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Grow Your Archery Garden: Reflecting on Outdoor Nationals 2017

SerahRose and I traveled to Westfield Indiana this month to coach four Amherst Archery athletes at Outdoor Nationals. David Weaver (Recurve, NH), Zach Dutton (Recurve, NH), Ethan Callihan (Compound, NH) and Dan Roney (Compound, MA) all strapped their quivers on and put their many practice hours to work. This is the first year that Amherst Archery has attended Outdoor Nationals. It was a fantastic experience and I would love to see more athletes from Amherst Archery strap on their quivers next year.

In reflecting back on the overall experience, two memories continually surface as defining my experience. One memory is made up of observations I made of my athletes and their families. The second memory is of conversations I had with different athletes about what I call, the “archery garden” – a metaphor for tending to our mental game. Both memories have a common thread having to do with growth that happens when coaches, athletes and family members actively work to cultivate environments in which athletes feel safe, even encouraged, to experience short-term “struggle”.

On Observing Athletes

I am guessing that many people feel comfortable succeeding. However, real growth takes place when we experience temporary struggle and are challenged in an environment where we can learn from the struggle because we are not afraid of the outcome of the struggle. Daniel Coyle states in the Talent Code, as he recounts his travels around the World researching “talent hotbeds”, only half the time did he witness athletes actually looking “exceptional” during practice. “During the other half I witnessed something very different: moments of slow, fitful struggle. . .It was if the herd of deer suddenly encountered a hillside coated with ice. They slammed to a halt; they stopped, looked, and thought carefully before taking each step. Making progress became a matter of small failures, a rhythmic pattern of botches . . .”. This is how we get better.

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Training Clinic with USA Head Coach Kisik Lee: May, 2017, in New England!

I am excited to announce that Jane Park, mother of archer athlete Gene Kang, is working to organize a Training Clinic here in New England with USA Head Coach Kisik Lee.  What an enriching opportunity for archer athletes in the northeast who want to train with the best.

USA Head Coach Kisik Lee wants to come to New England in early May 2017 to offer a two-day seminar and a third day of private lessons. A minimum of 15 people are needed. Time is running out for registering – so I encourage people to get back to me if at all interested.

Currently the format looks like this:

A two-day seminar runs on the afternoon and evening of Friday, May 5, and all day Saturday, May 6.  Fee is $500.

Private sessions with Coach Lee are available on Sunday, May 7, by appointment, for $300/hr.

Location is TBD, but we know it will be somewhere in Central MA or CT.  Please contact Coach Kyle at Amherst Archery for more information.

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Daniel Roney: Resilient, Patient, Determined

Daniel Roney at Nationals
Coach Kyle works with fellow coaches and family members to fix Daniel’s bow.

Indoor Nationals, 2017. Amherst Archery Academy Compound Archer Athlete in focus: Daniel Roney. Qualities highlighted: resilience, trust, team work, sportsmanship, process-based thinking, maintenance of self-image.

Daniel recently joined AAA. In fact, this was the first tournament I have been able to see him shoot in. While there were very specific quantitative goals we were hoping to achieve at Indoor Nationals this year, the primary goals were process-based and also focused on mental management.

Friday, during JOAD Nationals, Daniel had big success with the process-based goals and mental management goals, but his scores were lower than usual due to an ever mounting pattern of arrows hitting low and left. Saturday’s shooting proved to be similar: scores were lower than normal due to arrows landing lower left. Despite this, Daniel showed great resilience and determination to pull through – taking each arrow on as a new arrow. We thought the lower left arrows were due to him canting the bow ( an issue we solved since Indoor Nationals). Sunday comes around: After seeing the first three practice arrows land in far from desirable places (I think one was a blue…he usually shoots 9s and 10s) I catch Daniel’s eye and ask him to bring his bow to me for inspection.

It took me all of about 1 second to see that the arrow rest was broken. He has a blade style rest on his bow and the left prong was significantly bent…downward. Obviously this would create arrows landing low and left. My heart soared with excitement that the problem was identified.

