Marques Valdes writes “I don’t have it clear in my mind yet the proper progression for taking someone from beginner to intermediate status. For example, our local club keeps trying to get us to attach a bow sight, but it is pretty clear to me that we shouldn’t be doing that yet.”
I have previously indicated that I think introducing a sight too soon can undermine the acquisition of good archery form. Folks who are pushing the use of sights probably have a preconceived notion that sights are necessary for accuracy (they are not) or that they provide accuracy (they do not).
Aiming off the point typically suffices for elevation aiming, but windage is controlled to a great extent by a host of factors: form, execution, arrow stiffness, etc. If you were using equipment not fitted to you (as borrowed equipment always is) then there is zero chance that arrows aimed at the center would land there. You would have to aim off left or right and up or down. The use of a sight can provide better accuracy with unfitted equipment which may be why they are recommending them.
Our definition of what constitutes an intermediate archer is one who owns his/her own equipment and has had it fitted to them. Now, you may think, cool, I’ll just have all of my students buy their own gear and Voila! they are all intermediate archers!
Uh, not so fast. In order to have archery gear fitted properly, you must shoot fairly well. (Otherwise the odds on that equipment actually fitting when your form comes together is quite small.) By that I mean you can shoot good groups at short distances somewhat consistently. I imagine you might be thinking “Does he have an exact standard for that?” and my answer is “no.” But I do have a standard that tells me whether someone is ready to be fitted for their own gear. I measure their draw length consistency. I give them a very light drawing bow. (I use a 10# bow, but any will do as long as it is light drawing.) I ask them to adopt full draw position (typically on the shooting line with an arrow and target butt to prevent accidental “dry fires”). I check out their alignment from face on and from the rear and if it is good I ask them to let down. I then ask them to draw again and settle in at full draw. I want to see the arrow slide back and stop without any other movement. (If the archer is moving the arrow a great deal at full draw I ask them to relax and just try to get from “raise the bow” to “full draw” with a minimum of movement.) I then place a marking pen dot on the arrow shaft near some recognizable point of the bow, like opposite the arrow rest hole. I then ask them to let down. I repeat this until I have 3-5 dots on the arrow shaft. If the farthest dots or over an inch apart, then the student’s form is not quite there yet. If the farthest dots are much less than an inch apart, then he/she is good to go.
In order to achieve good archery form, an archer must be able to get to full draw position with relatively smooth, relaxed motions and end up in a fairly relaxed state. If his/her bow hand is tense one time and relaxed the next, there can be over a half an inch of draw length variation from that alone.
Archery is a repetition sport and consistency is the foundation of good performance. Hence, that is the measure of the status of an archer—consistency (in this case of draw length). Later we substitute scores as they are a measure of archer consistency.
Having one’s own equipment, properly fitted to you, is the foundation for getting arrow group sizes to talk to you about consistency. With properly fitted equipment, the size of one’s groups is a measure of one’s ability. The ultimate goal, of course, is to have group sizes smaller than the highest scoring ring on the target.