I remember trying my hand at archery when I was about 10 years old. My father had a large, wooden recurve bow that was taller than me. It was shiny and beautiful, but my arms were neither long enough nor strong enough to pull back the string.
My mother had a small green fiberglass recurve bow. It was worn and ugly, but I could hold it steady and pull back the string just far enough to launch an arrow about 10 yards across the field. By the time I was old enough to handle the bow, I had lost interest in the sport.
Adolescents to adults
Today’s young archers need not wait until their teens to try this exciting sport. The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) recommends kids start with a compound bow that can grow with them. The Genesis bow, official bow of the NASP, does not have to be adjusted for different draw lengths, which means it will work whether your children’s arms are short or long. The Genesis is also lightweight, can be used with a right or left-handed grip, and very little strength is required to pull back the string.
Little kids or the disabled
Under careful supervision, archery can be enjoyed by kids as young as kindergartners if you choose a bow they can handle. The Mini Genesis is smaller than the Genesis, weighs a mere 2 pounds, and can be used by kids with really short arms or people with a limited range of motion. It is ideal for families who want to start kids off very young. It is also perfect for those who want to include disabled family members in the fun.
Advancing in the sport
Promising archers can enter tournaments beginning before age 12, and can progress to collegiate archery teams or international competition including the Olympics. There are different categories in tournament competition, including compound bows like the Genesis bows described above, recurve bows like my parents used, or traditional longbows, which have been popular for centuries. You will want to learn all you can about the types of bows allowed in tournaments your young archer may enter before you buy new equipment.
If you choose the right bow, archery is a sport that can be fun for the whole family, so consider giving it a try this summer. You’ll be glad you did.
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(Tavia worked as a naturalist and recreation specialist at an Oklahoma lake during her college years. She enjoys using what she learned as an outdoor educator in her work with children today.)