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Sam Kleinman-Eddy Goes to Nationals, Finds His Center, Solid Mental & Physical Game

Another story from Nationals from a very, very proud Coach.

This story is about Sam (not the Sammy the other story is about from a post from earlier today). However, like Sammy, Sam has been with AAA since the beginning. He remembers when all the bows were stored in the trunk of my Subaru Impreza and arrows, in a bucket, in the front seat. He remembers shooting into gorgeous sunsets atop Bramble Hill Farm and scrambling for cover in “the barn” when storms would roll in. That was six years ago. I am guessing Sam was 7 or 8 at the time. He recently turned 14. The video clip here is of Sam, after Nationals, working on a release drill at the AAA range.

Sam is also a member of AAA JOAD, enrolled as soon as we offered that option. Sam chose to attend Indoor Nationals this year. Like Sammy, Nationals, 2017, was his first “real” tournament. He regularly attends vacation camps, love helping at the range, responds to coaching feedback and guidance with ease and thoughtfulness, and is a joy to be around. Sam recently began increasing his volume of arrows shot per week in the weeks leading up to Nationals. Since he recently upgraded from his Greatree Mohegan beginner bow to an ILF setup with Easton ACC arrows we spent a good deal of time tuning his bow, choosing the best arrows for him, and working on the National Training System form. We trained at 18 meters, the distance of indoor tournaments, and on a 40cm face rather than the 60cm face his coach (me) thought he would be on. I wanted him to train on a smaller target and feel extra confident going into Nationals.

Sam arrived to Nationals and seemed fairly confident. Nervous, perhaps, but well within a manageable limit. I was excited for him to step up to the line, begin shooting, and find his flow. After walking out onto the range to hang target faces Sam and Sammy return to the spectator area. Sam looked like he has seen a ghost. “Sam, what’s up”?, I ask. “I was told that I will be shooting on a 40cm target face, not a 60cm target face”, he said. I could see the anxiety mounting. “Well, that certainly has the ability to rattle one’s mental game plan, doesn’t it?, I said. I had misinterpreted the rules months ago when I told Sam what size face he would be shooting on. Luckily, we had trained on a 40cm face for several months and spent a significant amount of time working on the psychological aspects of archery, including the difference between process-based thinking and outcome-based thinking. He had just slipped into outcome-based thinking.

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Sammy Conrad-Rooney Goes to Indoor Nationals 2017, Gets Yellow Pin, Ranks High

I’ll be writing a full report on how Nationals went. Until then, I don’t want another day to go by without acknowledging Sammy and his accomplishments during Nationals this year. Here is the story:

Sammy has been with Amherst Archery Academy from just about day one of AAA (Six years). I have photos of him shooting on our line, outdoors, at Bramble Hill Farm, with the square targets on the ground Rather than up on stands. Sammy was with AAA long before AAA had a JOAD, a trailer, t-shirts or any ILF bows and Carbon arrows.

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Chula Vista Olympic Training Center: Day 5

If victory is your destination, make excellence your governing value and perform the work necessary to become great. There are no shortcuts along that journey.

I looked back over my shoulder as I walked away from the Easton Archery Center of Excellence tonight. The sun had set and, in front of the building, I noticed a memorial structure I had not really noticed until now. It had a metal figure of an archer on top and was silhouetted by a spotlight. I noticed something that look like a quote and I felt compelled to go back. Meanwhile my cohort walked on towards a van, we were headed out for a celebratory dinner. In true Kyle fashion, I was trying to fit in “just one more thing”. It was worth the run back to this beckoning statue. The quote on the statue reads at the top of this post and in the photo below.

We all achieved what we came here for on some level. That is, we all felt unsettled in some way with our current level of performance as coaches. We had each perceived a “gap” that compelled us to take action to put ourselves on a path to “better”. We all were willing to perform the work needed to become better. Our strategy to bridging the “gaps” we perceived in our own coaching was to go to Chula Vista and study with arguably THE best archery coach in the world, Coach Kisik Lee. Not all of us walked away with our Level IV Coach Certification. However, we all walked in the same direction this week – towards victory – which, even once achieved, scoots out in front of you again just out of reach and daring you to follow.

