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Be Prepared for Your First Big Tournament

You’ve registered for your first big tournament, but “the nerves” are setting in. You felt like a pro when shooting at the archery shop’s league nights. And even though you compete in all nearby tournaments, you’re unsure about shooting on the big stage.

Relax. National events aren’t just for professionals. Whatever your skills, you can learn a lot by competing in big events. You will gain valuable experience that will help you grow as an archer. You get to test your skills against yourself and some of the best athletes in the country. You can also expect to make new friends and meet your favorite archery heroes.

The following tips can help you rock your first big event.


You probably have lots of questions about your first tournament, ranging from rules to logistics. If so, make the event’s website your first stop. You’ll learn when to arrive and where to stay, as well as the tournament’s rules, format, regulations and more. Review everything, and if you still have questions contact the event’s organizers. They’ll happily help.

Review the competition’s format to learn how to prepare. Sanctioned events usually follow the rules of a national archery organization like USA Archery, Archery Shooter’s Association, International Bowhunting Organization and National Field Archery Association. Local and state tournaments follow the same rules as national events. Participating in these events prepares you for the tournament environment. Use smaller tournaments to practice how you will react in a competitive environment.

Read the guidelines for age groups and competitive divisions to ensure you register in the right category. Preparation includes clothing and equipment. Make sure you understand the dress code and equipment regulations. For example, some tournaments prohibit camouflage on equipment.


Practice on the same kind of target you’ll be shooting at during the tournament. Photo Credit: ATA

Do all you can to stay atop your game. Practice the exact round, including distance, timing and target size. Shoot as many arrows as possible, and as often as you can. Shooting is the only way to build the focus, strength and stamina needed to compete in big tournaments. Also make sure you exercise, hydrate and eat healthy in the weeks before the tournament.

Keep score every time you shoot a full round. Doing so helps you improve and understand performance issues. For example, on days you work out or eat too few calories you might shoot lower scores. Or maybe you endured a stressful week at school or work, and couldn’t focus. Understanding mental and physical barriers helps you identify where you can improve to achieve peak performance. Your archery coach will help you put together a training plan.

Shooting around other people is a great way to prepare for the competition environment. Get together with friends and shoot practice matches. Improve you mental game with software like Hit the Gold, a program that trains you to focus during the shot cycle.


Don’t wait to pack until the night before you leave. Make a list of everything you need and check off each item as it’s packed. Here’s a sample packing list of important items. Copy and paste this into a note on your smartphone:


  • Armguard
  • Arrows (bring extras)
  • Arrow puller and lube
  • Binoculars and/or spotting scope
  • Bow
  • Bow accessories (sight, rest, stabilizer, stand, etc.)
  • Clothing
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Pen for keeping score and signing scorecard
  • Release aid or finger tab
  • Repair kit
  • Serving
  • Sharpie for initialing arrows
  • Snacks and water
  • Spare nocks
  • Spare fletchings, jig and glue
  • Quiver
  • Weather-dependent items (sunscreen, sunglasses, bug spray, rain jacket, etc.)
  • Wrenches

Mark your equipment with a Sharpie before packing. Mark anything adjustable like sight markings and nocking points. If anything moves in transit you’ll know, and you can easily move it back.


Make sure your bow is packed securely. Photo Credit: ATA

If you’re traveling by air, pack your bow in an airline-grade case to protect it from rough handling. A nearby archery shop can answer questions and help you choose the right case. Ensure your bow is secured inside the case. Many cases have an arrow compartment, but arrow tubes also work. Make sure your sights and stabilizers are also protected.

Regulations can vary by airline, so learn your airline’s restrictions and ask questions before your trip. Archery equipment must be checked. You can’t carry it on the plane. Tell the agent at the check-in counter your case contains archery equipment. You might get sent to TSA agents to screen the bag, even though it’s not a firearm. Secure the case with a TSA lock.

If you’re competing in an international event, register your bow with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Take the Form 4457 to a Customs office before leaving the country.


Don’t add stress by being tight on time. Know when the event starts and where you’re scheduled to shoot. Tournaments organizers post target assignments in advance so you can check your shooting lane.

Find out how long it takes to get from your room to the venue. Don’t rely on a smartphone’s GPS. Doublecheck the venue’s address and carry a paper map in case your phone dies or loses service. If you’re driving, allow time to beat detours, missed turns, rush-hour traffic, or construction delays. If you’re relying on a ride, schedule it to arrive early in case the driver gets lost or delayed.

Large tournaments provide practice times. Take advantage of these opportunities to assemble your gear and shoot a few rounds to settle your nerves and boost your confidence before the competition begins. Indoor rounds of 60 arrows and outdoor rounds of 72 arrows last about four hours,.

Arrive at the tournament one hour before practice starts. You’ll need time to hang your target face (by all four corners), assemble your equipment, and learn the layout (find the bathroom). Early arrivals also allow time to meet the archers you’ll shoot with.

Enjoy the Experience

Tournaments are a friendly environment, so enjoy yourself and connect with other archers. Photo credit: World Archery

As you walk through the door of your first tournament, pause to congratulate yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re new to archery or a seasoned archer who’s a tournament first-timer. Attending your first big event is a huge step. Competing at the next level helps sharpen your skills by shooting under pressure and building confidence in your skills.

The archery community is welcoming and approachable. Tell people it’s your first time and ask questions. Introduce yourself to others at your target. They’re great resources for questions. Strike up conversations during downtime.

Tournaments are great places to make friends. Odds are this won’t be your last big event, so you’ll know more people at your next tournament. You might even meet your favorite archer, and watch some of the best archers in the country, and maybe the world.

Upcoming National Tournaments

The Vegas Shoot

Feb. 8-10, 2019

South Point Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada

The Vegas Shoot is the world’s largest indoor archery tournament. More than 3,500 archers from across the world compete there, and they range from beginners to Olympic champions. The competition follows a traditional 3-spot, 20-yard format.

USA Archery Indoor Nationals

USA Archery’s Indoor Nationals take place at 13 locations across the country over five weeks during January and February. Look for a location near you. Each site lets you choose events from the Junior Olympic Archery Development program and the U.S. National Indoor Champions for adults and youths.

USA Archery Outdoor Nationals

Aug. 14-17, 2019, Dublin, Ohio

The U.S. National Target Championships offers recurve, compound and barebow divisions.

USAT Qualifier Series Event

The United State Archery Team qualifier series events are held at various locations throughout the year. They are open to archers who are seeking national competition experience and want the excitement of competing alongside World Champions and Olympic medalists.

IBO Winter National

March 8-10, 2019, Park City, Kentucky

IBO Spring National

April 12-14, 2019, Wilmore, Kentucky

ASA Hoyt Pro/Am

Feb. 21-24, 2019, Foley, Alabama

ASA Black Eagle/New Breed Pro/Am

March 21-24, 2019, Russell County, Alabama

Easton Southwest Shoot Out

April 25-28, 2019, Paris, Texas



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