Making archery events more friendly to newbies

I’m still relatively new to this game, having only picked up archery in March, 2013 not long after my youngest son took an introduction to archery class at our local archery club. Since then I’ve jumped in with both feet and competed in several local, state, and national archery competitions. It’s been great fun, and I’d love to see the sport grow. One of the advantages of being new to something is seeing it with fresh eyes. If you’re organizing an archery event, here are some suggestions from this archer’s perspective that would make your event less intimidating and more likely to draw participants who are new to archery.

Consider the FAQs

This is my number one suggestion. I had a ton of questions before I started attending events and competing myself. Here’s a sample of questions I’ve had (in no particular order). Some of these were answered by asking around or Googling, but others I had to learn the hard way.

  • What equipment do I need to bring (besides my bow, of course)? How many arrows do I need?
  • Will there be food, or do I need to bring my own? Is water available?
  • Approximately how long will the event last? Do all the archers start simultaneously, or is it a staggered start or "continuous line"?
  • What exactly is the format? FITA, Field, and NFAA were all Greek to me when I started.
  • Do I need to be a member of a specific archery organization to participate or have my score count?
  • What distances will we shoot exactly?
  • What should I wear? Is there a dress code?
  • How do I get to the event?
  • What time does registration start?
  • What do I have to know to keep score?
  • What rules do I need to know in advance? Are there unspoken rules of courtesy that I should know?

I’m pretty comfortable being a novice (a passionate beginner at times even), but not everyone is wired that way. Some people will skip the event rather than risk looking dumb. The more questions you can answer in advance the better. Take photos or shoot a video of your event so you can post them online for people to see before next year’s event. Watching a video in advance will help prospective participants know what they’re signing up for.

If you hang around archery for a while you’ll be sure to hear stories about how local and state shoots used to have many more participants. (This may be different for 3D shoots. That's not my game, so I don't have much experience with it.) This doesn’t surprise me based on what I’ve observed. There’s no “secret sauce” here. Make it as easy as possible for new archers to participate, and you'll see more participation.

Watch the acronyms and insider jargon

Check out the results from a shoot at our local archery club from a few years ago. There is no place on that sheet or anywhere else on the club’s web site that explains what those divisions are. They’re just random words as far as I can tell. It says nothing about what a “360 Money Round” or “300 Round” are either. It’s easy to fall into patterns like this. After all, everyone at the shoot probably already knew all of that. But what about the folks who didn’t come out to watch or participate because it didn’t make any sense to them?

You don’t need to provide all of the necessary information on the results sheet (though a key to the various classes would be great). Make a page on the club's web page where you can direct new archers for more information and put a link to that page on all of the event materials.

Explain the format

I mentioned this above, but it bears repeating. Most people don’t know a “300 Round” from a “full FITA.” Yes, Google exists, but why not make it easy? My first event as a competitor was the MN State FITA Championship and Voyageur Cup. Here’s my attempt at explaining the format for the FITA senior compound shooters in a way that could be included on a web page and would have helped me be better prepared for the event. The number of different classes complicates things, of course, but once you create the descriptions they can be reused many times.

A “FITA round” is the name given to an international-style archery competition in which the archers fire 144 arrows, 36 at each of four distances. Men shoot at 90m, 70m, 50m, and 30m. Women shoot at 70m, 60m, 50m, and 30m. The two longer distances use a 122-cm target face in six ends of six arrows each. The shorter distances use an 80-cm target in 12 ends of three arrows each. Each arrows scores 0—10 points, and the winner is determined by the largest cumulative score with a maximum possible score of 1,440 points.

It would be a great idea to show an example score card on the event web site with an explanation of the shared scoring process. The example I cited here is an outdoor FITA event, but you could make exactly the same case for an indoor 300 round.

Use social media

Create a Facebook “event” for your shoot and encourage participants to “check in.” Let everyone know what hashtag to use. Ask participants to post photos to a Flickr group or Instagram. Remind people to check in on Foursquare and Facebook.

Make sure your organization has an actively maintained Facebook page. The secret to spreading the word via Facebook is posting frequently so that posts are shared by others. Create a Twitter account and post announcements and results there too. Maybe you could have a volunteer “live tweet” your events.

Don’t forget traditional media

Local news outlets are usually eager for stories to fill their pages or airwaves. Send a press release 1—2 weeks before the event to local media outlets. Invite a reporter to come and see it firsthand. Offer to send photos if the reporter does a story.

All of these suggestions take time. Growing any sport requires a steady supply of new participants. Let’s make the learning curve as easy possible for newbies to get started.