Some Days I Get the Range Pretty Much to Myself

Typically, I practice archery at home. I’ve got a really nice range. The archery butts are a mess. But, a short walk versus and 30 minute drive to shoot at an indoor 18-meter range is a real pleasure.

When it is raining I’ll still shoot at home unless it is just too much. With Hurricane Michael bringing wind and rain I decided to make the drive to stay dry.

The range,at Social Circle Ace Hardware, is nice, has good lighting, the butts are in pretty good shape and arrows are easy to pull. There’s always a bit of friendly conversation from the pro-staff. It is a bit of a drive but the atmosphere makes up for the hour round trip loss of time.

All arrows shot from the same position.

It is usual to find a few other shooters at the range. The past two days, I’ve pretty much had the place to myself. Other archers came in, shot a few arrows and left. I don’t think anyone came in and practiced more than 15 minutes. They seemed to be simply checking out their equipment for hunting.

No matter, I was there for a good long time and got my money’s worth. Oh, that’s the other thing; at home I don’t have to pay an extra fee to practice. (It isn’t too pricey)

Hump Day

It’s Wednesday. Sunday was a recovery day. Since then I have an hour and a half of running, an hour of stretching, three hours of cycling, a trip to the gym, and nine and a half hours of archery practice under my belt.

Big Sky over a bicycle ride near Athens, GA

This morning we, River my lab, and I were practicing. Well, I was practicing and entertaining my canine companion between ends, which is mostly tossing sticks as I walk the 18-meters back and forth to pull arrows. River seemed to have more spring in her step than me.

River runs with me in the morning. She’s almost 9 and still has plenty of spring in her step.

Working toward an athletic goal is demanding. At times it can be grueling. The long-term effort needs to have breaks. Those breaks are periods for recovery. On Thursday we go on vacation. On this break I am not bringing a bow. I will, however, bring a mountain bike and running shoes.

The sun is coming up later as winter approaches and the air is cooler at 8:00 am in the morning.

The cycling will be easy active recovery rides. Running may turn out to be walking. For sure, after archery practice this afternoon I won’t pick up a bow for a week. If I carried one on the trip I would no doubt be tempted. But, I also know that rest is too important to take for granted. So, the bow will be left behind.

There’s a coaching tip in this post.

 

The Big Dot Versus the Little Dot

The big ten on a 3-spot has been a nine for a while. The little dot, which was once an X is now just a ten. Shooting an ego friendly 300 or 600 isn’t what it once was. In fact, it is gone.

I admit, I am as yet to feel the satisfaction of a 60X or even a big dot perfect score. But, Lord, I have come close on the old big ring ten. Through the first 10 ends this afternoon I’d dropped two. By the final arrow I’d dropped six, all by just a hair.

Against the small dot X, now just a ten, I finished the day with a 576. So many were so close. My goals are to shot on average 590 aiming at the small dot and 600 on the old big ten.  The misses are just so close.

Every Had One of Those Days

Ever had one of those days where everything seems to go right. In sport we say we’re in a zone. In the case of archery every shot feels great and every arrow lands in a 10 ring. You know, that day on the range where others stop shooting just to watch you place arrow after arrow in the exact same hole in the center of the X. Well, today for me it was not that day.

I’d started the morning practice fresh off of a scheduled rest day. Going into the break I’d been shooting well and was aiming for a personal best. Instead, I shot on par with scores from two years ago. Needless to say, when I enter this morning’s work into my 3-spot database it isn’t going to help with averages.

Looking forward to this afternoon’s practice

As bad as practice was this morning perhaps optimistic is how I’ll go into the afternoon practice.

Day Two of Short Shots

Short shot practice remains the order of the day.  Starting yesterday I began at 7 yards and worked to 12 yards.  I made it past the 12-yard increment with 60Xs. Fifteen yards was the start of a new day. “Big” John Chandler said, “There will be a point where you begin to drop more points.” He was right. At 15-yards I had more initial misses.

The first goal of each session was to establish good form. Then, I wanted to have excellent follow through. Getting that correct on every shot remains illusive.

After warming up my first three arrows scored two tens and a nine. By the finish of the first 30 arrows I’d dropped 5. On the second 30 arrows I dropped 4. Along the way, with 5 ends remaining, I discovered my rear stabilizer had loosened and shifted its position.

If you look closely, you can see the orange flag at 20 yards.

There is no way to know if the shift had been significant enough so that I could lay blame on missing 9 times. It probably wasn’t. On the shots where I’d missed I knew it was going to be a missed shot immediately. Plus, I scored a lot of decent shots with the stabilizer out of position.

I’ll repeat 15-yards during my next practice. When I get it right I’ll move to 18-yards. This is a slow process.

