Transition Complete

I don’t know yet how many will read this, but the tech will give me stats eventually.  I initially wrote most of this 6 months ago, but afterwards realized I needed to leave it to age, so that it does not reflect my full range of emotions.

I have migrated the majority of content of this BLOG from the Texas Archery Association’s website to one of my many URLs.

“Coaching Corner” on the TSAA site is long dead, and this is likely the last post, ever.  It was never a plural of coaches – not once did another TSAA coach respond to my requests and provide a single sentence for the blog.  So it was all on me, my observations, my thoughts, my experience, and yes, my wisdom, to consider.  Some thought, not much of the latter.

Frankly, for years I had planned and hoped for a smoother transition out of the organization, but a dustup with a remarkably adversarial individual has resulted in me being demoted in the organization regarding in my role as president. I find myself a bit of a powerless pariah.

Fortunately good legal advice has mitigated the situation, however without enough friends in high places, I find that my planned retirement in January of 2017 has been accelerated in terms of usefulness to the organization. Today I took the extraordinary step of changing my Amazon SMILE donation (.05% of purchases) from the TSAA to the Vitamin D Council, after many years’ donating to the TSAA.

In addition: I have deleted from the web the entire 70 gigabytes’ content of the archives of the NAA – USAARCHERY.ORG – records they’ve decremented, scrap books, and history books, authored by Arlyne and Bob Rhodes and posted with her permission.  This site is now vaporware, residing only on my laptop and backup drives, and the wayback machine.

I did send a copy to Arlyne, of course.

Out of copyright concerns I have also removed from the TSAA site more than 50,000 photo images I had accrued over a decade+ of involvement as a coach and parent of an archer, and posted as albums on the TSAA website.  The goal was always to provide a tool for archers and parents and coaches to use to enhance performance.

Since I have been informed that several TSAA members wish to create a new and much better website I have been preparing for that day by streamlining the existing website. I have also turned over more to those worthies a full copy of the entire TSAA website –  than 70 gigabytes’ worth of website coding to the successors, and I eagerly await the day when they tell me and show me that TSAA Website 2.0 is ready for prime time.

I have relinquished the DNS values, re-pointed the world to the new site – but am astonished that even now, a month later, they have kept “the bad old website” active.  I do hope they remove my name from the many pages soon, and thanks to the very few people who have written to me to note my passing.

This transition should leave me with essentially nothing to worry about.

The online registration I pioneered, designed and conducted for all state events for more than a decade have been migrated to a for-profit site and appear to work ok.  NOT the company I would have chosen – it made more sense to use the same optimized software the parent organization and other state associations use, but that obviously was not my call.

The results of events will be maintained by the new site, it is out of my control.  The state records, likewise.

The massive library of target archery items, from the JOAD AGE calculator I designed to the summary of writeups, to the many advisory documents from some of Texas’ best archers and JOAD coaches on their trips, should be easily transferred to the 2.0 site since I have given them all the html5 code.

99% of the photos on the old site will no longer be on the new 2.0 site, relieving more than 50 gigabytes and 25,000 files’ worth of space – these are my copyright and based on my recent experiences I frankly don’t want them in the control of my successors. Likewise for thousands of high-speed, slow-motion video clips of archers at arrow release.  These served as learning aids for coaches, archers, and parents, but probably no longer needed.  So I formally retain copyright for all photos I have taken of archers – I would estimate more than 100,000 photos all told.  Up till now, I have *never* sold nor charged for a single photo reproduction – images which have graced magazine covers and numerous publications – I asked only that the TSAA and myself get photo credit, pointing to texasarchery.org, always.

At first transition, I simply deleted this blog.  A week or two later I had fielded a number of queries and complaints, and decided then to restore a backup to my own personal website.

I actually have something like 6 different websites.  If you are reading this then I have successfully restored and re-established the wordpress blog, aka Coaching Corner, and you have found it, yourself.

Since this is my own site now, I will admit to a huge frustration that I could not, in the many years I ran this blog, persuade even a single other coach in Texas to join me in mentoring archers in this media. Not once. None.  NADA. NUNCA  NADIE.  zilch. Likewise, I wrote the TSAA newsletter from the moment we/I transitioned from a printed & US post office mailed paper newsletter to an electronic newsletter, around 1999, through the end of January, 2016.  I simply could not persuade a single other person on the board nor in the association to write articles voluntarily on a continuing basis.  I have gotten some writeups from Tom Barker and John Magera regarding events they conducted, especially the TOTS from John, to include in the newsletter.  But I’d bet more than 95% of all letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs of the TSAA newsletters for more than 15 years were composed by me.  Recently, I’ve received very harsh criticisms for my choice of articles and stories from board members.

So I agreed to send them copies of the newsletter for their approval prior to me sending it out, but I found that the most vociferous critics did not bother to respond to my request for approval of most newsletters.  This is not a blanket indictment of the board – just an observation that no one has ever really stepped up to help me with the newsletters in a solid way, in 17 years.

I have NO idea what will replace me now that the general meeting has showed me the door into “retired”.  I am hopeful someone will step into this breech.

I was driving the social media on Facebook last year, right up until I posted a note about how POORLY women were treated relative to men at the Las Vegas event.

Several board members and TSAA members opened up a warfare of “you are politicizing the facebook page”, denying that I had a legitimate right to post my observation regarding women in sports.  I immediately stopped posting to the TSAA facebook page.  The FB analysis tools showed that the FB page for TSAA took a significant hit in participation and posts, and the last time I looked it remained less than it was.  I know, because I saved the stats from the month I was persecuted off, and the month of July, the month wherein I deleted myself from the FB TSAA page.  When women in archery, sport, and society receive EQUALITY on all points, then this topic is no longer of concern on social media. Until then I am a silenced voice by a few male “supremacists” who remain at the TSAA’s helm.

I cannot fathom how any person who fathers a daughter can take umbrage at my citing of accurate statistics regarding of the disparity in respect in ALL ways that women athletes receive relative to their male counter-parts.

So essentially, this blog is, and has always been, all my thoughts, and no contributions from anyone else. AS WITH THE NEWSLETTER, this is a failing I admit to.

