Breaking Up Practice

Seventy meters is a pretty long shot. The next “A” tournament for me will have 36 of the 144 arrows fired from 70 meters. I could shoot senior rather than masters and get to shoot from 90 meters. I don’t have a lane cut through my property to accommodate 90-meter practice. I also don’t think 90-meters is a distance I’d want to shoot at a target that I’d not practiced often. So, I’ll practice at 70 meters and compete as a master.

In designing a training plan for developing comfort at 70 meters I used a 40 cm indoor target. The center ten ring is dime sized on that paper. It’s a small target. In fact, my scope’s dot covers the yellow rings when aiming at it from 70 meters.

After shooting about 1500 arrows at that small target I rolled out the big boy, 122 cm and practiced against it. The yellow ring seems large on that monster.

70 meters is a haul

Shooting 70 meters takes longer than practicing at 20 meters. It takes longer for the arrows to reach the target and longer to retrieve them before the next end. After a few days of this I decided to break up the routine.

What I did was move to 20 meters. I didn’t change from outdoor arrows to indoor. The diameter difference would mean I’d need to adjust my arrow rest to use indoor arrows. I didn’t want to fool with all of those mechanics. I did want to know how I’d score using skinny arrows at 20 meters and compare it to last year’s indoor scores using wide body arrows.

I’d done this last week at an evening indoor league shoot. For the same reasons mentioned above I didn’t switch arrows – laziness. I didn’t shoot all that well. The excuse I’m offering is that I was fatigued from the two previous practices of the day. I also wanted to see if that excuse held water. If it did, perhaps I’ll use it again.

The excuse didn’t hold a lot of water. I did shoot better during the practice at the 20-meter distance using the skinny arrows at home. The score was 12 points in favor of the less fatigued effort. Hey, 12 points is a lot at indoor distances, so maybe a little water is retained. The watered down excuse has been cataloged for future application.

The “little” target (pinned to the bag) is what I’ve been shooting for 70 meter practice. The 3-spot verticals where left-over targets I had in my garage and used for 20 meters. The big boy is the 70 meter sized target.

The bonus is that by breaking up the long distance practice I created a fun game for myself. Practicing archery alone two times a day, for 1 to 4 hours per session takes perseverance. Breaking up those sessions, while remaining focused on the next major event, can help keep the mind fresh.

Morning 3D Practice

Mornings are typically used for target practice. The afternoons are set aside for 3D practice. The reason is I am more tired in the afternoon and my 3D bow, an Elite 35, is lighter than my target bow, an Elite Victory 37.

My Elite 35 set up for bow hunter shooting class

Usually, in the morning I practice for a few hours and shoot 100 to 150 arrows depending on the distance. I try to be on the range by 8:00 AM, after morning exercise. I’ll stop shooting between 10:30 and 11:00 AM. By then, I am ready for a break and lunch.

After a break and lunch (and a short nap of 20 to 30 minutes), I try to do whatever chores need to be done, ride a bike, and prepare for afternoon archery practice. Two days a week I head to the gym rather than do chores. Sometimes it is good to change things up a bit.

Deer, down this lane bordered by trees at 27 yards

Today, I planned a 3D simulation of a tournament, ASA style. My goal was to not miss a 10-ring and get 12’s when I could. Shooting a bow hunter rig, I planned to make the distances as realistic to what I’ve been seeing in local tournaments. My relocation to Georgia and kept me away from the major 3D tournaments for 2018. (Moving is a lot of work)

A mosquito is a tough shot at 20 yards, I count the center X as a 12 on this target

Locally, I’ve faced a lot of long shots. On my range I have a lot of smaller targets. On those, I didn’t go crazy and try to shoot a rabbit at 40 yards for this practice session. I shot it at 20, a realistic distance should a smaller target happen to be placed on a range at a local event. The exception was a javelina that I shot from 36 yards, a distance that isn’t unexpected for this smaller target.

