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.
target faces

Target panic techniques – Draw, track, come down

So I’ve covered a couple of techniques so far (drawing down and blank boss shooting) in this series of posts on target panic.
So the third technique I’m going to cover here is one I’ve adopted from Jay Kidwell’s excellent book “Instinctive archery insights“. I’ve written about his book before and would advise anyone who is interested in aspects of coaching or target panic to pick up a copy. It is a very easy read and offers some great insights. The book was recommend to me by another coach and I really should type up a full literature review on it for the site.

cover of Instinctive Archery Insights

Instinctive Archery Insights

There is a little preparation required for this approach and it is not something that I suggest you try with your normal draw weight bow. So one thing you will need is a lighter draw weight bow. I use a 16lb draw weight take down recurve with my students.
In addition to a light poundage bow, you will need a few modified target faces and a 6 sided dice. Okay, so I know this may sound a little strange, some would go as far as to say a bit far fetched, but stay with me. I have found that using a six sided dice can prove very helpful and no, I’m not talking about gambling or playing snakes and ladders. Likewise the simple modification to the target face will help promote focus.

Simple target face with couple of lines added

Simple target face with couple of lines added, one horizontal and the other vertical.

The objective of this technique is to help the archer overcome the urge to release as soon as they have drawn up. Instead they develop the skill, neural pathways or retrain their brains to draw up and track onto and off the target. Overcoming the desire to release immediately the arrow is on the gold or when the archer thinks its on the gold.
Anyway back to how a six sided die can help along your with archery practice.
As many of us spend hours on the range training alone, it is very easy to fall into bad habits or repeating the same pattern again and again. In some ways we want to be able to repeat good form, but in this exercise we need to include a random factor. Hence the six sided die.
In Jays book he describes how a coach or shooting buddy call out a number, to denote the number of times you draw up and track across the target. There are a couple of important facts. The archer track across the target without releasing the arrow. Secondly they do it a number of times specified randomly so don’t form subconscious patterns.
To provide the random factor when alone I used the dice.

six sided dice in a clear box

Dice in a box

I modified the dice so there was no 1,5 or 6. This was easily done by sticking a blank label over the numbers. I wanted the die to show 1 four, 3 two’s and 2 threes. This may sound strange, but you don’t want too many higher numbers when performing the exercise as you would get fatigued, nor do you want a single occurrence.
I then housed the die in a small clear plastic tub large enough to allow the die to roll and clear enough to see the result.
So the second thing I done is modified a couple of targets by drawing lines on them through the centre, one vertically and one horizontally. When on the boss it gives the archer something to focus closely on when moving on and off the centre spot.

Remember, since you undertake these exercises multiple times, it is advisable for you to use a lighter draw weight bow.

In Jays book there are 3 exercises and rather than going into detail of how each of them work I’m going to explain how I use them and adapted them for my coaching style and students.

Step one

Me trying to remember to shoot

Me trying to remember to shoot

I’ll got through these step by step

  • First, fit one of the modified target faces to the boss so you have one line horizontal and another vertical.
  • Pick up you light draw weight bow and set yourself up at about 10 to 15 yards from the target boss.
  • Roll the die to get your random number, lets say 3.
  • Draw up and when they get to full draw and aimed / focused on the gold or in this case centre of the target, you move to the right to the edge of target and then  back to the centre. Once at the centre track left, again to the edge of the target. All the time maintaining full draw whilst not releasing. That is the crucial part, not releasing.
  • In this example  you would pass over the centre 3 times before coming down. Right, left, right and down.

The lines on the target provide a guide for movement. The theory is you are retraining your brain to be able to draw up,  centre on the target and then move off and back on without releasing. The movement to the left and right doesn’t have to be huge, ideally 3 to 4 inches at most.
The advantage of using the pizza base targets are they aren’t that large so you are tracking left and right only a little.
An alternative to this method is rather than tracking left to right, you track up and down, moving vertically through the centre. This is why there are both horizontal and vertical lines drawn on the face.
Try practising this technique for a few weeks and slowly it will help you build confidence and control.

The next step

So by this stage you have hopefully learnt to be able to draw up onto the target and move off it. A subtle development of this technique is when pass over the centre, you actually stop and hold on the centre for a moment.

From my experience these exercises work well, with the die providing a random number of reps you have  to perform.

Development

When you have mastered either or both of theses techniques you can progress to a slightly different version. In this version you combine the above exercise of moving over the centre spot of the target but on the final pass you lock onto the centre and you actually release the arrow.
When I am coaching these technique with students I recommend, they don’t perform them for long periods of time. Even with using a light draw weight bow there is quite a lot of strain on muscles, not to mention the concentration required. Ideally 15- 20 minutes seems to be optimum. Any longer and it can become tedious and the students tend to lose concentration.
The other thing is to practise these techniques over a few sessions, as it will take time for you to retrain your brain into being able to draw up, move on and off target spot etc. It is not something you can do once or twice for a couple weeks and then stop. Overcoming potentially years of subconscious neurological programming takes time and effort. So give yourself time to learn these skills. It does help if you practise them.

Thanks for reading.