Archery Can Be Life Changing
There are a lot of things in life that capture the attention of youth today. Many of them, such as drugs and alcohol, are definitely destructive. Some of them, like video games and TV, have questionable value. Getting kids hooked on a sport however, is one of the positives. Guiding our youth towards positive activities is important, but group sports have seen a decline in participation.
What Has Led to the Decline?
Several factors have lead to this decline. A higher level of competition, at ever increasingly young ages, is a big factor. Kids can be made to focus entirely on one sport as young as age six. Another key component is the cost. Many families can’t afford the rising costs associated with playing in a team sport. Add the fact that there’s a lot more stimulation in sitting in front of a video console than there is sitting on a bench, and it’s not a surprise the number of athletes are on a decline. What are parents to do? Archery may be the answer.
Competition Can Be Too Much
A sedentary life is not healthy but a life of stress isn’t either. Group sports, even in recreational leagues, have become very competitive. Gone are the days when leagues were put together just so kids could have fun while getting some exercise. Today there is so much pressure to win that coaches, parents, and the athletes are pushing harder and harder. In their push to be the best, more youth are getting injured. Parents who used to support athletics, are starting to discourage their kids from taking sports, especially if their child isn’t one of the best. There’s too much pressure, it’s just not worth it.
Expenses Are High
Another reason there's so much pressure, is the expense of participating in sports is high. If a child isn’t going to “perform well” it’s not worth it financially to have them playing. Unless kids are extremely dedicated, and have some natural ability, the cost to participate is too high. There’s also the fact that many families just can’t afford it. According to the Washington Post, team sports have become a pastime of the wealthy. Children from families with over $100,000 annual incomes are twice as likely to play in a team sport than those with lower incomes. These are scary statistics. It’s important for all of our youth to be able to enjoy sports.
Life Is Filled With Stimulus
In addition to cost and performance pressures, youth today are used to a life with a high amount of stimulation. Being on a team means there are going to be times you “sit out”. Even when you are on the field, you may never really get to make active plays. There can be a lot of times, sometimes multiple games in a row, that someone never gets to touch a ball at all. There is much more stimulation in playing video games. There’s never a time when you have to “sit out”. The action and excitement are non-stop. Unfortunately, even though video games are stimulating, and some say can even be beneficial, we need physical movement and exercise to stay healthy.
Archery Can Help
This is where archery comes in. There’s a reason USA Archery memberships have almost tripled in the last ten years. Yes, the increase in TV shows and movies where archery is a big part of the main character’s life, has exposed more people to the sport, but seeing it on TV and actually getting involved enough to become a member of an archery association is a big step. There are aspects in the sport itself that keep people coming back for more.
Everyone Can Be A Winner
The first notable difference is that, most of the time, archery's an individual sport. Even though winning is still a goal, there isn’t the pressure of letting down an entire team if you don’t do well, and many times winning isn’t even the main goal. Archery is a great sport because everyone can participate. You don’t have to be the best in order to have fun and compete. There’s only one gold medal winner but every archer can have a winning tournament. This is because you are, first and foremost, competing against yourself. Any good coach will have their archer keep track of their tournament scores because improvement from one tournament to the next is more important than how you place. No one can control how well others will do, but if you are improving your own scores you can consider yourself a winner. While there is the goal to win, the real goal is to improve. This makes archery less stressful and more fun than some sports where the only goal is to win.
Archers Are Friendly
Because the focus is on improving yourself, rather than on winning, archery is a friendly sport. Archers don’t want to win because someone else lost, they want to win because they did their best and it was better than the competition. In most youth sports you see the two teams shaking hands after the game. This is something, thankfully, that coaches are still emphasizing to show good sportsmanship. You rarely see the teams actually interacting after a game however. In archery it’s different. Archers become friends with their competition. It’s common during tournaments to see hugs and gatherings take place among competitors. Thanks to social media, archers can build on the friendships they make at tournaments. Even if they only see each other a few times a year, they become part of each other’s life. Getting together again can make tournaments a social event as well as a competition.
Making new friends and having some fun can make the sport of archery worth the cost. It can be quite expensive to be at a high level of competition in archery. Although most archers don't compete at those levels, even minimal costs can be offset by the multitude of benefits that come from the sport. Besides being good exercise that’s not extremely stressful to the body, giving the athlete opportunities to make new friends from around the world, and giving youth a healthy focus, archery builds character, teaches responsibility, and helps build concentration. These aspects of the sport can be more beneficial than medication when it comes to some of the growing popular disorders like ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome. With proper coaching, youth with these disorders have been known to maintain focus for longer periods of time and interact better with others. Even if a child has no disorders, if parents look at it as investing in other aspects of a child’s life, rather than just an activity, any cost is worth it.
There will, however, still be families who just can not afford some of the costs no matter how beneficial archery may be. The good news is, there can be ways to overcome some of the expenses. One of the nice things about archery is there are many different levels. Unlike most team sports, archery still has recreational levels of shooters. It can be as basic as getting a couple of sticks, putting a string on one, and shooting the other one with it. If you are looking for something with more of the benefits of a sport however, there are still cost reducing options.
Most archery clubs will provide all equipment for people taking beginning classes. Some of these classes can be found through city parks and rec departments and many cities have scholarships for low income people to take their classes. That would be one good route to get started. Another option is to check directly with a local archery club. They may have a program that will allow you to participate at a reduced cost, or free. Parents can often offset the costs by helping out at the archery range. Become a judge to cover hotel and food costs at away tournaments or train to be a coach and get the students you coach to pay your expenses to tournaments. Don’t let the cost prevent participation. Because archery is an individual sport, there are many different ways to make participation possible for each individual.
Archery is a fun sport that can be enjoyed by everyone. It holds the focus of highly stimulated youth, and gives adults a chance to leave the stresses of life behind and just focus on a target. There are few other sports where the entire family can participate. What better way to get involved in what your child is doing, and bring the family closer, than to shoot archery together. Archery is an easy, relatively inexpensive, way to capture the attention of today’s youth and give them something positive to focus on.
"Through competitions and being able to coach younger archers, my communication skills have improved greatly. I have also learned how to stay calm under high pressure situations."
"Archery has changed my life because it has introduced me to so many new people and gave me opportunities that I wouldn't have had without it."
"Archery has changed my life so much because the whole archery community is amazing. Everyone is so nice and you"ll meet a lot of new friends"
"Being an archer has made me aware of the mental aspects of sport and has inspired me to study sports psychology. Archery has opened me to new opportunities and learning experiences by being both an athlete and coach."