Author: Cassie Gasaway
Most people love to compete. You can tap into their competitive spirit and give them something to talk about for weeks by hosting an archery tournament. It’s also a great way to bring in additional revenue and help you meet new customers. Your customers can compete against friends, family, and community members, which will provide good publicity for your shop. You might think organizing and conducting a tournament is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be.
Richard Johnson III, general manager and co-owner of Hall’s Arrow in Manchester, Connecticut, has hosted tournaments for more than 20 years, and he has competed in them for even longer. He said hosting tournaments gets easier over time. He holds several each year, some of which have more than 150 shooters. Now, he said, planning a tournament is second nature.
“Increased revenue is the biggest advantage of hosting a tournament,” Johnson said. “Not only from the registration fees collected but also because people purchase equipment when they are in (the shop).”
Johnson said he usually makes $500 on a tournament and up to an additional $1,000 in equipment sales. He also said hosting a tournament is often more profitable than offering a league or solo fun holiday-themed event because it attracts people from surrounding communities and states. He’s had archers travel from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island to compete. He sells more target archery equipment than most shops, so participants regularly buy from him when they visit for a competition. And when they see the shop and its inventory, they usually sign up for future events, bring their friends and use the trip as an opportunity to buy gear they can’t find elsewhere.
“A tournament is great advertising and promotion,” he said. “It gets archers who may have never been to your shop to come in and see you.”
These are Johnson’s top tips for planning an archery tournament of your own.
Visit another range that hosts tournaments frequently and learn from them. Photo credit: Music City Archery
1. Shadow an Experienced Host
If you’ve never held a tournament before, Johnson suggests you shoot a few to better understand the event, process and timeline. Then, shadow someone running a tournament to gain insight into the planning and implementation process.
“If you can shadow somebody running a tournament, it can definitely help teach you the planning process,” he said. “The more prepared you are, the better, because you usually run into some sort of ‘problem’ along the way. As time goes on, you’ll discover tricks and pick up things. You learn by doing.”
2. Start Small
Johnson recommends pro shop owners host a small even to get their feet wet and boost their confidence. Small tournaments are less stressful and more laid-back. Yet they still offer a great place to shoot, compete and learn the rules. Plus, if you’re in a small town, many community members might not have shot in a tournament before, so you can learn together.
Hall's Archery recently hosted the 2021 CAA State Indoor Championship. Photo Credit: Connecticut Archery Association
3. Consider the Numbers
Johnson said you must think about the cost affiliated with holding a tournament. Don’t forget about printed invitations, postage, trophies, target faces and judges when you’re deciding on a registration fee. Charge more for bigger tournaments. Johnson charged $40 for his New England Indoor Open Archery Championships tournament and $15 for his Warm Up event, which was a small, casual competition. Check tournament registration fees in your area to make sure your price is comparable.
Creating a budget helps you save money, control your spending, track your expenses and come out ahead. When you set a budget, consider whether you’ll have to pay a fee because you’re working with an organization like USA Archery or the National Field Archery Association. Each organization has its own rules. Johnson said some organizations supply target faces or score cards, but others don’t. Crunch the numbers to make sure your tournament will be affordable for customers and profitable for your shop.
4. Don’t Push Your Capacity Limits
Johnson said to ask yourself how many archers you can host comfortably. He said choosing that number was difficult this year due to the social distancing protocols of COVID-19. So be sure to calculate how many people per line you can accommodate in the time parameters. If youth archers have to shoot at closer distances, it might take more time to shuffle competitors around, which will affect the total number of archers you can register. Likewise for other special needs and accommodations, including disabled or impaired archers. The number will likely change depending on the circumstances and type of archer participating. Refer to the mentor you shadowed for additional assistance. Their tournament hosting experience will be helpful when setting capacity options and limits.
Squeezing too many archers into a lane or on the line can be stressful, causing some to rush their shots, which is potentially dangerous. Such a situation would reduce the overall enjoyment someone has at your tournament, and that could negatively affect your reputation. Always ensure your shooters are comfortable, ask for feedback frequently and adjust as necessary.
5. Know the Rules
Be familiar with the rules of the shoot, especially if you partner with an archery organization. Understand the required target size, how to score each target, whether bowhunters can move their sights, which line the participants should stand at, whether participants should shoot the top target or bottom target first, etc. Johnson said it’s a good idea to give an overview at the start of the tournament so each archer is aware of the rules. You can also post them on signs for archers to reference.
To help ensure your tournament is a success, pair first-time participants with archers who have shot tournaments in the past. That way, the more experienced archers can assist or remind the newcomers of the rules, which will likely reduce the number of questions and interruptions you get as the event coordinator. Johnson said it’s helpful to figure out the lane assignments ahead of time to make the day run more smoothly.
Host Your First Tournament
To start, announce your tournament and see how many people register. Be sure to set a cap on the number of archers and notify overflow participants of potential future competitions. Explain why you’re capping the event at a specific head count. Many people will be forgiving if they understand your reasons for starting small. Think back to your shadowing experience and go for it!
Need more planning help or assistance? Use the ATA’s Event Planning Workbook to get started. It was designed to help archery pro shop owners launch and manage archery and bowhunting events that generate revenue, build brand awareness and attract new customers. The workbook describes the planning process and provides tips and insights for making important decisions. It includes an overview of an event, including budget, timeline, checklist, marketing plan, attendee list, equipment and supplies, and follow-up and evaluation. It even includes bonus tips, which are hot insights from retailers and ATA staff. The workbook’s pages also provide space for writing down ideas and taking notes.
Johnson recently took a look at the ATA’s Event Planning Workbook for the first time. He said the comprehensive information may seem overwhelming, but the guide has helpful planning techniques. Sort through the information to find what’s applicable to the event you’re planning. If you don’t want an event theme, skip it. If you aren’t concerned about renting equipment, obtaining an off-site permit or providing food and beverages, don’t worry about those sections. Planning an event can be overwhelming and stressful. But you can use the workbook as a guide to aid you in the planning process.
To use the free workbook, log in to your MyATA member dashboard and click on “Download Free ATA Resources.” Search for “Event Planning Workbook,” and download the document. Then, print it and add it to a three-ring binder to start planning.