How can you make sure the very youngest archers enjoy their first time at a range? We spoke to Archery GB’s Birmingham 2022 Legacy Co-ordinator and coach Jamila Bi and club records officer and archery parent Rebecca Bodkin, of The Audco Archers in Shropshire, to get some advice.
Jamila says as an archery coach, her role extends beyond simply teaching the techniques of shooting with a bow and arrow. “I strive to create engaging and productive sessions that cater to individuals of all ages and abilities. I feel it’s important to ensure that the first session captures their interest and becomes the start of their journey into archery.”
The first thing Jamila focuses on is creating a welcoming atmosphere. “I find it is essential, especially for newcomers, to ensure everyone is greeted and made to feel welcome. By welcoming individuals, it helps them feel comfortable and not so anxious, and by asking open questions and encouraging questions from participants, it helps to create a positive atmosphere.”
Once the welcome is done, Jamila moves onto the warmup. “When introducing archery to beginners, to keep the enthusiasm I will go through the warmups and safety briefing and aim to get them shooting as quickly as possible. With young children, the warmups include fun games that they enjoy and are beneficial to them when it comes to archery.”
Keeping children engaged is key to a good have-a-go, says Rebecca. She organises the Start Archery Week events at The Audco Archers and as a parent she makes sure there’s plenty to keep kids interested. She says: “The main thing is making sure we have enough coaches and things to shoot at! We have 3D animals, balloons and a coconut shy, so there is something for everyone.
“As a coach, it’s about being encouraging. Some coaches don’t gel well with kids, but I think having my own children helps. Lewis [Rebecca’s son] has also coached some children on beginners’ courses, and when children see other kids shooting at the range it makes them feel like they can do it.”
Jamila also uses different targets to keep things interesting, like balloons, fun target faces, knock-down targets and even paper plates. “Integrating games and challenges into sessions is an effective way to keep archers engaged whilst honing their skills,” she explains.
Encouraging children into archery can have an unexpected benefit for clubs too when it comes to growing the membership. Rebecca got into archery via her son, who started at an after-school club before going on to do a beginner’s course at his local club. She joined alongside Lewis, who is now in the National Academy. “I often see a parent on the next beginner’s course after their child has completed theirs. They see their child doing it and think ‘why don’t I do that?’,” she says.
Have-a-goes provide a well-trodden path onto courses. Rebecca says: “We’ve already had people book onto our beginner’s course who came during Start Archery Week. If you plant that seed, then people will come back for more.”
To find out more about how to run a good taster session, Burscough Archers have some tips and advice for you: