Thoughts of an archery coach

#43 Clicking with a clicker...

From conversations with archers, more talk about and struggle with the correct use of the clicker than almost anything else. For such a simple and seemingly innocuous piece of archery equipment to cause so much angst and frustration is worrying for a coach.

What's needed is a clear understanding of what the clicker is for, how it should be used and most importantly how it should be introduced to an archer so that future difficulties can be avoided.

But first, a little history lesson.


(courtesy Abbey Archery)

Fred Leder is the man who invented the clicker and developed the technique that many archers use today. His idea was to get away from using the eye as a triggering mechanism and instead use the ear as an audio trigger. Fred figured out that a small piece of spring steel screwed to the bow riser that would go over the end of the arrow and 'click' out of the way with slight pressure, might just solve the problem. His first clickers were made from wind up clock springs. In late 1957, he experimented and practised in his basement archery range and by the next spring, he was competing with the best in the area. 

The clicker was affixed to all of Fred's family's bows and the results were quite dramatic, with their scores going from just another archer in the field, to winning many events, local, state and national. However in 1961 in Crystal Springs, Arkansas, USA is where the clicker was really noticed. 

As a 16 year old, shooting in the intermediate division, Fred's son, Jim's scores were almost on par with the senior men's division. It wasn't long before Earl Hoyt of Hoyt Archery started selling clickers attached to a small bit of leather that had an adhesive backing and the rest, they say, is history.

When to introduce a clicker

Most important, key, essential, critical... A clicker will not help an archer stabilise their draw length and should only be introduced once the basic skills of the shot have been established. More than that, the archer must be able to control the bows draw weight. Indeed more faults are introduced throughout the shot by bows that are too heavy for the archer than anything else. (ARCHERS YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!)


Fundamental to the skill of using the clicker is the skill of extending/expanding once the full draw position has been reached. One of the best descriptions of extending for beginners comes from coach Kim Hyung Tak. Rather than try and paraphrase his words, I'll quote them directly...

"The beginner should push the pivot point on the bow with the pad of the thumb and the bow shoulder should extend forward toward the centre of the target And, the force direction of the drawing elbow (extending force line) should extend back away from the target with the drawing elbow a little higher than the arrow line."

Then coach Kim describes the key element...

"The force is divided equally across the body."

That is... a 50/50 balance is maintained. 50% on the front, 50% on the back.

How to introduce a clicker

We'll return to and talk more about the process of extending/expanding in a future blog post but for now concentrate on the outcome of extending which is the slow and continuous movement of the arrow point to the rear while maintaining the 50/50 balance in the shot. It's essential that this 'pressure' is maintained before/during and after the clicker goes off.

A coach can help the archer practice this by having them 'expand' and make a suitable noise (perhaps using two coins clicking together) to simulate the sound of the clicker. This will help the archer concentrate on the feeling of expansion without reacting to the click.

Hopefully this will help you understand the process in a bit more detail but in essence:-

  • Make sure you can control the draw-weight of your bow
  • Get the fundamentals of the shot down
  • Concentrate on the feeling of extending/expanding
    • 50/50 push/pull
  • Have a coach simulate the click of the clicker to test your ability to expand through the shot.


#42 Take a peep...

The story goes that some years ago, a compound archer in the US with a poorly inserted peep, lost the sight in his eye when the peep 'rebounded' and hit them with some force right in the eyeball! The inevitable lawsuit resulted and the outcome was that World Archery made the tying in of peep sights a requirement for World Record Status (WRS) competitions.

I suspect that there may be a little artistic licence in the story as it's been retold over the years but that aside, it's good practice to tie in a peep and while you can get away with simply tying around the groove of the peep and finishing with a reef knot, a neater and better way is to serve a short way above and below the peep to force the string together, then tie around the peep as an additional security measure.

Tying this short length of serving is just the same as serving nocks which we did a few weeks ago.

The process is a little fiddly but not complex as you'll see in the video we've put together as part of our 'how to' series. Enjoy!

#41 Custom bow grip? No problem...

The one constant in archery is that manufacturers make equipment for an average person. Sadly there is of course really no such thing as an average person!

Given that we only have two points of contact with the bow (our draw hand and our bow hand), it makes sense to ensure that both points of contact are specific to the archer so that they are comfortable, repeatable and put the archer in the correct position.

Today we take a look at the bow hand and walk you through the process of creating a custom bow grip. Some more experienced archers might like to have a go themselves, otherwise have a chat with your coach as they should be happy to do this for you.

Picture courtesy Kim, Hyung Tak (Archery 2009)

#40 Beat the outbreak (WA Lockdown League Week 8)...

Week 8 – How it works

Only shoot if it’s safe to do so and you’re complying with your government’s advice to combat COVID-19.

  1. Download and print the target face from the link, the files section of this group or make your own!
  2. Link:
  3. Place your ships (or ask a friend to do so).
  4. Shoot at one of the following distances (any number per end): up to 5, 8, 10 or 18 metres and further.
  5. Shoot 21 arrow at the target in however many ends you like. Each hit (of a square with a circle in it) scores 1 point. When you hit all circles of a single ship score a bonus 2 points.
    Linecutters: Majority of shaft. If it’s truly half/half, you choose.
  6. Total your score (maximum 31).
  7. Take a picture of your target (preferably with you holding it) and post it in the group.
  8. Fill in the score submission here:
  9. Repeat as many times as you like!

At the end of the week, we’ll recognise the high scorers.

The WA Lockdown League continues to attract archers from around the world and seems that fancy dress has taken hold (have they had a sneaky peek at our Christmas Fun Shoot gallery?) WA's Facebook league page.

Week-8 has just started and even if you're not in a position to take part, its great fun seeing what others have been getting up to and dream about when we'll all be able to get together on the shooting line again and maybe try some of these wacky target faces for giggles.

#39 Key tool (part-1, the bracing height gauge)...

As coaches, one of the questions we get asked most often is "I've got a few quid spare (or family are asking about gift ideas for a new archer). What kit should I think of buying, now that I've got my bow?"

If an archer hasn't got one already, then one of the best bits of kit to buy is a bracing height gauge (sometimes called a fistmele gauge).

It's the 'Swiss Army knife' of archery gear, with a multitude of uses.

We've put together another of our short videos to show you the sort of thing your bracing height gauge can be put to.


#38 Take it steady people (an introduction to stabilisation)...

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What are stabilisers?

In the simplest terms, the stabilisation system of a bow consists of a series of rods, weights and dampers designed to influence how the bow behaves before, during and after the shot.

So what behaviours are we trying to influence?

Bows are relatively simple mechanical devices but the way in which they behave under the actions of drawing and shooting are quite complex. Thankfully as archers, all we need to recognise is that stabilisers can help us manage bow movement (up, down, forward, backward, rotating and rolling), bow balance (technically, the centre of gravity, but in layman’s terms the balance of the bow) and lastly vibration or more accurately, damping.

What sorts of stabilisers are available?

There are broadly three styles of stabilisers:-

Single rod systems. These consist of rods made from either carbon fibre or occasionally aluminium which can be either solid or hollow. The majority of modern single rod systems are made from carbon fibre which makes them light and stiff although some may have variable internal profiles to provide a certain amount of vibration damping (more on that later).

Multi-rod systems. Like the name suggests, these are made from multiple small diameter rods clustered together to provide the stabilisating effect. Available as three or four rods, they are light, can be ‘tuned’ by moving the masses along the rods, may be less affected by cross winds and are available in a wide veriety of lengths.

