Coaching and Covid19

Challenges of coaching with social distancing

Coaching from a “safe” distance is something many of us are trying to figure out given current circumstances. Many archery clubs or organisations have put a stop on all coaching until further notice due to the risks of COVID-19 and the difficultly of coaching and remaining within government guidelines for social distancing are considerable.
So what are the alternatives available for coaches and archers? From my perspective, I see three options
  • Face-to-face
  • Virtual face-to-face
  • Filming
I don’t think any coach or archery student would argue that face-to-face coaching is in many ways the ideal option when helping archers develop their skills. But, this option is not necessarily practical at present, when you factor in elements such as, social distancing guidance, limitations on numbers who can attend, locations capacity and how many can meet up. Some coaches may feel they can coach effectively in the current climate and that is there call. I will admit I have struggled to coach effectively or as fluidly given these restrictions.
What I want to suggest here are other options, such as remote coaching?

Virtual face-to-face

Coaching live via conferencing tools such as Zoom, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams etc is practical in some ways or rather circumstances. It is an option if the coach or student is presenting information, though harder if trying to demonstrate shooting or some practical skills. The advantage of these modes of communication is the ability to have a live discussion with students about ideas and allows a virtual face to face chat. So if either has questions they can ask there and then and not have to wait for email responses etc. I know we have been using these technologies for the past few months extensively in a work context. The one technical downside is the quality of connection speeds of your internet provider.
Whilst talking about communication technology you could also consider social media for sharing recordings of shooting, from short snippets in Instagram to uploading longer recordings to YouTube. The downside of sharing the content on these platforms is that you are likely to get a lot of comments, some of which may not be that constructive or accurate as you would like. Everyone likes to offer comments, some for genuine reason in the hope to help, others simply because they believe they know best. So remember some people prefer to criticise rather than offer constructive comments. It’s their way or the highway so to speak. So whichever option you choose, be aware of the possible negative reactions you may get.

Filming

There is no doubt that cameras and recordings can be very powerful tools for coaches to use, as they offer the ability to capture, rewind, review and replay in slow motion actions that might be too fast for the naked eye to accurately see. I can’t speak for other coaches but I often use my tablet or phone to capture footage of archers as they are shooting.
From a safeguarding perspective, you need to be very careful when filming children and young people. Before you record anyone you really should always ask permission of the individual and or parents/guardians.
Because of this, I would like to offer one word of caution when it comes to filming. If you have someone recording your shooting then consider their safety.
Where will they be standing when you are shooting? 
How close will they be? 
There has been more than one occasion where I have had to stop an enthusiastic parent wandering into a danger zone as they search for the ideal angle.
Coaching at a distance, what angle to go for?

Coaching at a distance, what angle to go for?

It is very easy to get carried away when behind a camera, wanting to get the best angle for the photo. Slowly moving around, whilst focused on the small screen you can quickly lose track of your physical surroundings.
The cameraman or women should never be in front of the archer or in any location where they make the archer uncomfortable or offer a distraction to them shooting, as this can lead to problems or dangers.
It is also worth remembering that some people become quite nervous when they think they are being filmed, changing their natural shooting process, so you might need to take a few recordings for them to settle down.
Provides easy playback

Fellow coach showing ease of playback

There are a couple of Apps available which coaches or any archers may find useful, these being Coaches Eye and Technique. I use Technique quite a bit to record archers shooting and playing it back to them in sessions on the tablet.
I have a tablet mounting on my tripod that allows me to position the camera in a location where a camera person could be.
Tablet mounting

Tablet mounted on tripod

The advantage I find with using Technique over just recording video on the native mobile phone are numerous
  1. It is very easy to use as I can record within the app or import video shot on another device into it.
  2. I can slow the footage down to 1/8th speed if I want to, which allows me to analyse the smallest movements in release or bow arm.
  3. I can zoom in on areas of the screen and show exactly how an archer is gripping the bow or releasing the string. Especially useful on the larger screen of my tablet.
  4. The top thing with the app is I can annotate it. So I can have the archer shoot three arrows at the same point on the target. Then overlay each arrow on the screen with a coloured line showing exactly the arrow or bow alignment. (the stable platform offered by the tripod helps hugely when doing this).
another view of tablet on tripod

another view of tablet on tripod

Once you have the footage, you will want to share it with your coach there are a few options. You could use something like Google Drive or Dropbox to share it. YouTube offers users the ability to upload content and to have it unlisted so you access it via a link the author sends out. I’ve used YouTube in the past to share content in this way.
I hope this has given you all some ideas. If anyone has other suggestions feel free to share them here by adding a comment.
Thanks for reading, stay safe.

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