The AER Archery Curriculum is set up to expose student archers to a great many styles, if . . . if they are interested. But since they don’t know anything about the styles of archery, other than what they have seen, they don’t know what to ask, so you have to help. (Kids who have archer parents have seen a great deal and often have their minds already made up, but we tend to see a lot of people who do not have archer relatives or even friends.) Typically, archers just out of the beginning stage haven’t seen a wide variety of equipment being used, but in the Coaching Resources section of the Archery Education Resources website (www.ArcheryEducationResources.com) you will find a handout entitled “NFAA Shooting Styles.” This can be downloaded and printed out for your files or printed and even handed out to your students.
For your information, the compound styles recognized by World Archery/FITA/USAA are “Compound Unlimited” which is the equivalent of the NFAA style of “Freestyle” and “Compound Limited” which is the equivalent of the NFAA style of “Freestyle Limited.”
How a Coach Can Help Archers Explore
In Stage 2 of the AER Recreational Archery Curriculum, accessories are added to student’s bows in the order of: tab, stabilizer, bow sling, bow sight, clicker, peep sight, release aid (quivers, etc. that don’t require training, per se, can be acquired at any time). Obviously, not all of these apply to any one archer, so let me use the example of a compound archer.
A Compound Archers’ Choices The first thing a compound archer has to choose is a finger tab. Most beginners don’t use a tab for the reasons that their bow’s are so light drawing they aren’t needed and the cheap program tabs that are available are often counterproductive as they don’t fit the archers. We only give out tabs to students who complain their fingers are starting to hurt or who request them. But as draw weight goes up a tab becomes more important, to protect the archer’s fingers and to provide a slippery surface for the string to slide off of. Since tabs have to be fit to the archers, we expect them to buy one.
Then, if they don’t have their own bow and arrows yet, they come next.
Note Somebody always asks why their kid can’t start with a full compound kit. The answer is: if they already have a full compound kit (sight, scope, peep, release, etc.) we will work with them. We do not recommend that anyone try to learn the use of all of these accessories in a class setting because there are too many things to learn at one time and you only have a small amount of time to devote to any one student in any class session. We break down shooting into pieces and feed it to our students a piece at a time. This keeps frustration low and interest high. And it shows our students many of the styles of archery along the way.
Back to our compound student—after the tab is taught and learned and they have their own bow and arrows, the next choice is a stabilizer. If the student opts for a “long rod” or long stabilizer, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Barebow.” If he/she subsequently adds a bow sight and a peep sight, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Freestyle Limited.” If, down the road, they then incorporate a release aid, they are in the NFAA style of “Freestyle.”
If, on the other hand, our blossoming archer prefers a short stabilizer (≤11˝), with just the bow, tab, and stabilizer, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Bowhunter.” If they follow that choice with a pin sight and peep sight, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Bowhunter Freestyle Limited.” And, if they trade their tab for a release aid, he/she has adopted the NFAA style of “Bowhunter Freestyle.”
So, they can end up trying almost all of the recognized styles of compound archery. Of course, they can turn down any of those choices. It is their sport. But, trying different things is fun, and most want to see what that “doohickey thingamajig” does for their accuracy.
Trying Different Bows
We see students swapping bows all the time in our beginner classes. Of course, they are our program bows and they are much alike (in draw weight, etc.). Once you get into classes with Stage 2 students, though, many if not most of them will have their own bow and arrows. They still want to swap bows. This is true for kids as well as for adult students. Trying something new is a normal part of our makeup as a “curious animal.” This is the reason why we recommend a mix of recurve and Genesis compound bows for beginning programs. Students get to try both to see which they favor.
Most beginning students don’t get to see a traditional bow let alone shoot one, so if you have one on hand, you will get students wanting to try it. (You can use such “novelties” to spice up a dull session, for example.) We tend to favor Bear Paw bows as they make two light drawing longbows that are quite affordable.
I also keep on hand a “real” compound bow (one with letoff), with an easily adjusted draw length and very low draw weight for introduction when it seems productive. At least they can pull the bow to see what “letoff” really is.
The most important thing for you is to supervise these “bow swaps” or “first time tries” because the unfamiliarity of these new bows leads to “dry fires,” hit bow arms, and dropped bows. We watch each such archer’s first one or two shots attempts to make sure they are safe. You should, too.
More Help You Can Provide
It will be a big help to your students if you have some equipment you can make into “loaners.”
We have a pile of loaner stabilizers (most purchased “used” for under $5) and some loaner tabs and bow sights. Our motto is “Always Try Before You Buy.” Buying unfamiliar archery gear only to find out it doesn’t do what one thought, is not a route to happy student-archers. So, have a list of recommendations of quality entry-level stuff available. If working with kids, always include the parents in the discussion of any purchase recommendation, because no parent wants to see their kids come home jacked up because they want them to buy something for their archery. It doesn’t hurt to make up a sheet of recommended places to shop for archery gear in your community, or lacking such a resource, trusted online retailers.
You need to keep track of anything you lend out, because if you don’t it won’t be long until your supply of “loaner” equipment is exhausted and nobody knows who has what.
One of the joys of archery are all the different manifestations of flinging an arrow from a bow. With a little forethought and preparation, you can help them realize their choices. Good luck!