Blade systems. Once very popular, they have fallen out of favour in recent years, they differ from single rod systems in that they are elliptical in profile. This makes them very stiff in the horizontal plane with a ‘low profile’ offering less air resistance when shooting in cross winds. One of the unexpected consequences of the profile is they can actually cause flexing/wagging in the vertical because they behave like an aircraft wing!

What about bow balance?

Part of the role of stabilisation is to modify both the static balance (in the hand) and dynamic balance (during the shot). This is achieved by choosing differing rod lengths and adding differing amount of weight to the system but the result should be the same with the bow balancing in two planes as shown in the following pictures.

What about vibration dampening?

In an ideal world, when the energy stored in the limbs is released during the shot it would all be used to propell the arrow to the target. In reality, some of that energy is lost as heat (yes the bow heats up!), noise and vibration. How the bow absorbs those vibrations has a significant effect on how the bow feels during and after the shot. The stabiliser system has a role to play in this as its construction and the addition of dampers can significantly affect how much and how quickly vibrations are dissipated.

Where to start

The number and types of stabilisers on the market can make the task of choosing seem complex and confusing but good place to start is with a simple long rod, damper and weight system. This simple set up will get you on the right road without laying out too much money. When you want to expand on this system one of the club coaches will be delighted to talk through the options and benefits.

Where next

For those of you who are interested in further reading, I can recommend Dr. Steve Ellison's website and in particular his article on bow stabilisation (which is required reading for all archery coaches in my opinion!)

#37 Watch out! Spring has sprung...

Left to their own devices, archery kit has a tendency to become grungy, not because of misuse, but simply because of the environment in which we tend to operate. Sweat, rain, dust, accidentally dropping onto muddy fields, all this mens that gear can begin to function at less than it's best.

Some grime is obvious (dirty strings being one and we've already given some guidance on how to keep your strings clean (both recurve and compound)), but some is hidden, not least the inside of compound release aids. Your release aid is a piece of precision engineering and even small amounts of dirt can cause it to to be sub-par at best and at worst malfunction (either jam up completely or frighteningly... mis-fire at random!)

To avoid this, it's worthwhile keeping your release aid safely in a clean pouch when it's not being used and occasionally open it up to give it a proper clean and overhaul.

NOTE: Worth mentioning that manufacturers won't honour warrantees if you open your release-aid during it's warranty period. At this time, it's best to return it to the manufacturer or authorised retailer for servicing. With that warning out of the way, it's good to know that some manufacturers (Carter Enterprises being one) do offer advice on how to maintain their release-aids.

As extra help if you fancy having a go yourself, we've put together another of our How To videos which takes you through the process from start to finish.

#36 Plunger, pressure, cushion, Berger. They're all the same to me Bub...

All arrows flex as they fly to the target. This is normal behavior and enables the arrow to move around the bow cleanly while it is being shot. This flexing, or vibration, is a function of the spine of the arrow and is influenced by the skill of the archer.

An arrow typically vibrates with a frequency of 50Hz and takes roughly 20 thousandths of a second to leave the bow. In selecting arrows and tuning the bow, arrow, archer system we want to ensure that the arrow takes one complete flexing cycle from reference/release to the point where it leaves the bow. Anything less than this and the arrow may contact the bow as it passes, causing erratic flight.

When recurve shooters release an arrow with their fingers (as opposed to a release aid), the arrow flexes horizontally because the bowstring goes around the fingers. It’s physically impossible to open your fingers fast enough to let the bowstring travel in a straight line. This horizontal flex, called the “archer’s paradox,” turns the arrow into a self-contained vibrating system once it leaves the bowstring. The plunger ensures the arrow leaves the bow in a straight line despite all of its bending, which helps it fly straighter and more accurately.

As the arrow travels forward on release it moves toward the centre line of the bow (we call it centreshot). Without this, the arrow will not be aligned with the power stroke of the bow and will not travel in in a straight line to the target resulting in arrows landing left or right at different distances depending on the initial offset.

So the plunger button enables us to accurately set the centreshot offset. As a starting point, we make this somewhere between a half and one complete arrow width outside of centreshot. A more experienced archer will require less offset than a novice who’s release causes the arrow to flex more and hence more movement towards the bow requiring a larger offset.

The button also ensures that the initial motion toward the bow is met with just enough resistance to bring the arrow into centreshot. This is achieved by adjusting the spring tension within the button. The diagram on the right shows the internal construction of the button, which helps to explain how this is achieved.

  1. A threaded sleeve that screws into the riser.
  2. An adjustable locking nut that enables the depth of the button to be set and hence the centreshot offset.
  3. A spring-loaded plunger mounted inside the threaded sleeve.
  4. A rear collar that includes the spring tension adjustment screw.

©1999-2002 Murray Elliot (reference guide for recurve archers)

Turning the spring tension adjustment screw compresses or expands the spring, causing the button to become stiffer or weaker respectively. Too stiff a spring may result in the arrow not quite coming into centreshot causing it to leave the bow travelling left (for a right handed archer). Setting the spring tension too weak may result in the arrow moving past centreshot and hence will leave the bow travelling right (again for a right handed archer). In either case, extreme spring tension settings may result in clearance problems as the arrow moves past the bow.

Nearly every competitive recurve archer will need a plunger after completing their beginners course and getting settled with their first bow. The right plunger increases consistency and can last years, maybe even decades. It helps make your bow more forgiving, but don’t ask it to fix every shooting problem. You still must consistently execute good form while honing your technique.

#35 Attack of the Clones...

The pressure, plunger (or more accurately Berger) button is a well used but little understood bit of kit. Invented by Vic Berger in the 1970's, that's a story worthy of a blog post all of its own.

But today we're investigating how to go about cloning an existing button, that is, how can you set up a second button to be exactly the same as a 'reference' one.

Thankfully the process isn't difficult as there's only two things we need to replicate.

1) The distance from the inside face of the collar to the tip of the button. This sets the centre shot offset for the bow and...

2) The pre-load tension on the spring inside the button.

Follow along with this video we've put together to see what's involved.

#34 Beat the outbreak (WA Lockdown League Week 6)...

Week 6 – How it works

Only shoot if it’s safe to do so and you’re complying with your government’s advice to combat COVID-19.

  1. Download and print the target face from the link, the files section of this group or make your own!
  2. Link:
  3. Shoot 20 arrows, four into each target face at one of the following distances: up to 5, 8, 10 or 18 metres and further.
  4. Score the targets (as you go, maybe?). Gold scores 5, red 4, blue 3, white 2. Linecutters score the higher value.
  5. Bonus points apply per target. Four hits of the same colour +5, four hits with three different colours +10, four different colours +15.
  6. Take a picture of your target (preferably with you holding it) and post it in the group.
  7. Fill in the score submission here:
  8. Repeat as many times as you like!

At the end of the week, we’ll recognise the high scorers.

The WA Lockdown League continues to attract archers from around the world and seems that fancy dress has taken hold (have they had a sneaky peek at our Christmas Fun Shoot gallery?) WA's Facebook league page.

Week-6 has just started and even if you're not in a position to take part, its great fun seeing what others have been getting up to and dream about when we'll all be able to get together on the shooting line again and maybe try some of these wacky target faces for giggles.

#33 Equipment Review (Fairweather Tab)...

We're delighted to welcome back John Kearney as our guest blogger. Today John is giving us his thoughts on the finger tab by ex-Olympic Gold medalist Simon Fairweather.

Over to you John!

Fairweather tab - a review

Last summer, I was tempted to try a new tab for the first time in years: namely, the Fairweather Modulus tab, designed by Simon Fairweather, a former World and Olympic Champion. The design intrigued me, being very similar to a custom tab one of my best archery friends built for herself several years ago, so I thought it would be worth a try.