I’ve tried for, asked for, begged for, participation in TSAA functions from the membership over and over. Whether to write a newsletter or to simply share a thought on archery, I’ve asked with very little response.  It’s not been a total zero.  But the component result has bordered on zero.  The state field event for the last two years has not been a “group effort” – not because I did not ask for help, but a “single effort” because unless I did it all on my own, it would not have happened.  I acknowledge Gina Carmichael, who saved me from coronary failure.  John Magera, Dan Zinn, and a couple of other Austin Archery Club members who helped at points to both set up and to take down.  Thanks, John, you literally saved my life!  In 2015 I dropped 16 pounds in 5 days, working to set up.  2016 I was much better prepared and got things done over a greater span of time, and did not come close to death.  And thanks to Rick Stonebraker as well as John Magera for sharing wisdom in field archery course design.

I left the TSAA in the general meeting of 2017, when my tenure as the president expired. I had hoped to have several concrete and lasting goals accomplished, and I while I had made progress I did not get the important things done.  I realized at one point that the rest of the board  simply stopped supporting any initiative I might put forward.

I am tagging this one blog post as a “life lesson” because I have learned a very cynical lesson in recent times from the other board members.  I’ve learned, but not a positive lesson.

I was allowed by USAA to certify Lynda LeCompte and Holly Avendano as “Level IV-NTS TRAINER” coaches to replace yours truly. The only other Level IV-NTS coach authorized as a trainer has not bothered to do any courses on his own, so it falls to these ladies to carry on. This means they are qualified to hold Level III-NTS certification courses on their own and continue to grow Texas Coaching.

As the Rio Olympics drew to a close, I felt a certain closing so I started this blog article, and I feel my own archery life likewise now waning to a close.

My biggest problem right now is that I have an entire room of archery gear and coaching equipment that I do not know exactly what to do with.

It’s been an excellent time and I do wish I could have done more.   Tennis, anyone?

Self-Education

Athletes at any age old enough to shoot arrows appropriately are likely able to self-educate.

Take a video of your athlete executing a TYPICAL good/normal shot.  No garbage, honest truth of a normal execution.
You must identify, then exemplify, an honest yet positive baseline to work from.

If you don’t understand this, you probably need to go to my blog post #1, and read from there until you “get” what good coaching is all about. A good coach can be honest AND deal with *any* level of ability, AND reveal a path to better performance.

If you have established a properly positive relationship with your athlete you should be able to take an honest video clip, and show it to her/him, and be able to discuss the truth of the shot PROPERLY.

As I have often said, a good coach can identify positive attributes as well as negative, and knows WHAT to say and in what order to say it. Then lead the athlete into self-awareness and actualization of positive abilities. (remember I live in Austin!)

So do that.  Have your athlete self-teach the truth of what is shown.  Use the tool, video, and the techniques involving self-critique, compounded with your coaching expertise, to insure a positive outcome – progress of the athlete in the journey to excellence.  And learn from the process yourself.  Unless you are a *perfect* coach you will be able to self-teach.  Right?

 

What stance should you take?

I estimate the majority of archers who have not been taught by a coach, especially those without some introduction to the NTS, have *no* awareness about kinesiology and body mechanics and instead just grip it and rip it, doing what comes naturally.  This is not horribly bad! Just likely to cause a failure to launch of a great athlete!

Yes, they don’t yet understand the importance of the open stance and the “coiling” (kerling, as our head coach would say) that results in a more stable platform to loose arrows from.  My experience is also that some small percentage are capable of totally natural methods that “work for them” to achieve good performance.

I think this is why sometimes a newcomer can blow the hinges off of records and “limitations”. I have witnessed some young archer arrive at a JOAD National event, shoot lights out awesome, and then never appear again.  Why? Because they didn’t know any better. As soon as a coach messed with their preternatural form and mechanics, and forced the frontal cortex into the picture they literally vanish from the sport. The athlete starts THINKING about what they were doing subconsciously and realizing there is work involved. Unfortunately for some it’s “game over” until/unless they work hard enough to lay down new and more reliable pathways in the brain-hand loop.

I am also firmly convinced that when a coach begins addressing an archer’s “picture”, it is best to start corrections with the foundation and move up.  In general terms, any able-bodied athlete can stand with their feet pointed at about 45 to 70 degrees away from the target (the general  epitome of an open stance), and STILL get their gun barrel into “pointing to the target” with NO conscious effort. They will NATURALLY fail to keep the hips in the best direction, and need education to effectively coil, to twist the abs, both the lower thoracic and upper lumbar vertebrae, to create the optimal more solid linkage of bones and discs to stabilize their shooting apparatus, the shoulder assemblies.  Often they will do this without any “mechanistic”  thought to HOW it happens.  They just make it so when coach helps them realize it is better.

Yes, the hips will tend to move towards the shooting line, a wrong alignment, if the archer is not aware of the motion.  Corrective measures, really preventative measures, do not require a great investment of effort, especially in younger archers.  Coach just needs to demonstrate it ad show them how.  Coaches who can demonstrate by self, by photo, by video, or by enlisting another archer proficient in a desired motion, in order to have best effect.  Why is demonstration so potent?

We are born with, or else soon acquire, the ability to adapt our movements to achieve whatever the desired goal is – to walk, for example.  The controlling factor is the mirror neurons of our brain – in the frontal cortex.  This area is what differentiates us from almost  all other organisms on planet earth. Most primates have been shown to have some of these, WE humans have the best-developed system of these mirror neurons, though.   We learn to walk as infants because we SEE others walking.  It is that simple.  We humans can learn to shoot with an open stance, FAR simpler than walking, by watching the proper method demonstrated, and mere guidance provided.

Can one shoot effectively with a closed stance, where the archer stands completely sideways to the target, both feet pointed “down the line” of archers?  Sure.  Will they be leaving a few percent of advantage on the table, that may cost them the personal bests that keep them interested, challenged to stay involved in the sport? Quite possibly. Elite archery is often an issue settled on the line by LESS than a single percent.  Coaches cannot leave a percent of advantage out and still be the best coach possible.

