What if a hidden, albeit overabundant, “gem” that could improve the quality of life, offered friendships, and tender relief to life’s complexities existed? Would not those who discovered this amazing treasure share it with others? Life, even when filled with “gems,” such as hobbies, friendships, and positive family dynamics, is constantly overflowing with “ups” and “downs,” triumphs and victories, and prosperities and hardships; when negative obstacles outweigh the positive, life can seem almost impossible to traverse. When lived without an “outlet” or hobby, such as archery or the fulfilment and pleasure it presents, life can seem even more taxing.
In the years preceding or even considering any form of archery or other hobby, this essay’s author, a military veteran and survivor of minor mental health obstacles, experienced an abundance of setbacks and adversities. Upon finding that archery, in its leisurely and competitive forms, it was discovered that this amazing sport allowed for a reprieve from life’s normal and extraneous negativities. Participating in the sport and experiencing the camaraderie archery offers, this essay’s author often questions why archery is not shared more with others. Realizing that many others experience similar difficulties, it can be inferred that others can and will benefit from archery and the brotherhood/sisterhood the sport presents. This essay presents situations and remedies to grow the Sport of Archery, via incentivizing sport growth and campaigns to target both non-veterans and veterans.
Problems: Discovered Situations to Address
This section addresses a couple of situations from the author’s viewpoint. As a previously non-competitive archer, who, at personal desire, wanted to experience competitive archery, there were struggles in finding events. This situation, alone, creates a blockade in growing the competitive Sport of Archery. Sure, it is simple to find a pro shop, purchase a bow, and even shoot that bow daily. However, it is not so easy for a layman, or aspiring competitive archer, to initially find local and regional events. If events are easier to locate or find, the Sport of Archery will be more accessible and easier to grow. Addressing this is imperative in growing the sport.
Additionally, discoveries from attending non-competitive events gave insight on how archery remedies mental health and creates camaraderie.
Competitive Archery from an Outsider’s Perspective
First things first, for any layman or aspiring competitive archer, finding competitive events, whether ASA, NFAA, or IBO, presents its challenges. Many times, a quick internet search or Facebook query does not allow for an abundance of results about local, regional, or national archery events. However, once a competitive event is attended, the archer begins to learn more about when, where, and how competitive archery events occur. This seems to be a consensus among new competitive archers.
With this discovery, and not to resound negatively, it seems as if competitive archery is mainly an exclusive fraternity of seasoned archers and those who are close, within the seasoned archers’ life “circles.” Thompson first experienced difficulty in finding local and state qualifying events. Once finally finding and attending two to three events and immediately cultivating friendships and acquaintances, it became simpler to gain insight and information about future events; much of this information is communicated via word of mouth. However, since the existing (seasoned) archers’ relationships were well-established, new membership to this exclusive fraternity was a little overwhelming; but, again, this was not perceived in a negative manner. Conversely, most of the archers were warm and welcoming, once Thompson became a regular attendee. Now, the events are full of friendly faces and smiles – the kind that only arrive with experience and longevity, a situation that should be expected.
However, with gaining this insight, it was also realized that not one fellow competitor encouraged their new and long-standing peers to grow the sport of competitive archery. It seems that not many seasoned competitive archers are actively seeking to grow or mentoring others to grow the sport. Upon participating in these events, Thompson heard no one say, “Bring you friends!” or, “Do you know anyone who would have a good time shooting with us? Bring them!” Asking other new competitive archers, the consensus was similar.
Realizing this, it seems that many competitive archers focus on their own reputation and attempt to win events. This is certainly not a negative aspect, either; in fact, to compete, it is necessary to focus on self-improvement and honing skills. However, archery, competitive or non-competitive, can be a sport that many others can enjoy. So, expanding the focus from “self” to adding “others” is crucial in growing the sport. Additionally, should it not be the experienced archers who build the sport and create a legacy for those newer and inexperienced archers? Ideally, it should be a desire to create multiplicative legacy for the future of archery to be “bigger” and greater than the present.
Communicating encouragements to actively grow the sport seems to be something that could or should be arranged with a “top-down” communication flow. What is meant by this is that, hypothetically, the association or organization (ASA, NFAA, IBO, etc.) places clubs and shops “on mission” to constantly communicate the objective to grow the sport. From there, the club leaders and/or shop owners/managers communicate this mission to invite others to participate, or even just spectate. Conversely, this also expected requires development of mission statements or tenets to pass on to clubs and shops.