After shooting with it a few times I found that liked it, but I thought I could probably make some small changes to my existing tab to make it feel similar. So I did that, and then the Fairweather gathered dust for several months.

Then the lockdown rolled around, and while I can shoot at home safely, it can be boring just putting arrows into a short range target all the time. I needed to bring a bit of variety to my practice sessions, so I dug out the Fairweather again to give it a proper go. And I'm very glad I did.

The tab is a very simple design: three layers of kangaroo leather held together between two plastic plates, which are secured with a single screw. Very little to go wrong or come loose there! Also held in place by the same screw is a rubber finger spacer that incorporates a ring. Your middle finger slides into the ring, which takes the place of a strap. There is a small shelf built into one of the plastic plates, but if you don't shoot with a shelf, you can swap it for a plate without one (supplied).

I shot a few ends with my old Fivics Saker 1 tab, and then switched to the Fairweather, and then back again. The first thing I noticed was that I felt much more able to relax my string hand with the Fairweather, which improved my release. The thicker spacer did take a little to get used to, and made me think a little more about where I placed my fingers on the string, while also encouraging me not to twist my hand outwards too much.

After a few days of practice, I was sold. However, ever since a competition many years ago when my tab fell out of my pocket, leaving me (until it was found) with a battered tab I used for barebow to shoot with, I've never felt comfortable without a shot-in spare tab to hand.

So I ordered another, and thought I would document the shooting in process. This is where the Fairweather tab with its kangaroo leather comes into its own. Most tabs take a quite a lot work to break in, but Fairweather claims you can shoot in a new tab within only a few ends, especially if you dampen the leather first with a little water.

The tab arrived, and I put it to the test. Here it is after just one shot. You can see there's already a fold forming where the string sits:

Another 35 arrows later, and here it is again:

And here it is alongside my first Fairweather tab, which I must have used for over 1000 shots easily. Other than the darker hue of the leather of tab number one, you can't really tell the difference:

In conclusion, my old Saker 1s are now in retirement. They've done me well, but the Fairweather tab is just that bit better for me, and I'm really enjoying shooting it.

The downsides: well, the price. £65 for a tab isn't cheap, but then it's not the most expensive on the market. Also, you have to take a bit of a leap of faith when selecting the ring size for the finger spacer. I will say that the guide on the Fairweather website seems to work well, and while both my spacer rings felt a little tight to begin with, they're now very comfortable, and easy to put on and take off.

I have the 21 size spacer ring, and extra large leather set. If that's near to the size you need, you're welcome to try one of my tabs... next time we can all get together in a field :)

P.S. And if you're a barebow archer, Simon has come out with a barebow version of his tab that seems to have some very nifty design features. Worth checking out!

#32 Spring clean (part-1)...

Depending on which definition you use, spring started either on Wednesday, March the 20th 2020 for Astronomical Spring or the 1st of March for Meteorological Spring. Either way, we're definitely in spring-time so along with a young man's fancy lightly turning to thoughts of love (Alfred Lord Tennyson... look it up ;-) ), it's also the time we'd normally be thinking of doing a deep clean of things most precious to us.

In our case, being archers, that means cleaning our archery gear and in part-1 of this series, we turn our attention to the pressure button.

OK so hands up, who's actually had their pressure button apart and given it a good clean? Hmmm, thought so :-D

No problem... Thankfully it's an easy task and I've put together another one of our 'how to' videos to walk you through the process.

Happy spring cleaning!

#31 Reverse what?...

We're all stuck at home right now with almost unlimited time on our hands (although I will admit that I'm slowly catching up on the enormous list of household jobs. Much to my spouses delight!)

Although many of us are not in a position to shoot at home (and apologies... I am in the fortunate position of being able to shoot so no excuses from me to get some practice in!) there are plenty of things we can do to keep up our strength or indeed improve it while we wait for archery to restart.

Probably the best of these training techniques has been around for years and you've probably heard one or more coaches talk about it but may not have understood what it was all about. I'm talking, of course, about reversals.

Bow International talk about it as the 'ultimate secret weapon' for improving recurve/barebow shooting but research shows that few people know about it and even fewer incorporate it into their training programme.

Astra Shot-TrainerSo what's involved? Well in its simplest form, reversals is just the process of drawing the bow and holding at full draw for a predetermined time, letting down and then repeating. Indeed all the versions of reversals that various books and websites discuss are just variations on this core exercise. But to be effective (and more importantly, safe) here are my top-tips:-

  1. Ideally either put and arrow on your bow AND stand in front of a target, OR use a piece of equipment like a Formaster or Astra Shot-Trainer just in case you accidentally loose the bow so you don't dry-fire it.
  2. To begin, choose a hold time which you can comfortably cope with. Don't be all 'macho' and hold for longer than you can manage, it's much better to work up to a longer hold time as you grow stronger (and if you use reversals regularly, you'll be surprised just how quickly your strength improves).
  3. If you don't have a bow, or your bow is too 'heavy' for you at the moment to do use for reversals, then a clini-band is a great alternative.
  4. In the same vein, if your bow is too light, then slip a clini-band over the bow to increase the poundage without having to buy heavier limbs right away.

So what would a sensible reversals programme?

  • Start with a 2sec hold and 28sec rest (30sec cycle time)
  • Repeat for 30 repetitions (i.e. 15min total time)
  • Once you can easily complete this, increase the hold time by 2sec and decrease the rest time by 2sec but keep the cycle time the same.
  • Once you reach a 10sec hold (20sec rest), consider increasing your poundage.
  • Can't stress enough the importance of using good form throughout.
  • ONLY perform reversals where it's safe to do so.

#30 The whole thing, warts and all...

It seems that once again I'm "late to the party" and while I wouldn't describe this as an ASMR video (yup, I had to look it up too!), it does have a certain calming effect as you watch it :-)

So grab your favourite beverage, sit back, relax and watch a recurve bowstring being made from beginning to end, warts and all!

#29 Beat the outbreak (WA Lockdown League Week 5)...

Week 5 – How it works

Only shoot if it’s safe to do so and you’re complying with your government’s advice to combat COVID-19.

  1. Download and print the target face from the link, the files section of this group or make your own!
  2. Shoot 15 arrows, three into each target face at one of the following distances: up to 5, 8, 10 or 18 metres and further.
  3. Score the targets (as you go, maybe?). Gold scores 5, red 4, blue 3, grey 2, white 1. Linecutters score the higher value.
  4. Bonus points apply per target. Three hits of the same colour +1, three reds +3, three hits of a different colour +5.
  5. Take a picture of your target (preferably with you holding it) and post it in the group.
  6. Fill in the score submission here:
  7. Repeat as many times as you like!

At the end of the week, we’ll recognise the high scorers.

The WA Lockdown League continues to attract archers from around the world and seems that fancy dress has taken hold (have they had a sneaky peek at our Christmas Fun Shoot gallery?) WA's Facebook league page.

Week-5 has just started and even if you're not in a position to take part, its great fun seeing what others have been getting up to and dream about when we'll all be able to get together on the shooting line again and maybe try some of these wacky target faces for giggles.

#28 Process, process, process...

When it comes to our archery, most of us enjoy seeing the results of our efforts. Parking arrows in the ten ring is after all a clear and unambiguous demonstration of our skill. Just as I enjoy shooting tens, I get frustrated when I make what I think is a good shot but I'm not rewarded with an arrow near the 'spider'.

So on the face of it, we're an outcome focused sport, gold is good and everything else is 'must try harder', but how many of you have found that the harder you try, the worse the outcome is? Then chasing those results, while our ultimate goal, isn't guaranteed in the same way that winning medals at competition isn't guaranteed as it depends on who else is competing.

