Why Instructors Must Practice What They Preach

Be a good role model for your students – and good things will happen.
Photo Credit: ATA

Author: Cassie Gasaway

Country singer and actress Reba McEntire likes to say, “Watch what you say and do because little eyes are watching you.”

Well, it isn’t just a saying – it’s a reality for archery instructors and shop owners. Chances are, little eyes are watching you work and perform, not to mention the eyes of parents, staff and customers. That’s why it’s important to act as a good role model, especially when teaching archery to students.

We spoke to Brad Fiala, USA Archery’s event development manager, and Dave Stephens, owner of Hilltop Archery in Wingate, Indiana, to explore this topic. Both men are certified to teach archery and share valuable insights regarding archery education.

“When teaching archery, it’s important to be a good role model because the archers [you teach] will adopt your model of behavior for as long as they participate in the sport,” Fiala said.

People hold instructors to a higher standard. As an archery educator, you must always demonstrate proper form and be on your best behavior.

Brad Fiala and other USA Archery coaches will teach safety basics at the archery certifications offered at the Trade Show. Photo credit: ATA

Fiala said if safety rules and proper shooting steps aren’t followed, archers could hurt themselves, other participants or innocent bystanders. These situations would be dangerous but can be avoided if instructors establish ground rules and lead by example.

If you focus on safety, use proper form, and routinely follow shooting steps, your students will often mirror your actions. On the contrary, if you contradict yourself, or disregard the rules and protocols you’ve established, your students will likely follow suit and quickly learn bad habits.

“If [my students] notice me dropping my arm, they’ll drop their arm,” Stephens said. “Every once in a while, you’ll get lazy and drop your arm, switch your hand grip or forget to center your peep. If these slip-ups happen often enough for your students to see them, they’ll subconsciously start doing the same thing. Everybody does it.”

People are a product of their environment. Stephens said when he coaches, he gives 120% to his class, which sets the tone and atmosphere for his students to do the same thing.

Stephens' archers just won first place at an S3DA tournament in July. Photo Credit: Hilltop Archery

He believes his efforts are paying off because all his students work hard and follow the rules. In fact, Stephens runs the Hilltop Archers Scholastic 3D Archery club at his shop, and his archers were very successful this year. His elementary, middle and high school teams all took first place at the S3DA Outdoor Target Nationals competition in July.

Fiala agrees this mentality is important. “USA Archery certified coaches across the nation are seeing great improvement and growth in their archers this year,” he said. “With record participation at USA Archery’s JOAD Nationals, coaches celebrated their archers achieving more personal bests, national and world records this summer than any year before. The most dedicated coaches are already registered for USA Archery’s National Symposium this fall.”

Want to achieve the same results? Here are five tips to become a better leader in your shop and on the range.

–  Clearly communicate. Fiala said good coaches and leaders communicate their expectations from Day 1 to ensure students know how to behave. He said coaches should also take a sincere interest in getting to know their students. Understanding their thoughts and concerns can help you provide better guidance and instruction.

–  Give and take criticism. Stephens said you might not notice your mistakes, so it’s good to ask your students to evaluate your actions. If someone points out a problem, he suggests you assess the situation and take the advice when it’s warranted.

–  Don’t cut corners. If a student sees you taking shortcuts or skipping shooting steps, they’re less likely to pay attention and more likely to bend the rules themselves, Fiala said.

–  Be serious and assertive. Stephens said you should never goof off during archery practice. You must always be in control but keep things fun and entertaining.It’s important to achieve a good balance in your classes and lessons.

–  Reward and reprimand when necessary. Both Fiala and Stephens know that even if you lead by example, you’re bound to have kids who don’t follow direction. If that happens, it’s best to pull the student aside and explain what they’re doing wrong or how they should be behaving. If the student acts out again, ask him or her to sit out for a while. Also, reward and commend positive behavior when students exceed your expectations.

You can improve your own teaching abilities by becoming certified as an archery instructor. The ATA offers USA Archery Level 1 or Level 2, and Scholastic 3-D Archery instructor certification classes at the ATA Trade Show. Click here to view the schedule and register online.

Can’t attend the Show? Visit the S3DA website or the USA Archery website to find a certification course near you.

Share This Story