Discoveries from a Benefit Event and Total Archery Challenge
With the aforementioned situation said, there is some “silver lining” to offer. The author attended two events that allowed him to brainstorm about ways to grow archery: a benefit shoot and Total Archery Challenge (TAC).
In early spring 2022, a benefit was hosted to raise funds for an injured young man. Archers from all over the state of Oklahoma arrived to this event to shoot a challenging course containing 20 three-dimensional targets, donate to a raffles, socialize, and dine on grilled food. The event host vulnerably expressed that many of his archery peers were “closer than actual family.” This is absolutely relatable: a camaraderie of like-minded, competitive archers offering time and efforts to raise money for an injured fellow archer. It was amazing and heart-warming to witness, to say the least. Additionally, the encouragements to “be vulnerable,” “check in on your fellow archer,” and, “talk about challenges,” were given to all in attendance.
Another event that yielded positive results was TAC. This event, although barely, or, at least, mildly competitive, allowed for, again, likeminded “sporters” to congregate, develop friendships, and engage in zero-consequence fun; these events are fun and seem necessary to grow the sport. However, this event catered greatly to veterans, which is something that is not usually a focus at sanctioned competitive events. In any situation or sport, but, specifically archery, it seems that veterans find one another and dually bond via archery and past military experiences.
Now, with all of the above said, the positive aspects are crystal clear: competitive archery and archery, in general, makes life much better. What is even better is this: competitive archery, surrounded by a growing group of friends and acquaintances. An outlet that is participated by and celebrated with fellow archers is an amazing remedy or relief from life’s everyday struggles.
Introduction to Suggestions
How can attention be brought to those who are ignorant to the existence of competitive events? How does the information about archery events travel from one source to the next? It can be argued that word of mouth is more effective than electronic or print media. (Although, print or electronic media is crucial for communicating information pertaining to events.) If incentives are offered for those who grow the sport, archers can now focus on growing their local clubs, ASA, NFAA, IBO, and other associations. While many may not need an incentive to include others, these incentives can motivate yet others to grow the sport.
In addition to offering incentives to those personally growing the sport, campaigns can be instituted to target veterans and those struggling. The below suggestions offer insight on possibly growing the sport by offering incentives, and creating campaigns, and even shooting classes for certain target audiences. Suggestion 1 focuses on actively recognizing those who are growing the sport, at state-level year-end banquets and ceremonies. Suggestion 2 focuses on targeting veterans.
Suggestion 1: Offer Award Incentives for Growing the Archery Community
As every competitive archer knows, the coveted trophies, belt buckles, and monetary purses are awarded to the most skilled competitive archers; these archers are the best of the best and have honed their skills to earn the deserved accolades and recognition for their victories. However, what if awards were offered to those who actively grow the sport, especially those who are noticeably bringing others to the “fold” of competitive archery? Would this not encourage at least a few to actively grow the sport?
What if an award, such as “MVP” (Most Valuable Promoter) or “Growing the Sport” existed, with a small monetary amount, 5-year free organization membership, or similar incentive existed? To address these incentives, mission statements can be constructed to encourage a repeatable and resounding mission that shop owners, club heads, and representatives can repeat and pass to individual archers. These recognitions can be issued at state-level banquets and ceremonies.
Author’s Personal Testimony
Once the author knew how much fun and how beneficial for overall well-being of (1) participating in archery and (2) being surrounded by like-minded friends, sharing the sport was not even a question. Soon, Thompson’s family members, friends, and neighbors were buying, swapping and sharing archery equipment, practicing together, and eventually attending official and local events. What was an endeavor to personally exercise a fun outlet gave way to more serious outlet to escape life’s struggles. Additionally, that became an even more important endeavor to share that outlet with others, realizing that archery is literally therapy. Once those influenced to partake in the sport realized archery’s amazingness, they too invited their friends and family to join the sport. This is enough award, in and of itself, but allowing others to gain recognition could really enhance the awareness that archery can and must be shared.
The question of, “How do we identify and recognize those growing the sport?” is probably lingering. There are many ways to identify those locally growing the sport. Firstly, when one fills out a club or association membership application, the question, “Who referred you?” can be included on the application; this can create a traceable “lineage” of who is influencing other to partake in archery. Secondly, shop owners, club leaders, and peers can nominate an individual for recognition; this is a method that could merely be a nominee-based solution, with votes from a peer group/committee, or a nomination with an explanation for why the nominee deserves the nomination.