But not all goals are the same. In fact, most people get better results when they focus on process goals instead of outcome goals. In this article, we talk about the different between the two and why it's important to create goals based on the actions that you can control.

Results Aren’t Guaranteed with Outcome Goals

Process goals, on the other hand, are all about the process. They are about doing the right thing, regardless of the outcome, knowing that the right activities will create the environment in which the outcome goals we would like are inevitable.

So what is so great about process goals? Well process goals are ones which are entirely under our control. Imagine an ultimate outcome goal of loosing a stone in weight (which might be a great outcome if you're overweight). Making a process goal of going to the gym twice a week or starting a habit of walking for 30min every day would be fabulous process goals.

Remember the SMART goal article from a little while back? These goals are specific, measurable, appropriate, realistic and time-bounded and we're in complete control of achieving them. Outcomes are not so predictable, they can be made up of many factors, some of which are completely out of your control, and they also don’t always come evenly and consistently.

Focusing on process over results is also important to reduce the frustration that comes from inconsistent results.  Results can vary from month to month and person to person. Inconsistent results often happen, especially over short time periods.

Process Goals Avoid the Highs and Lows

Follow the process” is a phrase commonly used by coaches and players in many different sports.  They have learned that it’s far too easy to become ecstatic after a win or depressed after a loss.  Either one can cause you to lose your discipline and forget about the process.

Don’t tie your emotions to results.  The highs can be just as dangerous as the lows because you want to keep repeating your great results indefinitely even though it’s not possible. Ever shot five arrows of a six gold end only to have the last one land in the blue or worse?

Building daily habits gives you something consistent to focus on.  Results will vary, but the process stays steady no matter what.  Every day you get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re getting a little better.

Spend most of your time just following the process and not worrying about results.  Only measure results after enough time has passed that you can actually draw some conclusions about what is or isn’t working.

Keep Calm and Trust the Process

Follow the process, and the results will usually come.

Look for ways to turn your desired results in process goals.  Focus on the things you can control and that will set you up for long-term success.  Instead of waiting to celebrate until you achieve your outcomes, celebrate every time you follow the process.  Every day you work to get better is a successful day.  Know that even if your ultimate outcome may take months or even years to achieve, each step you take towards them is just as important.

#27 This key skill is guaranteed to improve your shooting...

"The location where the string is placed on the three fingers is very important. Many beginning archers do not go through the preparation exercise for hooking when they attend their early archery lessons but it is very important for the archer to hook the string in the correct position on their fingers." Kim, Hyung Tak

Can't agree more.

As archers we really only have two points of contact with the bow, the bow hand and the string hand. If we don't pay close attention to these, we're storing up problems and inconsistencies in our shooting because fixing issues at full draw is almost impossible.

We'll deal with the bow hand in a future post but for today I'd like to concentrate on the string hand and particularly the correct way to hook the string.

For correct hooking, the first joint of index, middle and ring finger should be used, irrespective of the length of your fingers (and a wide range of finger lengths exist), you'll find that once under tension, the string will tend to settle in the joint despite being set behind the joint for those people with long middle fingers. As coaches we'll often refer to a 'deep hook' and sadly this has occasionally been mis-interpreted by archers to mean a hook in the second joint. This is not correct and doing so will cause problems with the speed of the release as the string must travel a long way to be released. Associated with this, archers will sometimes believe that a shallow hook on the pad of the finger must improve the release because the string has very little distance to travel to move off the fingers, however this is also not correct as during the release the string must move sideways around the fingers and the resultant arrow flight is often erratic.

As important as the position of the hook, the position of the back of the hand, wrist and forearm must also be correct otherwise excessive tension will be felt in these and the archer will tend to pluck the string on release again causing erratic arrow flight.

Again coach Kim has a useful drill which puts the fingers of the drawing hand in the correct position and with the correct tension.

Hook a bungee cord or Thera-band as if it's a bow string, then place the loop of the band under the foot. Stand up straight and relax the arm, wrist and back of the hand while maintaining a good hook (the finger nails of the hooking hand should be facing the archers leg in this drill). Lift the shoulder to put additional tension on the cord while maintaining a relaxed forearm, wrist and back of the hand. Relax and repeat.

Practice loosing by SLOWLY relaxing the hook until the string pushes the fingers out of the way. Notice how the fingers curl up afterward because of the natural residual tension in the string fingers. All you have done is relax your fingers (DO NOT OPEN THEM!!), the bow has done the rest.

#26 Beat the outbreak (WA Lockdown League Week 4)...

Week 4 – How it works

  1. Download and print the target face from the link, the files section of this group or make your own!
  2. Shoot 25 arrows (any number per end, pull whenever you like). The goal is to shoot the circles in number order. Use one of the following distances: up to 5, 8, 10 or 18 metres and further.
  3. Tally the number of arrows as you’re shooting. Your score is the highest consecutive number you’ve hit when all 25 arrows are shot.
  4. There are three difficulty levels.
    Beginner difficulty: Linecutters count as hits. Can shoot circles in any order. Score only consecutive numbers. (For example, hits on circles 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 after 25 arrows scores 3 because 4 is missing.)
    Normal difficulty: Linecutters count as hits. Circles must be shot in number order.
    Pro difficulty: Linecutters count as misses (inside out scoring). Circles must be shot in number order.
  5. Take a picture of your target (preferably with you holding it) and post it in the group.
  6. Fill in the score submission here:
  7. Repeat as many times as you like!

At the end of the week, we’ll recognise the high scorers.

Shooting safety is of course paramount, so only take part if you are sure that it can be done safely.

Seems the WA Lockdown League has struck a chord with archers around the globe and pictures of their fun/games have been flooding in to WA's Facebook league page.

Week-4 has started and even if you're not in a position to take part, its great fun seeing what others have been getting up to and dream about when we'll all be able to get together on the shooting line again and maybe try some of these wacky target faces for giggles.

#25 Book review (The Art of Stringwalking, Martin Godio)

For a change of pace, today we're handing over the reins to club member John Kearney.

John has a extensive and interesting shooting CV, that includes several trips to the World and European Masters games (and medals to prove it!). Long time Border Bows fan, you'll often spot him shooting one of his fabulous Border Tempest risers. An accomplished barebow archer himself, here John give us his take on a new book on the subject.

Earlier this year, World Archery officially recognised barebow as a Target Archery discipline. They had no choice in the matter, really. Always popular among field archers, barebow has been booming of late, helped by the advent of dedicated archery channels on YouTube to cover field and some major indoor events that recognise barebow (such as the Lancaster Classic and the Roma Cup).

And I can't say I'm surprised. Ever since I've been in archery, barebow has had something of a romantic allure. I used to shoot my first bow with sights and stabilisers one day, then strip them off the next. I honestly think if barebow had been a recognised target discipline back then I'd still be shooting it regularly today.

But for all that it may seem a more attractive form of archery, it is still highly technical, arguably more so than target recurve. Most barebow archers shoot with an aiming system called stringwalking: instead of moving a sight up and down to adjust for distance, they change the angle that the arrow sits in the bow, and they do that by moving their finger position down the string (known as "walking" or "crawling"). This plays merry hell with the tune of the bow, as you can imagine: how can you tune a bow to shoot an arrow straight with three fingers directly under the nock and also when your fingers are several centimetres below it?

Enter this book, by Martin Godio, a well-known barebow competitor and excellent communicator. It was published and translated into English before barebow became a target discipline, but the information it contains is useful no matter what type of archery range you shoot on. Martin unpacks stringwalking methodically and clearly, providing the reader with a wealth of unbiased technical information on equipment, tuning, and technique.

