In our programs we make a distinction between recreational archers and competitive archers. Our definitions of such may differ from yours, though. What makes a competitive archer is not just going to competitions; many recreational archers go to competitions, even at the national level. Competitive archers differ from recreational archers in how they train. Recreational archers, in general, will do little that is not fun to do. Competitive archers, on the other hand, will do quite boring drills and whatnot if they suspect it will improve their performance. This category includes, of course, elite archers but also a great many others who still want to win, even if it is in a small subcategory of archers.
Since we are in the business of training coaches, knowing who your audience necessarily informs what a coach will recommend. We had a friend (still do) who kept asking recreational archers to do work only competitive archers embrace and was disappointed when those tasks were not done. Offering boring tasks to a recreational archer is how we determine if they are becoming competitive archers. If they refuse, it is not an occasion for disappointment, merely an acknowledgement of their recreational archer status. Similarly trying to train a serious competitive archer in the same way you train recreational archers will likewise result in poor results. (How about a balloon shoot today?)
A correspondent recently pointed to his disappointment that the “archery organizations” did so little for recreational archers. I have had similar thoughts myself, but I think it is time we recognize the reality of the situation. As long as archery is a relatively minor sport, it is fitting and normal that the archery organizations are focused upon the highest performing segment of their memberships. It is only that way that the sport can achieve a bigger share of the sports spotlight.
I could be criticized for using too many golf analogies, but here I go again. If you look at the phenomenon which is golf today, there are entire cable channels devoted to the sport, the PGA Tour has sub tours on other continents. Other continents have their own professional golf tours and televised golf events have sponsors which have little to do with golf or nothing at all (Buick, Rolex watches, etc.). The questions I wish to put to those of you who would like a similar standing for archery is: how did golf get this way?
If you go back a hundred years, golf in the U.S. was an entirely amateur sport, mostly played by rich people. Playing for money was sneered at. In the 1950’s, professional golf was a backwater of sports with little prize money. Golfers often made more money from side money matches with well-to-do challengers than they made in the tournaments themselves. The advent of televised golf changed things a lot and the dramatics of highly contested matches (Palmer-Nicklaus, etc.) contributed positively. What attracted advertisers was not the golf but the ratings of the golf shows. So, who was watching televised golf? The answer: ordinary golfers. So, golf’s formula was to get a great many people involved in the game, build an audience for advertisers and then cash in.
The Professional Golfer’s Association (PGA) was founded in the late 1920’s with two target groups (no, not professional golfers). They targeted coaches and golf course superintendents. Coaches were necessary to teach people to play well enough that they continued in the game and superintendents were necessary to make sure courses existed and then thrived. You needed places to play golf and people to play the game. This was the formula used to build audiences, not a professional tour. The PGA spun off the PGA Tour as a separate entity and while a whole lot of money is involved in the PGA Tour, most of that is handled by the separate tournament organizations and only a few hundred members of the Tour exist. The rest of the PGA, some 29,000 members is dedicated to serving … wait for it … recreational golfers and, well, some competitive but not professional archers (putting on various championship tournaments for amateurs that required very high levels of skill to win).
So, while many in archery drool over the success of professional golf, it is the recreational base which made it all possible.
So, what does this teach us? I think it teaches us that we need to build a strong organization in support of recreational archers, archers who can demand places to shoot in their local municipalities, like public golf courses serve community golfers. The more recreational archers, the greater the demand. So what is needed for this to happen? A great deal, I am afraid. For our part we have published an entire recreational archery curriculum (see here) and have begun a website to support that curriculum and we are creating programs to train and support archery coaches. We need some kind of effort to secure municipal archery ranges but we are not up to that yet. Can we depend upon our archery organizations to do this for us? I don’t think so. Like the PGA did, it takes a much greater effort to “build the base” than it does to promote the pinnacle and I don’t see anybody or any organization stepping up to that task in the way the PGA did.
What do you think?