Are You Certifiable? Yep.

YOU, yes YOU, are certifiable!

Level1MagnetLarge

I just finished a day with a huge number of scout leaders in Houston, at a University of Scouting event.  I spoke to the many benefits of archery, and how important their role is in making sure that archery is not a painful experience, but rather a positive and impressive, life-changing opportunity.  I learned things from them, as well.  Every time I speak on archery, certify people as instructors and coaches, heck, even often when I am coaching a student, I learn something in return!  Here is what I got to take away from yesterday’s great experience.

Safety and Skill
Safety and Skill

The TSAA is blessed with a number of parents who have stepped up to help form JOAD clubs, 4-H clubs, Scout Leaders, and have gotten their instructor and coach certifications from USA Archery.

Anyone who runs an archery club or JOAD, a 4-H, and especially Scout leaders, needs to recruit the parents of their archers to become part of the support network. Scouts require there to be TWO range masters to increase the safety for the participants – if one instructor is focused on a particular archer, the other instructor can still hopefully maintain surveillance and awareness of the entire range of archers to insure safety is maintained.  I find this to be a concept that smart JOAD coaches/leaders will want to have as well!

And, PARENTS, YOU need to support your archer athletes by participating with them in their sport.  I know this from first-hand experience between my daughter and myself for more than 10 years of wonderful shared sport. I can TESTIFY about how much I benefited from this!

I don’t mean you have to shoot with them (but you can and it is super to do!, but you need to know enough to be able to talk with them intelligently enough, to guide them, to reinforce what the coach is teaching them when you are NOT at the JOAD session, for example if you are practicing in between club meetings.  If you really want to share a sport with your child, there is no better way than to learn enough about the sport AS IN THE WAY IT IS BEING TAUGHT TO YOUR CHILD  so that you can insure your role as the parent/family mentor remains intact and legitimate!

How?   Easy. Get yourself a level 1 or 2 instructor certification!   Every Level 3 coach has the ability to certify Level 1 & 2!  As a parent, this gives you the ability to see what your child is doing right, and to reward them with truthful compliments without sounding like an idiot!  It helps you to “parent” correctly.   You also can see what the coach is doing, and be able to gain confidence that your child is getting maximum benefit.  And you can have FUN being useful!  Why?

Because if you DO get this easy, inexpensive certification, then you can become part of the club’s support structure as a lieutenant for the coach, which could be to enhance safety on the range, to provide mentoring “on-task” as the head coach sees appropriate, as well as being able to be a role-model for your own child.

Added benefit: If you are fortunate enough to have a child that LIKES competition, you will be able to take him/her to tournaments, and in the absence of the coach who may not be able to be there, watch for “breakdown” in form and know what to say, not as some dictator, but as your child’s guiding parental over-unit<G>.

If you DO shoot archery yourself, getting this certification will, repeat, WILL improve your own game in very surprising ways.  This is especially true if you are more or less a self-taught bow hunter, and your child is getting started with the NTS because he or she wants to “be like mom or dad”.   Knowing the NTS yourself WILL allow you to postpone for awhile that point in time where your child exceeds your own ability. You WANT that, of course – it should be every parent’s goal, right?  It is validation of your parenting skills and your hope for a sort of immortality, for your child to one day be better than you were and to know that you’ve made a good difference.  Ironically, making yourself better now simply raises the bar over which your child WILL one day clear by giving you more tools.

And if you are the club coach/JOAD leader, involving more parents in your operations is simply SMART.  It enhances safety, increases the amount of knowledge circulating on the range, and creates a better family-oriented atmosphere, heightens participation, all of which increases retention and grows your overall success.

Remember that as in life overall, if you are not acquiring new skills and coaching technique/information then you are not progressing.

Responsibilities Of The Coach: Penmanship, Math, and Sense

Somehow I wrote this in July, 2015 a few days after running the TSAA State Field Championship and never posted it.  In reading it now, seems to be valid, so better late than never:

Just finished running another tournament that included a number of young archers, and seeing a problem over and over again with the scorecards of these fine young archers.  But I am prompted to write because of an incident at a World Championship competition in Copenhagen 2015.

A top US compound archer who has been around for many years (I was honored to be an assistant team leader on a trip with him to the Dominican Republic years ago) managed to shoot extremely well in difficult cold, windy conditions.  At these events scoring is by BOTH electronic and paper means.  The relevant World Archery rule:

Article 14.4.1:    “One paper scorecard and one electronic scorecard are used, the sum total of the paper scorecard will be used for the final result unless the sum total reflected on the scorecard is greater than the actual score (in which case the lower actual score is used).”

The archer shot a good score, something like a 342.  On his scorecard, after a long and hard day, he mistakenly wrote a final score of 242, and he signed it and turned it in.  He accidentally cheated himself of 100 points and a caused a huge negative impact on his standing, and ultimately, on Team USA.   I am sure he felt worse for his two team mates that got “taken out” of a medal match than he did about doing that to himself.

ANYWAY, the WA properly applied the rule, (not saying the rule itself is “proper”, that’s another argument for another blog post) and the archer fell to 115th position, a disaster for not only himself but for his teammates, who were then taken out of the running as a team.  A very cold, hard lesson.  It’s likely he was simply very tired, and made a mental slip that could happen “to anyone”.  He’s an excellent sportsman, father, and generally well-respected and regarded individual.  And he certainly knows how to add and has been filling out scorecards for literally decades.  But it leads me to THIS point.

My point here is that at every event I have directed, MANY scorecards turned in by youth (and some adults) are well, just plain pathetic.  Instructors and coaches (and through the parents as well) need to teach archers how to properly write on a scorecard.  Pen, not pencil.  Black or blue ink, not pink, silver, gold, yellow or purple inks/gels or blunt sharpie!  Legibility is the goal!

At TSAA local and even state level events, as archers turn in their cards, we inspect them for completion, signatures, and such, and WE REFUSE THEM when there is a discrepancy or a lack of a signature.  In golf, such is grounds for disqualification from the event (it’s as though you never shot the tournament!).  We do this as a courtesy (giving the archer a second chance), because well, it ain’t the world championships.  Sometimes, though, I wonder if we should teach kids the hard lessons at an earlier time, like the one example above.