I was particularly struck by his methodology for finding the correct tiller setting for a barebow, and also for refining your tune to shoot straight at all distances. There are still top barebow archers today who either aim off or even adjust their button pressure at extremes of distances, but Martin takes you through the fine tuning necessary to get your bow shooting straight at any crawl.

He also gives a lot of useful practical advice for competitions, and for dealing with the unique challenges of field archery. And target panic is also discussed. I'm lucky enough to have met a number of international-level barebow archers, and many of the very best do struggle with this, not having a clicker or a release aid to help them. While not delving deeply into the subject, Martin does give some useful hints and tips to tackle it.

In short, if you're a barebow archer, or a coach of barebow archers, I don't think you can afford not to have this book on your shelf.

#24 Who needs an instruction book!?...

Bizarrely, archery equipment rarely come with instructions and when they do, they're usually very brief, or badly translated from Korean!

So what do you do when you bring home that shiny new fletching jig you've been promising yourself and open it to find there's no instructions (nothing at all... nada, nowt).

Well fear not, help is at hand. I've put together another of those 'How To' YouTube videos showing what all the screws do and how to set up one of the more popular fletching jigs.

Any questions just shout, otherwise enjoy!

#23 The one thing guaranteed to improve your shot...

OK, pop-quiz,...

Hands up who knows what a shot routine is?

Keep your hand up if you have one.

Keep your hand up if you have your shot routine written down.

Keep your hand up if you use it!

Thought so :-)

As coaches we use a shot routine as a framework for teaching. Indeed we used a shot routine as the basis for the beginners course most of you took with us (remember those skills-and-drills we gave you for homework?!)

Often overlooked, the value of a shot routine lies as much in providing a framework for the archers mental programme as their physical actions (if not more!). But importantly, it needs to be the archers OWN routine, not one that their coach dreamt up for them, or they copied from another archer. The first step of course is convincing archers that using ANY routine has benefit, then encouraging them to make a template routine (example given below) into their own custom one, then practice it, use it always and most important... rely on it when the stress levels rise.

Arguments like “Brady Ellison has one” or “Naomi Falkhard has one” or golfers have  shot routines, as do tennis players, and rifle shooters, all lend weight, but in the end there needs to be a personal belief that having and using a shot routine is important.

That there is a concrete benefit from such a routine  can be demonstrated with a shoelace. Once you begin to tie your shoes, the process continues automatically. In fact, it takes an effort to stop midway. Why is this? Well, it is a simple matter of “one thing leads to another,” but it doesn’t unless a chain of things is created such that D follows C, follows B, follows A.

So, an archer’s shot routine essentially walks the archer from the beginning of the shot to its end. They don’t have to go “OK, I have finished the draw, what should I be doing next?” Nor do they have to worry about skipping steps or doing them out of order. (These things do happen when we get under pressure and such things indicate flaws in our routines.) This is why golfers who are playing for big bucks prize money always talk about focusing on their routines as the pressure mounts. (Would that archers had such problems :-D).

Template shot routine

  1. Posture
  2. Set (bow hand and hook)
  3. Set-up & rotate into line
  4. Draw to reference
  5. Expand
  6. Release & follow-through

#22 Spin Doctor...

Following on from Episode #19, it's time to take a look at the actual process of fletching with spin-wings.

A bit more fiddly than fletching with plastic vanes but with some advantages:-

  • Induces more spin in flight than plastic vanes (and hence improved stabilisation)
  • Lighter than plastic vanes (and hence keeps the mass up the front of the arrow)
  • They look cool and come in a huge variety of colours and finishes ;-)


  • Fiddly to apply
  • Prone to damage (both in storage and when being shot)

So should you consider changing to spin-wings? Well if you're shooting 50m or more then you should certainly seriously consider switching to some sort of spin-wing. Below that sort of distance (or if you are still a novice), then we'd recommend steering clear... for now.

Sources?? In no particular order of preference...

#21 Beat the outbreak (WA Lockdown League)...

OK. So I'm a bit late to the party with this one but World Archery have been doing some fabulous stuff behind the scenes to help us all continue to enjoy our sport even though we might not be able to meet and share it together.

Each week WA publish a new shooting challenge that can be completed at distances from as little as 5m!

Shooting safety is of course paramount, so only take part if you are sure that it can be done safely.

Week 3 – How it works

Only shoot if it’s safe to do so and you’re complying with your government’s advice to combat COVID-19.

  1. Download and print the target face from the like, the files section of this group or make your own!
  2. Shoot 15 arrows, three in each target face (three ends of five? if you can) at one of the following distances: up to 5, 8, 10 or 18 metres or further.
  3. Score your arrows. Each square has a points value and there are bonuses available. White scores 1, blue 2, red 3, yellow 5. Linecutters are shooter‘s choice.
    Three whites in one target scores +2
    Three squares in a row horizontally or vertically in one target: +3
    Three reds in one target: +4
    Three in a row diagonally in one target: +5
    Three blues in one target: +6

    (Maximum score is 70.)
  4. Take a picture of your target (preferably with you holding it) and post it in the group.
  5. Fill in the score submission here:
  6. Repeat as many times as you like!

At the end of the week, we’ll recognise the high scorers.

#20 Get SMART!

No... Not the hapless secret Agent 86 but the acronym SMART!

As archers we're great a talking about improving our shooting but we're often quite wishy-washy about the specifics of what we're going to do about getting improving. Indeed when coaches ask archers about what they'd like most, the response is a very non-specific 'shoot better' :-).

So how can we get a better grip on what it is that we'd like to get better at and how we're going to go about doing it? Well that's where SMART goals come in.

How SMART Goals Work

Each letter in the SMART goal acronym highlights a different aspect of your desired outcome (the 'shoot better'). Writing them down helps you achieve them. Using a system like SMART when writing goals ensures you don’t miss any critical goal-setting details.

Here’s how each letter in a SMART goal acronym helps you focus your efforts to achieve desired results.

S = Specific

The “S” in a SMART goal stands for “Specificity.”

We all know that it helps us to remember to write down what you want to do, using action words. For example, instead of saying, “I want to shoot better,” you might say, “I’m going to be Master Bowman before the end of the outdoor season 2020.” Being specific and using action verbs focuses on what exactly you want.

M = Measurable

The “M” in a SMART goal helps you clarify and quantify your efforts so you can “Measure” them.

In the example above, we can add the additional note that your goal is to become Master Bowman. Although establishing a target may seem obvious, its an important one and shouldn't be overlooked. After all, it's how you are going to determine if you've achieved your goal or not!

A = Achievable

The “A” in SMART goals represents the goal’s “Achievability” factor.

This step reminds us to check to make sure the goal is within reach; is it practical? Let’s assume, for example, Master Bowman is an achievable goal, but if you're currently 3rd Class then the timeline suggested may not be. Ensure that you are both ambitious as well as practical.

R = Relevant

The “R” in SMART goals addresses the “Relevance” of the goal.

Is your goal archery related? Does it support one of your other goals? If not, then you better file it elsewhere.

T = Time-bound

The “T” in SMART goals references the “Time” aspect of your goal.

Setting a time frame around your goals is essential, not just to identify the end or conclusion of the duration of your goal, but it motivates the identified endeavor. Working to achieve Master Bowman is fine, but if you don’t set a time frame, it could diminish the objective overall, as it could take much longer to MB than desired.

Next time we'll take a look at Process, Performance and Outcome goals. Their relative importance and some goal setting worksheets so you can hit the ground running when we get back to the shooting line!

