On the 19th of November this year I had the magnificent opportunity and privilege of undertaking my long-awaited Level 2 Instructors’ course. Now this means a lot to me. It provides me with an opportunity to help share the passion I have for this pursuit, to help those overcome those initial confidence testing competition hurdles, to help newcomers fit in so to speak. It also provides me with a means to grow and develop and improve myself too, not just in the knowledge of archery but as a person.
So first, I'm perhaps going to go out on a limb here and say this and maybe touch the odd raw nerve or two. It's very important to hold on to your dreams, to believe in yourself and your abilities, to not let detractors and naysayers put you down whether to your face or behind your back, nor let them instill doubts in your motivations, nor let them especially interrupt your drive to be a better person.
Sadly, they're out there and would perhaps do well with engaging in some occasional self-reflection on their own personal reasons for being part of this wonderful, inclusive, mindful pursuit.
I think I've satisfied myself as to what I am in it for.
For many, it’s not entirely about winning or status. For many, it's not that at all!
I want to extend a massive thank you to Colleen Moore of Cork City Archery Club and Nick Anton of Laois Archery Club for accepting my application, deeming me competent and facilitating my course. I learned so much but more importantly it provided me with the tools to learn and offer so much more.
However, I have digressed, for this is not about me, but about having the opportunity to interview IFAA Level 3 coach Colleen Moore.
I had previously sent her a whole bunch of questions on the basis of expecting a handful to be answered. However, answer them all she did, and I'm delighted she did, for reading back it gives an amazing insight into the highs and lows and the challenges and benefits and all that go to into being .......an archery coach.
What do you see as the principal difference between a Level 1 and a Level 2 instructor?
A piece of paper. A Level 1 or a Level 2 coach just means that they've done the course, it just means that they put the time into studying, to make the effort to improve themselves as coaches. I don't actually believe that a Level 1 coach with 20 years’ experience is any less of a coach than a Level 2 coach with 10 years’ experience. They both bring different things to it and I think whether you're a Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, or Level 4 you still need to respect the other levels because we all bring something different, we all bring something new so really it's just a piece of paper that says you've done the course.
Similarly, what is the difference between a level 2 and a level 3?
It’s basically the same. It is a piece of paper. However, the courses are slightly different so whereas a Level 1 would be a coach that was delivering beginners courses. A Level 2 would be a coach that would be taking people out of the beginners course on to a little more advanced and developing them to maybe national competition, whereas a Level 3 would be more involved with the higher levels of nutrition, mentality and developing international archers or archers that want to go further. Level 3 coaches also would deliver national Level 1 and Level 2 courses.
Do you enjoy teaching the level 1 and level 2 courses?
As I said it depends who's on the course but in general yes, I like being able to help people progress through the stages.
I like watching people develop and especially if they're interested.
Are you ever approached by individual archers seeking assistance or advice or in trying to address an issue in form, equipment, on rules etc.?
They do. Sometimes I think an archer gets to a point where they're sort of stagnating and they look for coach. Sometimes young women tend to come to me because I'm a woman and I think they just generally feel more comfortable working with me especially teenagers. Other coaches would ask me, because trad is more my thing, if they weren't sure about something on that, asking could I have a look at it or could I help an archer. Equally if I’ve a compound archer and as it's not my thing I would approach a coach that is specific to compound shooting. I think knowing your weaknesses and your strengths is a very important part of being a coach.
Do you get to do much individual 1-on-1 archer coaching?
Yes, I I'm doing work with four different archers at different levels at the moment. The one to one is interesting. I think once you get to Level 2 and Level 3 you start working more one-to-one than you're do in groups because you do less of the beginners courses.
Why did you become a coach especially a level 3?
Thomas Colclough has a lot to answer for that. He encouraged me to develop into the coaching side of it. I like seeing the light bulb moments people have when I'm explaining something to help them to improve their archery and they get it and they feel good about themselves and it's great to see that, It's great to be able to help people reach that point.
When training level 1 coaches is there a particular item or an issue or a focus point that regularly arises and seems to be common amongst potential level 1 instructors?
One thing is that people coming to do their Level 1, sometimes don't think they're good enough to be a coach. And as they don't think they they're good enough I say to them you wouldn't have gone to all that trouble to be on the course, unless you wanted to improve and help others improve. I think it's a little bit of a confidence thing but as I always say to them, you're here doing this, so of course you are capable. You have to keep learning.
Same question again but for level 2 instructors?
I think once a coach is coaching at Level 1 for a number of months and they come to do their Level 2, they're already making decisions to go the coaching way, so I think then the confidence thing and ‘not being good enough’ thing isn't quite such the issue as it would be for some of the Level 1 candidates. From then on, they tend to be varied. It's a very individual thing. People have different things that they want to focus on or they think they are weak on and seek to develop that.
Do you think there should be more engagement with archers by level 2 instructors on a one-on-one basis? In other words, do you think instructors could be more proactive in putting themselves out there as being available to help?
Well I think all coaches need to be reaching out, a little bit, but at the same time an archer needs to be at a point where they want the help. Usually when an archer gets to that point, where they want help, but they know they need help, they will actually go looking for somebody to help them, whether it's another member in the club or whether it's a coach within the club. If they approach another member looking for help, quite often that member will say well why don't you try this coach or that coach whether it be a Level 1 or Level 2 or Level 3 coach. So I think let it be known in the club atmosphere that this is the list of coaches. Then really it's down to the archer, you can't be forcing yourself.
In a couple of lines would you have a coaching philosophy or ethos on which you base your approach to coaching?