They/YOU/we also need to teach beginning archers how to add UP the 3 or 6 arrows.  If the archers are scoring routinely above 7 pts per arrow, then they need to teach the archers how to add DOWN and subtract from 60 the points they didn’t get to determine what they did get.  (it’s actually faster).

Archers MUST learn that after the last arrow is shot, the bow is put down, and the scorecards get tallied, there is a REASON why TWO scorecards are maintained, and why each scorer, at every end, adds the arrows separately, and then verbally confirms the total against the number the other scorer got separately, for the end.

Once you have actually taught HOW to write scores to your archers, you need to drive home the lesson.  A good teaching example is for you, the coach, walking up to 4 archers at a target full of their arrows during a mock tournament, you examine the score sheets and for each of the scorers with sloppy work, pulling a couple of their arrows OUT of the target and dropping them to the ground, and telling (all) the archers that due to a math error or an illegible number THEY DIDN’T CATCH DURING SCORING that those arrows won’t count in their final scores, and ask “how do you feel about that?”, to drive the point home.  You could/should have the entire club gather round so everyone gets the message.

Archers who are on the bale but NOT doing the scoring need to insist on each scorer adding separately and then verifying – if you are not one of the two scorers on your target, you better be watching over your scores!  Often I have witnessed (as an archer’s rep or as a judge) the scorer who is weaker in math skills simply wait for the other scorer to announce the tally, which he then writes down on his clipboard a number without a clue as to whether it is accurate!

Make sure your archer is equipped to do the math, and to stand up for herself when the scorer is NOT doing it right.

MATH counts.

See to it your archers understand if they are shooting for score, they need to get what they earn, and not settle for a point less.

And before they sign the card after the shooting is all done, double-check the math and THEN look at the final numbers, and ask, “Does this make sense”?

And remember there are several methods for math on scoring.  If the archer scores mainly red/gold, it’s often easier to track the difference(subtract from 10) between the arrows and 10 to add that sum. If they score less on average, it is often easier to simply add UP the arrow scores.

IE:    Let’s say that for a typical 6 arrow end, the archer’s arrows are:

10 10 9 9 9 8  ,
So ONE way to tally them is to say, 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 = 5, 5 from 60 is 55.  Here, you first figure out the “less than ten” points you for each arrow, then add up the points you did NOT GET, and take that from a perfect score of 60.  You can also work up from zero, of course, that is to say, go “10 + 10 is 20, plus 9 is 29, plus 9 is 38, plus 9 is 47, plus 8 is 55”.

Another way to build up the missed arrow points for the above example (which I find most comfortable) is to say mentally for the 10 10 9 9 9 8,   1,2,3,5; 55 as I add the difference on each arrow to a running sum in my head.  Takes very little practice and it fits the way my head works. THERE IS NO ONE PERFECT WAY!

With a lower-scoring end, let’s say:  10 6 6 5 4 2 , SO it becomes more work to add up the “missed points” and subtract from 60, than it is to simply add them up (10 + 6 = 16, plus 6 = 22, plus 5 = 27, plus 4 = 31, plus 2 = 33). Though yes, you could also say: 4, 8, 13, 19, 27, from 60 = 33.

Some will pair up arrows, esp. if they are smaller numbers:
16 + 11 + 6 = 33  (10 + 6, 6 + 5, 4+2) .

If the arrows are all the same:  9 9 9 9 9 9 , then 6 from 60 = 54, just as saying 6 * 9 = 54 .

9 9 9 8 8 8 = 3 * 9 + 3 * 8 , 27 + 24 = 51

So you can see there are many ways to add up 6 numbers (and I am not going to go anywhere near ‘COMMON CORE’ !!).  So please, coaches, TEACH your archers how to fill out a score card properly, and the lesson you teach MAY prevent the loss of a medal a decade letter on the international stage.  And make life easier for those who are running the tournament….

A final PS: In my opinion WA has made a mistake in the setting of this rule.

I was taught that Judges are a part of the sport in order to facilitate everyone getting a fair opportunity to compete.  NOT to penalize someone in a situation where no other archer is diminished or harmed.  As one wiseguy elite archer tweeted, “From here on out, I’ll just write 360 and 30 Xs, and THEY can figure out what the score actually is”.  You see, the rule allows for the score to be LOWERED to the accurate value if the archer makes a math error, but NOT to be raised if, yes, the archer makes a math error.  I feel this is less than fair, less than optimal, and while I can understand the concept, it does not make it equitable.  Regardless, the rule is as rule says and they have to follow the rule until they change the rule in the proper manner.  I bet and hope it gets changed at the next rules overhaul session.

Good Coaches Avoid Absolutes

I tend to think more in moderation and less in absolutes,  when considering youth archers and competitions.

This came to me because one coach pronounced that he never allows his athletes to shoot both a JOAD Indoor AND a FITA Indoor the same weekend.  He segregates the younger cubs and bowman archers into shooting only the  JOAD portion, and the older Cadets and Juniors into the FITA portion(not shooting the JOAD portion).  I understand a little, but disagree a lot, with such absolutes.

In Texas, we often designate Sat. 8am line for JOADs.  They shoot 60 arrows for their event, at an 60cm size target. The entire rest of the weekend is devoted to lines for FITA round of 120 arrows, shot 60 per shooting line, at a 40cm target. (all the same 18 meter distance, of course).

So if a JOAD archer wishes, s/he can get twice to three times the competitive experience (and FUN) by competing in both events.  But that means there might be 120 arrows (plus warmup ends) shot in a single day.  Or worst case, 180 if the parents only have/allow one day of the weekend for the fun.  There is risk of fatigue.  Burnout.  Even injury, if the kid has only been used to shooting 60 arrows ONCE a week.
I think we all know of at least one unique/special kid of either gender that really has the archery bug. She’s the one that shoots frequently because she wants to, may be a bit of a perfectionist, but regardless, has developed the physical strength and capacity to shoot 100 arrows to 150 arrows in a day and NOT suffer either excess fatigue nor loss of form/control, AND has the drive and desire to do this all on her lonesome with no “pushy” parenting. (THIS is incredibly essential!)

