This month I tried… archery

When you think archery one of the first things that come to mind is probably Katness Everdeen and The Hunger Games, or if you have smaller children, Disney’s animated movie Brave. These action-packed movies make archery seem like an intense adrenaline sport, but what’s it like in real life?

This month Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood tried her hand at archery.

The basics of what you see in the movies are true enough, nock the arrow, draw it back, aim and let go. However, the focus and concentration needed are not quite depicted on the silver screen. Archery is a sport that requires concentration, calm and patience, it is not the adrenaline packed, fast-paced experience that you may expect.

My morning spent at the archery range at the Protea Sports Club in Retreat, Cape Town, was tranquil. I was taught the basics of how the bow works (note: never pull back the bowstring and release it unless there is an arrow nocked, as it can damage the bow over time). The explanations were insightful and interesting and I thoroughly enjoyed the morning. Thankfully, I wasn’t the only novice on the field. A short distance away, a group of young girls were getting lessons and celebrating a ten year old’s birthday.

I spent about an hour nocking arrows, taking aim at the target and releasing. I am pleased to say I hit the target every time, even getting a few bulls eyes. However, it is a very repetitive sport. The actions are the same, and once you find the correct actions that get you hitting the target on point every time, you simply repeat it.

The fact that I hit the target every time was probably in part to do with the distance I was standing to the target. I was only a few metres from the target (ten at most), while the experts and competitors usually stand at about 70 metres from the target. However, I was still pleased with myself considering it was the first time I had ever held a bow, never mind shot off an arrow.

Despite wearing a protective arm guard, I still managed to get a huge bruise on my one arm from the bowstring hitting my arm as I release the arrow. My instructor, Karen Hultzer (who herself was in the South African London Olympic team for archery) says it’s common for archers to get hurt in this way.

If you know that you like the social side of a sport why not organise a group of friends to go with you? Not only will it deal with the ‘loneliness problem’ but the fees will be substantially less for groups than individuals (see below).

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The popularity of archery

Karen said the popularity of archery had increased following the release of several movies, including The Hunger Games, Brave and The Avengers, which all depicted the sport. However, the enthusiasm soon died down after people realised that it is a relatively lonely sport in that it is you, the bow and arrows, and the target.

It takes hours of practice to become good at any sport and archery is no different. It’s not a social sport so it’s not as popular say rugby or surfing. Karen believes that this is one of the reasons that the popularity declined. Young people are not interested in spending hours at the archery range on their own when their friends are out having fun and therefore pick up other sports in its place.

Despite the fact that not many young people may enjoy the sport, there were still a few young boys showing up for their lessons as I was leaving.

It was an amazing experience and definitely something that I would want to do again.

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Getting started

As with any sport, the initial outlay to get the equipment can be costly. But you also have the choice as to how much you are willing to invest in your new sport. Just a few thousand, or tens of thousands. Archery is no different.

However, Karen advises not going out and purchasing all the equipment from the start. “It is not advisable to by equipment initially, rather hire club equipment until you know your personal needs. But a full beginner’s kit would start at about R2500.”

Then there is also the cost of the lessons. These may differ according to where you go, but Karen charges R200 for an hour’s private lesson, including equipment and range fees. A group fee would be R100 per person.

The Protea Sports Club also offers mass coaching on Saturdays from 1pm to 3pm for R80 per person.

To find an archery club near you, you can visit with South African National Archery Association (SANAA) website, click here.