Archery is different from other sports. If you, as a youngster, were to pursue football, baseball, tennis, golf, swimming, or any other sporting endeavor and decided you wanted to get better, you would seek out a coach. There are youth programs galore in these other sports--Little League, Peewee football, school- and church-related sports programs, 4-H sports programs, and so forth. In archery we have the 4-H shooting sports programs, summer camp archery programs, and the National Archery Association’s JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) program. In spite of the existence of these programs and the fact that the major archery associations provide lists of their coaches by phone or on the Internet, most archers are taught by friends. Rather than trying to divine the reasons for this phenomenon, let’s explore what you can expect from an archery coach.
The Coach and Athlete Relationship
Because archery is such a technical sport, “drop-in” coaching sessions are rarely effective. Someone hoping to help you improve as an archer must see you over a period of time, see how you react to practice and tournament pressure, and see how you incorporate new knowledge and techniques. This requires a commitment of time and energy from both you and your coach.
The ties you develop with your coach are essential to your advancement in the sport. Any critique (positive or negative) during training is accepted much better when trust exists. Trust is developed when your coach’s credentials (successes) are accepted. In most cases, the coach’s reputation will suffice as coaching credentials; however, you might not accept at face value a coach’s success for this validation or trust. Whatever the case, the relationship grows or founders based on whether you benefit by following the path worked out between the two of you. If you commit to excellence with your attention, time, action, and communication, you should expect to see a positive effect. For example, if upon inspection of your equipment, your coach suggests changes in setup or tune, you should be willing to commit the time to make these changes and test them out. If the result of the changes is better scores, the relationship between you and your coach is strengthened. In archery, the target is the final arbiter. As the relationship is strengthened, trust grows, and you become more willing to take greater risks to get better. The 2000 Olympic gold medalist, Simon Fairweather, rebuilt his shot from the ground up at the advice of his coach only a year and a half before the Olympic Games. Such daring can only happen when there is absolute trust in that relationship.
A coach’s relationship with an archer is often referred to as rapport. The typical coach/athlete relationship is that of older (wiser) person to younger (less experienced) person. You and your coach become a training team. In this team, which may include others (such as your parents if you are a younger archer), age is not an issue; experience and coaching ability defines your coach’s effectiveness. The objective of your coach, as a member of the team, is exclusively for the team to attain its goals. Regardless of whether your coach is paid for services, his or her role and responsibility is your success first and foremost. To achieve this, your coach must keep all aspects of the developed trust within the confines of the team. The only exception to this is if a qualified sport psychologist becomes a member of your team.
The training of a coach is often a long and arduous process requiring many hours of tutelage under more experienced coaches. The NAA’s coach training program has five levels. Only at Level 3 do coaches become qualified to work with individual archers. The Level 4 coaches are national team-level coaches, and they have four sublevels to work through (4A through 4D). Each level or sublevel requires additional training and experience (and cost!). Coaches need to seek out as much archery knowledge by reading the literature on the development of archery skill and consulting with more experienced coaches and archers as they can. At other times coaches may need to compromise, politick, and work in less than ideal circumstances. Overall, a coach’s skill will consist of archery technique knowledge, honesty, communication skills, equipment knowledge, and archery resources.
Your parents or spouse play a major part in your training. These relationships have much deeper, more longstanding ties than any coach could expect to develop. These people are important in your life, spend extended time with you, are more of a mentor figure than your coach, may have goals different from yours, or may have conflicting coaching philosophies. They should not be ignored, but rather should be an integral part of the training plans for the team. Thus, coaches do not work with just archers. They work with the archer’s team.
Coaches consider archers to be athletes. Athletes are like all other humans. They respond to positive reinforcement of accomplished performances. When a perceived mentor critiques an athlete, the athlete’s natural response is to perform in a manner that solicits more praise and less criticism. Thus, a coach, as a perceived mentor, is an athlete trainer. Archer-athletes use coaches primarily to get better faster and to learn from their experiences. Just as archer-athletes use other training aids, they use coaches to advance their training.
This is an excerpt from Precision Archery.