Whether it’s through Robin Hood or from watching cowboy and Indian films when you were a child, many people have often had a fascination about shooting an arrow from a bow.
There is no upper age limit in archery. Some people continue well into their 80s. There is no fixed lower age limit either but many coaches have found that 10 years old is a sensible lower limit. Children younger than that can often physically struggle with a bow and children under 7 don’t generally fully comprehend the safety instructions and requirements. That said, there are no hard and fast rules and, if you’re in doubt, a club’s coaches will often be willing to assess a child’s suitability at a special session.
Joining an Archery Club
There are over 1,000 archery clubs in the UK some of whom specialise in particular types of archery. On joining a club, new members generally pay an annual subscription which can vary from club to club but is usually in the region of £50 for an adult. Beginners will typically have around six starter lessons which include use of all equipment and these would cost around £15 to £20.
It’s important to have the right person to teach you correctly from the beginning. All clubs will have people who can teach you the elementary steps and there will be some ‘old pros’ there who can take you further as you start to take the sport more seriously.
What Equipment Do You Need for Archery?
Because there are several different codes of archery and many variations of equipment within each code, it’s probably better to use the club’s equipment for free or just a small fee before purchasing any of your own. That way, you can find out which code you prefer and, if you’re still enthusiastic, you can then buy the appropriate gear later on. Clubs will always advise you on the best equipment to suit you and there are plenty of specialist archery equipment dealers.
Bows come in different shapes and sizes so if you do eventually buy one, it’s important to buy one that’s properly sized to match your physique and one which pulls at a light poundage, meaning less effort. The arrows should be long enough so as not to pull past the arrow rest when you are at full draw but it’s always best to consult with a club expert before making any purchase.
Types of Archery
There are several types of archery codes but the most common forms you’ll find at the majority of clubs are target and field.
1. Target Archery
Target archery is typically carried out in a flat field. This type of archery requires archers to shoot a specific number of arrows at set targets that have established values, a bull’s eye being 10 points, for example, and this is the style of archery you may have seen performed in the Olympic Games.
2. Field Archery
Field archery involves shooting at different targets of varying distances around a course. The sport will usually take place in woods and archers will have to follow a prescribed course and negotiate different types of terrain, including hills, steep slopes, bushes and trees, walking from one target to the next. Archers will usually get to shoot a maximum of 3 arrows at each target, depending on the rules of the round they are shooting.
When you are starting out, the most important lesson is to be patient. Learning to shoot a bow and arrow takes only a few minutes and, with expert tuition, most people can hit the centre of an archery target from a reasonable distance within a few tries. However, don’t expect to be an instant ‘master’. Hours of practice and dedication are needed to reach a consistent, decent standard. It’s almost as much a mental thing as it is your natural ability. One way to measure your level of improvement is to test yourself under competitive conditions.
Keep a note of training sessions. Write down how many arrows you have shot, your scores, the weather conditions and any minor adjustments you’ve made. This will let you know how much you’re progressing and when you see the improvement, it will motivate you to get even better.
Whilst you may think that standing still to shoot arrows at a target requires little physical exertion, if you wish to get more competitive, you should pay special attention to your upper body and arms. More power in your upper body means greater control over the shot.
Archery is quite similar to golf from a mental perspective. You hit the golf ball sweetly and you might get a hole in one. You miscue ever so slightly and it ends up in the bunker. Mental toughness in archery, especially in competition, is important if you plan on competing at a high level.
However, the important thing is to enjoy yourself and not to get uptight. If you can’t put mistakes right out of your mind, then the next arrow is likely to be just as bad. By all means, you should learn from a mistake, but by adopting the right attitude, you’ll find that your experience of archery is very enjoyable and will lead to vast improvement. If you’re interested in taking up target archery as a hobby, the Grand National Archery Society (GNAS) should be your first port of call. If on the other hand, you’d prefer to have a go at field archery, you should try to locate a club which is affiliated to either the National Field Archery Society (NFAS) or one of the national associations linked with the International Field Archery Association.