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.
Rob Shooting

Target Panic – Your journey starts now

So, I have come to the last of the articles on target panic. This will conclude the series and I will recap on a few things.
First off, I’d like to say thanks for sticking with me. I didn’t think it would take this long to get to the concluding post, but there has been a few things come up in 2020 no one expected. I’ve included a list here of all the posts ansd looking back I never thought it would run to 10 articles.

  1. Target Panic and the archer part 1
  2. Target Panic and the archer part 2
  3. Target Panic and the archer part 3
  4. Arrows role in overcoming target panic
  5. Target panic and how knowing our bows can help
  6. Before we start a quick reminder
  7. Target Panic techniques – drawing down
  8. Target panic techniques & blank boss shooting and Target face anxiety
  9. Target panic techniques – Draw, track, come down

Secondly, I’d like to say all the tactics, all the coping strategies, no matter how good they are, along with all the techniques are a waste of time and will fail. There, I’ve said it.

So, your immediate thought now is WHAT!! Why have you bothered to write all these articles? Why have I as a follower, spent the time reading them?

Well let me qualify what I have just said.
All the advice and the guidance is worth squat, it is completely pointless, doomed to failure even. If you don’t put work and effort in. If you don’t put the effort, commitment and work in. You, not me, but YOU. So it over to you now.
I said in the first post there is no magic arrows. It requires you to put the work in. To spend time trying the different techniques, not just once or twice, but over a few weeks. Then you can find ones that works consistently for you.
You can read every word ever written, watch every second of YouTube videos, listen to every minute of podcasts, but it will do you very little good. Why?
Simply because you need to apply this knowledge, you need to practise the techniques, apply the theory to yourself and your own situation.
I told you right at the start you would need a fair degree of patience and persistence and I meant it. Work for it and it will work for you.

I was listening to Sir Ken Robinson in one of his TED talks recently. In it he talks of engaging in the task but not fulfilling it. That struck a chord with me as I have seen so many people do this. He speaks of how you might be teaching in a room but are those people learning? For that matter is anyone learning or are they going through the motions? You might be coaching a group or individual at your club but are those individuals actually learning?
I can write hundreds even thousands of words, but if you as the reader, the archer, the student, don’t apply it then don’t expect to improve your situation. I don’t see it as a waste of my time as if one person finds this of use and it helps them then I’ve done some good. That was why I started this series of articles.

I’m going to reference another author John Hudson who writes of the survival triangle in this recent book How to Survive: Lessons for Everyday Life from the Extreme World. Hope > plan > work. This triangle of words is applicable to archery as any other activity in modern life.

Survival triangle

In these posts I have spoken of the shot sequence and how important I see it in helping to combat target panic or anxiety. Now I know it may sound strange, an instinctive archer talking about shot sequence so much. The reason I do is simple. The shot sequence as important to an instinctive archer as one who might be thought of as a technical or non-instinctive archer. An instinctive archer will want to feel the shot is right. But their brains / feelings can send wrong messages sometimes or when it doesn’t feel right, it can be hard to pin down the glitch. This is why I put emphasis on shot sequence.

If you know what you do and when you do it, you can work on getting it right every time. That is what you want to be able to do, get it right time after time.
Your brain always wants to be as effective and efficient as possible so it will do its best to speed processes up and take short cuts. This is not always what you want as sometimes those short cuts miss out important steps or become feed blocks.

Feedback v Feed Block

If you watch or read any material by Joel Turner, he talks of Open and Closed loop shooting. Well I tend to think of it as you either have a Feed block or Feedback. In the second example of a shot sequence back in the second article, I talk about “Does the draw up feeling right?” This is a feedback loop I have in my shot sequence to tell me if things are right. If they are and it feels right, then it is okay to continue otherwise stop and reset. It’s a way of stopping myself from executing a poor shot.
A feed block is when you get that feedback from your muscles or head and choose to block it out and continue with the shot. You want to avoid these as they don’t improve your situation. Work on developing the understanding the feedback your body, muscles and brain is giving you.

Spot it early

Learn to identify when you start to feel the butterflies in your gut start, before they turn into a target panic stampede of elephants. I feel these more often than people probably realise. The thing is when I feel it start I know what I have to do. I have tried and tested techniques now, but its’ taken me a long time to develop.
I’ll let you into a little secret. When I am on a peg there are times when I might be feeling a little uneasy about the shot I’m about to take. So, when I’m getting ready to shoot, I have a little mantra I say to myself to help me focus. It brings me back to the moment I am in and helps settle the nerves.
There are a few important elements. The terms, the phrasing and words used are positive not negative, reminding me of what I am and have been capable of. They are rhythmic and pull my focus to the moment in hand. I’ve known friends to write on the back of their bow hand “stay focused “.

There is an element of Mindfulness of focusing on the present current moment in time. For those of you who may not be familiar with mindfulness I have pulled up this definition.

“Mindfulness is the psychological process of purposely bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment without judgment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training”
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness

I have learnt to use the technique to bring my focus back to the process in hand, calming myself and taking the shot.

Going back to the first article I gave some examples of how target panic or shot anxiety can manifest. I am going to revisit these again but link them to strategies and techniques I have gone on to cover in subsequent articles.

  • As the archer approaches the peg they feel they have forgotten how to shoot, their brain goes blank. – this is where knowing your shot sequence, training your brain to know the process.
  • An archer may find it difficult to draw up on a target, with their bow feeling too heavy, they can feel like their muscles and brain aren’t communicating. Yet they can draw up perfectly well when not aiming on the target. – using the training techniques of drawing up and moving on off target
  • Archers may feel their kit is letting them down and be constantly altering the pressure on their button or adding / removing twists in their string. – remember the archers triangle and how knowing that your kit is right can reduce anxiety.
archers triangle graphic

The archers triangle

  • Some may be able to draw their bow, but release the string as soon as they have drawn up towards the target. Releasing the arrow long before they intend to or are on the target. They are effectively missing the aiming part entirely as they feel unable to hold on a target believing they must immediately release at full draw. – again, it is the training techniques and your time practising that will overcome this

Remember the definition of target Panic
“Target panic is a psychological—and perhaps neurological—condition experienced by many archers, both competitive and recreational.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Target_panic)

And how I defined it.

It is a level of anxiety felt by the archer, which can either result in manifesting in physical feelings of unease, loss of muscle control or manifest in the lack of mental skills such as concentration or focus. The level of anxiety varies widely and can present itself on the field or at stages before.

You can overcome these feelings of anxiety, through practise and I mean dedicated practise time. Good practise is vital. Practise without effort, direction or discipline is useless in respect to overcoming target panic.
Anyway, that is it. I could go on far more, but I am going to stop here. Remember you aren’t in this alone, there are coaches and other archers out there more than willing to help. Myself included.
I really hope you have found these posts of use. Please let me know if it helps or if you would like some help.
Stay safe and thanks for reading.