Participating in a collegiate archery team can lead to professional archery and help you cope with college’s constant stress. If your college doesn’t have an archery team, follow Mikey Steel’s example and start one yourself.
Steel started Dartmouth’s archery club with one Facebook post. He was a USA Archery Level II coach in high school, competed in events around California, and wanted to keep competing in college. When he learned his college, Dartmouth, didn’t have an archery club, he asked classmates in the Dartmouth Class of 2021 Facebook group if anyone was interested in starting one. His post drew modest interest, but has grown steadily since. “We started out with five people, and now we have 25 regular archers on our team, with new archers coming almost every week,” Steel said.
Starting a club takes time and patience. A subsidiary of the Dartmouth Outing Club, the team competed at the Ivy League Invitational during its first year. As the club grew, its members traveled to compete more often.
“We’ve shot at the Hello Yellow tournament at Amherst Archery Academy in Amherst, Massachusetts, and the annual New England Indoor Open at Halls Arrow in Manchester, Connecticut,” Steelsaid. They plan to compete next term at the Indoor Archers Cup and Northeastern Invitational at Ace Archers, the New England Indoor Sectionals at Lakeside Archery Club, the Buckley Family Archery Classic, and – of course – the Ivy League Invitational each fall.
Tournaments are an exciting part of archery, something that Dartmouth’s club members are quickly learning.“Archers share tips with beginners, the competition is friendly, and we often see the same faces at various meets,” Steel said. While the event is run professionally with a standardized format, the environment is affable and welcoming.”
Steel said potential archers shouldn’t feel intimidated by more advanced archers. “Now is a great time to get into the sport,” he said. “Many schools are just starting their teams as archery gains traction as a club sport. Archery welcomes people of all fitness backgrounds. You’ll always find archers to be friendly. It’s easy to start, though mastery requires serious dedication.”
Even though Dartmouth’s club started with one Facebook post, Steel keeps building interest through other marketing efforts.“Our main form of outreach is sending regular emails to the campus email list, with information about the club and a link to join our GroupMe,” Steel said.
And although advertising is necessary, word-of-mouth often creates the most sustained interest.“The best advertising is simply talking about it,” Steel said. “Invite people to come and try it. Be friendly and open. Dartmouth Club Sports recently made an informational video about us. That expanded our reach. We also send mass emails to students at the start of each term.”
When starting a club, you’ll get newcomers who never before picked up a bow. Steel estimates 10 percent of archers in Dartmouth’s club have significant archery experience, and 20 percent had some archery encounters through summer camp or other youth programs. The rest are newbies. Beginners need personal attention at first, but then find their groove on their own.
“I dedicate time to every new archer, ensuring they understand the safety rules and learn the basic steps before pairing them with a bow and arrows that fit,” Steel said. “I gradually take a less focused role as they practice the concepts and find their routine. Archery is all about practice and repetition for mastery. After they get the hang of it, I spend less time one on one, and more time observing and stepping in as needed or requested.”
Everyone pitches in to set up and take down the range, which cultivates bonds between the club members. “There’s a real team spirit as we take the hike to the targets, help each other pull arrows, find lost arrows, laugh over misses, and high-five over great hits,” Steel said.
If your club can obtain funding, buy equipment for new archers. The costs of starting a club can deter membership. Take the pressure off new archers by letting them try different bows without committing to buying one. When they find one they like, they’ll visit the archery store and buy more confidently. Dartmouth is seeing more repeat archers, including some who bought their own gear. Steel credits that to the club’s playful, laid-back environment.
“With archery, you can see precisely how much better you can be,” Steel said. “Your results are right in front of you, end after end. Your improvement is visual and tangible. It’s motivating to see and feel that growth process. Archery is only as demanding as you want it to be.”
The club has come a long way since its inception, and Steel keeps looking toward the future.
“We just became an official club recognized by USA Archery, and we’re looking forward to implementing the USA Archery Adult Achievement Program,” he said. “This is a tiered program where archers earn pins based on their progress. It sounds elementary, but recurve shooting is hard to perfect. It’s definitely a program for the ambitious club members. We’re also looking forward to bettering our indoor range location. Right now we’re lucky to shoot in a basement dance studio. We’re always looking for new members who look forward to trying something new, and falling in love with the sport!”
Steel and the Dartmouth archery club prove it’s rewarding to attract new archers, and that all it takes is one person with passion to inspire others. Check out your collegiate club or local range to flex your archery skills.