Archery tournaments aren’t just for the pros: they’re for beginners, intermediate-level shooters and advanced archers, too. Tournaments give you a great chance to have fun, make new friends and evaluate your skills.
Remember that every archer who tries shooting a tournament will have lots of questions, and it’s totally normal to be curious about what will happen. For example, what should you wear? What will you do when you get there?
If you’re heading to a competition and feeling unsure what to do before you start, here is an easy-to-follow checklist.
1. Know the Rules and Format.
Make sure you know the competition’s format, including the distance you’ll be shooting and target size, and what set of rules they’ll follow. Some archery ranges have league nights with few rules, which are an easy way to get used to shooting with other people in a competitive setting. Sanctioned events, however, will usually be conducted using the rules of a national archery organization. It’s important to know which rules apply to the event you’ll be shooting. Easy way to find out: check with the event organizers.
2. Practice in the Shoes and Clothes You’ll Wear.
Make sure whatever you wear is appropriate, in case it’s hotter or colder than expected. Even indoor facilities can have big temperature swings, depending on their heating and cooling systems. We’ve seen indoor events in winter where archers on one end of the line were bundled up for warmth while those on the other end were comfy in T-shirts. Some archery organizations have a dress code, too. Whatever you wear, practice in it before competing. Nothing is worse than getting to a competition and discovering your shoes hurt or your sleeves snag the bowstring.
3. Pack Snacks and Water.
If you’re lucky, the site where you’ll be shooting will have a snack bar and water station, but don’t count on it. Packing water (most important) and snacks is key to having a great day. It’s important to stay hydrated and nourished, so pack healthy snacks to keep your energy. Think nuts, fruit, and snacks that aren’t caffeinated or super sugary for sustained energy over the duration of the tournament.
4. Mark Your Equipment and Inspect it When Arriving.
Use a black or silver sharpie to mark important parts of your equipment so you’ll know if anything moves between practice and competition. It’s a great idea to mark anything on your bow or accessories that’s adjustable: think sight markings, nocking points, your clicker, if you use one, and anything else that could move. And when you arrive at the competition, take time to check that everything is still on mark, and tighten any set-screws that might have loosened on the drive over.
5. Know the Location and Time.
Make sure you know where you’re going and what time you need to arrive. One hour before practice starts is always a good time to shoot for; you need to hang your target face, put your bow together, stretch out and choose a place to sit. After that’s done, you’ll probably want to say hi to friends and just spend some time relaxing before practice.
Important: if you’re planning to use your smartphone or a GPS device to reach an unfamiliar location, also make a paper copy of the address and directions. I’ve been thrown off many times by a lost signal or dead battery, and was thankful I had a backup copy of my directions.
6. Set a Goal.
Set a reasonable goal for competition. Goal setting doesn’t have to be high level or score-focused at all; in fact, it can be as simple as “to enjoy every arrow I shoot,” “meet one new person at this tournament,” or based on your technique, such as “double check my stance on every shot.” The point of having a goal is to give yourself a benchmark for success, and a way to build confidence by meeting that goal.
7. Take a Seat.
Throw some folding chairs into your car for competitions that don’t provide seating. If you’re headed to a field or 3-D archery course where you walk along a trail, you’ll seldom find chairs. Even some target archery competitions, particularly outdoors, can be short on seating. You’ll be thrilled to have a tiny fold-up seat when waiting to shoot your bow. Pro tip: an umbrella for shade (or staying dry) is always a good thing to have, too.
8. Bring Some Entertainment.
Archery competitions usually have lots of down time. Bring music, a book, portable games or a journal to jot down thoughts. The point is to relax while focusing on the tournament. Remember that video games and online drama can actually not only cause you to lose focus, but can also raise your blood pressure and make it physically more difficult to shoot. Do what keeps you relaxed and in the moment.
9. Know the Bathroom Locations.
It sounds silly, but knowing where the restroom is – and how long it takes to walk there and back – can be very helpful. Once you arrive, locate the bathrooms and make sure you know the times for bathroom breaks. It’s a simple thing, but when you need that information, it’s important to know it.
10. Meet Your Target Mates.
One of the best things about tournaments is making friends. A great place to start is meeting the people on your target. If you’re new to competition, this is a great time to mention it. Archers are friendly; I haven’t met one yet who will hold it against you if you’re new. In fact, they’ll often help you figure out the rules, and they will be patient with your “newbie-ness.”
The most important thing about any archery tournament, whether it’s your first “Sunday shoot” at your local archery club or a national competition, is to enjoy every minute. Archery is all about the fun and excitement of shooting your bow while challenging yourself, building confidence and meeting new people. Tournaments are a great place to start!