You have to have a passion for it. You have to understand that if you're going to go coaching it will impact on your own personal options. I suppose you just have accept as a coach this is going to impact on your archery or alternatively you train harder and at different times. I think it just depends and I think no two coaches coach the same way and we all have something to bring.
In your opinion are there any particular qualities such as in character, organizational skills, ability, experience etc. that stand out in making someone an effective archery coach / instructor?
I suppose you've got to listen. You've got to listen to the concerns of the archer. Sometimes what they think is wrong is not what's actually wrong, so you have to have the observational skills. Patience, you need patience and you need to be able to laugh at yourself because sometimes you have to make fun of yourself to put the archer that you're coaching at ease. I think you have to make it fun, you have to be lighthearted about some of this. So you know I just go at it the way I am. Be yourself.
Similarly, if you were to list 5 single-word desirable traits of an archery coach, what would they be?
Be passionate about what you're doing. Be good listener too for two reasons. One you need to listen as a coach to understand what the archer’s going to need. You need to listen as a coach to other coaches. Be adaptable. Planning a training session might not go the way you want it. You can always adapt a training session. You can always adapt to whatever you’re doing if you try. Good observation skills. Observation is a massive thing. If you don't observe your archer properly, you're not going to see the issues and you can’t fix what you don't see. Make it fun, it has to be fun.
5 good ones there, thanks Colleen.
For either a level 1 or a level 2 archery coach / instructor are there any particular recurring challenges you've encountered when giving guidance?
The challenges between Level 1 and Level 2 are no different to Level 3. Time constraints, we're all busy, we're working, we have families we have commitments, so I think one of the issues is that that your coaching cuts into your personal archery time and that can be frustrating. Every situation is different and it's very hard to say that this is a recurring theme. It might be one thing in one club or in a different club it might be a different thing, so a coach from club A may have very different recurring issues to a coach in club B, so I think it's very hard to pin something like that down.
What do you find to be the hardest or challenging part of being a coach?
There are very few women coaches and that's not just in archery. There are very few women coaches in sport altogether. I think that's partly because women are involved very much greatly at home. Their time constraints are greater than perhaps a guys' would be so you’re going to get a lot more male coaches. Sometimes male coaches can exert a sort of dominance. For me personally, I don't let people away with that but there are women coaches that do find that hard to deal with. That, I would say is something that often cannot be helped, it's just the way of life. You do have to perhaps harden up a bit as a female coach and say 'no I'm not taking any nonsense' but that's not always easy.
What's your favourite and most rewarding part of being a coach?
Light bulb moments. I love seeing a coach that I'm coaching or an archer that I'm coaching suddenly join the dots as to what I am explaining to them, what I'm trying to get them to do and when everything falls in place because the great joy that person gets is just unbelievable and to see that joy in somebody's face and know that you've helped that person get there, makes you feel good in yourself.
Are there any books you would recommend for up and coming coaches?
Core Archery definitely. I think every archer should read Core Archery. Larry Weis's books are very concise, they are small books and they are easy to read. There are quite a lot of videos and a lot of people have turned to videos these days. Archery Strong would be a good one to refer to, you can find them on Facebook and on YouTube.
Another good writer would be Steve Ruis. He has got some good coaching books and general archery books. I think sometimes you can just find an archery book that appeals to you, but as we're all individuals that book might not appeal to the next person. It's a bit of a personal thing really but I do think Core Archery would be the definite. Every archer needs it.
As a level 2 instructor, are there any benchmarks or achievements on which you measure the benefits of archery coaching? Or does it come down to how the Archer performs at competition level?
It really is a combination because not all Level 2 coaches want to be seriously competitive so although a Level 2 coach has to comply with the requirements to get keep their license within IFAF, the requirement is that they shoot and they get scores on their classification card to record that. They should return their logs. Not all coaches want to be great archers and so their own performance and their archers performance depending on what the archers goal Is wouldn't necessarily be the results in a competition. Competition depends on what type of archer you are and what type of coach you are. If you're focused on competition, and that’s your area, because we all have areas that we're a little bit better at, then that could be a way of measuring it. If you're a coach that is more interested in bringing on fun or leisure archers then maybe people staying in the sport, people going out having fun days and staying with the club is the way you measure it. Sometimes, no two coaches work the same way and personalities can clash, so a coach that one person might be raving about, another person might not be able to work with at all. In that situation, from a coaching perspective you've just got to say ‘well look this isn't working, perhaps you need to try another coach’, but you have to be willing to admit that you can't coach everybody, to admit that you need to refer to other coaches. Other coaches may have different techniques to you, they may have different ways of explaining things which might work better with that Archer. So it's not an insult and it shouldn't be taken as an affront that an archer cannot work with you. It should just be a case of ’OK fair enough this isn't working but I think maybe you could try this other coach'. Always be willing to guide the Archer towards a coach that might be more what they need. It doesn't mean you failed. It just means that that archer needs a different type of coaching to what you can provide.
You've identified or noticed the struggling yet eager archer? What's your approach?
It depends. If you're talking about an archer that maybe is a little bit timid of searching a coach out, I would approach them and just sort of say ‘how are you doing?’ and if they don't know me personally as a coach, because I'm not always at the club, I'll introduce myself and say I have noticed that they’re having a difficulty with this or that and ask if they would like some help. If they turn around and say that they don't want any help then ok fair enough you've done what you can but in 10 days’ time they might sort of think they do need you and they might come back to you or they might approach another coach. If they say ’yeah I'd love your help’ then fair enough, but also be willing to say ‘ok, fair enough this archer doesn't need my help at the moment’, but at least you let them know that you're there if they need you and you can't do any more than that.
And finally, anything you'd like to add?
Just make it fun!
Thank-you very much Colleen.
Listen to an audio recording of the interview: