Coaching very young children – some thoughts

Balloons as a target can make it fun

Balloons as a target can make it fun

 Recently I was asked to give two young children both 6, (though if you ask them they will say 6 and 3/4 and 6 and a half) a session in archery. These are some thoughts and observations, I hope you find it useful.

Normally I coach adults or children slightly older as I believe they have a better grasp of the concepts. Also at this early age their muscles and coordination is still developing so you shouldn’t start any earlier in my opinion.
One thing is for sure. Coaching young children is very different to coaching adults. I think it is far more tiring for the coach, but can be very rewarding for both coach and them, as to the young kids even missing is good.
They have no expectations of success but just enjoy the moment.

Maybe that is something we can all learn from.

Equipment requirements 

Though I have basic beginners take down bows I decided to use a simple fibre glass bow which is easier to use and more importantly lighter in the hand for young people. I picked it up from Merlin Archery but am sure other retailers would have something similar. Details are below.
http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/sherwood-archery-bow-kit-44.html

Ground rules 

As with adults you must set the ground rules long before they get near a bow.

  • No running at any point.
  • If I say stop we stop.
  • Remember to talk to them, not at them.
  • Its vital to make parents aware of their responsibilities of care and behaviour.

Find out from the parents if the kids have any health issues, maybe they are just getting over a cold which might make them tire quickly.

Smile

One tip I’ve found is to always smile when talking to children ensuring you make eye contact, as children love this form of engagement.
Even if they miss, smile and tell them what they have done well, it is very easy to hit their confidence and you want them to enjoy the occasion.
The thing I have discovered with teaching kids is to make it fun, so I have found showing the basics then breaking it into two sessions and having something like balloons on the target in the second half makes it fun and keeps their attention.

Small steps

As an adult or experienced archer you might shoot 4/6 or more arrows when practising.
Children have a shorter attention span so have them shoot only a couple at a time.
This keeps their attention and doesn’t tire them out. Speaking of tiring them make sure to give them plenty of breaks. If they get tired they make mistakes and can get grumpy (just like adults )
I  took the kids in turn to shoot and had the other sat in a  chair watching. This means they can be relaxing watching and you as a coach have a safe place where they are located.

Couple of other  things to consider.
They don’t have a clear concept of aiming so tend to be instinctive in their approach.
Light is right – use the lightest bow possible and I don’t just mean draw weight but also light physical weight.
Children can get cold quickly as well as tired so keep an eye on this. I was running the session on a winter’s day so the cold was a potential problem but equally in the summer heat can be a problem with sunburn or heat exhaustion.
Childrens coats tend to be quite bulky so make sure arm bracers fit and hold the sleeve back.
Don’t locate the shooting line too close to the targets as arrows can bounce back due to not having enough energy to penetrate some target bosses.
Kneel at their side as this helps to keep eye contact, don’t tower over them as this can be intimidating.

Keep the fun.

One way of making it  fun can be to put a few balloons on target boss and have them try and burst them. This is a good activity for them after a long break say after lunch.
Likewise having some comic target faces can make it fun.

Parents and guardians role

I feel it is vital to engage the parents too and get them shooting so they know what the kids are having to do.
Ideally get the kids to use their parents phones to either photograph or film them shooting. Kids love using modern tech and recording themselves or parents can give them a great buzz. (Please be careful here as filming or photographing kids can cause issues so always ensure its the parents or guardians who are using the cameras when the children are the subject.)
I have the parents or guardians present at all times too,  as archery is not a creche and you as a coach should not be used as one. It also introduces archery as a family experience which they can share.
I hope you have found this useful and no doubt there are other tips you can pick up from other more experienced archers and coaches.

I’m sure there are other coaches out that that can offer some thoughts or add their advice.

Thanks for reading.

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Students first bow

I had one of those special days that many coaches will understand. I went with one of my newly signed off students to Merlin Archery (http://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/)  in Loughborough so they could buy their first proper bow.