In those cases, I suggest to the parents AND the athlete, and where appropriate recommend that if they WANT to shoot both, that they do so, but attempt to spread the arrows out over three days if possible. I emphasize the baseline for the athlete must be equal in strength and capacity at a minimum. Also, that the event can be a means, rather than an end, in figuring out HOW to compete and how to learn to enjoy it.  Every tournament does not have to be a “goal is to win” event.   It can be useful to divert the athlete’s intent towards an alternative goal for the competition, and to stay focused on “how did that feel”, and “I think that you are really sticking with “shooting your average normal shot, so keep it up!” .

IOW, coaches must take the abilities as well as the limitations in mind, and counsel what is best for the individual athlete, and not forbid them to compete simply because they are a certain division.  Good coaching includes being open and flexible rather than closed and rigid.

What Does A Bronze Medal Require?

I’ll speak to archery.  Other sports, no.

In world-class competition these days, two archers shoot head-to-head in front of screaming, noise-making crowds numbering at times in thousands seated only a few meters away from the shooting line.

It is a bit ironic, in that during 90% of all archery competitions most archers will experience, “quiet” is the rule on the line, as in golf or serving for tennis.  NOT SO at the world cups, the world champs, the paras and the olys.  Crowds, extremely noisy and partisan crowds, cheer, bang noise makers, and are HEARD, during the shot process.  It’s important for the coach to recognize this, and to teach the archer, prepare her, so that s/he can still focus, can Clear The Mechanism and FOCUS, when her 20 seconds are running down.

As it works, each archer shoots alternately with a 20 second countdown timer RIGHT in front of them.  The moment the opponents arrow lands in the target, the counter switches and immediately starts down.  20.  19. 18 . 17.  and regardless of the conditions and the winds, the sun, in particular the ROAR of the crowds cheering their archer’s just made shot, the other archer must produce a shot cycle and deliver before that countdown ends.

With match-play divided into sets, it often is not over until (no, not the fat lady singing), but the last arrow wobbling in the bale 70 meters away.  There is this moment of realization of either success, or failure to succeed.  In the Semi-final matches today in Mexico, TWO Texans, both recurve, one male and one female, each competed in the semi-final matches, to determine which archer got to play for the gold/silver medal, and which (the loser) got to recover for a possible bronze or 4th place.

The striking difference is that after the semi results are tallied, the loser must THEN, within a few moments, conduct another match, in the same main-stage venue as if for gold/silver.  S/He has just been defeated.  Lost.  Failed to score the right arrow at the right time.  And the tournament director is telling them,  “NO, you cannot just set there and weep and dwell on what you did wrong”…You must RIGHT NOW take your bows, and the arrows they are just returning to you from the target, and go to the main arena, sometimes mere steps away through a tunnel.

Turnaround Tunnel - Beijing(This is the tunnel between the B side and the Main Stadium from Beijing )

And fight for the “consolation” of the bronze.  As my Outward Bound leader often told me, while hanging by a rope, or traversing a knife-edge at 14,000 feet summitting Capitol Peak while roped to 6 other climbers, “you have to get your sh*t together”.  Crude but erudite.   As it is for our two Texan recurves today who BOTH found themselves thrown into a fight for the bronze.  They had to get it together.  Why?

Bronze is the only medal where to have a chance to win it, you must first lose. First, have your goal snatched away and your heart broken – your hopes of the glorious golden top step wiped out, destroyed. That goal that perhaps you’ve spent 8 or 10 years working towards, 6 days (or more) out of every week!

You may naturally want to collapse, to cry, to retreat.  You will most certainly know inside yourself, that one arrow you faltered with, that lost the set, that lost the match, that took away your chance for the gold. (or silver).  If coach has done his/her job right, that will not happen.

Having witnessed first-hand the mental disruption to my student this caused, and watched the turnaround in attitude within 50 feet and 10 seconds, from devastation to determination, I know what defines a champion.

To win a gold is unique – in each tournament, only one person will do this per gender/bow – only one person will not lose a single match in the event.  Every other archer WILL lose, and how they respond defines their self-worth and self-esteem.

One archer will lose, and then be asked, be afforded, the chance to then win.  I’d say it is harder to win the bronze, mentally, than the gold.  Perhaps not.  But with a bronze winner, s/he has just gotten DOUBLE the competitive experience and education.  And every match played is experience that affords the opportunity to learn – I’m sure our Texans learned a lot today.  Congratulations to these relative newcomers on getting as far as they did, and they both know that on any given day, they can make that top step.  Today will help them on that path – they both got double the experience!  Congratulations to them, again. And also, to their parents, team mates, friends, and coaches.

Increase Myelin For Elite Performance

Elite archers become elite by doing the exact same muscle motions precisely over and over, through thousands of hours and hundreds of thousands of arrows shot.  The elite development is because the human body, through evolution, responds to ANY activity by buttressing, reinforcing, that which is working.  Bones that are stressed by weights or impact of running flex, and the body responds by sending in more calcium.  Muscles that are torn down by weight lifting are rebuilt in larger fibers with more nerve connections, as long as the appropriate nutrients are available.

NERVES INVOLVED IN SHOOTING – the path from the brain to the muscles – are made up of millions up millions of axons (nerve cells) strung together like a string of sausage links. As they are used over and over, the body has little octopus-looking machines (oligodendrocytes) that detect the higher activity and go to work, laying down a wrapping layer of FATTY TISSUE.  In this case, the fat (myelin) is like a super-conductor.  It turns the nerve from a skinny straw into a firehose, capable of carrying information in both directions so much better that the person becomes elite.

Myelin comes from Oligodendrocytes, tiny little, insanely busy machines that look like an octopus.  Oligos lay down the fat. Oligos have been shown to malfunction and are a major factor in Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

For a complete review of the fascinating Oligo, refer to this webpage where a much more clinical discussion of myelin and Oligo functions is presented.