I am am tremendously grateful for the value, richness, laughter and growth that Coach Lee, Dr. Lee, Coach Jim, Coach Linda, Coach Krueger and all 18 of my colleagues contributed to my experience along thIs journey. The relationships I built here this week have already delivered results: joy, laughter, creativity, empathy, support, deep critical thinking. I did achieve victory this time and will go home not only a better archer and better coach, but I will go home a Level IV Coach. There were certainly had no shortcuts this week: 12 hr training days all week plus several hours when we all flew in on Sunday night. You can’t fake your knowledge of NTS in front of Coach Lee. At times, the learning process was “hot”, for sure., but one cannot expect to transform their shape without first walking though the fire of the forge. I truly believe that Coach Lee could be blindfolded and give you accurate feedback on both mental and physical aspects of form; it was an honor to learn from him.

Archers to the line.
Coach Kyle

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Chula Vista Olympic Training Center: Day 4

Today I got to attend a lecture from Dr. Lee, a sports scientist. Luckily, we ended up eating lunch together after the lecture and I was able to extend my barrage of questions. I was fascinated by research conducted by Lee on brain wave patterns measured in elite, struggling elite, novice and beginner archers.

Two types of brain waves were of particular interest: attention waves and meditation waves. Attention wave patterns indicate just exactly “how focused” an archer is throughout the shot (A slightly tense feeling). Meditation waves show how relaxed or peaceful the archer is throughout the shot. Archers that maintain and increasing level of focus throughout the shot might have an attention brain wave line that climbs from left to right on a graph at a 30° angle, for example. Someone who struggles to keep focus over a period of time will creat a meditation wave pattern that is up, then down, then up some more, then flat, then down….it won’t be consistent. Archers who steadily get more relaxedat throughout the shot will have a line graph that slopes upward from left to right. Those who are feeling tense will have a meditation line that slopes down.

Here is the cool part. Imagine someone shooting a bow that can maintain a positively trending attention brain wave line and a positively trending meditation wave line. Usually the inverse would happen, right? That is, usually, the more “hard” focus someone does the more tense they might feel and this would lead to a negatively trending meditation line and a positively trending attention line. Back to thhe example: imagine someone with positively trending attention and meditation lines. that means that as they focus harder on what they are doing the more relaxed they get. This is ideal! As the archer is in holding and aiming you want to be relaxed but focused hard (which is slightly tensing). Why would that happen?

Flow. When the level of challenge meets the level of skill of an individual, we call that the flow state. There is an optimal level of arousal of someone in flow, they are neither bored or anxious. In this state an archer who has trained their mind can have the highest level of focus possible WHILE finding peace and relaxation. So cool! I loved looking at the data he provided and making the connections.

Now as this gets super cool: picture a pair of pretend cat ears made of fabric and over-sized and stuck onto a plastic headband. Now imagine that the ears are actually activated into movement mechanically based on brainwave activity of the attention waves in the brain. An archer could wear the device and, if they were at good focus the ears would stand up. If at bad focus they would droop. Well, they exist! Check out the video I took of these mechanical brainwave reading ears. This is at the Chula Vista OTC. What a fun way to train focus and attention. Definitely trying to get a pair of these for the range at AAA, Dr. lee designed these.  I took a video so you can get an idea.

Oh, and here is a pic of the Olympic bmx track….sort of like brain waves.

Archers to the line.
Coach Kyle

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Chula Vista Olympic Training Center: Day 3

I was lucky today In a few ways.

One: We had a clinic with (I think) the head of high performance coaching within the US Olympic Committee….I need to double check his title. His job: make sure the athletes, teams, coaches are performing at the best possible levels. He had just returned from Great Britain meeting with a member of Parlaiment to discuss what….high performance. Basically, picture someone that has made a life of studying what makes people, teams, governments, businesses, etc highly effective; highly effective in ways that make them outliers. He then takes what he learns, listens to coaches and teams and athletes and assists in making people/teams the best….like in a historical sense….like the best e.v.e.r. Here are a few take aways From a presentation titled “better”….about how to get “better”.