Working the Short Shot

In archery moving from 70 meters to 7 meters is quite a change in distance. A 70-meter shot is exciting. A 7-meter shot is practically grabbing an arrow out of your quiver, leaning forward and poking it into the target. But, a new distance is in the forecast and a new training plan means practice shots have changed.

Outdoor archery season is done for 2018. The next tournament is an indoor competition being held at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA. That is the Georgia Archery Association’s State 25-meter championship being held on December 8th. Following the 25-meter shoot comes the USA Archery National Indoor tournament in February 2019. This means shooting at tiny dime sized dots from 18-meters.

I’m shooting well. My current 18-meter average is better than how I scored in 2018. With our move back to Georgia behind us I’ve been able to get back to a routine and my scores have returned to an ascending slope on my data graphs. I am not, however, where I need to be for 2019. Last night, on the Ace Apache range located in Social Circle, Georgia conjoined with Ace Hardware I got a tip on how to make improvements.

Big John Chandler, a USA Archery Level 4 NTS Coach, Steve, Robbie and I were practicing at 18-meters on the Ace indoor range. In fact, all four of us are archery coaches.  But, when I am around them I am all ears. In this pack I am a rookie coach and primarily a student.

I was already in for 120 arrows from my morning’s practice. I didn’t feel weak but was fatigued. Between the two practices I’d cut another loop through the woods behind my house adding to my trail running course.

I find when I’m a bit fatigued I can get sloppy with a bow. I, mean it wasn’t like I was shooting 8s but I was finding more nines than I’d located earlier in the day. “Big John” pointed out I was relaxing my follow through. As he put it, “You’re not following through.”   When I paid attention to what I was doing arrows would land in the 10. A little mental drift and nine was the prize. And so the evening practice went.

Before leaving I said my goodbyes to Robbie and Steve. John was in his office working and I stepped in to let him know I was done for the day. Before I could offer a goodbye he had coaching tips coming my way.

“You can’t shoot a perfect score at 18-meters if you can’t do it from 5-meters” where about the first words out of his mouth. No argument from me on that point.

What he told me to do was to go home and practice at 5 to 7 meters. “Don’t move any further back until you score 60x at that distance” explained John. When you shoot 60X at that distance, move back 3 to 4 meters then do it  again. Keep that up until you are at 18-meters.

I knew the drill but honestly had never done it. The idea is, as John explained, to train your brain to see the x and put the arrow into it with each shot. This morning’s practice was done according to the prescription.

Starting at 7-meters I landed 60x using the first 60 arrows. That is after I adjusted the elevation on my sight. During those 60, elevation corrected arrows, it began to rain. Shooting in the rain isn’t bad and it was only a light rain. The thing about rain is that paper targets are allergic to it. I shot about 120 arrows during the practice and ended up needing 6 targets. Usually I can get through a day using two targets before the center is gone.  I buy them in bulk; still that’s a lot of money getting shot to pieces – 6 was making my eyes spin in dollar signs. Back to the short distance practice..

After the 7-meter distance I moved to 12 meters. On ends 18 and 19, at 12-meters, I scored two tens and a nine for each. John said, “If you miss a ten, finish all your shots before you start over.” In other words, had the misses been on ends 11 and 12 I’d have continued through to the last end. The final score would still have been a 598, but I’d have to repeat the 12-meter distance until I had a 600.  This afternoon, when I practice, I’ll pick-up at 12 meters and stay there until I score 600.

This type of practice is tedious. It is deliberate practice, which means it isn’t necessary fun.  It is kind of like practicing scales on a musical instrument for hours before ever moving to composed music. The composed music is more fun, but mastering scales helps create masterful music.

Your Stance

I watch archers shoot. It’s part of what a coach does. The vast majority of the archers I watch are not and are unlikely to become my students. Nevertheless, I watch and I learn. I also keep my mouth shut. That’s because I see the bulk of archers during competition. At that point, unless someone is about to get hurt or hurt someone, I doubt they’d want my input. Besides, most competitive archers have a coach. Of the many things I see a poor stance is often the first indicator of poor form.

The first coach I had was obsessed with his stance. He droned on and on about his stance – and about everything else about him. He is pretty good and typically does well in his pond. If you are within ear shot of him he’ll let you know.

His dissertation on stance, though, is something I will long remember. He talked about balance, his toe placement, using a mirror to see his feet, putting tape on the spot from where he practiced, and he got it mostly wrong. Of course, I didn’t know that then. My first suspicion that he’d misinformed me came from my next and well every other coach I’ve had since.

Coaching tip

Your stance is essentially the initial development of the foundation for a shot. There are other steps, a bunch of them, but if you start off wrong you will just be wrong. This is what I notice a lot among too many archers. There feet are at odds for establishing good form.

