By Jackie Holbrook
Spring has been lonely for most of the country, especially students. The coronavirus pandemic has shut down parks, schools, organized sports and most recreation. The extra family time is great, but grows a bit stale if you play the same board games and hike the same neighborhood trails. With summer nearing and the country hoping to reopen safely, it’s time to introduce your family to archery.
Archery is super safe. The Archery Trade Association’s “Archery Safety” brochure notes that its 2017 injury rate was .057 per 1,000 participants. For perspective, the only sports with slightly lower injury rates are bowling, badminton and table tennis. Soccer, baseball and basketball cause injuries 15 to 25 times higher rates.
When considering new family activities, you’ll find none beats archery for inclusivity. Archery is truly a lifelong sport that can be learned and practiced at nearly any age. USA Archery recommends 8 as the minimum age for most kids to pick up a bow. However, it comes down to maturity and being able to focus on goals and safety instructions.
If you have a youngster who’s eager to start, you can include them even if they can’t shoot real equipment. Toy bows let toddlers and preschoolers feel like they’re shooting alongside the family. They can even build a bow from a stick and string. And if they follow the same basics and safety rules as the rest of the family, they’ll be better prepared when picking up “real” equipment the first time.
Parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents know you can teach an “old dog” new tricks! Many talented archers wait most of their life to pick up a bow. Other sports give youths an edge, but archery often puts you toe-to-toe with your kids, and then winning.
Besides leading your family on walks around the block, you can offer archery to provide a low-impact activity with many physical and mental health benefits. Drawing a bow strengthens your core, arms, hands, chest and shoulders. Walking around a course or back and forth to the target to pull arrows can provide cardio workouts, too. All the while, archery improves focus, patience and coordination.
If your family is ready for archery’s fun, safe and heart-happy activities, sign up for lessons. Archery shops have certified instructors who can teach the basics and beyond. Most offer group or one-on-one lessons that cover form, safety, equipment and shooting basics. The shop will have equipment for everyone to use or rent.
Once your crew learns the basics, the fun really begins. You’ll find endless opportunities to practice archery as a family. Transform your backyard into a range! Check local ordinances first, of course, and then make sure you have a safe backdrop. With a backyard range, you don’t even need to leave home, which is great for social-distancing. Hold a friendly competition before dinner, or a shoot-off to see who does the dishes. You’ll find plenty of ideas online for fun archery games to play at home.
If you can’t shoot at home, many communities have archery clubs with outdoor ranges and targets at varying distances. Some even offer 3D targets for fun bowhunting practice. And when communities eventually reopen after COVID-19, you’ll find even more places for fun family-oriented archery.