  1. Mind The Gap. There is a gap that divides yourself from somethings you want to become. Identify this gap, “mind the gap”; ignore the gap and mindlessly move towards your goal and you will likely fail. Ask yourself: what is most important to getting better. Then throw out anything that is not important. Be systematic about understanding what is most important.
  2. Blooming in Death Valley: in 2004?, Death Valley received 7″ of rain. It never rains there. After the rain, the most spectacular thing happened: flowers bloomed everywhere. There was life in Death Valley. So Death Valleyreally isn’t dead then is it. It is Dormant Valley”. What can we learn? People, teams, athletes, governments, businesses, relationships can be dormant as well. If the environment can change in the correct way, champions can grow organically. In relation to what I am learning here at the OTC, champions are made, not born. Today’s training, in part, was focused on what Coaches need to do to create an environment where people can bloom into World class champions.
  3. Talent Code: Ok, this lesson was from another clinic with Coach Jim White and involves lessons from Daniel Coyle’s book, “Talent Code”. Champions are made, not born. Three ingredients that, in Coyle’s research are common threads to make a champion: Ignition: there has to be a deep, deep desire from the athlete to be the best because perseverance alone is omnipotent (Thanks Calvin Coolidge).

Two: deep practice. There must be consistent, mindful, hard, purposeful practice with a huge focus on basics/fundamentals. Three: a master coach, a guide, mentor, teacher – someone who is there to support.Two: we also did a lot of practical training and many aspects of my form are improving. I had two partners during one session of peer coaching (we actually got to shoot and be coached/practice coaching with our partners). It was great. Anyways, one of my partners is a Paralympian/World champion archer, Lee Ford. i was able to get some great feedback AND was even able to provide useful feedback for her……which was SUPER exciting.

Three: about four hours of today’s 13 hr day were spent on teaching the entire National Training System form in front of our peers (takes about 30-40 minutes). I love that type of training and miss that iterative process that was so common when I was a professional ski instructor (We had to teach I front of peers constantly and get feedback). Coach White led my group. I’m really enjoying the coaches at the OTC And will miss them. I feel very, very confident with my performance, got great feedback and am feeling like I found center last night during my time coaching. Written test is today and practical will be tomorrow. Bring it.

I leave you with one picture. A black sky with a small, small moon. This is a metaphor in my mind for getting better…for improving some aspect of your life. A metaphor for imagining yourself getting better in some small way each day with a specific outcome in mind. Peer into the blackness and pick one specific way to be better today.

On that note, I am going to go be a better student and hit the books.

Thanks for all your support,
Coach Kyle

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Chula Vista Olympic Training Center: Day 2

(Originally posted on facebook)

Day two summary (Tuesday).

Today Coach Lee finished overviewing the mental and physical aspects that make up the National Training System (NTS) as well as explaining how biomechanics and sport science interface with NTS. I always encourage my students to ask “why” when I teach them a new movement and understanding the “why”/rationale and theory behind this unique system (NTS) is a large part of the course.

We also worked on understanding more of what it takes to be a World class coach developing World class athletes. To this end, Coach Lee shared some of the many experiences he has had from traveling around the world with his athletes; from building trusting relationships with his athletes; from mentoring; about character; about developing focus in athletes; about using the theory of optimal arousal and Flow to understand your athletes and put them in situations where they can succeed.

I love over talking with the other coaches about form and coaching. The iterative process is so helpful And we have a great cohort from all over the country.

In my personal training: I understood the concept of angular movement (vs linear movement) before the class and understood how they applied to NTS. However, with an increased understanding of set-up, draw and load now, I feel the angular movement far more than before. Zack Garrett and Brady Ellison were in the inddor range today to train while I was doing stretch band exercises. Ellison likes listening to country music while practicing….maybe I should try that?

