You don’t have to be particularly fast, strong or even coordinated to succeed at archery. Regardless of your natural athletic ability, you can enjoy shooting a bow and arrow.
A Mental Sport
“Archery is really a sport for everyone,” said Jill Oliveria, who started shooting a bow at age 5. She works with archers of all experience and skill levels at Trader Jan’s, the pro shop she owns in Fall River, Massachusetts. The only limitation is each archer’s ability to focus.
Archery is a mental sport. Shooting a bow is easy to learn but difficult to master. To excel, archers must cultivate discipline, concentration and patience. Minor differences in shooting form and the entire shot sequence have big impacts downrange, which can frustrate some archers. Those wishing to compete at high levels must slow down and perfect each step of the process.
Still a Sport
Because archery isn’t a fast-paced, obviously physical sports like soccer and football, some people mistakenly think it’s not really a sport. In 2014, for example, former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw infamously mocked putting archery in schools to help kids get more active.
But just because archers don’t chase a ball up and down a field doesn’t mean they aren’t getting a workout. According to Prevention, shooting a bow burns 140 calories per half hour, which is comparable to a 30-minute walk at a moderate pace. It’s also more than you burn doing basic yoga. In addition, archers get more exercise by walking back and forth to the target. During the 2012 Olympics, The Economist calculated the number of calories it took Olympians in various sports to reach the medal podium. Andrea Vasquez wrote about the results for World Archery:
On their way to topping the Olympic podium, a male archer burns an estimated 1,084 calories – only 747 calories less than women in marathon but more than 1,054 than the 100 meters’ sprint men. Yes, the timeframes are different – but the point is valid!
Although archery has physical benefits, you don’t need excellent upper-body strength, balance or coordination to get started. You can develop those skills as you practice. Best of all, archery is safe. The National Safety Council considers it three times safer than golf.
For those of us who always got picked last for teams in gym class, archery is particularly appealing. Archers learn at their own pace without the pressure of letting down teammates. They also won’t be stuck on the bench because the rest of the team wants only to win. And because archers don’t need special abilities to hit targets, kids who aren’t “good at gym” can discover they’re better at sports than they once believed.
Although archers compete on their own merits, archery still lets them enjoy the sport with others. “What I like about the sport is being able to shoot with friends of different levels,” Oliveria said. That flexibility makes archery a great sport for families and friends to do together.
Oliveria said people who feel intimidated by archery generally had negative introductions to it. “People will hear about a friend’s experience, usually because the friend had instruction that wasn’t the greatest,” she said. “They won’t hear about the fun part of archery.”
To help beginners have a positive experience, Trader Jan’s offers “mini lessons” and rents lightweight recurve bows to beginners, helping them learn if archery is for them before moving on to more involved classes.
Archery has no prerequisites for participation. Just find a class and jump in. Check out Archery360’s archery shop locator to find a place nearby to shoot.