 3D shooter, says he shoots 30 arrows per day. He claims he shoots 30 perfect shots a day and puts his bow down.  I suppose that can work in 3D were 30 arrows per day might be physically enough.  However, that might not be enough if you need to shoot over 100 arrows a day.  There’s another top dog archer that says you can’t practice enough.  For each of them, their training seems to work.  They’ve won a lot of tournaments.

For the remainder of us we might need a more formal approach.  An hour a day, 30 arrows a day or shoot all day isn’t, in general, a set of rules to train by.

Most archers are not making a living as a professional athlete.  A few are and only a few.  This is true for most sports and most athletes.  The bulk of athletes have a day job – including most “Professional” archers. As such, your time is limited and valuable.  So, your training needs to be planned.

Showing up at a range whenever you get a chance is fun.  It is unlikely to land you on many podiums.  If your goal is a good time you can achieve that goal.  If your goal is to be a State, National or World Champion your training will require more than having a break in your schedule to go shoot.  The question will ultimately be how bad do you want it and what are you willing to give up to get it.

You may be able to create your own training plan.  Many if not most amateur athletes are self-coached.  Even if you are a ‘pro’ you may be self-coached. Should you find yourself struggling let me help.  No – my help is not Pro Bono and not for everyone. There’s also a limit to how many I can coach.

If you are in need of help forming a personalized and physiologically founded training program for archery send me an email at: Dlain117@yahoo.com.