Learn how to read your target face and it could help to improve your score, James Park explains what to look for…
We all lose score through the various combinations of errors we make. Our objective as an archer or coach should be to find those errors and to progressively eliminate or minimise them. This is not an easy task, especially as the archers get more skilled – the reasons the top archers lose score can be quite subtle and challenging to isolate, both for them and for the coach. I have watched elite archers shooting many times – they can look very good indeed, yet they still (usually) do not shoot perfect scores. Anything we can find to help in the analysis is useful.
One thing I like to do, both as archer and as coach myself, is to watch the archer’s arrow groups on the target. I try to do this on an end-by-end basis, as well as over many ends.
I have noted in previous articles that archers frequently set their sights incorrectly. That results in their groups being off centre and it can cost them a lot of score. An analysis of the score lost through incorrect sight settings at a World Cup and the World Championships in 2013 showed that on average archers were giving away three points for every six ends. Some archers were giving away up to 10 points, and one archer at the World Cup gave away 23 points in six ends. And remember, these were the world’s best archers!
Watching the groups each end and adjusting your sight to centre your group is gaining you score for free – you do not need to shoot better to get it. All you need to do each end is to estimate where the centre of your group is prior to pulling your arrows out of the target and to know how much to move your sight to make the correction – it should be easy, but is often ignored.
Watching your arrow groups over many ends can be very useful in pointing to the technique faults that are costing you score. For example, prior to writing this article I shot 300 arrows during 10 indoor rounds (shot outdoors) on the one target face with my recurve bow, averaging about 55 points per end.
You can see from the target face that I frequently lost score due to low arrows, and from arrows that went high and slightly right. While I could have done better, I was not losing as many points left and right. Can we then try to deduce some of the technique errors from that target face, and from me observing what I was doing while shooting?
I suspect quite a lot of the left-right variation was from to me varying my sight picture due to the light changing – I shot those 10 rounds over two days during which it varied from bright sunshine to rain from end-to-end. I have certainly noticed that if I practice in the evening when it is dark I get a different left-right arrow position than when it is sunny. Hence, I think I can minimise that error by simply being a little more careful with my sight picture and understanding how the ambient light level might affect it.
I am pretty sure that I get those low shots when I do not get the correct location of my drawing hand on my chin. I noticed that is more likely to happen as I tire. That is telling me to find a better way to get a consistent vertical location for my drawing hand. The high shots seem more likely when my release is not as clean.
That is, a target face like this can tell you a lot about the sorts of errors you are making and how you might avoid them. This is not as easy to do when you are sharing the target face with other archers, as your error pattern will be masked by their patterns, but in that circumstance you can get value by plotting your arrows either on a note pad or using one of the various arrow plotting programs. You can then both consider the results yourself as well as sharing it with your coach.