During an ASA 3D State Championship I was hiking around with a father/daughter – coach/student pair. The father was typically proud of his daughter and her skills. While she was skilled, she could have improved her footing on too many easy level shots. Her feet, on every shot, were perpendicular to her shoulders. On every shot she ended up struggling and occasionally placed arrows in a less than ideal location. True, in 3D footing can be a challenge, but the basic adjustments to create a solid foundation begins with knowing how to establish your feet.

A poor stance is not limited to 3D where finding good footing can be like finding the center shot on a javelina at 45 yards while it sits in a dark hole. Funny feet show up during indoor tournaments on perfectly flat floors. What I usually attribute this to an archer that enjoys the sport but has yet to invest into or listened to a bona fide coach.

Proper placement – Source: USA Archery

If you’re new to the sport or have never had a professional coach spend time with you give it some consideration. Archery is a sport requiring perfect form to reproduce a perfect shot over and over. If you are starting out wrong that process is going to be more difficult.

Winter is Coming

When we lived in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, being Southerns, we had pretty much the same opinion of Winter approaching as projected in the “Game of Thrones.” There would be snow on the ground around October and there it would sit until March or April. In Cleveland there are two seasons, Winter and when they repair the roads. Pittsburgh road repairs seemed less – just less.

When I write of cold I’m serious. When a Great Lake (Lake Erie for the geographically challenged) freezes that is cold. Aside from cold Winter brings shorter days.

Early morning on the trails

Down home, we finally made out of the ice, Winters are milder. Georgia is a far cry from Ohio and Pennsylvania. The Winter is milder but the days still produce abbreviated daylight.

The headlight I use does a good job

In preparation for darker evening and morning runs of the colder months I’ve illuminated the trails behind my house with solar lights along paths. That is fine in the evening when the lights are still powered. In the morning runs require a headlight to avoid trees.

The light also illuminates spider webs. A bonus to be able to avoid them

Running in the morning in Cleveland in February was awful. The temperature was always way below freezing. When I mentioned to some folks I’d been out running on a typical artic morning in Cleveland someone asked, “Wasn’t it freezing?” I replied, “No, it wasn’t that warm.”

As Winter approaches (…its coming) the Fall in Georgia will be nice for running. Some runners look forward to the colder weather. Personally, I am just fine shuffling along in the heat. Although, Fall and Spring aren’t too bad.

Taking a Look At Archery Phenotypes

Nearly anyone can pick up a bow practice and get to be pretty good.

At your next tournament look around at the competitors. They’ll look a lot like the spectators. You see folks that look; by look I mean phenotype, sort of like everyone else.

Everybody else means this for the US: Males weight on average 196 pounds and are 5 feet 9 inches tall. Females weight 168.5 pounds and are 5 feet 4 inches tall. That pretty close to how archers look in general.

Certainly, this isn’t everyone that picks up a bow. These are averages. My friend, Mike, is 6 feet 8 inches tall and weights 180 pounds. Mike is an outlier.

Consider the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the average US male and female using the numbers from above. You’d see both coming in as overweight.

Being overweight is, well, not good. But, archery is a sport where overall conditioning is often neglected. In fact, during a recent tournament when archers needed to move large outdoor targets a number of athletes couldn’t help because of their fitness level. One person said, “I can’t help, my doctor has told me not to lift more that 10 pounds.” Yet, there he was shooting and doing a pretty decent job of arrow placement. (Good not great)

Coaching tip

Archery is a sport where fitness isn’t a key factor for the average shooter. Just about anyone that wants to enjoy a sport that isn’t a major cardio activity can have fun with a bow and arrow. That’s fine. That’s not my philosophy when it comes to athletics.

When it comes to archery training I think athletes in this sport should incorporate fitness training. No, it is not a requirement to be a good shooter. However, taking your training to a higher level will provide strength and stamina to archery performance.

Cutting Practice in Half

Each week I develop a training plan. That week includes a rest day. That day isn’t always on a 7-day cycle. Occasionally, I add an active recovery day and bump out the day off by three days.

There are also days when I know, from years of experience, that I’m pushing the envelop of fatigue. Today is one of those days.

It is just as hard not to get on a bike and ride in the afternoons as it is not to shoot. Took this picture on my ride yesterday.

I felt it beginning last night. After a league shoot I came hope and felt more tired that usual. Walking up stairs I noted my legs were sore. This morning after stretching, running and shooting I didn’t recover as fast as usual. It is time to take an afternoon off.

That means no cycling and no more shooting for today.

Just shy of 100 arrows I called it a day and skipped the afternoon practice

There are times when you know you need a break. It is mentally hard not to practice. What goes through your head is that someone else is getting an edge on you. That’s not the case. Still it is a tough call to rest especially when things are going well.