Tag Archives: Working with Adults

Help Me Now, Help Me Now!

I do need your help. I started this blog as a source of support for archery coaches (many whom we have trained, but all y’all). I kind of fell asleep on the job and then made two quick posts yesterday from which I got quite a few comments. What I need to make this blog useful to you is just your questions and suggestions. If you write a question in a comment, I will answer it to the best of my ability or find someone who can. You can even send it as an email (to steve@archeryfocus.com) if you want to be anonymous. (I will not use your name if asked to do that.) That will get me back to this blog more often. And if you have something substantial to say about coaching archery, I welcome guest posts, just send me an email. (If it is really good stuff, I may ask you to put it in a form we can use in Archery Focus magazine and then you’ll be famous . . . well, at least you’ll get a check.

Help me now!

(If you got the reference in the title of this post, you are officially old—it is Bruce Springsteen, I think paying homage to James Brown.)



Filed under For AER Coaches, For All Coaches

What I Learned from ATA’s Archery Participation Survey

In a previous post I referred you to what in my knowledge is the first scientific study of participation in our sport. Here’s the link again if you missed it—www.archerytrade.org/uploads/documents/ATA_Participation_2013_Report_FINAL.pdf. Thanks to the Archery Trade Association for making the report public.

Prior Collective Wisdom

Before I get into comments about this study, here is my take on what the collective wisdom of archery folks was regarding the numbers of archers and bowhunters in this country. Estimates of the numbers of bowhunters were in the 3-3.5 million range with target archers probably greater in number but that being only because of large numbers of kids shooting arrows in summer camp (and that those kids notoriously didn’t continue in the sport). The actual number of adult target archers was considered to be a very small fraction of the number of bowhunters. The number of registered members of all of the target archery associations combined is less than 50,000 and many of those are duplicates as many of us belong to more than one such organization.

Archery manufacturers are focused primarily on bowhunters in this country as they say that there isn’t much money to be made selling to target archers. Contrary to that stance, my personal assessment (an informal one) is that individual target archers buy more archery equipment and more expensive archery equipment than do bowhunters. Archery manufacturers don’t sell clothing, deer stands, scents, food, cook stoves, calls, blinds, hunting licenses/permits, travel, lodging, etc. which makes up a great deal of the bowhunting market. Cabela’s, by the way, makes most of its profits on clothing.

In support of the claim that archery equipment of target archers tends to be higher end than that of bowhunters, consider how many X10s, Nano Pros, and the like are sold and what they cost compared to hunting shafts. About the only area of archery equipment that bowhunters out spend target archers is in arrow points. Target archers favor more expensive optics, bows, shafts, etc. You don’t see many bowhunters buying computer programs and apps to determine their sight marks, nor do you see them buying $350 sights with $150 scopes or $300 release aids, for example. (Think about all of the handheld releases Carter Enterprises sells in target colors. Those aren’t being sold for bowhunting.

The Survey

Interestingly, the survey only counted adults. Of the kids (under 18) that participate in archery, I suspect that the vast majority are target archers only but that is just a guess.

The survey firm conducted 8335 phone interviews, weighted according to all of the appropriate parameters. All surveyed were adults (in 2012, 23.5% of us were under 18 years old and 76.5 were older, and since the population was 314 million people then, that works out to there being 240 million adults in 2012); 8% of all surveyed participated in archery (69% male, 31% female, and younger than the average adult, tending to be more rural than urban, more concentrated in the Midwest) which works out to 19 million archers in 2012not counting kids! Wow!

4.4% of the 8% were “target archery only” participants (55%, 10.5 million)

0.8% of the 8% were “bowhunting only” participants (10%, 1.92 million)

2.8% of the 8% were “target archery and bowhunting” participants (35%, 6.7 million)

If my math is right, that means that 3.6% of those surveyed had an bowhunting archery experience in the survey year while 7.2% had a target archery experience. Shockingly, there are more target archers than bowhunters!

Shockingly, there are more target archers than bowhunters!

With regard to equipment, 75% of those surveyed used compound bows (no surprise) but in response to the question “Where did you shoot a bow and arrow in 2012?”

72% said “back yard, private land, friends place” and

16% said “Private club or facility.”

Another really telling question was: “What influenced you to become involved in archery?”

46% responded “A relative or family member”

17% said “A friend”

Other than “Scouts” all of the usual culprits (NASP, JOAD, camp, school, after school programs) accounted for 1% or less of the reasons people got involved. In fact, all of the “usual culprits” added up to a mere 7% of the total.


