“Start ’em while they’re young.” It’s a sentiment you hear when signing your kid up for a new sport, including archery. The earlier they start, the more time they have to learn, adapt and improve their skills. But how young is too young for archery?
Ultimately, it comes down to a child’s maturity, strength and ability. Can they understand and follow safety instructions? Can they lift and shoot a bow? Can they focus and set goals? Consider those factors before introducing your child to archery.
If you want to enroll your child in a program, USA Archery recommends starting at age 8. Guy Krueger is USA Archery’s education and training manager. He said by the time children are 8, they usually have enough strength to safely handle a beginner’s bow. They’re also psychologically mature enough to follow instructions and pay attention. It’s important they can draw the bow and safely release it.
A Good Place to Start
Why does your child want to take up archery? Josh Gold is the Archery Trade Association’s education programs manager. He said knowing where the interest originates might help set realistic goals.
Are they interested because they saw it on their favorite TV show or movie? Or is an older family member already involved and they want to join in? Whatever the initial reason, Gold suggests building on that interest while keeping it fun and simple.
In general, the younger the child, the shorter their attention span. Gold suggests making the learning process enjoyable while easing them in. Archery is meant to be fun! Build a bow from a stick and string to learn its basic parts and how they work. Set up a range in the backyard to review safety rules and procedures.
Stretch bands and other learning tools can help youngsters learn the shooting steps without picking up a bow. Small, safe steps lead up to time on the range. Once you’re on the range, make it fun and keep them engaged by adding balloons or breakable objects to the target.
Regularly review safety rules, shooting steps, and the equipment to hold and rekindle their interest in archery. Archery practice provides great opportunities to bond with your child while developing and tweaking their learning styles. This is also an opportunity for you to improve as an instructor and learn new teaching skills.
Archery Clubs and Programs
Age limits are a bit clearer with clubs and programs. Most are open to kids 8 or older, but it can vary. Brad Fiala, USA Archery’s event development manager, said clubs and programs make exceptions, depending on the youngster’s strength and maturity.
USA Archery’s youth programs are tailored to a child’s interests, whether their dream is to master recreational archery, or compete in the Olympics, Paralympics or World Championships.
“We recommend a minimum age of 8, and Explore Archery or JOAD is a great place to start,” said Mary Emmons, USA Archery’s chief of sport performance and organizational development.
Explore Archery and the Junior Olympic Archery Development Program are introductory programs that help kids develop skills, find archery’s fun through games, and prepare for all archery disciplines. It’s a structured way to ease them into the sport at their own pace.
You can also check with local shops to locate archery camps nearby. Camps let kids focus on the sport a few days while building friendship and community.
Simplicity and Safety
If you’ve already been introduced to archery, you probably didn’t take your first shot with a fully tricked-out bow. That simplistic approach to learning archery also works for youths. First, focus on safety and proper shooting form. Introduce other equipment as they progress. When looking at equipment for the first time, start with the basics, which means visiting a local retailer who can properly fit the beginner to a bow based on draw weight, length and adjustability.
“The most important factor for a young kid just starting out is ensuring they can comfortably and safely shoot it,” Gold said. “Beyond that, don’t be surprised if the next important factor for them is the color and the designs on it.”
Therefore, choose a bow your child can handle and learn from. It can be a recurve or a compound that comes with a complete package. Most importantly, let them choose the fun stuff, like color.
Whether your child is on the younger end of the beginners’ spectrum or a teen, learning takes time, patience and supervision. Be supportive, knowing they’ll have ups and downs during the early learning stages. Gold suggests starting with short, quick practice sessions so they stay interested and excited about the sport
If you’re also in archery’s beginning stages, visit a shop or work with a coach to guide you and your child. This is an opportunity to start a new hobby, learn together and lead by example.