What should I get? Where do I go? Where can I get a bow like Stephanie’s! Again, if you haven’t heard questions like these yet, you will and soon. Shopping for archery equipment requires quite a bit of technical knowledge. Whether or not there is an archery shop (also called an archery “pro shop”) in town, your help is going to be needed by all of your students desiring their own archery equipment. (The alternative is your students will go off on their own and buy equipment ill suited to them, and when that equipment doesn’t work well, they will share their unhappiness with you!)
Also realize that in the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum, you must have your own bow and arrows to start Stage II. The first Stage is the “beginner” stage in which we supply all of the equipment. The reason for this is a student can only go so far with borrowed equipment. To reach the intermediate level of archery, they need to have equipment that can be adjusted to fit them, which means, they need to have their own equipment.
The best case scenario is when you have a good archery shop nearby, so let’s look at that first.
Working with an Archery Shop
If you have a good archery shop near you, you are in luck. They should have numbers of bows and arrows in stock, plus many accessories that your students will need or want to buy (quivers, tabs, bow sights, stabilizers, etc.). They should have at least a small space set aside to test shoot bows or at most even a full indoor range. In order to send them customers with confidence, though, you are going to want pay them a visit and check out their inventory. In the long run, having a good working relationship with a good shop will pay huge dividends for your students.
A quick survey of the shop will give you an idea of who they are set up to serve. Look at the bows on the wall. If they are all in camouflage color schemes, they do not have target bows in stock and they aren’t serving many, if any, target archers. If, on the other hand, you see a number of bows in “target colors” (black, white, silver, bright reds, blues, yellows, etc.), the odds are good that they are set up to serve people like your students. If you work primarily with kids, look for Genesis compounds or small brightly colored recurve bows. Some places don’t make any effort to serve youths, because there isn’t much profit in selling to them. Some places will tell you they can help, but if they haven’t committed to carry some bows in stock, you have to doubt how much expertise and/or willingness they might have.
If they have stocked several target bows, then you are probably in luck. If you don’t see what you are looking for, talk to the owner and see if he is interested in serving your students. Do realize that beginner level target equipment is lower in cost, so there isn’t as much profit in it as in higher priced stuff. But many shop owners will work with you if you can supply enough customers. If you can suggest products to carry, especially any you will be recommending, the owner may be willing to carry them for you. Also inquire into whether there is a staff person who is knowledgeable about target archery gear (especially for kids). If they do have someone, good; if they don’t, it may be possible to bring one of the staff up to speed with a little help from you.
No Shop, Yes Problem
As problematic as archery shops can be for beginning target archers, if you don’t have an archery-only shop, we do not recommend you suggest “big box” sporting goods stores, etc. without having checked them out carefully. They are unlikely to have any or enough target equipment to choose from. They are unlikely to have someone on staff who is a “target archery specialist.” They are also unlikely to have a place to shoot a bow to try it out. Now, we admit that some Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores do have archery ranges, but every time we go into such stores, we check out their archery holdings and the vast majority of what they offer for sale is for bowhunting only. So, what are you to do?
There are a number of Internet-based archery suppliers that can sell your students what they need, often at good prices. But the burden is going to fall on you to help them create a shopping list so they know what to buy, then to help them set their new equipment up when it comes in. If this is your situation, you need to offer “Bowfittings” as a service. A Bowfitting is a complete fitting session in the form of a private lesson that takes about 1-1.5 hours. You charge a flat fee for this. We are currently designing a web-based training program (www,ArcheryEducationResources.com—look for it) to teach you how to make all of the necessary measurements. For example, for arrow recommendations, you need to make shaft size recommendations, fletch material and length recommendations, nocks, and point recommendations. Our training will provide you with our recommendations, but you may find you can get some great deals working through a local shop or archery equipment vendor, so you won’t be limited in what you can recommend. You will also provide information on reasonable prices to pay and reputable online dealers from whom your students can purchase their gear safely, if a local source is not available. You can also offer a follow-up individual lesson to get your student’s new gear set up and shooting well. Or, they can bring it to class and you can work on it, time permitting. (You may need to explain that you cannot devote all of your class time to one student, so it will take longer this way.)
Getting a Bowfitting may also be the best way for your students to go to a shop knowing what it is they want. (If you want a sneak preview, check out the article “The Bowfitting” in Archery Focus magazine, Vol 12, No 2.)
While we will leave most of the specific recommendations to the Bowfitting course, there is one we can make easily. Parents often approach us and ask what they can get their child because “he/she loves archery so much.” If this child has been shooting a Genesis compound bow during class, this bow can be recommended without hesitation and without having to fit it. A recurve bow has many variables to be established: riser material (wood, polymer, metal), riser length (21˝, 23˝, 25˝, 27˝ and more), limb length (short, medium, long—this along with the length of the riser determines bow length), draw weight (14-50# in 2# increments), bowstring material (Dacron, Fast Flight, etc.), and arrow rest.
The Genesis bow comes with all of the decisions made for you with the critical factors being adjustable. All you need do is pick the color.
Not only that, but there is a Genesis arrow available which is “one size fits all” which, as we all know, “doesn’t really.” But the Genesis arrow can be shot by the kids and adults in the family, so they have that advantage. Another arrow recommendation is to simply have them buy the arrows they are using with that bow in class (typically a 1816 or 1916 Easton Jazz arrow).
Working with Parents
If you work a lot with kids, you will also be working with parents on buying decisions as they are the ones paying the bills. It is important that you let your parents know you do Bowfittings (if you do). It is important that parents become aware that purchasing a bow for a child has a great many parameters involved and that help is available. Even parents who are archers often do not have the all of the expertise needed to help their own kids buy archery gear.
Having handouts to give parents is a great way to communicate with them. If you deliver a wonderful talk to parents attending before a class session, just as you finish another will show up and ask you “Can you repeat that?” Having a handout to read on their own time is a courtesy to busy parents who can’t necessarily stay for a class session or whose kids catch a ride with another parent. We think you get the idea.
We hope to have an “exchange” section on the AER Web Site where AER Coaches can share copies of their handouts so you can have examples to make up your own from. Look for it!