Archery is a wonderfully accessible sport. It’s attainable for aspiring athletes of any ability and any age. It has longevity, meaning that an archer can enjoy competing for years. So, why not start now? Team USA archer Matthew Nofel confirmed to us that his love for the sport began at a young age. He was 8 years old when he asked his parents for a bow and arrows for Christmas. They started him with a toy set — you know, the kind with suction cup arrows — but he had bigger dreams. He asked his parents for a real bow, found a coach, joined the Junior Olympic Archery Development program and made it onto the Junior Dream Team.
“I fell in love with it,” Nofel said. “Once we found a club for me to shoot in, I made so many friends. It’s a great community. I love the challenge, always being able to push myself, and it’s very accessible, I think, physically.”
Fast-forward to 2021 and he’s a resident athlete with Team USA, with a recurve men’s team silver medal from the Hyundai Archery World Championship on his resume. We spoke with him at that very same competition to ask him about why competition archery is something every archer should try.
Nofel cites the ability to push yourself to be better as one of the biggest reasons. “You’re shooting against your personal best,” he said. “If you’re starting out and you’ve only shot out to 20 yards, you try to push yourself to 30 yards, 40 yards, trying to increase your score. A good measure of how you’re doing is to compete against others, which is such a great challenge of the sport.”
So, what is it, exactly, that makes competitive archery so exciting? What is it that keeps Nofel coming back to competition? “The No. 1 thing is the feeling I get from competing, especially when I’ve done well; to know that I’ve put all the work in and been rewarded by it, it’s just a great feeling,” Nofel said. “Then, the adrenaline you get on the line in a head-to-head match. Then, the team round. In the team round you have your team buddies you’re shooting with. And then, coming to events, being around other teams. Socially it’s a lot of fun and then competitively you get to get after it.”
Nofel’s advice for archers wanting to make the leap from recreational archery to competitive archery is much like a famous slogan: Just do it. “You just gotta jump in,” he said. “I think even if you feel like you’re not ready to do it, there’s no reason not to go and do it, especially at a local level. You get signed up, you go, and the worst thing that can happen is that you have a great day of shooting with your friends and probably end up hooked like me.”
He suggests looking into USA Archery’s JOAD program, National Field Archery Association tournaments or 4-H competitions. You can always go to your local archery shop and ask around. They’ll know what organizations are available in your area. “If you have the ability to shoot arrows safely at a target, go and have fun and go from there,” he said.
Once you’ve found a competition or tournament to participate in, how do you prepare? Nofel says it’s all about consistency. “You have to go in and shoot the same way you do in practice,” he said. “You practice all day long to get arrows close to the middle. And if you get to a competition and you try to do something different to shoot better, now you’re shooting differently — and it probably will not be better. So even at the world championship level, I step up to the line and I run through my same checklist that I do in practice every day.”
A consistent shot process is the key to success in archery. Repetition is the name of the game. “I go by the NTS shot process by Coach Lee,” Nofel said. “Every shot I’m running my process. So even if I step into a medal match or one-arrow shoot off or sudden death match, I get up and I do my process, I focus on myself and execute the best shot I can and the result is the result.”
It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that you’re at a competition, but if you follow your process and stay focused, you’ll shoot just as well as you do at home. “Don’t let stepping up to a bigger tournament freak you out,” Nofel said. “I started in JOAD and I learned OK, you go and you register and you get to the event, they tell you where you’re shooting, and then you go do an equipment inspection and then you go and shoot. Then I got to a USAT tournament, a national tournament, and I registered for it, I went, they told me where to shoot, I had an equipment inspection and I went and shot. You start local, you learn how to do it, and after that everything else is getting bigger, but you’re still stepping up and you’re still shooting your same shot.”
Competing in archery tournaments is a great way to take the skills you’ve been honing in your backyard or at a favorite range and test them against yourself and other archers. You’ll make friends, better yourself as an athlete and become part of an entire network of people who are passionate about archery. Don’t be afraid to step up to the line and nock your first arrow as a competitive archer.
Visit our store locator to find a range near you and ask them what competitions are available in your area.