Archers often ask each other how they got started in the sport. Maybe a tike thought bows were really interesting; or a Girl Scout, Boy Scout, 4-H member or NASP student fell in love during their first lesson. Many people assume archers always start early in life, and had a family member get them involved.
And then there are those who started shooting archery in college.
Learning archery as a youth can be intimidating when handed a bow towering overhead. But when a college student watches blockbuster movies and actors their own age are shooting bows and arrows, it’s easy to see the appeal. Students at the University of California-Davis recently gave us a glimpse into their introductions to archery.
The College Experience
Swimming their social life’s shark-infested waters as teenagers can be a nightmare. During college, however, young adults are less prone to peer pressure, and start discovering themselves by exploring what makes them truly happy. Freshmen and transfer students often check out clubs to connect with people with shared interests. After all, “family” can be hard to find if you’re a third-year transfer who’s missing friends back at their previous university. An archery club helps you bond and talk to each other.
In the video above, UC-Davis student Victor Fang said one goal of its archery club is to provide a place for people to try archery. “It’s a niche sport, so it’s hard to find out about it if you don’t know anyone to help you,” Fang said.
University sports clubs can become a second family for students. Katherine Kim said the UC-Davis club helped her make many friends she wouldn’t have otherwise. “It’s something we share with each other,” she said.
A Student’s Perspective
Taylor Nakayama started college as a cheerleader. Near the end of her junior year, she suffered a traumatic pyramid fall that blew out her right knee. She spent that summer learning to walk again, instead of prepping for the upcoming season.
She had always been active in sports, and so she researched sports that would accommodate her temporary handicap. That search led her to the archery club. Nakayama loved the instant gratification archery provided, which is something you don’t get from many sports.
“In cheer, I could push and grind for weeks, but visible progress would still elude me,” Nakayama said. “In archery, you can put in the effort to draw and get a tangible result within, literally, a second.”
And after changing minute details during the next shot, archers see the difference instantly on the target. “As someone who had always poured in her heart and soul for the tiniest rewards, the mechanism of archery alone had me thoroughly and completely hooked,” Nakayama said.
So what kept her shooting? When she first took lessons, something quickly became clear: “I sucked,” she said. Most of us can relate to that feeling. We feel embarrassed whether we miss the target or watch that first arrow bounce off the target.
However, that’s what Nakayama needed. She knew she didn’t have a natural talent for archery, even though she was among the top ranks of her cheerleading team. Although that made the humility harder to swallow, she looked at archery as a new opportunity. And she followed this advice: “Humble myself, dig deep, and keep at it.”
Rather than feeling competitive, she viewed archery as an exercise in personal growth. “Each lesson became a hard lesson in humility, but with it, my love and appreciation for the sport grew,” she said.
In addition to the sports and clubs she has tried, Nakayama believes everyone should experience an archery tournament. “I really enjoyed the simple concept of shared bales,” she said. “The whole archery community is very open and welcoming.”
Even so, she felt vulnerable at her first State Indoor event. She was among complete strangers, and competitors stood beside her on the shooting line. She worried they would see into her competition psyche and notice her struggles. Those thoughts soon vanished.
“Going through that whole process together as bale-mates forms a sort of bond rarely found between opponents,” Nakayama said. She found those relationships rare and special for a sport. Even though archery is an individual sport, people come from all over to shoot together and become teammates.
All that camaraderie makes college less difficult. A strong group of friends watch your back and help you get through “hell weeks” with test after test. In the meantime, archery lets you take out your studying frustrations on a target instead of pounding your head on the desk over the same five math problems. (Looking at you, aerospace engineers!)
Are you willing to see if an archery club fits you? Go try it out and explore the world of archery!