Studies show Oligos only work most efficiently when they have vitamin D.  Seriously.  Archers that train in high-quality sunlight, exposing as much skin as possible, will have the best Oligos.  The most Myelin. The best chance to reach their potential highest evolution of performance.  Proof?  There are many studies, which you can access via google, using search terms “oligodendrocyte vitamin D”.  I’ve listed a few links below.  You will find that many focus on the FACTS regarding MS – a fatal disease where the oligos break down and stop making myelin, and so the parts of the brain lose the ability to talk to the muscles, among other things.  I cannot help but wonder if Stephen Hawking had grown up in south Texas instead of cloudy England, whether the course of his  amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) would have even occurred. Myelin failure is involved in ALS.

From one study: “The authors found that neural stem cells carry receptors that can bind to vitamin D. When they added vitamin D to the cell culture plates, the neural stem cells increased their numbers significantly after one week, demonstrating that vitamin D triggers neural stem cells to activate and multiply. Importantly, vitamin D stimulated the neural stem cells to mature into both neurons and myelin-forming oligodendrocytes, but not astrocytes. The mechanism by which vitamin D activated neural stem cells was through promoting increased activity of several important neurotrophic factors.”

SO the short of it is, athletes need vitamin D levels that are higher than normal mortals because their oligos literally consume it faster, as do the inflamed muscle tissues, if they want MORE MYELIN.

The slightly longer of it is that D is not a vitamin.  It is a steroid.  It is a hormone.  Its functions in the human body are to enhance the functions of the immune system and to deal with any kind of inflammation, whether due to trauma, disease, or purposeful athletic training.

When you want to become stronger, you work out.  You lift weights.  You run.  You shoot arrows a LOT over and over.  You use your muscles as hard as you can.  This all is literally causing inflammation.  Exercise is willful inflammation, destruction, of the muscles.  You tear down the muscle, and if all is working right in your body, those muscles get rebuilt bigger, stronger, twitchier, and with more nerve endings (which are more myelinated).  That happens if you have enough vitamin D, of course.  Low in D?  it will still happen, but no where near the “best” or optimal, way.  So you want bigger, stronger, faster muscle power? You need an adequate supply of vitamin D for your unique personal needs.

I’ve developed enough understanding at this point to have recommendations for how much D one should take orally, if you cannot get out into high quality sunlight for an hour or two every day.  And for extreme athletes it may not be possible to actually make enough for nominal levels unless the sun conditions are perfect.

On a per/day dosage for normal humans, in order of criticality:

  • 10,000iu per 100 pounds body weight for pregnant women and the male contributor of the sperm* (obviously this should be established for MONTHS prior to conception)  D stabilizes the DNA of the sperm.
  • 10,000iu per 100 pounds post-partum, especially if/while nursing.
  • 1,000iu per 25 pounds for newborns via drops/liquid form (1000iu per drop) even if nursing.

Athletes and young adolescents subject to growth spurts:

  • 15,000iu to 25,000iu per 100 pounds body weight (25,000 is for the extremely heavy training with NO sun exposure – the typical gym rat)
    There MAY be no need to vary dosing during periodization training.  I do feel that adequate D contributes to achieving supercompensation!

50,000iu daily for 3 to 5 days if apprehending an illness. IOW: “I’m coming down with my roommate’s crud” or “I’m flying for 12 hours to an international competition, and the guy in seat 6b is hawking up a lung” or “I think I’m coming down with something”.

“Normal” people:   5,000iu to 10,000iu per 100 pounds body weight

There is genetic variation in several factors.  Dark skin will take up to 8 times longer to make D in the sun.  Oral dosing is the same, but much more critical as a result of the sun resistance.

Some will not need this much.  The only smart, sound thing to do is to test your blood level 2 months after you start your dosing.  The test can be done at home, for as little as $50. (see vitamindcouncil.org to order a test online).  You MUST test your level, in order to know whether you are doing the right dose.  Your goal should be 50 ng/ml to 100 ng/ml. There is no science to show levels above 100 ng/ml enhances athletic performance, nor any that it harms or limits it.  I would not recommend going above 100 ng/ml unless a disease like RA is present, and then only under the direct supervision of a physician.

For people with a disease related to chronic D Deficiency:  RA, MS, Diabetes Type II, Crohns, Lupus, fibromyalgias, inflammatory diseases of any nature, cancers.  Much more.  Google your disease and “vitamin D”.  Double all doses.  At least.

By now you understand that the human body responds to precise repetitions of a physical act by hyper-developing the neural pathway involved.  In other words the body makes myelin layers on the nerves that are getting the most use.

Myelin is a fat.  A lipid.  It is vital for brains to interconnect all of the multitude of nuclei of special functions to enable us to be well, us.  When someone’s immune system decides that Myelin is a foreign invading body, it develops antibodies that actually attack the myelin.  This is a simplistic description of MS – Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, as well as Autism.  Studies of these devastating diseases have given us the opportunity to understand how myelin is formed, maintained, and why.

If you are not already familiar with myelin and the “10,000 hour rule”, then do some reading on my bibliography listed in this blog by using the search tool.  While the “rule” of 10,000 hrs is not really a “rule” per the author, it’s a valuable concept.  It helps us understand a biological process that leads to enhanced physical performance.

Myelin is made, is laid down in a wrapping fashion like a bun around a hot dog, Each axon is the hot dog in this example, so we’re talking a chain of millions of hot dogs in one single series from the brain to a muscle bundle in say, the string fingertip.  Now consider how many millions of muscle bundles there are in the muscles involved in a shot cycle.  That is a LOT of axons!

Where does myelin actually come from?  Oligodendrocytes.  I’ll shorten the name to Oligos ’cause I am lazy.  Oligos are amazing.  Scientists have identified the way D enables enzymes to be expressed, since more than 1000 genes are controlled by D.  Some of those enzymes are key in Oligos doing their myelin thing.  Other enzymes D facilitates repair damage to DNA.  In fact, D makes the only enzyme known that can mend not just one side of the helix, but BOTH sides of the strand of DNA.  So D is also one of the most potent antioxidants known to man.