I’ve been coaching Nick for a couple of months and he’s been using one of my beginner bows during this time. He’s now got to a stage where he has been signed off and wants to get his own bow. So I arranged to go up to Loughborough and meet him when he went to get his bow to offer some advice and moral support.
He’s ended up with a SF riser and limbs which no doubt will be put to test tomorrow down at the wood. Its a great feeling to see a student develop and progress to getting their first real bow.
I would like to say a big thanks to Merlin staff (Dan and co) for all the time spent today with Nick. It was also great to finally meet up with Jim Grizzly Kent who runs Merlin Archery Adventures youtube channel and web blog (http://archeryadventures.tumblr.com/).
Thanks for reading.

Rather Fight than Switch?

Thanks for posting my question and I’ll be interested in seeing what feedback we get. I think my slight advantage is having a level or skill with my left hand made it easier to pick up and at least get a reasonable grouping.
Thanks again for the post and will be interested in seeing / hearing response.

A Blog for Archery Coaches

QandA logoHi,
I was reading your blog site and wanted to ask a question. Like many people I’m naturally right-handed but from an early age I taught myself have a level of skill with my left hand. Though not completely ambidextrous I can write, shave, saw, etc. with either hand.

Recently I’ve been coaching a number of left-handed students so I taught myself to shoot left-handed. I wonder has anyone else done this? Don’t think I’ll win any medals but it has helped with coaching and course laying. I found it a very educational process as you reapply learnt and known skills but reversed or, rather, flipped.

It also means the students don’t have to try to learn from you whilst trying to flip round everything in their heads. So I was wondering, have you or your readers done this?
Thanks for all the articles and posts.
Rob
https://offthearrowshelf.wordpress.com/

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Literature Review – Idiot Proof Archery-How to Shoot Like a Pro

I recently bought this book (Idiot Proof Archery-How to Shoot Like a Pro) on a trip to Wales Archery.  But I had first seen a copy about a year ago whilst competing at the Scottish championships. Some of my club members from Artemis had a copy and were promoting its content.

Idiot proof archery

Idiot proof archery

I like the style of writing, as it makes the book an easy read. It also means you can easily put it down and pick it up or flick through.

I think it gives good advice for those wanting to improve and I found the Dos and Don’t chapter particularly informative and insightful. Another thing is if you are a coach or interested in developing coaching skills there is some good advice and tips throughout the book on things to look out for in your students.

I particularly like the quick key points tips in the margins.

I would classify myself as a traditional archer in many ways, in so far as I shoot mostly wooden arrows from bows without sights. I have a compound and carbon arrows for my recurve, sights etc but prefer instinctive shooting, which means some of the material and subject matter covered is not as relevant. Having said that I still found this very insightful and in short a good read.

Images can be a little small but they succeed in getting the messages across. the one thing I think is lacking is an index of content to aid in finding topics.

I’ve included a link to Amazon below but as I said I bought my copy from Wales Archery, which is a great little shop in Crick, Monmouthshire.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Idiot-Proof-Archery-How-Shoot-Pro-Step/dp/0971281211

ISBN-10: 0971281211

ISBN-13: 978-0971281219

Injury and archery

I’m sure many reading this have seen photos of injuries associated with archery. Some of you may have been injured yourself or patched people up.

Sharon recently injured her right hand in a bicycling accident. On further investigation at hospital it transpired she had fractured her ring finger either side of the first joint.

Sharons hand

Sharons’ hand, the swelling and bruising has gone down.

For those of you with medical knowledge it is the intermediate phalanges and proximal phalanges  which I think is the metacarphalangeal joint.

Though this is a minor injury. The bone is not broken all the way across, but is broken in 2 places, it will result in no shooting for minimum 4-6 weeks as the bones knit back together. She is not a happy archer and keeps hinting at stringing bow in couple of weeks. To which she gets a stern telling off.

  • Don’t rush back and expect to perform at same level.
  • Give your body time to heal – rushing back to shoot may result in complicating your injury

Putting pressure on healing limbs or muscles is BAD idea. Consider this. When you draw up you are putting pressure on your 3 fingers. Depending on your personal draw and technique you might exert slightly more pressure on say your ring finger than your index or vice-versa. Either way, if one is injured you must give time for your body to heal.

Sharon Shooting

Sharon Shooting a few weeks ago

I presently have a not very happy archer, but I would rather a not very happy archer for a couple of weeks than an injured archer for a few months.

Thanks for reading