Updated: Mar 20
Hello all and I hope this article finds you well. The 2023 shooting season has gotten off to a healthy start and unfortunately, I missed the first IFAF shoot of the year held at Aos Dana. I love their course and the Aos Dana gang are always great fun. But I had my reasons for missing out on the shoot as I decided to attend a coaching seminar given by our Junior Team Head Coach Alexander Meyer.
For those who have not heard of Alex he hails from the USA and by the time he was 25 he had qualified as a level 4 coach, ranked in the top 20 archers in the states, became a Junior Dream Team Coach under the guidance of Coach Kisik Lee for 8 years, and had also managed to be national junior champion at the age of 16.
The seminar was held in the Sport Ireland Federation of Irish Sport building and 19 of us attended.
There was no requirement to be a coach to attend this seminar as it was aimed at helping archers and coaches alike to understand the shot cycle from a bio mechanical point of view and to give insight into how a training plan is devised to develop and archer from an ambitious beginner to a champion.
To say this was interesting and insightful would be an understatement.
Alex has an easy style about him, he is calm when speaking and explaining archery which makes the lecture quite engaging. Of course, it helps a lot when you have 19 archery nuts in the audience keen to learn more. Keeping our attention probably was the least of Alex’s worries.
So, what was it all about I hear you ask? Well things kicked off with a go around the room and introduce ourselves to the group. I cringe at this bit, public speaking is not an easy thing for many of us and I am no different. Then the science bit happened with some laws of physics such as inertia and momentum. Thankfully, there was no exam at the end of this.
Each step of the shot cycle was explored with video presentations of slow-motion shots from the likes of Brady Ellison. It was quite interesting to identify the transition through the steps while watching a top archer. Of course, even top archers still maintain their own style when executing the steps of textbook form but ultimately, they achieve the fundamental goal of skeletal alignment to brace against the power of the bow.
Then we paired up and took turns to coach each other through each of the steps. Using stretch bands as training aids and trying to balance on little blocks of timber. The goal being to get a feel for how much pressure an archer should place on the balls of their feet during the stance.
There were many areas of the shot cycle that I found had eureka moments for me. I have been flinging arrows for what seems like an eternity and it is hard to describe the sense of … I suppose embarrassment and slight regret in having spent 38 years shooting a bow and only now bothering my backside to deep dive into the science of the shot.
For example, “the coil”. What? I said to myself. Never heard of that. But then Alex explains how the coil movement during the Set-Up step is key to allowing the archer to attain “the barrel of the gun” (which is that alignment of bone structure – basically a straight line from the bow hand wrist through to the draw arm shoulder). And if you are like me and do not know what is meant by “Coil” it is a rotation of the archer’s shoulder as the bow is being lifted during the Set-Up step. Sounds simple but if you watch most archers, they have some form of a linear draw. The coil is a bit of an optical illusion as it looks like the archer is pulling the bow but in fact the lifting when done correctly only increases the distance between the bow hand and draw hand as both hands are raised vertically. This then puts the bow in a sort of 60% or 70% drawn position without the archer doing any pulling. You wonder how elite archers manage to draw 50lb plus for 200 shots and still hit gold…. Learn to coil and set the barrel of the gun.
So concluded day 1 of the seminar and as I was in my lovely partners new campervan for the weekend, I headed over to Camac Valley campsite on the Naas Road. This is a brilliant and convenient campsite a stone throw from Dublin City with a bus service right outside the main gate. My head was wrecked from archery science, and I decided going to town was off the cards. So, I made camp, cooked up a prawn pad thai and had a cold beer while watching the local bunny rabbits run around the campsite. They make it a fun place to camp with the kids.
I was so engrossed in enjoying cooking sausages the next morning I forgot the time and in a mad dash packed the van, gave the rashers to the fox, and skidded sideways into the seminar carpark with a minute to spare.
Day 2 was a recap of the 12 steps from yesterday and a look and how a training plan is mapped out for an archer. I had not seen anything like this before and it highlighted the difference between the athlete who is committed to a goal of reaching an elite level and an archer. It made me reflect on archery in Ireland back in the 1980’s and I felt a sense of disappointment. So much talent basically gone to waste due to the lack of coaching.
When I was a junior archer, I miraculously won a silver medal in the national indoor championships with a bow that was not tuned and arrows that were picked out of the Quicks catalogue based on the advice of a club instructor with zero credentials. Luckily, the club had an Olympian and if not for her id have learned nothing, but like all serious competitors they do not invest their time is coaching and that is fair enough. So, when my bow arrived, and we set it up in the club it was a case of put it together and shoot away. Getting access to a coach was the reserve of the privileged few in a sort of in crowd thing and it was obvious that who you knew was more important than what you knew or for that matter what potential you might have. The sport in Ireland is years behind where is should be and for all the wrong reasons. It is shameful.
But there is hope.
Alex spoke about his plan to work with junior archers and ultimately get this little country back into the Olympics over a ten-year period. I immediately thought to myself “where the hell were you in 1986”.
There is absolutely no reason why Irish archers should be behind the rest of the top countries in this sport. Archery as a sport does not discriminate against people, only people do that. You can shoot a bow well no matter the disability. Archery just needs to provide young and old archers with access to good coaching, facilities, and support.
I came back from the seminar with renewed hope for the future of the sport in Ireland. It is growing at a pace, and we must ensure at club level that we provide an avenue for archers seeking excellence while still maintaining the fun and social side of the sport so all archers regardless of ambition can enjoy archery at their own level and pace.
I wish Alex the very best of luck in his career with the junior Irish team and to all his students I hope you find success and enjoy the sport as much as I have.
On a separate note:
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