Have you ever wondered how your fellow archers get started in the sport? If you’re one of the many who credit pop culture – specifically television and movie adaptations with bows and arrows – for inspiring new archers, as it turns out, you might be right.
Archery is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. A 2015 survey conducted by the Archery Trade Association showed that 21.6 million Americans participate in archery, including 4.7 million women and girls. But what motivates them?
In August, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media published a separate study to gauge the impact of entertainment media on archery’s growth. This study, conducted by Caroline Heldman, Ph.D., associate professor at Occidental College in Los Angeles, surveyed members of USA Archery – the national governing body for the sport of archery – to find out which, if any, fictional archers inspired them to pick up a bow and arrow.
Let’s take a look at who is prompting new archers to try the sport.
Seven out of 10 girls said “Brave” and “The Hunger Games” influenced their decision to take up archery. This influence is easy to recognize since the population of females participating in archery has doubled since 2012. This 50 percent rise in females participating in archery is enough to make our jaws drop! Of this percentage, according to the study, “Nearly half (48.5 percent) of female respondents under 18 say Katniss Everdeen from ‘The Hunger Games’ had ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ influence on their decision to take up archery, while one-third (36.4 percent) say they were influenced by Princess Merida from ‘Brave.’”
There are also cases of girls learning about archery at Girl Scout camp, at a local 4-H Club, or from going hunting with a parent or relative. But having seven out of 10 girls credit fictional characters as their source of archery inspiration indicates a major – and refreshing! – cultural shift in how girls are finding their way to archery.
Does Gender Make a Difference?
Male or female, chances to be influenced by a fictional role model are pretty high. Fifty-six percent of those surveyed by the Institute were male and 44 percent were female. Yet both genders credited archers from movies and book series with inspiring them to try the sport.
Robin Hood is credited for prompting a whopping 23.2 percent of male and female survey respondents to try archery. Other sources of inspiration include:
– Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games” (14.9 percent);
– Legolas from “The Lord of the Rings” franchise (14.1 percent);
– Princess Merida from Disney’s “Brave” (11.9 percent);
– Hawkeye from “The Avengers” franchise (9.4 percent); and
– Green Arrow from the “Arrow” television series (8.9 percent).
Also fun to note: Susan Pevensie from “The Chronicles of Narnia,” Neytiri from “Avatar,” Daryl Dixon from “The Walking Dead” and John Rambo from the Rambo movies were on the initial list of inspiring archers, but weren’t the main picks. It’s almost like reading box-office numbers up in here! Many of these characters only came along within the last five years, making their rise to archery stardom truly amazing.
Role Models: The Faces of Archery
When asked about role models, the numbers formed a top five (not to be confused with the Furious Five, Final Five, First Five, or high fives). These are the top five real-life archery role models:
- Brady Ellison (29.4 percent)
- Khatuna Lorig (22.9 percent)
- Fred Bear (19.1 percent)
- Howard Hill (15.2 percent)
- Reo Wilde (14.1 percent)
Brady Ellison and Khatuna Lorig are the two biggest names in recurve archery within the United States. Both have competed in and earned medals at multiple Olympic Games, and Lorig even coached Jennifer Lawrence in her role for “The Hunger Games.” Fred Bear and Howard Hill are easily recognized as the early generation to influence many in the art of barebow archery. Reo Wilde, the compound-shooting sensation who has won multiple world championships and set many world records, rounds out the top five. Also worth noting is that nearly one in ten archers (8.3 percent) mentioned actress Geena Davis as their archery role model. Davis tried out for a spot on the U.S. archery team that would compete at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, but fell just short of securing a spot. Needless to say, this is an awesome lineup of real-life, bow-wielding heroes.
The top five fictional characters to have influenced the masses come as no surprise.
- Robin Hood (23.2 percent)
- Katniss Everdeen (19.7 percent)
- Green Arrow (15.1 percent)
- Princess Merida (10.4 percent)
- Legolas (9.6 percent)
Although classic archer Robin Hood is almost always a given when it comes to inspirational archers, the most representation – a combined 54.8 percent – comes from TV and movie characters debuted in the last 15 years. We have Disney, DC Comics, Suzanne Collins, and J.R.R Tolkien to thank for that! Yet Robin Hood stands the test of time. It’s impressive for one fictional character to hold such an influential part in encouraging people to try archery for such a long time.
According to the Geena Davis Institute, 49.1 percent of survey respondents said a family member introduced them to archery. The next-highest number of people were introduced through a friend (22.1 percent), movies/TV shows (12.7 percent), and the Olympics (9.1 percent). Among the top five places where survey respondents first tried archery were recreational programs, their own home, an archery club, Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) programs, and archery stores.
What does all this information really mean? For one, archery is growing! Sure, some people are still learning about archery in the same ways that have existed for decades. However, new and more recent archery role models and pathways to archery are also helping promote the sport, and that’s exciting news.
Have you taken an unusual pathway to archery or found a unique role model? Remember, archery is open to everyone and there are many ways to enjoy participating in the sport. Just look at all the archery pathways we just listed!