Bernardo’s blog: Making progress under renowned coach Marc Dellenbach’ guidance

Marc Dellenbach watching carefully Bernardo Oliveira’s shooting form

On a previous occasion I shared here why and how I decided to relocate to Europe to train at the World Archery Excellence Centre, in Switzerland.

One year and eight months (and counting) into the plan I can say: It’s been a ride. A bumpy one for the most part, if you know what I mean. But it’s been amazing, in its own way, and totally worth it.

For the past few months, even though things haven’t been necessarily easier, they’ve definitely been more fulfilling and rewarding.

And that is mostly thanks to one person: Marc Dellenbach.

He started as new head coach at the Excellence Centre in September 2023 but, due to his and my schedule, we actually started working together only in the beginning of November. And slowly but surely encouraging signs of progress started to appear.

But before all of that, the funny thing was all the anticipation that preceded Marc’s arrival in Switzerland… 

Let me try to give it some context.

A key part of any archery endeavour is who’s going to be coaching you. And when I first came to the Centre, back in 2022, I really enjoyed working with the Korean coaches Jeoung Kyeongsu and Parik Youngsook – better known as Sally

Sadly, not long after I arrived, both ended up leaving. That left me in a very uncomfortable position.

Having just made an enormous effort to pull out this big move, I suddenly was missing such an important piece of the puzzle.

Of course, the Centre would soon find a new coach. But who would that person be? Would this coach and I match? Big uncertainties.

As 2023 began, all that could be made public was that a new head coach had already been signed. But at that moment, the coach’s identity could not be revealed because his/her then-employer asked for discretion for some more time.

Overall, it wasn’t a very cheerful moment for me (in fact, I had an episode of depression – to be shared in another blog post, maybe?) Going through such a rough patch emotionally, I just didn’t have high expectations about who the next coach would be.

But when the secret coach’s identity was finally revealed, I was thrilled: it was former French national team coach, then working in Germany, Marc Dellenbach.


The news was really exciting to me even though I actually knew very little about him. He was, of course, a very familiar face, even before I was competing in the circuit.

In the late 2000’s, in my teenage years, I would watch online the medal matches of the World Cups and World Championships. And around that time, France was definitely one of the top squads.

The likes of Bérengère Schuh, Romain Girouille and a very young Jean-Charles Valladont, to name a few, were often shooting for medals.

And even though France was constantly being represented at high level by different faces on the shooting line, the person standing behind them was often the same: Marc.

A couple of years later I was a competitor myself at the world events. And being there I could see in person what everyone was like. 

And all these years on the circuit gave me a very solid impression about Marc: a very serious person, who doesn’t speak much, if at all. He just had this aura of serious, straight to the point, work.

I didn’t hear people talk about him often. But when they did, it was always positive. It was some sort of quiet reputation.

And, of course, the results spoke for him. All that France achieved under his leadership, and then Germany.

That’s why I got so excited when I knew that I’d have the opportunity to train with him.

Bernardo Oliveira shooting at 2024 South American Championships.

Finally, the day came when we had our first training session. He filmed me shooting at 70 metres from different angles, without shirt, to see well how the shoulders and scapulas were working.

After fetching my arrows and getting back to the shooting line, he asked me: “What do you think about your bow shoulder?”

I said I thought it was one of my strengths and that over the years everyone always said my bow arm was so stable and strong.

To that he replied: “I think the opposite. I think it’s quite unstable and it’s the first thing we should work on.” 

To say I was taken aback doesn’t do it justice. It was the first time ever someone had told me that.

Marc then explained his methodology, the reasons behind his assessment and asked me whether I would be willing to try his ‘mechanic’ technique.

“I’m in,” I said. “That’s why I came all the way here.” To keep on doing the same thing, it would’ve been easier to stay in Brazil.

Basically, his philosophy is: optimise bone placement. Make the shot stable using bones, not muscles, as “muscles get tired, bones don’t,” he says. And I was stabilising my bow shoulder using sheer muscle force.

It all sounds very beautiful and super simple. But if you’ve been shooting archery for some time, you’ll agree with me that simple rarely – not to say never – means easy.

Marc Dellenbach correcting Bernardo Oliveira’s shooting position.

Countless hours and days with me sandwiched between two mirrors, shooting with lighter and lower-poundage bows at five metres followed. The mirrors were so that I could see my back, and to repeatedly place my shoulders lower, using less the trapezius.

As if it wasn’t enough of a challenge already to make a big technical change, we also had to fast-track it. The Olympics are just around the corner and qualifications even more so.

Now we’re past the bulk of the work and are now in the part that can span years, really. The never-ending pursuit of ultimate automation.

Through ups and downs we continue. Goals set clearly on where we want to get.

My favourite of Marc’s aphorisms is: “The bow doesn’t have feelings.” And it links to another: “The bow and the arrow don’t know whether it’s competition or practice.”

And the context for these statements is that it doesn’t matter how you feel, if you place your shoulders correctly, if you apply strength where it’s needed and relax the rest, the outcome is an arrow at the centre of the target.

When you come to fully grasp this, it’s quite a realisation.

Marc’s ‘mechanic’ technique is in its essence one with the least amount of tension possible. Stability through bone positioning rather than brute force.

And this has drastically reduced the amount of pain and discomfort that I experience. Shooting 300-400 arrows in a day has become much easier.

Bernardo Oliveira during qualification at Shanghai 2024 Hyundai Archery World Cup.

Complementary to Marc’s proven technique is his work ethic. 

With all the tables, boards and information he likes to place around the training area, he tries to define what success looks like. What are the scores we have to aim for, and where we are at the moment.

Feet on the ground. Lots of scoring sessions. It all builds a “performance culture”, as he puts it.

Marc can really be a man of few words. He observes a lot before coming to conclusions. Pure patience, really. 

In a job where for most of the time one can only watch as the athlete tries to do what was taught, I believe the temptation to overtalk, overcommand, overwhelm, can be huge.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but sometimes I get a feeling I’m left alone.

He’s watching all the time, however. And all of a sudden, he comes up with pin-point observations. And, just to make it clear, whenever you call, he’ll come and help.

On top of all that is what I’ve come to appreciate more and more with these nearly two decades as an archer: a coach who’s someone pleasant to be with. 

Our sport’s training sessions are long. And there can be many, many hard and frustrating moments. If you’re not with someone who can make it a bit easier and lighter, the challenge grows. 

Marc is a beautiful soul. With unshakeable optimism. And training with him is simply joyful.

Bernardo Oliveira training at World Archery Excellence Centre in Lausanne.

Lastly, there’s a proverb I love that is said to be Arabic. Whatever the origin is, this is one of its versions:

“He who knows not, and knows not he knows not. He is a fool; shun him.
He who knows not, and knows he knows not. He is simple; teach him.
He who knows, and knows not he knows. He is asleep; wake him.
He who knows, and knows he knows. He is wise; follow him.”

Having been working with Marc for more than half a year now, I can definitely say that the latter line really makes me think of him.

He is a simple guy. Whose passion for archery is vibrant.

When you work with him you quickly realise that he’s got a very clear idea of what the boundaries of his knowledge are. And his trust in what lies within those boundaries is rock-solid.

Will we have enough time to reap all the rewards of our work together before Paris? We’ll soon find out.

But I can already say that he is the best coach I’ve ever worked with. And for that I am already so grateful.

I can’t wait to see what the next months will bring. Wish me luck and bring it on.