Clearly we need to a better job of marketing our sport in that all of our proactive efforts (fun shoots at county fairs and sporting gatherings, kids’ programs, school programs, etc.) only account for 7% of the people in archery now (of course, that may be changing).

It also seems it is in the best interests of archery equipment manufacturers to promote target archery significantly more than they have in the past. If I am right that a new target archer is worth more in sales than a new bowhunter, there are significant amounts of money to be made selling to target archers.

A little research on the internet showed that 11 million kids every summer attend summer camps (American Camp Association/ACA estimate). I didn’t pay for the ACA’s data report but they have published the facts that over half of their camps are “resident” camps and that in those camps, archery was the third most popular activity. So, as a rough estimate, I would say that 4-6 million kids experience archery in camps every year. I also happen to know that archery youth groups don’t have populations anywhere near that big so I suspect that one of the biggest problems is program accessibility. If every one of those kids who got jazzed on archery at summer camp and on their way home drove right by a convenient archery facility, I can’t imagine that they would not be clamoring to “check it out.” My experience is that our archery clubs and ranges might as well be camouflaged, they are so well hidden.

What do you think?


Filed under For All Coaches

Training Aids

I must have mentioned along the way in this blog that I have set a goal for myself, one commensurate with my ego: I want to create a professional literature for archery coaches. There are a zillion “how to shoot” books, more being produced every day. I have close to 250 archery books in my library and the vast majority of them are “how to shoot” books.

What I want are “how to coach books” and “how to teach books.” We have enough “how to shoot books.” It is as if we had all of the anatomy, physiology,  surgery, diseases of the human body books to train doctors with, but left out “how to treat patients.”

I want to address the situations archery coaches find themselves in and provide them with options and supports to deal with them successfully. So, . . .

Do You Want to Help?
One of the ways to train coaches (doctors, lawyers, etc.) is “case studies.” Doctors are provided with a “case,” a patient with a certain set of symptoms. They are then asked to figure out what to do. Later, the lesson goes on with an explanation of what was done and what the disease really was, etc. (This is portrayed in TV dramas set in teaching hospitals when groups of interns/doctors make “rounds.”) Law schools similarly have hundreds of legal cases they use to train lawyers.

I would like to have a set of cases for archery coaches. We could post them on the web, use them in training programs, etc. Sound like fun?

I have written up a few cases that have come up in my lessons but I want to get cases from all over the spectrum of archery, so I would like you to participate. Either you could write the case up (Part 1 “I had an archer who had come to me with (symptom, symptom, etc.) what would you recommend she do? Part 2 “What I did was and we found out was that . . . etc.) or you can work with me in real time (send me a question, I will suggest a course of action, you can try it . . . or not) and write up a “what happened” segment afterward. It can even be a question about your own shooting that we can make into a useful “case study” for archery coaches.

So, do you want to help?

PS I am working on the final touches on a new book: “Coaching Archery How To’s” which should be out in a month or two. This book is for beginning-to-intermediate coaches and those coaching outside the area of their specialty (what they shoot).


Filed under For All Coaches

Working with Adult Beginners

Claude and StudentAn interesting thing happened about a year and a half ago. The Chicago Archery Center put out a Groupon offer for a set of four archery lessons at their center. A whopping 1400 people bought a Groupon! But that’s not the most fascinating thing; that was that the vast majority of those purchasers of archery lessons were young . . . adults. As you are aware, archery is undergoing one of its typical growth spurts, probably fueled by popular movies, like Brave, The Avengers, and The Hunger Games and by television shows like Arrow. Many of these archery newbies are adults. Working with adults is different from working with kids. Let’s explore this.

Are Adult Beginners Different?
We teach all beginners in much the same way but we see three different groups, each of which have to be addressed at least somewhat differently: pre-pubescent youths, post-pubescent youths, and adults. Pre-pubescent youths do not have much muscular development, so the lightest weight equipment is used and “fun” is emphasized over everything but safety. These are pre-teens who usually looking at archery for recreation and not as a competitive sport (but there are exceptions, of course). Post-pubescent youths have more muscular bodies but are often growing rapidly, so much attention must be paid to their equipment so that it fits them, especially if they are getting serious and purchasing their own equipment. Allowances for growth must be made especially in arrow selection. (We go over this in detail in our bowfitting seminar.) Adults, on the other hand, do not have growing up to deal with, but we still start them with lighter weight equipment because archery form, posture, etc. is best learned with as little stress as possible. Once proper posture and technique is learned, draw weight can be increased fairly rapidly, as long as it does not degrade an archer’s form and execution.

