Author: Cassie Scott
If you’ve never taught a beginner archery class, the role might seem intimidating. If you have, you’re probably still learning and adapting your strategies. Either way, creating a stellar archery class can boost your shop’s reputation and increase your customer base and cash flow.
We spoke to three experienced archery instructors to gain insight on how to teach a successful one-hour archery class. Our experts include:
- Brett Litzler, USA Archery Level 4 NTS coach and programs coordinator for the Easton Salt Lake Archery Center in Salt Lake City, Utah
- Michael Lundeen, USA Archery Level 4 NTS coach and executive director for the Florida Archery Foundation in Vero Beach, Florida
- Paul Williams, USA Archery Level 3 coach and owner of High Altitude Archery in Longmont, Colorado
A great class starts with a solid game plan. A little organization on your part will keep your students coming back for more.
Highlight the parts of a bow and an arrow. Then, discuss how to properly handle equipment and the safest method for arrow retrieval. Review what it means to dry-fire a bow, and tell students to nock an arrow before they draw the bow back. Photo Credit: ATA.
Welcome and Introductions – Five Minutes
First things first – welcome the students, and introduce yourself and your instructors. Take a moment to explain why you like archery. Ask students to introduce themselves and share why they want to try archery. This builds trust and rapport, and engages the students.
Safety Briefing – Five Minutes
Next, focus on safety. Explain the range rules and whistle or verbal commands. Show students where the waiting line, target line and shooting lines are, and explain what they mean.
Williams said it’s important to create a fun, upbeat atmosphere that focuses on safety. He said employing certified instructors will ensure the class runs safely and smoothly, plus it adds credibility to your program. Learn more about instructor certifications.
Equipment Overview – Five Minutes
Highlight the parts of a bow and an arrow. Then, discuss how to properly handle equipment and the safest method for arrow retrieval. Review what it means to dry-fire a bow, and tell students to nock an arrow before they draw the bow back.
Keep the equipment in a designated location when not in use. Bow racks and bow hangers keep the bow off the ground and out of harm’s way. If there’s not enough equipment for everyone, divide the class into small groups. The students can either wait patiently for their turn or alternate between shooting, light stretching or muscle-control drills.
Remind students to wait until an instructor has checked their set-up and gives the command to shoot. Photo Credit: ATA.
General Shooting and Instruction – 25 Minutes
Here you must review the six “need-to-know” steps of shooting:
- Nock the arrow until you hear the “click”
- Explain which hand is the bowhand
- Hold the string with your other hand (the one you write with)
- Raise your bowhand toward the target
- Pull back the string with your other hand, and anchor at the corner of your mouth
- Let go and watch that arrow fly!
Remind students to wait until an instructor has checked their set-up and gives the command to shoot.
According to Litzler, a one-hour archery class is meant to sell the students on archery. He said it’s more important that the students have fun and hit bull’s-eyes than learn proper technique. It’s important to “walk around and help archers anchor, and align their sights and target, but if they don’t, that’s ok,” he added.
Students will have the opportunity to perfect their technique if they come back for more classes and instruction, but you must hook them first.
Shooting Games or Activities – 15 Minutes
Once your students can successfully shoot on their own, play a fun game or shooting activity to leave a lasting impression. Use exciting targets, such as balloons or fake money, to keep students engaged.
Not sure which games to try? All three instructors depend heavily on USA Archery’s Explore Archery curriculum for shooting activities that are fun, safe and educational. The Explore Archery program introduces beginners of all ages and abilities to the sport. Litzler said the program provides “basic and easy-to-explain activities, which are also fun and challenging.”
Lundeen also recommends instructors listen to their students and get creative. “Sometimes they come up with some crazy fun stuff,” he said. “A good instructor can figure out a way to make it into a learning experience. This provides satisfaction to the students who are then more engaged because it was their idea.”
Clean Up and Wrap Up – Five Minutes
With five minutes left in class, direct students to put away their equipment and clean their mess (think balloon pieces or other activity materials). Then, right before dismissal, tell your students about upcoming classes, events or programs to entice them to return.
It’s also important to have enough instructors to teach the class effectively. More instructors means students will have more individual attention and guidance. Photo Credit: ATA.
Strategically Schedule Instructors: Lundeen said he tries to pair instructors with classes based on their personality and experience level, as well as the age of their students. Some people like working with high-energy youth, while others prefer the calm, patient nature of adults or senior citizens. It’s also important to have enough instructors to teach the class effectively. More instructors means students will have more individual attention and guidance. However, you must still be profitable. You can either charge more or decrease your instructor-to-student ratio.
Be Yourself and Focus on Fun: Litzler advises instructors serve as customer service representatives, not coaches, instructors or salespeople. You are likely the student’s first exposure to archery. Make it a fun, exciting and positive experience, so they come back for more. To do that, you must “keep the instruction brief and simple, and get a bow into their hands as quickly and as safely as possible,” he said. “If it takes longer than 15 minutes for your class to shoot their first arrow, they might already be bored or disinterested.”
Manage Tricky Students: Williams said if a particular student is rowdy or disruptive, he’ll pull him aside and explain what they’re doing wrong and how they should be behaving. If the student acts out again, he’ll ask him or her to sit out for a while. If the entire class is being difficult, Williams tries to adapt his teaching strategy or changes the activity until the class starts cooperating again.
Accommodate Kids with Disabilities: Archery is very inclusive. To ensure students with disabilities reach their full potential, you must adapt your strategy. Lundeen runs an autism program and regularly works with students who have disabilities. He said each situation is unique and to focus on what the person can do versus what he or she can’t. This strategy boosts self-confidence and encourages students to keep trying. He recommends instructors practice patience, stick to the basics, and make students feel comfortable shooting.
Use the ATA’s Resources
If you need help creating class curriculum, the ATA’s Retail Growth Initiative provides tools and techniques to improve your profitability. The program’s free resources help ATA-member retailers hire archery instructors, create class schedules and determine prices for class offerings. They even have a helpful one-hour class description to download for free!
The ATA’s useful resources save retailers time and energy, and can boost your confidence while creating a successful archery class. And don’t be afraid to start a next-step archery program either. Although beginner and introductory classes are great, recreational programs or programs like the ATA’s Explore Bowhunting and Explore Bowfishing help diversify your business, boost equipment sales and increase in-store traffic. The RGI program can help with that, too!
Contact Nicole Nash, ATA’s member-outreach manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org; or Kurt Smith, ATA’s senior manager of retail programs, at email@example.com to request RGI resources or more information.