Starting new hobbies when we are young gives us more opportunities to practice and improve. It also allows us to begin practicing when it is easier for brains and bodies to adapt and change as we have had fewer experiences in the world that shape the way we think and move. When we are young, we are like sponges for learning.
Younger students often adapt and learn new skills more quickly than older people. However, because there is some danger in archery, as in any sport, you might be wondering what the best age is to start archery. Can you be too young or old to pick up this hobby?
The youngest recommended age to start archery is eight years old. However, age is really just a substitute for what actually determines whether someone is too young or old to start. The factors that matter are whether the individual has the strength, coordination, and maturity level to practice the sport safely.
In this article, we will look at the factors that determine whether someone is ready to begin the sport of archery and whether you can be too old or too young to start.
How Old to Start Shooting a Bow?
USA Archery, one of the US’s oldest and most prominent archery associations, recommends starting children at the age of eight. USA Archery’s education and training manager Guy Krueger says that by the time children are eight years of age, they usually have the strength to draw and release a bow safely. By this age, they have also developed enough psychologically to follow instructions and safety procedures and to pay attention to instructions.
All of these factors are extremely important for children to be able to participate in archery safely without risk to themselves or those around them.
Joining a Club or Program
Archery clubs and training programs use this same age guideline and usually require entrants to be eight years of age or older. However, they are also aware that age is a stand-in for physical and mental maturity. Thus, if your child can demonstrate that they are capable of both the required physical strength and psychological maturity, they may admit your child to the program even if they are under the age limit. Likewise, children who are older but do not demonstrate their readiness may not be allowed to join or may be asked to withdraw and come back when they are ready.
This is for the safety of all involved, and it is best to wait to enroll your child once they have shown the appropriate maturity level in both the physical and psychological factors. This can save disappointment if they are denied entry or are asked to leave.
There are a lot of great programs that help children learn the skills of archery.
USA Archery has youth programs that are suitable for children who want to master recreational archery or competitive archery. Whether your youngster is interested in archery as a hobby or has their sights set on international competitions like the Olympics, Paralympics, or World Championships, there is a program that can grow their interest in a way that is fun and engaging for kids.
Explore Archery and the Junior Olympic Archery Development Program offer introductory programs that will develop your child’s archery skills through games. These are suitable options not matter the specific archery discipline in which they are interested.
There will likely also be local clubs and camps in your area, which are an excellent way for kids to try out the sport and find like-minded friends. Check for these programs at pro shops in your area.
All of these programs offer a structured introduction to the field of archery without overwhelming them.
However, even if they are not ready to start into a structured program and begin shooting with a bow yet, there are things you can do at home to foster their interest in archery and begin to develop their skills.
Building Skills at Home
The key here is to keep things short and fun. Younger kids have shorter attention spans and can become easily overwhelmed if things get too complicated.
Start with the basics. Build a bow and arrow out of some sticks and a string or band. This activity will help them learn about the essential parts of a bow and arrow and how they function.
Set up a range together in your backyard and review the safety rules and procedures. Practice some shots with the bow and arrow you built or a toy one. Alternatively, you can use exercise bands or other tools to practice the procedure of drawing and releasing a bow.
Take it slow and keep each activity short; if they start getting bored, don’t force them to continue. Children do not have the psychological maturity to maintain their attention when they lose interest. Instead, switch to a different activity or come back to it later. Trying to force it on them can dissuade them from pursuing the hobby further. Remember, this should be a fun activity!
As they build these fundamental skills and understanding, you can introduce more concepts until they have reached the physical and psychological level of maturity to take things to the range.
Of course, they are going to need a bow once they have reached the point where they can begin shooting at the range. Below are a few things to keep in mind when heading out to buy a bow for a young, novice archer.
Buying Their First bow (Keep it Simple)
Most archers do not start out with a full accessorized bow and for a good reason. When you are a beginner, you want to focus on the fundamental skills of form and safety. Too many accessories become a distraction for any novice archer, but especially for the younger ones. Head to your local archery shop and have a professional fit them for a bow based on their height, draw weight and length.
Another factor to keep in mind is that kids grow fast, and bows are fit based on height and strength. Because your child is going to outgrow their bow relatively quickly, you do not want to spend a fortune on their first bow or the following bows until they have hit physical maturity.
If they are shooting a recurve bow, some of this cost can be offset by buying a takedown bow that has limbs that can be swapped out to adjust draw weight as they gain strength.
Alternatively, if they want to start with a compound bow, try and steer them towards an option that has an adjustable draw weight.
For children, they usually focus on color and design and are less concerned with other factors, so it will be up to you and the shop pro to help them understand what their options are before they are drawn to choices that don’t make sense for them. Once they have their options in front of them, let them choose the fun stuff like color and design.
Now that they have a bow, you can head to the range to start practicing.
Starting at The Range
Once on the range, you still want to keep things fun. Try using balloons and other objects that can be broken or punctured by the arrow to ramp up the fun.
Review safety protocols every time you visit the range as it is easy for kids to become excited and forget. A consistent review will help these safety procedures become second nature for them as they mature into the sport.