Javelina at 36 yards

Out of curiosity, I wore a Garmin and recorded the distance I walked, it was 1.02 miles. That included walking while I warmed up. Warm-up was shooting six arrows at a bag from 20, 25, 30, and 35 yards. At 40 yards I shot 12 arrows for a total warm-up of 36 shots.

This “off-brand” less expensive bear shot from 38 yards

It took I hour and 45 minutes to finish the practice, less time than usual for the morning routine. But, it helped me see where I am weak.

I didn’t shoot par. I shot a three 8s and one 12 to finish with a 196 (twenty targets). The average distance for all targets was 29.5 yards. The eights were no surprise.

Another bear, this one at 35 yards

The first was a hen. She’s a tough target at 27 yards. The dark hole where she sits makes finding the small rings difficult. The second was a small pig at 32 yards and the third was the javelina at 36 yards. Both the small pig and javelina are positioned at angles to the stake. The up and down was fine, but in each case I shot a little wider than I should have. From this practice I know these targets need extra attention.

There’s a mountain lion at the end of this 40 yard long lane

It’s good to simulate a tournament to get an idea where you might need some extra work. Shooting ego-easy distances and targets won’t be much help when you’re faced with tough shots on an unknown range.

All Practices Are Not Equal

Coaching tip

When I raced bicycles there was a group I trained with. Among that group of cyclists were Olympians, World Champions, and State Champions. There were hard rides and harder rides. Yes, each rider had his or her recovery time based on his or her race calendar. But, when the group gathered for a training ride it was going to be a tough one.

Thi s wasn’t training, it was a race. It, too, hurt.

Being around and training with such a group of elite cyclists you either got better or got dropped. There were days when it hurt so badly it took every bit of effort not to get dropped. There were other days when you felt no pain.

Archery doesn’t cause the same physical pain. Still there are practice sessions where it seems all you can see is red; no arrow finding it’s way to yellow. There is also some pain. Mentally you are exhausted by your arrows circling the ten ring creating an outline on the red. Your arm, after about 60 arrows is beginning to feel the weight of the bow. By arrow 100 that arm is screaming. That is until you become comfortable handling 120 arrows during a single practice session.

Over and over and over, again

Still, you have to shoot through the missed marks. You become comfortable holding a bow and aiming at 200 arrows. Those wayward arrows that landed in the red are becoming less stubborn and finding yellow.

Then, you find that group of archers that as a rule have better shooters than you. Practicing with them you find that you have to improve or you get dropped.

 

 

Your Mental Game

On the range I overheard a fellow taking about motivational lectures. Another was saying that he could shoot 30 tens in a row (small X) if he could get his head into the game. Both were practicing. Both were off the mark.

I have a number of friends that have competed in the Olympics. A few of the have multiple Gold medals and others have Silver and Bronze. One has a Gold and Silver medal. I’ve also trained with World Champion triathletes and cyclists.

In each of their respected sport disciplines they all had one thing in common – years of hard work. Sure there are outliers that make an Olympic Team or make it to the World Championships with less work that others, but as a rule it takes time to develop as an athlete.

On the other hand I know folks that have read all the books, listened to the audio presentations, attended the seminars and done all manner of mental preparation for a sports event and failed to achieve the glory held in their head.

Certainly, there is a mental aspect to being the best in any sport. At some level all the top athletes are extremely well suited physically to win. This is easily observable during individual sport events.

Getting back to the two guys in the range. I watched them shoot and heard their excuses. During my practice they came in, shot, missed, shot some more, missed some more and left. Neither shot more than 30 arrows. Both were convinced their mind wasn’t on the game. Maybe.

I look at it like this, “If you want to shoot all X’s, you have to shoot all X’s” and that doesn’t come from 30 arrows in practice 4 to 5 times a week.

On the range, that day, there was a 3-spot target that had been shot and left pinned to the backstop. It had been shot 30 times. All but 6 arrows had hit the X, the 6 that missed where nines just off the line. I asked a friend who had shot that target. He told me and I’ve heard that archer say he shoots about 200 arrows a day (compound bow). That is a lot of physical practice.