#19 Typical Beiter... You didn't know you needed it until you used it!

Fletching with spin-wings can be a complex process, fraught with fiddly tasks. Not least of which is the question of where you put the blessed things on the arrow! Jigs for plastic vanes or feather fletchings make that process pretty straight-forward but until Werner Beiter came along, fletching with spin-wings wasn't nearly as easy.

The Tri-Liner is a classic bit of Beiter equipment, simple in concept and beautifully executed, you never knew you needed one until you've tried it and wondered how you ever managed before.

Alternatives exist of course... you could use arrow wraps with pre-marked fletching positions (and many people do), but for the minimalist look the Tri-Liner is an essential bit of kit.

To help, we've put together a quick video to show you how to set one up.

#18 Pesky Easton arrow tables...

So you've shelled out for a lovely pair of shiny new limbs but all of a sudden your groups have gone to pot and you're wondering if you also need new arrows. Or it's coming up to the start of the outdoor season and you've promised yourself that 70m is within your grasp but your old set of aluminium PlatinumPlus arrows fade at 60m and you can't quite bring yourself to reverse your sight to be able to get a sight mark.

Either way, it looks like a new set of arrows are likely but what spine should they be?

It's a common question we get as coaches and you'll often see us scratch our heads, ask you a plethora of questions (some of which don't seem to have any bearing on what you actually want to know which is what spine should I buy!)

The reason for all the procrastination from us coaches is that like many things in archery, there's no definitive answer and the biggest variable in the system is the poor archer.

Take this example:-

Recurve archer with 38lb on the fingers with 29" arrows, you'd think it's a pretty easy answer... Table T6 and if you want a set of ACC's, that would be 3L-18's. But what Easton don't tell you is that the tables are set up for fast limbs and reasonable kit and an intermediate to advanced archer and if you went straight off the table, they'd probably come up too stiff (ever had that happen? You go into a shop to buy arrows, they read straight off the tables, you take your lovely new arrows home, shoot them at club and the bare shafts are waaaaaay off to the left of the target). That's the behaviour you'll get if your arrows are too stiff (for a RH archer) sound familiar??

So, I can hear you saying, what on earth do I do?

Well talking to your coach is a good starting point. They'll know your shooting background, your current form and the equipment you're shooting and be able to make a more enlightened guess as to what you'll probably need. There's still a bit of guesswork involved but much less so than just reading straight off the tables. And it could save you from a very expensive mistake when a set of eight ACC's are over £100 these days!

My rule-of-thumb for novice and improving archers is go off the tables then go one spine weaker as a starting point. But sometimes I'll end up going half and inch longer and two spines weaker, it just depends :-D

Happy shooting!

Extract of Easton Arrow tables

(c) 2020 Easton Archery

#17 D-lightful, D-licious, D-loops...

Time I think, to remember our compound friends (and I include myself in that group!) and talk about some key skills compound archers should have. One of the most common tasks we need to perform is tying (or re-tying) a D-loop. That critical bit of 'string' that connects the bow with the release-aid.

Thankfully it's not a difficult job and with a bit practice it will become second nature. The key knot you need to know is a 'larks head' or 'cow hitch' ( You probably know how to tie it already, but didn't know what it was called!

Along with knowing how to tie a larks head, the other key thing to remember is to leave plenty of D-loop material when learning the process. There's nothing more frustrating than finding you've cut your D-loop 5mm too short!

Take a look at the step-by-step video we've put together for you on YouTube.

#16 Book Review (Mastering Archery, James Park)

So for those of you who don't know the author (shame on you!). Dr. James Park is the 'go to' academic of the archery world. With a background in engineering he is ideally qualified to talk about the mechanics of both bow and arrow (I'll dig up a bibliography just to underline his credentials!).

Although "Mastering Archery" is quite a slim volume at just 122 pages, James manages to cram it full of useful material covering topics such as biomechanics, the concept of the upper body as a shooting 'machine', fundamental ideas around the use of the skeleton rather than muscles and the criticality of bow hand position.

Fundamental to James' approach in this book is the way he identifies and breaks down the items he sees as important to the creation (or not) of accuracy and what the archer can do in both technique and equipment to optimise those areas.

James' key elements of accuracy:-

  • Aim the bow steadily at the target
  • Keep the bow aimed correctly at the time you release the string.
  • Ensure the manner in which the bow sits in your hand doesn't disturb things.
  • Ensure that after you release the string its path is not disturbed.
  • Ensure that the arrows, given no adverse influences, reliably hit where they are aimed.

Simple eh?

So would I recommend "Mastering Archery"? Wholeheartedly...  It's not a book for the novice archer, but for the improver, or a coach wanting an alternative view of the fundamentals, then definitely.  It's still in print (and sadly several of James' books are now out of print),  at £15 in paperback it's not cheap, but you can get it as a Kindle book for half that which makes it rather better value.


#15 Be like the Karate Kid...

So you have a couple of spare strings and you alternate them on your bow so they're shot in, just in case you have a problem when you're out shooting. You've recently done the centre serving and tied some beautiful nocks so you're all good right?

Not so fast. Your bow string is a vital part of your equipment (and often overlooked), after all, it's the critical link that transfers the energy stored in the limbs at full draw, to the arrow when you shoot so it pays to keep it in tip-top condition right?

Well thankfully it's not a difficult job and to help, we've put together a short video to explain the technique and you compound archers... It's just as important for you as everyone else so don't neglect your strings and cables either. Just remember Mr. Miyagi and Wax on... Wax off!

#14 Game on (Part-1)...

Backyard shooting (where/when it's safe to do so), is a great way to keep your form and strength up, but endless blank boss (while good for training form) gets dull awfully quickly. Games are a great way to break up your shooting routine and can be as challenging as you decided to make them.

We've put together a small selection from our huge back catalogue of games to help you get started and add some fun to your training sessions.


  • Equipment: Target Boss, bows, arrows, target face with six equal-sized fields (see picture.), six-sided die.
  • Objective: Shoot all your arrows into the same box.
  • Distance: Variable, depends on ability.
  • Number of archers: Individuals, or teams of up to three.
  • Number of arrows: Individuals shoot three arrows per end; archers in teams of three shoot one arrow each per end. Number of ends depends on available time.
  • Rules: First each archer/team rolls the die. They then try to shoot all three arrows into the field corresponding to the number they rolled
  • Score: 3 arrows in the field = 4 points 2 arrows in the field = 2 points 1 arrow in the field = 1 point●
  • Skill emphasised: Maximal accuracy and aiming off.


  • Equipment: Butts, bows, arrows, 80cm, 60cm or 40cm target face.
  • Game objective: Shooting with variable stance, try to reach the highest score.
  • Shooting distance: Variable, depends on archers’ ability levels and bow class(es).
  • Number of archers: Two or more individuals.
  • Number of arrows: Four arrows per archer each end.
  • Rules:
    • First arrow: Archer’s usual stance, but on tiptoe
    • Second arrow: Feet together on the line
    • Third arrow: Standing on one foot (archer’s choice)
    • Fourth arrow: Kneeling. Variation: on one knee.
    • The winner is the archer with the highest score after a predetermined number of ends (often 5).
  • Skill emphasized: Maximal accuracy understress, body balance, self-evaluation and tactics.

Figure Hunting

  • Equipment: Figure Hunting sheet, one for each competitor.
  • Game objective: Finding the numbers in order as quickly as possible.
  • Number of archers: Any number of individuals.
  • Rules: Find the numbers 1-100 consecutively as quickly as possible. Tap on the number with your index finger when you find it. Start from number 1.
  • Skill emphasised: Concentration and activation.
  • Variation: Start from number 100.
  • Variation: Make 5x5 grid (ie numbers 1-25).
  • Variation: Make grid size dependant on archers skill.