How We Treat Adults Differently
Adults have a number of traits archery coaches to be cognizant of; here are a few:

Adults Can Overpower Light Weight Equipment By “Light Weight” we mean bows with low draw weights. Adults can overpower the equipment trying to force it to do what they want rather than learning how to get the equipment to show them how it operates best. The first job in learning to shoot well is learning how to relax. Youths often don’t have the option of muscling their bows into a particular behavior, so they can often learn to relax quickly. Some adults struggle with this. Constant reinforcement regarding relaxation is needed.

Adults are Self-Conscious About Appearing Incompetent One of our coaches went to a family reunion and took some bows, arrows, and a target to teach the kids how to shoot. One particular young lady was shooting very well in short order and this was pointed out to her parents and grandparents. When Dad and Granddad were coaxed into giving it a try within two arrows they were competing with one another and their quite young daughter/granddaughter to see who could score better! (Of course, scoring was not being emphasized.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs adults we want to appear to be at least competent and especially do not want to appear to be foolish. This is akin to teenagers wanting to look “cool” and it is as big a handicap. Our best recommendation is to encourage adults to channel their “inner child” (ask them to revert to being a 12-year old again) and just enjoy what they are doing. Encourage them to avoid thinking about how they might look to bystanders. (Most of the bystanders are other beginning archers in any case.)

Adults Control Their Own Money No parent wants some archery coach getting their kid jacked up about all of the expensive equipment they will need to progress in their sport. So, we make every effort to educate the parents and involve them whenever we make a recommendation regarding a purchase of any kind (organization dues, competition fees, equipment, etc.). With adults, you generally control your own purse-strings, so we talk to you directly.

It is perfectly acceptable for them to use your “program equipment,” as long as all they want to do is shoot arrows for fun. But once they address archery as an endeavor deeper than that, they need their own equipment. Usually the thought comes to them “if I did a little work at this I could get pretty good” or they get home and find that shooting arrows has made all of your “problems” disappear for a while. (Not only does it do that but their problems come back to them in the order of their importance, at least to their subconscious minds anyway.)

In order not to be limited in what they do, they need a bow of the right size, weight, and especially draw weight and draw length. The last two are the two pillars of archery performance and without them, not much can be done. Program equipment has all been chosen to be “enough:” that is long enough (arrows), light enough (in draw weight), light enough (in physical weight), but it can’t possibly be expected to fit every participant and it does not.

If they become interested in purchasing them own equipment, our guiding principle is that folks should buy equipment that matches their level of expertise. Experts should buy top-of-the line gear, intermediate archers should buy intermediate-level equipment and beginners need to buy beginning level equipment. This does not mean all beginners who want a compound bow need to get a Genesis, or other zero-letoff bow, a bow with letoff is good to have, but just not a really expensive one. Not only is the higher end equipment harder to afford, it is harder to use, that is it requires a higher level of expertise to use it to effect. If you want to become more expert in making equipment recommendations we teach a seminar for you in bow and arrow fitting and even if you haven’t taken the course, you may be able to recommend equipment to your adult students that will fit them and their recreation budgets, too. As always, limit yourself to your own competence. If you don’t know much about compound bows, tell your student that they will be better served going to a local shop. Do tell them that they are looking for “beginner level” equipment,” though.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdults Often Want Explanations Kids are usually told they need to just do what adults tell them to, so often we give suggestions and they just go about trying. Adults, on the other hand, are used to making their own decisions. Consequently you will need to supply explanations if asked. We recommend you wait until asked for an explanation because our definition of boring is “an answer to a question you didn’t have.” Archery class is supposed to be fun.

We also insist that “the athlete is in charge” in that unless there is a safety violation involved, they pretty much get to do what they please (in the context of the class. Archery is an individual sport and we can’t promote your independent excellence as an archer but denying you the right to make your own choices. If a student insist on drawing his bow with a two finger grip on the strip, please do tell them that we recommend three fingers on the string (to avoid damage to the nerves in the fingers from the pressure of the string) but if they insist, it is their sport and they can do what they want.

So, we encourage adults to ask away . . . but they need to recognize that in a class setting you have many people to pay attention to and you may have to ask them to hold their questions while you attend to one of your other charges. You are not being rude; you are doing what we want you to do. Just monitoring the safety of all participants, our #1 goal, requires a great deal of your attention.

If they are taking pleasure from their excursion into archery, one of our staff has written a book for adult beginners: “Shooting Arrows: Archery for Adult Beginners.” Recommend it to those who want such a thing.

Shooting Arrows Cover v4 (small)


Filed under For AER Coaches