February 24, 2020

Improve Your Game - What to expect at your first tournament

Patrick Huston explains what to expect at your first tournament. Patrick has traveled the World with archery and has extensive knowledge of competing, from club level to the Rio Olympics, he knows what to expect!

I'd like to impart a bit of general knowledge that I have gained over my time spent in competitive archery. I've done club archery a lot, with numerous different clubs, I've shot field, indoors and outdoors, I've shot Recurve, barebow and compound. I've competed at local tournaments, National tournaments, American tournaments, Asian tournaments, European Championships, World Championships, and even the Olympic Games.

Today I am going to talk you through what to expect at your first competition. I would like to start this by saying that the word ‘competition' in archery doesn't need to carry the stress which you might think. 

What you are really going to do is, shoot a formalised round under timed conditions for the purpose of having a recognised and standardised score at the end of it. Yes, there will be medals and trophies presented, there might be records available or achievement badges, but the main thing is that you have gone and shot an official round.

This gives you a mark in the sand which you can compare yourself to in the future. Archery has so many ways for you to improve, going to your first competition is brilliant at pretty much any level because it is nearly guaranteed that you are going to be able to improve on that score and that improvement is what drives you to keep coming back!

So it's your first tournament, you've arrived in the morning and got parked up.  The first thing I would advise you to do is to go to registration. If it's outdoors it's often in a tent or clubhouse on the field. If you are at an indoor tournament, then it'll be quite obvious with some people behind a table. 

Ask anyone there where registration is if you are feeling a bit lost, and you'll be pointed in the right direction! Once you get to registration you'll need to tell them your name, normally the club officials will be sat there. It's probably a good idea to tell them it's your first tournament, they will be lovely, encouraging and probably introduce you to people, and they will definitely help direct you on where to go and what to do. At registration, you will be asked to produce your Archery GB membership card, this can be the E-card or the physical card.

The next thing on the cards is to find your target assignment and get set up. The targets will all have numbers on them so this shouldn't be too difficult. Set your kit up and do a warm-up. Then you get to wait around until the shooting starts. The shoot may have raffle tickets available for a raffle at the end, and often there is tea and coffee on offer. 

Do be careful with tea and coffee though, as caffeine can give you shakes in your shot. If you are at a record status competition then during the period before practice begins you will need to have your equipment inspected. This is nothing to worry about, the judges will talk you through it.

The only thing that may cause you bother is having your arrows marked. Having your arrows marked just means having your initials or name on each arrow, to be able to identify that they are yours. I use either arrow socks wraps or sticky patches, but I've also often used a gold or silver sharpie or similar paint pen, and some people use little stick-on numbers and letters. If you haven't marked your arrows marked beforehand, and you're at a record status shoot, just ask around and someone will have an arrow marking pen.

Just before the start of shooting assembly will be called, basically the judge and tournament organiser will thank everyone for coming and talk a little about the round you are going to shoot so that everyone understands, and if you have any questions, now is the time to ask.

After that, you will have either ‘sighters' or ‘practice'. Now, this might seem like an unnecessary complication, but if you are at a World Archery tournament (WA18, WA1440, etc) then you will have a practice which means normally 2 or 3 ends of as many arrows as you want to shoot. If you are at an Archery GB tournament (Portsmouth, Stafford, York, National, etc) then you will have two ends of sighters, meaning 3 or 6 arrows per end.

The other noticeable difference between the two is that for record status WA round you need to mark the target faces. This just means do a couple of little marks on the side of the arrow where it punctures the paper. This is to allow for bouncers or pass-throughs to be called, using the lowest unmarked hole in the face. So make sure to mark all of your arrows!  

For your first tournament do not worry about doing the paper scoring, let somebody else do that for now. But I would advise using an arrow plotting application on your phone. These can be incredibly helpful to keep you aware of where your group is. And you might be surprised but the lower your standard of archery the more important having your group (of arrows) centered is.

So pay close attention, but don't overthink or over adjust. Just periodically pay attention to the group which you see develop on the plot, one individual end doesn't matter, it's the average that counts. Another thing on scoring, don't touch the arrows or the target before all the arrows have been scored.  And finally, call in threes: 10 10 9, 9 8 7.

Have a look at your arrows before you start calling so you know what you've scored. This is probably the biggest bugbear on newcomers... 10.... 8,7......... 5.... 3....1. You know you'll be called to score your arrows, have a look, find them and then call them out in threes when it's your turn.  It will be appreciated, trust me!

Do talk to people at the tournament. You'll find that the archery community is incredibly friendly, supportive and encouraging. We are all here because we love what we do and are passionate enough about it to spend our weekends doing it all over the country (and World!). 

Once you have finished scoring, make sure that you wait around whilst the final score is added up, you will need to sign your scorecard. Signing your scorecard is telling the organisers and scoring team that you are happy with what has been writing down - so make sure you've added it up and it matches your addition!

You will be amazed at how much you can learn about the sport just by asking people for advice. So do speak up, chat to your target mates, those either side of you, sitting nearby, at the coffee table or around the place. If you go to more shoots you will very likely see a lot of the same faces around the place and you will enjoy what you are doing a lot more if you feel part of the community.

Lastly, I would implore you to enjoy your first competitive experience. Don't stress over the numbers, to begin with (trust me you'll have enough time to do that in the future). Whatever you score will be a Personal Best anyway so it really doesn't matter your first go-round.

Keep a note of your scores too. A little notebook is a good idea to write about what you've learned.  Even if you never look at it again, the act of writing it down will imprint it into your memory. 

So if you haven't booked into a tournament yet go to the Archery GB tournament diary, find a shoot nearby which you feel like going to. Ask some other club members if they want to join, but you can go it alone perfectly well given how friendly we are as a community. Go along to the tournament, enjoy the experience, you'll learn so much about your shooting, and start a journey that could take you... well as far as you want to go really!

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