Cautions:  D enables calcium (and other minerals) absorption.  If you are deficient in D, you’ve been able to take excessive amounts of calcium (say, too many Tums a day), but without the D you haven’t been absorbing the calcium.  You fix your D level, and suddenly start absorbing excess calcium, and you can get into hypercalcemia which is life-threatening.  So adults, 1 gram of calcium per day.  Teenagers, 1700mg (1.7 gms) daily because you are actively growing more bone.

D IS NO SILVER BULLET.  But for athletes, if you are not “right” with your D level, you will never reach your ultimate potential no matter how hard you train..

Recent study that is related to my point, but also takes it further…

NTS Ain’t Jest Fer Recurves

Just attended a “refresher” seminar chock-full of information on coaching and the National Training System (NTS), conducted by USAA Level V Coach Guy Krueger.

A total of 21 Texas coaches attended this day-long event in College Station.  It was most enjoyable from every aspect.   Good friends.  Dedicated archers & coaches.  Congenial environment.  HIGHLY interested and motivated to learn.   A Texan teacher who speaks our lingo.

This event served to raise the group’s awareness and refine our knowledge on the finer points of the NTS shot cycle.  We will all be better educators because of that single day.

There are a couple of steps in the NTS that must be modified for compound shooters.  But the vast majority of the NTS elements do the same thing for compound archers that they do for the recurve archer:  Provide a consistent way to control the bow as it is drawn.  To INVEST yourself into the back and achieve HOLDING with a proper, highly-efficient bone alignment to handle the mass of the bow and the weight of the bow.  To provide the follow-through mechanism that minimizes “influence” altering the arrow’s point of impact.  To REDUCE the size of the hover circle and help the archer to STOP wasting time aiming.

The single biggest impediment to ANY compounder being able to raise the quality of her/his shooting via the NTS is getting the draw length set so the archer can create 100% of the gun barrel.  That accomplished, the NTS can be taught by the coach to compound archers and WILL enable them to become better shooters.  We just have to teach it.

If you want to be an archery coach, you cannot refuse to ignore the compound archer anymore. And it should be obvious that compound archers will eventually make great recurve archers, if they are taught the right way.  Just ask Butch or Brady.

Sometimes The Lightbulb Takes A While

I’ve known and talked for many years about the nature of vitamin D and its effects on human (and pet) health.  I’ve strongly maintained that serious elite athletes need to insure their levels of active D are well above 50ng/ml, to as far as around 70 ng/ml!  Some 80% of the American population is deficient, ie, LESS than 40 ng/ml, and many are in the teens of ng/ml, surely leading to diseases. I am writing this primarily for those that “get it” rather than to persuade the resisters of D benefits.

Something about the nature of D, despite my years of intensive information gathering on it, recently took me totally by surprise, and has altered my stance on my dosing recommendations for vitamin D3 for athletes and anyone undergoing physical stress/exertion OR CHEMOTHERAPY.

For years, I’ve been able to keep my blood level, as measured by the 25(OH)D blood test, well above 50 ng/ml.  Studies have shown better athletic performance for up to 70 ng/ml.  Elderly people fall down less often, and suffer hip fractures far less often, the higher their blood levels are, and for athletes needed *excellent* balance and control over muscle function, up to 70 is shown to help.  Logic dictates: If you want to cover your bases and be as healthy as you can, you must insure your D levels are at least at the mother-nature level of 50 ng/ml.  And if you want to be an elite performer of maximum personal potential, it must be up in the 70ng/ml range.

I have been remarkably consistent in body weight over the last decade, staying at around 238 to 240 pounds, with a 6’6″ frame.  Though a few years ago, I ruptured/liquified a lumbar disc or two, and lost about an inch in height.  But still a fairly good, “dad-bod”.  Not terribly active physically other than the standing and walking a pharmacist gets daily. BP and heart rate both healthy/low.

Just a month or two back I had my D tested, and it was over 80 ng/ml, much to my satisfaction.  It goes up slightly in the summer due to extra sun, not because I changed my daily oral dose of 10,000iu of D3.

Since that test, I have had to suddenly do a lot of hiking in the hill country.  Hiking up and down, over hills, down ravines, slippery rocky paths, cutting branches and trees, clearing brush, going several miles a day, making notes and taking rangefinder distances to decide the placement for 24 target stands and bales for an archery tournament.  This in Texas summer, June and July heat and sun, on weekends.  After 3 or 4 weekends I had the plan, but no one to execute it with.  So from sunup to sundown, for five straight days of “vacation” from the pharmacy, I carried wooden stands, pounds of metal spikes, rolled 30-pound 52-inch target bales throughout, and toted assorted tools over a two and one-half mile course that gained and lost hundreds of feet in altitude, cutting branches and clearing paths and brush.  I drank constantly but never stayed caught up with hydration, my clothes were always sopping wet and rarely did I need to umm, micturate after around 9am.  I stopped for breaks only when my pulse exceeded 160 or 170, or else my vision became monochrome, or my disorientation kept me from figuring out what I needed to do next.  I did this for 5 days straight, stopping each day when it got dark.

I shed somewhere around 16 pounds during those 5 days, and every morning was extremely painful due to muscle and joint soreness, which disappeared as I warmed up.  I’ve done Colorado Outward Bound(yeah, with a 17-y.o. body), I thought, I can do anything I truly need to, and this needed doing. So I did it.

The tournament went off nearly perfectly, thanks to some help at the very last, on the last two days prior, by a couple of good friends, including my wife(my best friend, actually).  John Magera and Gina, also  finished because I was out of vacation days and had to return to work in the pharmacy. (air conditioning, LOVE IT)…

We had 40 archers shoot the course, I shot more than 1500 photos (and posted them in a great album format).    I then reclaimed all the bales, the stands, the spikes, the signs, removed the trail tags, picked up all the distance pegs and markers, again mostly on my own, though Gina was extremely helpful on several of the days, and John also helped right after the tournament.

