We’ve got great news if you’re interested in taking your bow and arrow skills to the next level: It’s now easier than ever to find an archery coach, thanks to a joint certification program between USA Archery, the National Field Archery Association and the Archery Shooters’ Association.
Archery is also growing faster than ever before, which means you have plenty of options when choosing an archery coach. How can you tell which coach will give you the best kind of instruction? We’re here to help, starting with 5 traits to look for in a prospective archery coach.
Possesses basic knowledge and training
Anyone being paid to coach archery should be formally certified to instruct you, through the national archery organization you belong to. Coaching certifications include background checks and information about the legalities of coaching – and they include information on important things like range safety, the basics of equipment selection and repair, and proper shooting technique. Regardless of the coach’s certification, it’s a good idea to check references and ensure you’re comfortable with their level of knowledge and experience.
Makes safety a priority
Good coaches are concerned about range safety and preventing injuries through proper technique. If you say you’re feeling pain from shooting, good coaches can determine its cause – or work with a doctor or specialist to understand your injury. Sometimes a little soreness after practice is okay, like well-worked muscles that grow stronger. But pain can be an indicator of injury, muscles used incorrectly, or conditions like tendinitis. Good coaches work hard to tell the difference, and refer you to medical professionals when they have concerns.
Listens and watches more than talks
Many students think coaches should talk constantly, but that’s not how coaching works. Coaches need to watch you shoot lots of arrows. They must figure out what you’re doing and how often. They watch from different angles. With your permission, they may take video of your shot, or a photo. Then they must decide what to address and in what order. Coaches who constantly talk and instruct can’t study what you’re doing, or listen to your concerns. In general, coaching should be a collaborative process in which the coach works with the archer: listening, gathering information, offering instruction and soliciting feedback.
Occasionally, we see coaches with archers at tournaments who are “overcoaching:” talking the archer through every shot without giving them any breathing room. They may talk so much that the athlete becomes distracted from shooting. More importantly, while this level of attention might seem “helpful” in the short-term, it fosters a sense of dependence that hurts the archer’s ability to self-assess and grow. Excellent coaches teach you skills to help yourself, and then give you time during practice and competition to use them. Setting you up for success is about providing support as needed, and knowing when to step back.
Explains what to do and why
Being told to move your sight or make a change to your equipment can be helpful, but learning why you’re making the adjustment is even more helpful. Learning how to select your bow, set it up, tune your arrows, and self-assess are skills that can help you excel at archery. A great coach is going to work with you on keeping track of your equipment, and will teach you how to make equipment decisions with their help and input. Make sure your coach knows you want to learn these skills, and take notes you can reference later.
The best way to decide if a coach is right for you is to set up an initial meeting. During this session, the coach can have an opportunity to see you shoot, see how well you respond to helpful suggestions, and you can determine whether you like the coach’s communication style. You should have an opportunity to ask about practical details, like how often you would meet, the cost of lessons, and whether the coach is able to assist you at tournaments if needed. This initial meeting is also a great way to see if your personality is a good fit with the coach’s personality, a key ingredient for success.
Remember: the best coaches are cooperative with the students they teach. They seek the archer’s input, and they work side by side with the archer to make good decisions. Above all, they give the archer the opportunity to shoot their own arrows, knowing when to offer input and when to just observe and silently support the athlete. By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to narrow down your coaching options, and hopefully find a coach who’s a great fit for you!