Shooting a couple of hundred arrows per day takes a good bit of time. Not everyone has two to four hours free to shoot his or her bow everyday. Not everyone will end up as an Olympian or competitor at a World Championship.

You may believe that because you’ve read or heard a speaker claim it is your brain that controls everything and that limited physical practice can compensated by seeing yourself the victor. If you are a Jedi Knight, maybe. But, even Jedi Knights practice their art for decades before being able to pull off a bit of magic.

There is no magic to becoming a skilled archer. It takes practice and a lot of practice. If you put in the hours to earn the skill you can become one of the elite performers in this sport. At that point your mental game may be what separates you from the next elite on the line.

You Gotta Know When to Hold ‘Em

Wednesday is hump day. On Wednesday, I was feeling it.

A typical day of training for me goes like this:

First thing in the morning I stretch. As we age we lose our flexibility. I stretch to help prolong my flexibility. It is also a nice way to start the morning. Then, I have breakfast.

After breakfast I run. All my current running is spent on the trails behind my house. River, my lab, joins me. It is about a half an hour of spending quality time with River and getting in cardio. River really seems to enjoy running in the woods.

By the time this is done it is around 0730. I gather my archery gear along with my plan for the morning’s practice. Depending on what is planned the practice can be anywhere between 60 and 120 arrow shot. This takes about two to two and a half hours.

Practice at 55 yards and 70 yards

Between 1030 and 1100 it is break time. From 1100 to 1200 I have write (as I’m doing now) and have lunch. After lunch I take a short nap.

Two days a week (Monday and Thursday) I go to the gym. By 1430 I am headed out for a bicycle ride – more cardio. The cycling is a practice that happens five days a week. I ride for an hour.

At around 1600 I am back on the range for another one to two hours. That’s a lot of arrows – the finish of this morning’s practice 1080 arrows had shot in practice. I stopped a little early on this Wednesday. I was feeling a bit fatigued.

You need to be able to recognize when your body is tired. There are times to push through fatigue. There are also times when you need to listen to your body and ease up a bit.

Taking a break when your body calls for it may reduce the risk of an injury or developing a habit that is poor form.

How Much Do You Shoot Everyday?

It is a question I’ve been asked a lot, “How Much Do You Shoot Everyday?” I’ve asked it of others. Is there some magic number where if you fired off that magical number of arrows it would make you a champion is a set amount of time. There is not such a magical number outside the world of Harry Potter. Harry, of course, wouldn’t rely on an archer’s skill, he’d simple apply the magic.

Neither you nor I have that magic. We have to practice. So, how many arrows per day is a good goal?

One of my favorite answers refers to Olympic archers. The answer posted read that Olympic  archers shoot 5000 arrows per week. I doubt it. Here’s why,

5000 arrows per week comes to 833 arrows per day for a six-day week. I do not use a 7-day workweek for sports since there should be an allowance for recovery.

Assuming Olympians are on a 24-hour day allow 8 hours for sleep. Athletes that are sleep deprived don’t make for excellent performers. That leaves 16 hours. Among those sixteen hours three will be used up eating and other nutrition necessities (intake and output) leaving 13 hours. An hour of the day is used up for dressing, undressing, showering and other hygiene making a remainder of 12 hours.

If 100% of those 12 hours could be spent flinging arrows down range that would be 69.4 arrows per hour for 12 solid hours. That’s one arrow every 51.87 seconds for 60 minutes per hour at 12 hours non-stop. Once again, the number doesn’t pass the sniff test.

Realistically, setting a number of arrows isn’t the best way to frame practice. Your time available to practice is going to determine how many arrows you can shoot per day. If you’re lucky you have several hours of practice time available per day.

With whatever amount of time you have for practice build a plan for that session beforehand. On other words, don’t just show up at a range and start shooting. Be prepared with a specific practice plan. That way you can get the most of the time you have available.