Archery is a sport that takes practice and patience to master. For younger archers, all the way up to teenagers, this can come with its ups and downs and frustrations. Be supportive, but not forceful. If they are getting irritated, they are not going to have the focus they need to learn and improve.
It is a good idea to keep sessions short and sweet in the beginning. When learning new skills, we can only absorb so much at a time before we need a break and a chance for our bodies to integrate all that we have learned. Pushing kids too far, in the beginning, can lead to frustration.
Keeping practices short to start will help prevent things from getting too out of hand should they hit a roadblock. When they next return to the range, they can pick up where they left off with a clearer head. This will prevent them from getting discouraged and give them a better chance of success in the sport.
Start close to the target. Adults often shoot from a distance of 20 to 30 yards. This distance is too far for younger beginners to hit the target, which will frustrate them. Start at five to ten feet and move back as they begin to hit the target consistently.
The practice also requires guidance from an expert. If you are not familiar with archery, you will want to find a club, program, or coach where your child can receive guidance and feedback, which will help them focus their practice and improve their form.
Finally, for those children that are motivated by competition, entering into leagues or tournaments can help to inspire them to continue with the sport after they have had some practice.
This option is not great for all children, though. Some are motivated by competition, while others are turned off by it. Discover what motivates your child and allow them to explore but do not push them to compete if they are not interested, or you risk them losing interest in their new hobby.
Maybe it’s not your child that is interested in starting archery but you, and you are wondering if you are too old to begin in archery. It is a demanding sport, and there are several things to consider if you are interested in starting.
Can You Be Too Old?
Remembering that age is really just a stand-in for physical and mental maturity, the factors you will actually want to look at are your physical capabilities as well as your level of dedication.
Consider Your Physical Fitness
Archery involves a lot of repetitive motion so that you can hone your draw and release. A consistent release is what every archer strives for, as this is what determines how accurate they can be.
While drawing a bow, you are placing a lot of strain on your arms, shoulders, back, and fingers. For people who already have injuries or issues in these areas, the process of repeatedly placing stress on these body parts can lead to further damage.
If you are unsure, it is best to speak to your healthcare provider about your intentions and get their thoughts. It may mean that you have to begin an exercise routine first to build strength in these areas before picking up a bow. Exercises are a good idea for anyone looking at archery as a potential new hobby.
If you’ve got the go-ahead to start into archery, you want to make sure you get the right bow. Head to shop and get the help of a professional. They will help you try different bow styles and lengths until you find what is comfortable. They will also help you measure your draw weight.
If strength and potential injury are a concern, stick with light draw weights. If you are at a range, you don’t need to be pulling crazy amounts of force to get an arrow to puncture a target.
For the novice archer, you might want to keep your sessions short as well. For the younger ones, this is an attention span consideration, but for those who are older, it is a physical consideration. If you are starting to fatigue, your form will suffer, and your risk for injury will increase significantly. When you feel tired, it is time to pack up your gear and head home.
Consider Your Vision
Vision is another factor for archers. To compete, you obviously need a good vision. However, archery is not “off-limits” for the visually impaired. If your eyesight is declining, you can still practice with a bow; you just need to keep the targets within an acceptable distance for your level of vision.
Consider Your Dedication
Finally, there is a level of dedication. It is generally harder, though not at all impossible, for older adults to learn a new skill. Typically, this means it takes an extended amount of time practicing to get the physical motions down. Of course, every person is different, and some older novices will pick up the basics quicker than younger ones.
Don’t get discouraged if it takes time to get your form down and a repeatable release with your bow. Stick to it, and things will come with time. Don’t push yourself too far in any one session as you will need time to integrate what you are learning; breaks can be just as useful as time on the range. Pushing yourself past your limit can also lead to injury. Keep things safe by knowing when to stop and absorb what you’ve practiced.
When you are done at the range, reflect on what you’ve practiced, what you want to improve. Come up with a plan for your next session to work on these areas. Also, get a good sleep. Sleep is the time when your body recovers. Your mind and body integrate all the movements you’ve been practicing.
Archery is a far more complicated sport than it appears at first glance. It has been developed over centuries, and modern archery has several techniques and considerations. Experienced archers make it look effortless.
To help you learn how to shoot effectively, you will also want to enlist the help of a coach or training program to help you train more effectively. They can help you figure out your form and shooting techniques and help you come up with a plan to improve them.
The best age to start archery is when a person has the right level of physical and psychological maturity. While age can be a predictor of these factors, it is much better to consider your child’s maturity level. However, even if they are not range-ready, you can begin showing them the fundamentals at home by exploring bow basics and reviewing the best safety practices at home.
If you are an older adult looking to get into archery, then consider your level of physical fitness. It may be a matter of starting some exercises to build strength first. However, for those who already have injuries in their back, shoulders, arms, or fingers, the repetitive stress of archery may be too much. Always consult a medical professional before starting a new physical activity, especially if you have a chronic injury.
Archery can be an enjoyable activity for people of all ages as long as they have the physical and mental abilities that are required for an archer to practice safely.
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