The word community can be defined in a variety of ways. Your community can be the geographic location where you reside. It can be the friends you surround yourself with. Community also refers to a group of people with a shared interest.
Becoming part of an archery community is one of the biggest benefits of archery. Whether you find an existing community or work to create one, connecting with your fellow archers is special. Finding a group of like-minded people forges meaningful friendships, improves skills and abilities, and helps grows the sport.
Here’s how you can find your archery community:
If you’re new to archery, try taking a group lesson. This will introduce you to a group of archers with similar skills. You can work on learning the sport together. Participating in a league is another way to meet new people. If you’re new to competitive archery, leagues are a great place to start learning how it works in a more relaxed setting. While there’s a competitive element, leagues are meant to be inclusive of archers of all levels. Plus, you don’t necessarily have to compete with your fellow archers. It’s an opportunity to compete against your own best scores and improve your form.
Many archery ranges host fun shoots. These can be themed around holidays, offer opportunities to fundraise for various causes or mark the changing of the seasons. If you’ve never signed up for a shoot, don’t worry — everyone has a first time. Organizers will happily answer questions and guide you through the process. You will likely be placed in a group of two to four people, whom you will shoot with all day. This is a fun opportunity to make new friends while sharpening your skills and trying something new.
Not everyone has the space or ability to shoot in their backyard. Community ranges are a wonderful resource that provide a safe space to fling arrows and a unique place to connect with your fellow archers. Community ranges are often built thanks to partnerships among organizations, archery clubs and government entities. For example, the Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division partnered with communities, the Archery Trade Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to build 15 archery parks across Alabama. Similar ranges are found in nearly every state.
There’s perhaps no better place to find a community than your local archery club. Clubs are filled with passionate individuals who want to share their love of archery with others. Clubs provide a social setting for archers of all levels to connect. You can make new friends, learn tips and tricks from experienced archers, challenge each other, and elevate your experience.
Connecting with a club will make you a better archer. It will give you insight into the latest trends. You’ll have a network of experts available to ask questions. Clubs often meet on a routine basis to practice. They also host leagues, lessons and fun shoots. Being a member of a club gives you instant access to friends just like you.
If you’ve ever played a team sport, you know there’s something special about connecting with teammates. Archery is unique in that it’s both an individual and a team sport. Check out the National Archery in the Schools Program if you’re a student. Over the past 20 years, NASP has helped put a bow in the hands of over 18 million students, grades four to 12. Last season, NASP hosted almost 1,400 tournaments across the U.S.
Students can also join Olympic Archery in the Schools, a league for middle and high school students. The USA Archery Junior Olympic Archery Development program is open to athletes ages 8 to 20. JOAD classes are meant to build archery abilities for students interested in competing. Scholastic 3D Archery was created to provide archery and bowhunting opportunities for young people. The program guides students through 3D, indoor target and outdoor target archery. Collegiate archery teams are a great way to make new friends. And you don’t even have to be an experienced archer to join.
Some students find it tough or intimidating to make new friends. Joining a student-based archery team gives them instant access to a network that provides benefits beyond becoming a better archer. They will be part of a team, while also focusing on their growth and goals. And competitive archery improves focus, coordination and physical abilities.
Everyone should be afforded the opportunity to practice archery. Athletes of all ages, skill levels and physical abilities can compete and excel in archery. Adaptive archery helps individuals with physical or cognitive impairments, often through the use of modified equipment.
Simple adaptations can remove potential barriers to participation and competition. USA Archery has an Adaptive Archery Manual with information on how to help adaptive archers. Talk to your local shop, club or team about how to get started. There are plenty of resources available to help make sure everyone is included.
Once you find your archery community, it’s important to pay it forward. Community isn’t possible without the continued work of building connections. Once you become part of an archery community, do what you can to make the entire community stronger.
If you hang out at your local shop or range, help make it a welcoming environment. Answer questions and offer encouragement. If you’ve joined a club, take it a step further and serve in a leadership role. Clubs always need volunteers to help maintain ranges and help with shoots.
Together, archers can create a welcoming, inclusive and knowledgeable community that will make the sport better for everyone.