Introducing Archery to Your Kids (Step by Step Guide)
Archery is one of the world’s oldest disciplines. Whether it’s the ancient Greeks or a young person with their first youth competition bow, the principles of archery remain the same: hit a distant target using a simple pluck of string and an arrow. For as much as the tools of archery have changed over thousands of years, the discipline itself remains timeless.
Step 1: Teach Responsibility in Archery
Getting kids introduced to archery is fairly simple. Children should be old enough where they understand the responsibility of shooting. Having good instruction will instill this sense of responsibility with the bow.
Arrows are deadly, and it’s imperative to teach children about the consequences of shooting. Once the arrow is shot, it can’t be taken back. The best way to teach responsibility is to talk with your child regularly about why they want to shoot. Make shooting a way to connect and build that parent-child relationship.
The best way to teach responsibility is having your kids earn privileges. Use archery as a reward for taking care of important duties like homework, chores, and other household tasks. This type of reinforcement will make archery a privilege and the child will take seriously the talk about responsibility with a bow.
Teaching responsibility is something that should be done regardless of how skilled a young archer becomes. It is important archery always has the respect of the person with the bow.
Step 2: Visit a Pro Shop
Most people think it’s easy to just walk into a sporting goods store, pick out a bow and call it a day. This will only lead to discouragement because not all bows are created the same. There are some bows such as compound bows which are not right for a child. They are too technical, and shooting is too difficult for someone young to pick up.
Instead, visit an archery pro shop. The sales associates understand the different needs of young archers. Depending on the age of the archer, they will recommend different types of bows. The reality is most will recommend a basic fiberglass bow. If a child is closer to the age of five, there are bow and arrow sets that are safe and easy for young children to learn on.
The biggest reason to go with these basic bows is learning the fundamentals. The basics of archery are breath control, draw, anchor point, release and follow through. These fundamentals will not be taught unless a child has to work through them. That’s why having a basic fiberglass bow is helpful. As kids learn the fundamentals, they can move on to specialized bows.
The other reason to visit an archery pro shop is so the associate can get your child the bow with the right tension. This way the draw is right for their age, size and strength.
Step 3: Begin Close Shooting
Once the bow and arrows have been purchased, begin with basic shooting. A key is making sure the child starts out no more than 5-10 feet away from the target. The goal here is promoting accuracy. There are several ways to build targets, but one of the best is using water balloons. Kids always enjoy when a balloon pops, and what better way is there to pop a balloon than with an arrow?
The goal with the close shooting is to build the fundamentals. Have the child repeat the shots successfully. As they hit the target routinely, start drawing them further away. Do it gradually, the key is not so much the distance, but that they learn how the shooting technique doesn’t change despite the distance getting greater.
The balloons can change in size too as the young shooter’s proficiency increases. Progress will happen with careful instruction. Don’t lose patience. The first few attempts are going to be quite wayward. The key for instruction is being patient, praising success, and not being overly taciturn when correcting mistakes.
Step 4: Purchase a Youth Target
Once the shooter is going through balloons with ease, the next step is a youth target. At this point the young shooter has shown a good level of proficiency, so the goal is to get them ready for shooting at a different target.
When purchasing a youth target, it may be time to upgrade the bow. The most discouraging thing is when a target is purchased, and the arrows don’t stick in the target. This is because there isn’t enough weight in the draw. Make sure when getting a youth target that the bow has enough weight when pulled. Don’t be shy about getting a new bow – your young shooter is now at a point where they can execute the fundamentals.
Youth targets are sturdy and provide good feedback for archers. When the weight is right on the bow, the arrow penetrates the target. At this point, young archers should be working in different conditions. They should be learning about how the wind affects shooting along with how the arrow should fly with different distances.
Start teaching the scoring of archery as well. This will help transition to competition. If a young archer is interested in hunting, getting targets that resemble game is a great way to introduce them to taking shots correctly.
Step 5: Get Involved in Competition
Few things make people sharpen their skills like competition. The great thing about competition is it’s a good way to meet new people and have your child work on their social skills along with their archery skills. There are many competitions to be found and participating provides your child with a sense of accomplishment, no matter where they finish.
As a parent it is important not to focus on the result. Of course, everyone wants to win but not everyone will win. Give attention to how your child shoots. Are they following the fundamentals of archery? Talk with them about specific actions on each shot. Find out what worked and what didn’t. The reason for this type of conversation is the promoting of analytical skills and the analysis helps a child become a better archer.
The key is to always keep archery fun and to look at the challenge as something to overcome, not something to be overcome by. This type of persistence only helps young people develop the coping skills to tackle tougher challenges in the future.
Step 6: Have Fun
At the end of the day, archery should always be about fun and bonding. For parents, it’s a great way to bond over a shared interest. For a child, it is a great way to know their parent as someone besides the authority figure. The depth added to the relationship strengthens it as both parent and child grow older.
If a child wishes to go bow hunting, encourage it, but if your child does not wish to take archery to the next step, don’t force the issue. Pushing a child to do something is a great way to have them grow disinterested. As long as archery is fun, it will continue to be a lifelong pursuit. The best part is archery is a perfect lifetime sport. There is no strain on the joints the way there is with other sports like basketball.
The joy of archery is something that parents and children will easily bond over. Find a local pro shop and begin introducing your child to this amazing sport.