To answer question – more can be better. Too many isn’t good. Too few are not enough.

Reviewing Practice

During practice it is a good idea to take notes. A small pad or folding piece of paper is adequate for making notes on shots.

Coaching Tip

I carry a small pad in my quiver on which to record my notes. Here is what I am reviewing from this mornings practice.

First off, today’s morning practice was a mock 3D tournament. This means, in ASA style, 20 targets. There are times when warm up isn’t possible, so to make this practice more complicated I did not take any warm-up shots.

The twenty targets included three bear, three pigs, three turkey, three deer, two javelina, two mountain lions, badger, mosquito, bobcat and a rabbit. All these targets are either small or medium sized.

All targets were shot without the benefit of a range finder. A range finder was used after the shot to compare its measured distance with the distance I selected for the target.

Notes from this morning

The final score was not overwhelming well – 181 or 9.05 points per target. I shot three 5s which need attention. The first 5 was a small black bear at 33 yards. The elevation was fine and the range finder was in agreement with the distance I’d judged. The problem – I rushed the shot and pulled the shot right. The next 5 was a badger at 28 yards (ranger finder 29 yards). The arrow was perfect right to left; I’d judged the yardage well. But, I’d had poor placement of my aim. I attributed this to the early morning lack of light and overcast sky. Perhaps, if I’d approached the shot more slowly I might have had a better score.

The worst 5 was on a target I typically hit in the 10 ring. This was a cinnamon bear at 32 yards. The error was a major, my worst mistake, judgment of distance. I shot it for 38 yards, it was only 32 yards.

I did have 3 twelves. One each on a javelina (26 yards), a deer (30 yards) and a small pig (32 yards.) The other scores were eight 10s and five 8s.

This afternoon I’ll go back to the range and shoot most of these targets again from 20 to 45 yards in 5-yard increments. The very small targets, bobcat and rabbit for example I’ll not shot from over 30 yards because their shooting lane isn’t long enough. But, my notes reveal where I need work. Without the notes I’d be guessing at areas where I need to improve.

Keeping notes doesn’t take much time and reviewing them for weaknesses then working on them is important to improving your scores.

Rushed Shots and Follow Through

There are excellent archers here in Georgia. Along with those experts are superior coaches. That’s not to suggest that in your neck of the woods there are less qualified coaches and less amazing shooters. Despite the quality there are occasional missteps by archers that seem highlighted during 3D competitions.

The top professionals do make these two mistakes; only not as often as archers who are not as proficient as professionals. These common errors are: rushed shots and lack of adequate follow through.

Coaching Tip

During practice these two errors don’t pop up so often. Yet, the archer that smacks all 10s, 12s or 11s (for IBO) on a foam animal while practicing can at times get caught making one or both of the errors when competing.

In competition you can reduce the likelihood of committing these two mistakes. Rest assured if you fall into the group of decent archers failing during a 3D tournament because you are rushing and dropping your follow through you are not unique.

You may be like many archers that study the form of great shooters. It is a good way to learn. Notice how calm they seem letting the shot happen then holding on the target long after the arrow is released. Next time you’re in competition watch how often less accomplished archers appear to rush a shot or shorten their follow through.

If you suspect you may be committing one or both of these errors work them out during practice. When you find yourself in competition relax and move through each shot deliberately. Take all the time you need (within the time limit) to find your best position on the target. Once you’ve made your shot hold on the target until you hear your arrow strike it. For some the follow through in this manner may seem exaggerated, but a longer time holding on the target during the follow through may buy you some points.

If you’ve practice working though these mistakes trust your training during competition.

USA Archery Level 2

This was a bit of effort. Classes, classroom tests, online courses with more tests and a background check.  Glad to have this complete.

If you live in the Athens, Georgia area and are looking to try archery or are already into the sport and would like some help give me a call.

https://www.teamusa.org/usa-archery/judges-and-coaches/coaches/usa-archery-coach-locator