A week later, I did another D test for no real good reason other than I thought since I had been in the sun so much it would be good to evaluate the effect.  I used a $50 test from the Vitamin D Council.  It came back as 36 ng/ml!   Holy Cow, I haven’t had that low of a level in a decade!  What was wrong?  I’d been in the sun those days for 14 hours, and I never use sunscreen.  Never changed my daily dose of capsules of D.  Didn’t change my diet other than to miss the noon meal each day, which helped me with that weight loss.  What could explain the drop?  It should have gone UP, I was in the sun so much.

After hours of mulling it over, the lightbulb FINALLY lit up.

D helps the immune system, makes cathelicidin which can decrease the level, somewhat especially if you are ill with a viral/fungal/bacterial infection.

But I haven’t been sick in my memory over the last decade, no flu, no crud, no skin infections, lung infections, nada!  So that couldn’t be why.

D also helps the body …..deal with inflammation.   AHA.   My severe cross-training-like days working out were very effective in tearing down my muscles – each night I would start severe leg cramping until I took diazepam, despite drinking plenty of rehydration fluids – and muscle/weight training is nothing more than purposefully inflicting damage and inflammation, and expecting the body to respond by rebuilding that damaged muscle fiber back bigger, better, and stronger.  Likewise bones that are stressed, by say, hiking up and down hills bearing extra weight, will increase their density by migrating calcium to them to enhance the matrix.  These things require vitamin D!   I literally burned up my D by overtraining.

I was so astonished, though.  I knew if one has a bone fracture, the blood level of D virtually vanishes overnight, going to close to zero as that bone area absorbs it to begin the knitting process.  But I hadn’t linked muscle destruction of the intense sort I underwent with the same physiological response!

I wrote to Dr. Cannell, a noted expert on D and the head of the Vitamin D Council, and he confirmed my suspicions – it is entirely consistent that my levels would fall so dramatically in such a short time, given the workload I performed.

So I am taking 50,000iu daily for the next two weeks, then returning to 10K iu per day.

More importantly, I am urging every athlete in training, particularly archers who cross-train, to get their 25(OH)D tested ASAP.  Make sure that your blood level is at least up in the 60 ng/ml to 80 ng/ml range while you are in your training cycle. 

I have been recommending far too little up until now, and the only “sure” way to know you are taking enough is to get that $50 test.  It’s quick and easy, only takes a little finger-stick, like diabetics do multiple times a day.  If you are serious about either your health or your ability to perform at your very best, test your D level while you are demanding the most from your body and make sure your level is top-notch.  50ng/ml is the very lowest it should be, and anything up to 100 ng/ml is now considered safe and a normal range by most labs.

If you are NOT an athlete working out, and do NOT have a pathology (cancer, RA, MS, chronic nerve irritation such as a “myelitis” or a neuralgia, a bone infection, or are pregnant, or dealing with autism, etc.) then taking 5,000iu to 10,000iu daily per 100 pounds of body weight is prudent, provided you get a test after two months on that dosage to verify your level is at least 50 ng/ml.  Got a pathology?  You should consider 50k/day for several months, and evaluate your pathology/signs & symptoms at that point.  It may take *months* of good levels to undo *years of chronic deficiency*, or even longer.

If you are in heavy training, or under a lot of duress from competitions and traveling, you need more.  Possibly as much as 30,000 or 40,000iu of D3 PER DAY.  Much more than you can generate by laying out in the Texas sun from 10am to 4pm, completely nekkid.  Studies show that lifeguards, for example, routinely can generate 20,000iu per day!

What happens if you take too much?  Nothing.  The only true risk is for those that take too much calcium (ie, more than 1200mg for adults, 1700mg for adolescents, per day) because the enhanced D will improve your absorption of Calcium, and hypercalcemia CAN be a problem, and even life-threatening.  Just don’t take too much calcium, and the extra D will do nothing adverse.  USADA has no issue with vitamin D – just take a reputable brand (I use BioTech Pharmacal, after discussing manufacturing methods with the owner of the company, they do not “mess” with any USADA-forbidden substances)

Your tolerance to sun exposure will go up.  Your risk of infections, cancer (20+ types and counting) will go down.  Your nervous system and your muscular tissues will communicate better.  And so on…..

Oh. Yeah, there I go with my eurocentric narrow-window perspective again.  I forgot about all you athletes with naturally dark skin – yep, if you check a box other than “caucasian”, then I have some rude news for you.   You are FAR MORE LIKELY TO BE DEFICIENT than I am(I’m a typical gringo skin type), if we are both getting the same amount of sun exposure.  Where I might make 5,000iu of D3 in just 15 minutes laying out nekkid in the Texas noon-day sun, if you are exposing the same amount of skin as I am, it may take you FIVE TIMES AS LONG to make that 5,000iu of D3.   You see, having the sun provoke your skin into making vitamin D is mother nature’s way of protecting your skin from the damages of UV-A sunlight (which damages DNA and causes cancer big-time).  Dark skin NATURALLY is not as susceptible to UV-A wavelengths of sun, so unless you are living near to the equator, you have to work much harder to generate a healthy amount of vitamin D.  Not fair, not unfair, just the way it is.  So you can compensate by taking MORE vitamin D3 orally, perhaps two or three times as much daily as I do, to get to the same beneficial levels.

And any doctor that prescribes say, 50,000iu of vitamin D once a week?  Malpractice.   The half-life of D3 is less than 24 hours.  If you need 10,000 or 20,000iu per day,  then on Day 1, you’ve got it.  Day 2, you’ve got 25,000.  Day 3, you are down to 12,000. WHOOPS.  Day 4, 6,000, and on days 5, 6, and 7, your tissues ain’t getting bupkus!!!  Most of your body’s cells need D3.  Only a few need the activated form produced by your liver and kidneys from D3, known as 25(OH)D.  Most cells absorb the “raw” D3, and activate it internally to be healthy. To fight off cancer-causing free radicals and DNA damage.   So any prescriber that thinks that 50K a week is good is not even hitting the bale at 18 meters, let alone scoring an X at 70 meters….

Want to have your best chance for a healthy life?  Want to reach the top step?   Take your D3.   Get some sun, don’t burn, but get some sun.  And get your level of 25(OH)D tested and make sure it is at least 50 ng/ml, and if you want to be elite, get it to 70 ng/ml and keep it there during the heaviest training regimen.