Right on target
GJ archer learning at Jr. Dream Team camp
If Caleb Miller has a future in archery, he’s pointed in the right direction for instruction.
The Grand Junction 17-year-old can’t do much better than the coaches who are on hand to help him this week at the Junior Dream Team training camp at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
He is one of 10 archers, ages 12 to 18 and shooting a recurve bow, being coached by the likes of KiSik Lee and Mel Nichols for seven days at the camp that started Sunday.
Lee has been the national head coach of USA Archery since 2006 and coached the U.S. Olympic archery team in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Nichols was USA Archery’s coach of the year in 2010 and an assistant coach for the Olympic team.
“You can’t get any higher than that,” Dave Russell, a Level 4 Advanced coach in Denver, said of Lee. “And you can’t get much higher than Mel Nichols.”
Russell has been coaching Miller for the past two months. Some of the instruction has been face to face. Some of it has been a matter of Miller shooting video of himself during practice and sending it to Russell, who then writes critiques to send back to Miller.
Miller’s about to get some top-flight coaching, and the coaches are about to work with a top-flight student, Russell said.
“His habits are the ones you want,” Russell said. “The habits he has, if he sticks with it, he can go as far as he wants.”
Miller already has come a long way in a short time. He said he took up archery two years ago when his mom, Kim Philia, told him he needed to take up a sport.
“My mom wanted me to get out of the house,” Miller said, “and I decided to go with archery.”
He said he also did some rifle shooting, but buying arrows he could use over and over again was going to be cheaper than buying ammunition for firearms.
So, archery made financial sense, plus he thought it was more technical, and he liked that challenge.
Miller said he started on a compound bow, shot it for about a year, then switched to a recurve, which he will have been using for a year come February. He said he wanted to play around with the recurve bow, realized he liked it and stayed with it.
“You get a lot more feedback from the recurve when you shoot it,” he said.
That helps him improve his technique, just like feedback from coaches, which he craves. He sought out Russell as a coach, and he has received instruction from Nichols previously.
Learning from Lee will be special, he said. Lee is the man who came up with the National Training System (NTS) for archery. It’s based on biomechanics, determining the most efficient way to position the body to hold and draw a bow and shoot accurately, and he teaches it to all of his archers.
“Your pinkies even have a place they’re supposed to be,” Miller said of the thoroughness of NTS.
That Miller has progressed quickly in the sport of archery doesn’t surprise Russell. The coach rattles off Miller’s desire, discipline and competitiveness as traits that serve him well. Of course, there’s physical ability, too, and Russell said with most good athletes, they can translate it into success in a variety of sports. It’s just a matter of which one they choose.
“There’s a lot of physical ability,” Russell said of Miller, “and he’s chosen to use it in archery.”
All of those traits would mean little, though, without a willingness to work. Miller said he shoots 100 to 200 arrows every day, and Russell said Miller retains what he’s taught and understands what he’s doing well enough to self-correct flaws.
“I’ll talk to him about something, and he’ll work on it and come back and have 75 to 80 percent of it down,” Russell said. “You don’t have to stand over him and go over it and go over it.”
During Miller’s week of instruction at the Junior Dream Team camp, his 12-hour days will include shooting 150 to 200 arrows per day. But instead of sending a video to a coach and waiting for feedback, he’ll be under the watchful eyes of experts who can give him immediate instruction.
Miller hopes it also starts him on his way to another goal, earning a spot on the Junior Dream Team, which selects 24 of the most promising junior archers in the nation to train quarterly at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif.
Miller will earn points toward that goal just by being at this week’s training camp. He can earn more points by competing and placing well at national meets this year.
Russell said it’s an achievable goal for Miller, adding, “Knowing him, he’ll do it.”