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  • Writer's pictureTim Swane

Coaching in a Covid World

This year has been one of the strangest I have ever lived through. For the first time in my lifetime I have been shut in my house for hours on end and not allowed to do what I wanted to. Eventually infection rates eased enough for my sport to open up but in a very different way. This has presented some challenges to the way I typically coach and I have had to make some significant adjustments.

1. Planning sessions is critical. Not only do I have to plan the content of the session I also have to think about how I am going to communicate with my archer so they understand what they have to do and why. Initially I thought that would be easy as people will understand what I am saying to them and just do it. However I have discovered that just saying put your hand under your chin means many things to many people. I can demonstrate the action myself but when the archer has a go they simply cannot find the right place under their chin. Pre-Covid I would have just grabbed their hand and put it in the correct position so they can feel what right feels like but now I am having to find alternative ways to get my message across.

2. Anticipate everything. I have found I am tripped up by little things I did not even think would be an issue. For example I got to the end of my first beginners session and everything had gone to plan until the archer had to unstring the bow. They struggled to follow my verbal instructions to use the stringer and then found they did not have the reach to unloop the string. Pre-covid I or another beginner would have helped with that but I found I had to put on PPE so I could get close enough to help them.

3. Have Personal protective equipment handy and use it. It is not comfortable working in PPE and if you can stay 2m apart not really necessary but many archers are going to experience times when they need closer support. If you have PPE available then it is a simple matter to put it on and deal with the issue. Using PPE at critical stages also helps give the archer confidence in your professionalism.

4. Try and keep equipment used in each session for each archer separate so that the risk of cross contamination is minimised. Sharing bows, bosses and arrows is not possible under the current regulations but similarly stretch bands, balance aids, drawing aids all need to be sterilised between users. Giving each participant their own reduces the risk of cross contamination.

5. I have increased the number and type of drills I use to train the underlying motor skills. I have found by doing this I can simplify and isolate specific motor actions I am trying to develop or refine. The archer does not always understand why they are doing this so it is important to clearly explain why and also move back to shooting a bow before their bordom threshold is exceeded.

6. I have made extensive use of a portable mirror. I have found using video to coach means I either have to get within 2 metres of the archer so they can see the screen. This problem is worse when working outside. Using a mirror can help the archer see what is going on in real time and make their own corrections.

7. Be less ambitious in the scope of what you want to achieve. For example when running a normal beginners course I would expect to have archers shooting accurately over 18 metres by the end of the course. Covid restrictions are forcing me to work at a slower pace so I am not getting such good results but as long as the archer is happy with the progress they have made it does not matter. If they join the club they can still progress and they will not know they have not moved as fast as they would have done pre Covid unless you tell them.

8. Be patient with yourself and your archer. They will struggle at times to translate your instructions into the correct motor action. They will not find it any easier if you shout the instructions at them.

9. Carry cleaning equipment in your car. You never know when you might touch something that needs cleaning or you have had to borrow kit from the kit store that will need cleaning before use.

10. Be positive and be prepared to chat. Your archer may value the social contact as much as the coaching input. People have been trapped inside for a long time and just getting out is a reward in itself,

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