Incremental Attainable Goals in Archery

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Instructor/Coach

While experienced competitive target archers will train on the targets utilized for their chosen form of competition, for example 40cm for indoor and 122cm for outdoor, there is value in using large targets for novice archers. Two of the primary values are improving the enjoyment factor of “hitting gold” and setting more attainable incremental goals.

The most common 18-meter/20-yard indoor target is the 40cm single spot or 3-spot, but these have a 40cm/1.57” ten ring and the gold is 80cm/3.15” diameter. That’s a very small target for a novice archer, even at 10-15 yards, so hitting golds may be rare, and a feeling of accomplishment slow coming.

40cm Indoor Target with a 1.57″ ten ring and 3.15″ nine ring.

Put that same novice on a 122cm target, where the gold 9 & 10 ring is 244cm/9.6” diameter, then the probability of golds becomes much higher. A coach or instructor only has to look at the sheer joy on a novice’s face when he or she scores a gold to know that they are enjoying the experience.

122cm target used for 50-meter barebow competition and Olympic archery. In critiquing this target, a novice would be praised for “hitting gold” while a more experienced competitor would be encouraged to focus and work harder to move the two reds into the gold.

As an instructor working with novice archers I don’t talk in terms of numeric score, for example 10s, 9s, 8s, etc, but rather in terms of color.  Where a novice may start out throwing arrows into the blue and black, and even a few complete misses off the bale, the first attainable goal is to stay inside the blue at 10 yards. Most will achieve that quite quickly and progress to staying inside the red, but those periodic golds are tangible morale boosters. At the end of the day, the novice won’t remember all the misses and blacks, but simply that they put one in the bullseye (even if it was part luck).

Learning target archery is not a fast learning curve, but like all precision shooting sports, requires endless repetitions. That said, while staying in the blue or red will come quickly, consistent golds require months and years of practice. But to maintain the novice student’s enthusiasm, it is helpful to set a training progression of many small attainable steps. Each step attained is a feather in their cap and motivation to keep training.

So while blank bale practice is a valuable training tool to learn and reinforce form, nothing is more satisfying for the student than hitting gold. As such, I will start student out at 10 yards on large 122cm  targets with 9.6” golds. In the very first class I can guarantee that they will be scoring more than a few golds and feeling the initial joy of archery. But if given a 40cm indoor target with a 3.15” gold, that same joy and satisfaction may be slow coming.   

How the instructor coaches the novice also has a lot to do with whether or not the student enjoys the process. When a novice gets even one out of six arrows in the gold, the instructor should acknowledge that accomplishment and praise the effort. Conversely, with an experienced competitive archer, when he or she scores five golds and throws one in the red, the coach should be critiquing and encouraging the archer to get the red into the gold. In other words, the more experienced the archer, the greater the push for excellence.

A 122cm center with a 9.6″ gold on the bale to give the student a greater sense of accomplishment by scoring “all gold”. From there the coach can reduce the size of that target or increase the distance to further challenge the archer.

That said, this process of setting color goals can also be used by more experienced archers. When I first got into outdoor barebow competition, shot at 50 meters, my first goal was to stay on the target and not throw any arrows into the black rings. Then it became to stay in the blue, and then to hold reds and golds. To this day I still throw a few blues but the goal in every training session to stay in the red and gold zones. In time the goal will be to hold 3 out of 6 in the gold, then 4 out of 6, then 5 out of 6, while increasing the number of 10s and Xs.

Again, obviously the goal is to shoot 10s and Xs, but setting incremental attainable goals makes the training more satisfying, especially when one achieves one goal and moves to the next. That said, periodically it is important to quantify progress by actually shooting for score, both in practice and competition.

For an up and coming competitor, he or she can look at the previous year’s national competition scores to see what score they need to shoot to place in the top 50, top 20, top 10, and top 3. To simply set a training goal of shooting a winning score may sound logical, but it denies the athlete the satisfaction derived from achieving multiple attainable goals.

CA Cup 50-meter Barebow 720 match shot with 12 sets of 6 arrows.

At a recent outdoor 50 meter barebow competition I heard a Masters competitor say that his goal was to “break 500.” The match format was a 720 event (12 sets of 6 arrows), so he had set himself what he thought to be an attainable goal. Similarly, watching the Seniors competing in barebow it was evident that most were keeping their arrows within the red zone (7 and 8 rings) at 50 meters. Now this may not sound like much of a goal for a compound bow shooter or Olympic target archer shooting sights, but it is quite respectable for a barebow at 50 meters.

This is where one of my early training goals came to be staying within the red at 50 meters. Interestingly, if an archer was to shoot nothing but 7s, he or she would have a score of 504 (7 x 72); or if one was to average 7, then they would break 500. So by throwing a good number of 8s, 9s, and the odd 10, then 600 becomes the next attainable goal.        

To conclude, set yourself or your students goals that they can attain with a month’s diligent practice. When you or they attain that goal, raise the bar incrementally and track both the progress and overall enjoyment.       

See you on the range….


50-meter Barebow training. The goal is to stay in the red and then increase the number of golds.

Author: Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator

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