Archery is a fantastic sport for all ages, including children. When first getting started, it may feel a little overwhelming, but I’m here to help simplify that. My best recommendation is to start kids, or even adult beginners, at the local range or club with archery lessons. Youth archery equipment, like kids’ compound bows, is a big investment, so making sure your kid is actually interested in archery is a good idea. Lessons can be pretty affordable on their own, but there are often Groupons for archery classes for beginners.
Once your kid attends the first few classes, you can evaluate if they’re interested and then move on to choosing what kind of bow works best for them. When considering this choice, there are multiple avenues to go down, including types of bows and purpose of use. There are 4 types of bows to choose from:
You can also go different directions with each kind of bow including:
- Target competition
- 3D competition
- Recreational shooting
If you’re not sure what type of bow to choose, there are bows that are great for any type of shooting, like the Genesis bow. I started my archery career with a Genesis bow and went on to shoot in the Olympics. You could just as easily go to compound shooting with a kids’ compound bow after starting with a Genesis bow. The reverse is also true; you can use a recurve bow to start and move on to shoot any other type of bow.
If you’re going to start your kid out at home, you’re going to need a few items to keep everyone safe.
- A backstop for arrows, or plenty of space behind the target.
- A bow that is very adjustable in draw length and draw weight.
- An arm guard that fits your kid’s arm and covers a good amount of their arm.
- A finger tab or glove to protect their fingers or a beginner release aid for kid compound bow shooters.
- Arrows that are a little longer than are strictly necessary. I recommend Easton Jazz arrows or Victory Ares Venus arrows.
Stay vigilant while your kid is shooting, and make sure that they have clear instructions. Write down specific rules that need to be followed in order to continue shooting. Here are a few examples that are a really good starting point and vital to keeping your kid safe while shooting:
- Only shoot while parents are present.
- No running, especially around targets.
- Only point arrows in the direction of a target or at the ground.
- No dry fires – Shooting the bow without an arrow.
You can always add more rules that would work better with your kids.
Eye dominance is usually something that is tested when someone starts archery. I think it’s important to know, but I think that going off hand dominance is better for dexterity.
Good form is important to instill early in kids, in addition to having the right youth archery equipment. Examples of good form include:
- Keep the draw elbow level with the shoulders.
- Keep the shoulders level; don’t lift them up or push them too low.
- When it’s time to shoot, instruct your child to relax their fingers off the bow string and keep the draw elbow moving around towards their spine after the shot.
Keep It Fun
Kids often have a lot going on in their minds and have trouble being still and focused, so it’s important to keep an eye on them while shooting. It’s also important to keep it fun so they stay engaged. To keep them interested and have fun, there are several games to play. A couple examples are:
- Adding balloons on the target.
- Creating fun shaped paper targets.
- Shooting matches against the family, or even team rounds with their friends.
If your kid is interested in competing and taking archery to the next level, finding a local archery club or bow shop is the next best step. At these clubs there is typically a variety of coaches who can help your kid grow in their skills and learn how to hone their skills. There are also competitions and/or leagues held at these clubs that can be a perfect way to start out their competition experience. As I mentioned earlier, there are many different paths to take within archery that your kid can take:
- 3D competitions – Shooting on angled terrain at lifelike animal targets made of foam at varying distances.
- Target competitions both indoor and outdoor – Shooting at stationary circular targets at varying distances.
- Field competitions – Shooting on angled terrain at paper targets, varying in distance and size.
In addition to clubs and bow shops, there are lots of organizations that have youth programs:
- National Field Archery Association (NFAA)
- USA Archery
- National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP)
- East Sports Development Foundation (ESDF)
Parent as Coach
Alternatively, if you are interested in coaching your kid, there are coaching courses you can take to educate yourself and be better prepared for an archery life. Coaching your own kid comes with its challenges. It can be hard to keep boundaries between coach and parent. I had this issue with my own dad, and we had to adjust how we moved forward.
Even if your kid has their own coach, there’s a great opportunity for you to be a supporting coach. At a lot of these competitions, club coaches are spread thin trying to help all their students and don’t get to spend much time with each kid. You can talk with their coach and see what your kid’s main goals are for that tournament and encourage them with those goals.
Another way to be supportive is to have whatever snacks or sports drinks that are your kid’s favorite. My stomach always gets a little queasy when I’m competing, so I prefer fruits and veggies or light snacks or eating a while before the competition. Here is a great article to help.
You can figure out what is best for your kid, regarding training, coaching, and finding the right youth archery equipment, whether that is with kids’ compound bows or recurve bows. Whatever you choose, a life in the archery world is a great one and is a good community with pretty cool people, so it’s an excellent choice. Archery changed my life, and I’m so grateful that I got started years ago in school. It’s taken me all over the world and given me a chance to do so many cool things.
Author Bio: I am Mackenzie Brown. I am a two-time Olympian who now shoots 3D competitions. I’m an avid outdoors woman who loves hunting and being outside. I’m passionate about archery and competing.