There Are Many Routes to “Better”

It is not unusual for ordinary archers to have a drill “prescribed” to them by a club member or club coach. This drill is designed to help an archer get “better.” The archer, glad for the information does the drill a couple of reps and then drops it. It doesn’t get repeated.

So, what’s wrong with that archer?

Absolutely nothing.

In our programs we distinguish between recreational archers and competitive archers. And, no, for those of you getting exercise leaping to conclusions, becoming a competitive archer does not happen because you go to competitions. It comes down to motivation. Recreation archers, by our reckoning, are shooting for fun … only. A sign of this state is that recreational archers do not do drills no matter how promising or highly recommended. Drills are not fun. In fact, drills are repetitive and boring. Competitive archers will do drills if they think they will help make them better, get better scores, for example. Serious competitive archers can’t do enough. They’ll undertake diet controls, physical training (gym sessions), mental skills training, you name it. They cannot be given enough to do and boring is fine by them.

So, what is wrong with recreational archers?

Absolutely nothing. In fact, I am one now (again) and I agree with their stance: I am doing this just for fun (again) and if it weren’t fun, why would I do it? On the other hand, part of the fun for competitive archers is being competitive and even winning. Recreational archers think winning would be cool, but it is not their main motivation.

So, if you are a recreational archer or you work with them, there is one thing you need to know: #1 Is this archer (Am I) a recreational archer or competitive archer? If they are a recreational archer and you think they are interested in getting better, give them something fun to do. Turn a drill into a game. Set up two of your students in a contest of some archery skill, so they will both focus on what they are doing and possibly improve something. But, never ever give a recreational archer a standard, boring drill … unless, unless you suspect them of becoming a competitive archer, in which case, such a drill is a test (This is only a test! If this were a real …). If they end up doing that drill (and repeating it another time or two), then you know that they may be making the transition from recreational to competitive status.

If they don’t do the drill … what is wrong with that student? Absolutely nothing. Coach just made a poor recommendation, that’s all.


Filed under For All Coaches

9 responses to “There Are Many Routes to “Better”

  1. That’s really interesting. I’m not a coach, but I read your blog Steve because I don’t have a coach, but want to get better. In my club, I reckon about 5-10% of the members (including me) are competitive. The others are just having fun. And that’s fine! I just need to learn not to get too frustrated with them. Currently I’m doing boring strength training drills in my living room so I can go up in poundage for the outdoor season. I’ve set my objectives for the year, and a strategy to meet them. Bring it on! Thanks as always for the great blog.


    • Feel free to ask questions via email ( … helps me come up with stuff to write about. (I secure the approval of the letter writers to use the questions for blog posts and I do not use names.) This is an ongoing problem in archery, the relative unavailability of coaches. You may have one, but they are a compound guy and you are recurve, etc. I actually spent years learning recurve and longbow because of the demand for coaching. (I started out on the “dark side” aka training wheels on my bow.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Steve Medved

    Wow that explains a lot. I already know I’m a competitive archer but unfortunately our little club here in our home town is only a recreational club and when we meet its just fun ie shooting balloons etc. Like you said there’s nothing wrong with that but me and several others want to compete but the nearest club is a 90 minute drive from here. Hmmm the dilemma.


    • You can form a group within the club and agree to meet at particular times to practice seriously together. Even just having a practice partner is a great aid. I am working on a book with the working title of “Coach Yourself!” for people in your situation. Unfortunately all of my projects have been back burners because I have talked so many others into writing books!

      Please feel free to email me ( with questions. I can even handle a video of your shot from time to time. :o)


  3. Damon Ayer

    Steve, one of the best articles (?) you’ve written. This has been a topic for conversation in my home lately. Thanks


  4. Steve
    As a coach in an instructional and a competitive environment, I can’t agree more with your article. You can tell when someone is interested in being competitive, even when the parents/students tell you they aren’t competitive. It reflects in more than just the “drills”. If a student actually tries what is suggested and they see their groups getting better, and don’t give up after a try or two, you know you have someone that really wants to be coached and is looking to get better.
    My husband and I have a competitive group that we have “hand picked” from our instructional classes. The group has grown 71% in the last year. We don’t have any qualifying score to get in. You have to be coachable, and willing to support the other “family members” in the group. We started the group about 3 years ago with 2 shooters and now have 32. Our youngest shooter currently is 9 and the oldest is 73. We have a 5 year old that will be joining our group in about 5 weeks. Age is just a number is our motto…if you are coachable and want to shoot…you should shoot.


  5. Upul Munasinghe

    Many tks Steve for the blog. My son in under 14 group, doing competitive shooting very successfully.He enjoys those competitions .There he learn team works , leadership,self confidence etc. He is on full week drills and gym training . But 3 years before he started archery as fun in a shooting camp during year end school vacation . I m driving 100km to the capital every once a week for his club training at the couch .There he practice full day. Then through the week he practice in the 18mts range at home. Recreational and Competitive are absolutely 2 different directions. Competitive archers are bone from recreational range is what I see. If not are they all recreational or competitive. This category is bit similar to Amateur & professional.


    • We refer to these students as “serious competitive archers.” These three categories roughly correspond to Lanny Bassham’s categories of archers: a) learning to participate, b) learning to compete, and c) learning to win.

      This requires not only an athlete who is committed by a family to support the effort as you point out. Trying to be a serious competitive archer without family support is very much more difficult.

      Thanks for the comment!


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