My hook, anchor and release are still tremendously effected by the very limited range of motion that my radius and ulna have. It is frustrating and sad as these aspects of my form are so heinously flawed, due to the decreased range of motion, and make it impossible for me to achieve what in my mind are some of the most biomechanically beautiful parts of archery: hook, anchor and release. Sadly, these are CRITICAL aspects of form. Yes, compound archery is better suited for my body because of the difference in anchor, but Olympic recurve is where my heart is. I love the purity, the form, the history, and character that goes with that history. I would love to be able to FEEL those aspects of form. I can’t. And “I can’t” is not an athlete attitude that I espouse; but, as a person in a wheelchair can’t stand up, I am learning from my orthopedist friend that this is my equivalent. I can’t supinate my hands. So what. that can’t erode the love I have for the sport or for coaching it. I can defy the odds. I can.

Now, moving forward, I will focus on what I can do and let that which draws me back ALSO propel me forward. Archery teaches us that. One can also not aim forever, at some point one must let go. letting go will help me focus on those elements of form and coaching that I can do better. Positive imprinting is critical to progress. Resilience and tenacity in pursuit; thank you Kurt Hahn.

Our classroom is is in the Easton Archery Center of Excellence. I thought I would show you what I like about the space I am in during my studies here. The attached images are of the Easton Archery Center in the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center (OTC) campus. The AWESOME black and white photos that hang on the walls (Photo credit goes to Dean Alberga Photography) are one of my favorite features. One of the goals of the “interior decorating team” at the Easton Archery Center was for people to be able to see an archery target/representation of a target from wherever they stood in the facility. I also included a picture of the arrow that was shot to lite the Olympic torch at the Opening Ceremonies one year. Remember that?! It was soooo cool! Who doesn’t want to shoot a flaming arrow, right?!

I would love to write more but need to go study and get started on Day Three. Enjoy the pictures!


Coach Kyle

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Chula Vista Olympic Training Center: Day 1

We are about to start day two of coaching clinics on the National Training System (NTS) at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center!

Monday was fantastic and even Sunday night was full of lecture! I learned rationale and mechanics for set, set-up, draw, and load (steps of NTS process) that I have been eager to improve on. Coach Lee lectured for maybe 7 hrs yesterday; it is an honor to be able to learn directly from the most successful coach in the World. Besides lectures, we’ve engaged in on-the-spot-oh-my-god-will-my-voice-work question answering, and done a few hours of stretch band training. The Coaches 5 others?) running the clinic are fantastic and I am so grateful for their guidance. There are 20 candidates like myself here; some have been here more than twice to try and pass. I’m thrilled to be here, love the iteration and subsequent growth that takes place when learning with other coaches.

Shooting in the indoor facility last night for 2.5 hrs helped me improve form. The indoor facility is huge! You can shoot full 70 meters (maybe 90?), picture attached. I used a stretch band in a room that had a big projection screen and a projector mounted to a camera. The camera was directly above your head by 3 feet or so. The screen is in front of you. As you go through your set-up position you see if you are correctly forming the straight line from bow wrist, bow shoulder and drawing shoulder that I always talk about.

The Olympic and Paralympic athletes and Resident Athletes from BMX, Rugby, Archery, Track and Field (and maybe others) are here with us…..we eat together in the same dining hall and pass each other on the walkways (how cool is that?).

It is 5:00 AM here so I’m going to sign off, get some more sleep, go for a run, eat, study, and get back to the classroom. It will be another 12 hr day full of lecture, dialog and stretch band. So the running is helping me clear the head and stay sharp….so far. One thing is for certain: no matter what the outcome at the end of the week is regarding my coach status, no one can take away what I learned while being here in this fantastic environment with World Class guidance. I’ll certainly return a better Coach with a deeper understanding of NTS. We are on the right track, AAA, and in the words of Will Rogers, “even if you are on the right track, you better keep moving or you’ll get run over.”

Stay tuned for more posts!

Love to everyone back home.
Coach Kyle