Incredible Shrinking Targets

  • Equipment: Butts, bows, arrows, target face (anything suitable will do).
  • Game objective: Retain as many arrows as possible
  • Shooting distance: Variable, depends on archers’ ability levels and bow class(es). 
  • Number of archers:
    • Individual, 
    • Teams of two, 
    • Teams of three.
  • Number of arrows per end:
    • Individual, six arrows;
    • Teams of two, three arrows per archer;
    • Teams of three, two arrows each.
  • Rules: Each team or individual starts with six arrows.
    • Arrows which hit the target are kept to shoot next end.
    • Arrows which miss are discarded.
    • After each end the target face is reduced (perhaps 1/2, perhaps 1/4).
  • Winner: Individual or team with most arrows remaining after agreed No. of ends is the winner.
  • Skill emphasised: Maximal accuracy, calm under pressure.

#13 Nock on...

Back in episode 4. I talked about how to tie soft nocks and I promised then that I'd show you how to do this another slightly more complex, but neater way in a future video. Well here we are ;-)

So tying soft nocks by serving them onto the string is really no more difficult than repairing a centre serving (something we did in episode 7.). However, we do need to make sure that we keep everything tight and start the serving in the right place so our nocking points are in the right place.

A little bit of practice with some spare serving thread will help no end and you'll find yourself tying nocks this way in no time at all. Having said that, my preference is still for the 'half-hitch' method ;-)


#12 A Shakespearian post...

Hamlet, Act III, Scene I

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;

Hamlet knew it... Not only is good sleep essential for good health, it's essential for optimal performance in sports too. We know that an average adult needs approximately 8-hours of sleep for normal day-to-day life. But sports people (especially elite sportsmen and women) need even more to enable proper recovery from training sessions. This can be as much as 12hrs a day!

So what can we do to improve both the quantity and quality of sleep we get each night? Here are 8 tips for better sleep.

1. Create a sleep routine and stick to it. Just like young people adults should have a bedtime too! Establish a waking and sleeping schedule, even for weekends, and stick to it. Irregular sleep patterns interfere with the bodies Circadian rhythms which harm your ability to get to sleep.

2. Optimize conditions for sleep. Keep your sleeping space cool, quiet and dark to create the best environment to get to sleep and stay asleep. Distractions such as TV's, noise, light and temperature all harm the quality of your sleep.

3. Bedroom equipment. Make sure you have a good mattress (when was the last time you changed yours?). Mattresses should be changed every 5-8yrs and a quality bed will help reduce muscle pain and stiffness as well as improving sleep quality by as much as 60%. Think also about curtains, try blackout curtains if your bedroom is south/east facing so that early morning sunlight doesn't wake you earlier than necessary.

4. Napping. Don't underestimate the power of a power-nap, but keep it to under 40min otherwise you'll drift into the wrong kind of sleep and limit the benefit of the nap.

5. Avoid technology and blue light exposure before bed. Hard to do in our modern  lives, but try to avoid watching TV, checking email/social media or watching YouTube at least an hour before bedtime. Instead listen to music, read a book or take part in other relaxing activities. Blue light emitted by devices such as smartphones/tablets and laptops confuse the brain into thinking it's daytime, suppressing the hormones associated with normal sleep patterns.

6. Increase bright light exposure during the day. Boost your Circadian clock by getting as much natural light during the daytime as possible. Go for a walk during the day or at least out in natural light so your body can 'sync' with it's natural rhythms.

7. Avoid caffeine & alcohol in the evening. Tea, coffee, energy drinks and alcohol all negatively impact the quality of sleep and should ideally be avoided 4-6hrs before bedtime and don't be tempted to have a 'nightcap'. Although alcohol might appear to aid getting off to sleep, its metabolism in your body interferes with sleep cycles leading to shallower, less restful sleep.

8. Maintain a relaxed state before bed. Try to get things 'out of your head' before bedtime. Make lists of things you'll do over the coming days so you don't stress about them just before bedtime.

#11 Up skill yourself and learn to fletch...

Wether its plastic vanes, mylar spin-wings or natural feather, fletchings are there to do the same job, stabilise your arrow in flight and (if you set things up correctly), induce a little extra spin too.

  • Plastic vanes. Cheap, robust and available in a multitude of colours, shapes and sizes, it's no wonder they are popular and seen everywhere on the shooting line.
  • Spin-Wings. A little more expensive, spin-wings and their counterparts (kurlyvanes etc.) are lighter than plastic vanes and favoured by recurve archers because of their innate ability to induce spin into the arrows flight (hence the name). They are a little more fiddly to use and a lot less robust which is why they're not recommended for novices.
  • Feathers. The only option for English Longbow archers but also popular with compound, barebow and recurve archers during the indoor season where their weight penalty and inconsistency is less of an issue, but their ability to stabilise an arrow quickly comes to the fore.

This time in another video of our popular HOW TO series we take a look fletching with plastic vanes. Requiring only simple tools and easy to do, taking care of your own fletching is both rewarding and economical. Next time you need to upgrade your arrows or replace damaged ones, why not just buy the parts and do it yourself!

#10 Mobility is the key...

Humans were never 'designed' to be as sedentary as we have become. Indeed our 21st century lifestyle is nudging us ever closer to on which resembles those folks in the hover-chairs in Wall-E!

But being stuck indoors doesn't mean you can excuse yourself a training session. Indeed there's stacks you can do to improve your CV (Cardio-Vascular), strength and the one most often overlooked your flexibility and range of motion.

In fact all good posture stems from good movement patterns and the best archers have fabulous movement patterns.

So if you struggle with that Anterior Pelvic Tilt your coach has been talking about, or you just want your body to move better then can I suggest the following...

Our friends at the light blue clinic (Hi Gosia!) have put together a fabulous set of (simple) exercises you can do at home (in fact demonstrated here at home!) with minimal equipment (got a sofa? then you have no excuses!)

Word of warning... Go easy, if you have any pre-existing conditions that might preclude you doing these exercises then please consult a medical/sports fitness professional (OK health warning over ;-)).


#9 First service...

When you think about it, archers only have two points of contact with the bow. The handle/grip and the string. The string in particular takes a pounding. It needs to be flexible, yet tough, non-stretchy yet slightly springy to take up the shock of shooting and not transmit that shock to the limbs/riser in a way that could be catastrophic!

Given all that, and the fact most of us hardly give them a second thought, its amazing that strings stand up to this pounding with hardly a problem from month to month.

But those high traffic areas (especially the centre serving) will eventually show their age, but that doesn't mean you need to ditch your favourite string.

Instead of getting a new one, why not re-serve it?

#8 Practice makes perfect, but what makes perfect practice?

We know that repetitive practice alone doesn't make perfect.

So if that's the case, that leaves us with a phrase often used in place of the classic aphorism “Practice makes perfect” – namely, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.” (often credited to the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi).

Thing is, that phrase “perfect practice” gives people the wrong impression.

Perfect practice

It’s easy to interpret the word “perfect” in this context to mean that we should avoid errors and mistakes while practicing. After all, it stands to reason that if we have a habit of making mistakes there, we'll also make mistakes in competition too.

Ok, well avoiding mistakes in  practice would necessitate practicing very carefully and methodically (which isn’t all bad).

It might also mean practicing things slowly, and working up to speed gradually (again, not always such a bad thing).

When perfect practice is bad

This no-mistakes-allowed definition of perfect practice makes us afraid to stretch ourselves  – something that might help us take our performance to a new level. Reluctant to explore the edges of our current technical ability.

We mustn’t neglect and avoid our weaknesses to protect our ego. Limiting our growth in order to protect our ego doesn’t do much to advance our skills or ourselves as person.

What “perfect” practice really means

I’d argue that “perfect” practice is just another name for deliberate practice. Mistakes aren’t the problem. The problem is not taking the time to articulate the specifics of the mistake, the cause of the mistake, and the potential solutions, so you can avoid making that same mistake over and over.

#7 What do you mean you don't have a spare string!?...

So you're 'in the zone' shooting the best round of your life when you notice that the centre serving on your string has come loose and begun to unravel. You spotted it a little while ago but were too busy to deal with it then and now (shocked face :-o), its about to ruin the best day's shooting you've had in ages.

Of course you have a spare, shot-in, string ready to go ;-)

But if you don't, then all is not lost. There's a simple (if a little fiddly) fix that will get you going again in no time.

#6 The myth of talent

It's easy to believe that elite performers in any walk of life, be it sport, music or business, are born with some sort of innate ability which mere mortals like ourselves couldn't hope to emulate. But is this true? Scientists and philosophers down the ages have pondered the question of nature vs. nurture and even Hollywood have got in on the act with movies like Trading Places.

So are we any closer to answering this question of the ages??  BBC ideas have turned their attention to it and come up with some interesting conclusions.

#5 Book Review (Why you suck at archery)

There's precious few books out there on archery, so when one comes along it better be good. Thankfully, as it's from the pen of Steve Ruis, you know it'll be a mine of information and more than that, he's managed to write a book that's both funny (occasionally laugh out loud funny) and jammed full of useful information.

OK, so if you're Brady Ellison, this book is probably not for you (unless you have it as part of your 'bathroom reading' stash). But for the rest of us there's pearls of wisdom in almost every page.

Example... "Chapter 6—You Suck at Archery because . . . you don’t practice properly. You go to the range, shoot arrows until you string together a longish string of “good shots” and call it a “good practice.” You aren’t quite hopeless, but close." Steve then goes on to expand on both the problem (you shoot without a plan) and the solution (form a plan for each practice session and do lots and lots of blank boss!)

Steve has written extensively on archery and archery coaching (he's the editor of Archery Focus Magazine, the US equivalent of Bow International but in my view much better!), but in this book he's used humour to make some often difficult and/or unpalatable archery issues more accessible.

Hats off to Steve for a fresh look at common archery faults. Even if you only ever read it in the loo, it'll be worthwhile I guarantee it!

Why You Suck at Archery
Available at Amazon and other good booksellers.

#4 Soft ones are best...

Most Peacock Archers club members will know that within days of them finishing their beginners course and buying their shiny new equipment, one of the club coaches will come along and ruthlessly remove the nasty brass nocking points which were put on their string by the shop and replace them with nice tied nocks.

Why do we do this? Well here's just a few of the reasons...

  1. Brass nocks cause havoc with your finger tab, gouging lines in the leather and making it wear out prematurely.
  2. Accidentally hit your arm with brass nocks and you'll know about it! And yes... it does occasionally happen even if you're wearing an arm guard/bracer.
  3. They slow your string down. Adding mass in just the wrong part of the string significantly impacts the performance of the bow.

So what's the alternative? Tied nocks are essentially the same as crimped on brass ones, but are (as the name suggests) bits of thread tied onto the string in the right place.

Here's short video we put together to show how to go about it.

#3 The secret weapon of successful archers...

Compound guru Larry Wise said "Archery is about one-third physical, one-third equipment and one-third mental". If you take care of the first two, then in competition what's left is 90% mental, but if you have an equipment or physical flaw in form, strength or execution no mental game will make up for it.

Sage words, but while we'll spend hours practicing the new skill our coach has introduced us to and hundreds (perhaps thousands) of pounds on equipment. We'll rarely (if ever) spend time on preparing our brains, the 'muscle' which lives between our ears!

I say muscle, because like muscle it needs to be exercised if we are to get the best from it and in archery terms that means having it support our shooting not derail it!

The mental game is something I'll be returning to in future episodes in more detail but for now and as a way of introducing the whole topic of mental skills in archery, I'd like to talk about meditation or in more modern terms, mindfulness.

People will often tell me that they're too busy for this sort of thing, or don't know where to start. The good news is that there are lots of good online resources to help you practice mindfulness/meditation and one of the ones I like the most is the resources offered by UCLA (California). Their free guided meditations are available online from or as an app for Android and iOS (search UCLA Mindfulness on GooglePlay or Apple AppStore).

Why not try this one for starters?

#2 Get your archery fix...

No archery range to shoot at? Or no time to visit the range? That shouldn't mean you have to give up your archery 'fix'. There are lots of ways you can still shoot or train in your own home (subject to a few basic precautions).

First and foremost, lets get the insurance thing out of the way. There's no reason why you can't shoot at home BUT (and it's one worth taking note of), you need to ensure that arrows can't leave the confines of your property. This would mean shooting inside your garage (if you have one), or in a well secured garden. And talking about secured, make sure that all the access points are locked (bolts, latches or other means).

Insurance-wise, Archery GB's insurance won't cover you to shoot at home, so worthwhile checking your home insurance or investigate specialist insurance.

Our friends over at Lancaster Archery in the US have put together a fab video to show how you can practice without that range access :-D

#1 Stop talking about it... and get archery fit!

Archery isn’t usually regarded as a sport requiring high levels of fitness. However, archers at all levels benefit from a degree of fitness across many areas and for those aspiring to performance levels, physical readiness is as important as technical ability.


Good general fitness starts with good cardiovascular fitness. The cardiovascular system comprises the heart, lungs and blood vessels and is responsible for transporting blood around the body. This is the fuel supply for the body; it delivers oxygenated blood to the muscles along with the glucose that is ‘burnt’ there. It then transports the waste products (lactic acid and carbon dioxide) away.

Archery is predominantly an aerobic activity so cardiovascular exercise should be an important part of any training programme. Effective cardiovascular training is anything that raises the heart rate to between 60-70% of its safe maximum level for at least 20 minutes, three times a week. This could be swimming, jogging or initially even brisk walking.


In an archery context, strength means ensuring sufficient muscular capacity to resist the forces generated by the bow during each phase of the shot and to do so throughout a competition. Specifically, the muscles of the shoulder girdle should be able to meet the requirements of shooting. The following exercises are a useful starting point and require little in the way of specialist equipment.

  1. Side push-up
  2. Shoulder pull-down
  3. Thera-Band – Diagonal lift
  4. Thera-Band – Shoulder shrug
  5. Thera-Band – lat pulldown/raise
  6. Thera-Band – shoulder horizontal abduction
  7. Thera-Band – lateral raise

Further information on each of the exercises, including detailed descriptions and illustrations, can be found in the World Archery Intermediate Level Coaching Manual (Archery Anatomy, Warm-up and Physical Conditioning Module).

Core stability

The importance of 'core stability' is now recognised as pivotal for efficient biomechanical function in a wide range of sports including archery. The ability to maintain good posture while shooting is clearly beneficial so exercises that target these muscles including the abdominals, oblique’s and lower back are all valuable. Follow this link for exercises that comprise a good general core stability routine.

For a limited time, the "School of Calisthenics" are offering their bodyweight basics programme (normally £40) for free! I don't necessarily endorse this, but the material does look good.

Exercises courtesy ArcheryGB

#36 Plunger, pressure, cushion, Berger. They're all the same to me Bub...

#37 Watch out! Spring has sprung...

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