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A New JOAD Parent's Perspectives

Learning About Archery, JOAD and the Tournament Trail


by Gary Yamaguchi

August 31, 2005

( Note: Click on Photo to enlarge)


We got into archery at a church camp-out, and were inspired to impulse-purchase two bows by watching Legolas the Elf in the movie “The Lord of the Rings.” The folks at Archery Headquarters in Chandler, Arizona helped us get started. Little did we know what we were getting into! My two boys and I started shooting informally at the range, and soon wanted to improve.


We ran into a JOAD class one Saturday morning and promptly made plans to attend it  the following week. The short story is that my younger boy, Nathan (10 years old), really liked it and invited all of his friends to come to class, too. There were a lot of kids in baseball uniforms that winter at the JOAD beginner’s class.


The following year, our daughter Karissa (7 years old) really wanted to try it too. We let her try a right-handed bow first, even though she is left-eye dominant and therefore should have used a left-handed bow. A lot of her arrows flew about 20 degrees off line! Many of the posters along the wall at the indoor range still bear the scars from her arrows! So we purchased a new left-handed riser to fit her 15 lb. Bullseye bow. She shot better.


After her second or third beginner class, she overheard JOAD instructor Micky Richard asking Nathan if he wanted to join the Mesa Targeteers team that she was putting together to shoot at the World Archery Festival in Las Vegas. Somehow, Karissa talked her way onto the team, too, even though she had never shot 20 yards before and was barely hitting the target consistently at 10 yards.


It was a difficult transition to 20 yards... The kids shot their first indoor tournament for practice, and did, well, as might be expected. The really good kids were in the 250 plus range (out of a possible 300 points), Nathan was shooting in the 140s, and Karissa shot around 40.  But they showed enthusiasm and focus during the scoring rounds. Nathan just needed practice, but Karissa needed a lot more than that.


JOAD Instructors, Paula Simpson, Ed Votruba, and I racked our brains out trying to figure out how we were going to get Karissa’s scores up to a respectable level. It’s hard for a tiny 7 year-old to shoot 20 yards, with any accuracy, using a recurve bow! Working over several months, we ordered a thin, fast (and pink) string from bowstring maker Nicole Rasor (nicarchery@yahoo.com), made a short stabilizer out of an unused golf shaft from the garage, ordered custom lightweight aluminum arrows, made a special arm guard, put on a kisser button, clicker, and sight. All these adjustments took some getting used to. But we kept practicing and the results were outstanding! She made a good showing at the AZ JOAD State Indoor, and helped by mom and coach Paula, shot respectably for her age at Las Vegas. Nathan also shot his best at Las Vegas, in a very competitive 11 and under compound division. Since he also shoots recurve, he thought he’d try that next year as the targets are bigger.


The most fun at Vegas was going to Circus Circus with the other members of the Mesa Targeteers team. The kids also got to meet Olympians Vic Wunderle and Jennifer Nichols, currently the top rated U.S. archers. They are so nice -- they surely represent our country well wherever they go!


During the Spring and Summer, both kid’s scores continued to improve as they went to JOAD classes

and practiced on weeknights. Nate and Karissa were racing to break 200 points at 20 yards indoors first –Nate won with a 201. Karissa shot really well at her first outdoor tournament, the AZ JOAD State Outdoor Star FITA in the spring, scoring 1153 out of 1440. The larger 122 cm and 80 cm targets and the short ranges set for the little ones really helped in that regard! She made fast friends with Mary Ann, the other girl in her age group. Both girls lasted all 144 arrows in 100 degree temperatures! Nate and Karissa later shot in the WCW Festival Star FITA in Bothell, Washington. The grandparents and relatives from the Seattle area got to watch that one. Again, the kids made new friends, and even I got to try shooting a 900 round at 40, 50, and 60m.


Upon reflection, everyone we’ve met at the JOAD classes and archery tournaments has been most pleasant and helpful. Despite the competitive nature of the events, it doesn’t seem competitive at all compared to other organized youth sports. The kids all seem to enjoy meeting new friends as much or more than shooting arrows. Now we are beginning to recognize others in the Arizona archery community, and can count them as friends. How valuable has all this been? Kind of like the MasterCard commercial... “Priceless” is the only word to describe the way our kids enjoy the sport, our times spent together, and the new friendships we’ve initiated.


My top ten suggestions for new JOAD (recurve) parents? Take these with a grain of salt as I’m still learning!

1.                   Learning proper form is more important than scores (we keep telling ourselves that!). An instructor is a must for learning good form and shooting line etiquette. A low-poundage bow will also make it easier to learn good form without incurring a shoulder injury.

2.                   Kids should go to a class, and adults should shoot with the kids if space allows! They learn faster when you can help them with equipment setup, sight settings, arrow straightening, etc.

3.                   Eye dominance is a better determinant of right- or left-handedness than hand preference. If your child is right-handed, but left-eye dominant, he/she should probably shoot left-handed (right hand on riser, left hand on string).

4.                   There really isn’t much to select from in the way of high quality recurve equipment for the 7 to 8 year old group. You have to make some of it yourself or modify equipment you can buy.  Keep everything lightweight to avoid straining shoulders, and keep the bow draw-poundage down around 15 lb. Most kids under 7 can try archery, but should wait a year to begin shooting regularly. 

5.                   High quality arrows are more important than high quality bows. Aluminum arrows are fine in the younger age groups. Lightweight, thin diameter arrows with small fletchings are preferred for outdoor recurve archery, and will help your young archer achieve a flatter arc and higher scores.  Shop personnel can help you select arrows of proper length and spine. your child shoots primarily indoors, fatter shafts will increase scores slightly  

6.                   Feathers are best for arrow fletchings under dry conditions at short ranges (i.e., indoor). They hold up under all kinds of abuse. The older kids, who shoot longer ranges, use plastic vanes or mylar spin wings.

7.                   All that fancy equipment will be needed… eventually. But not all at once! After the bow and arrows, start by getting an inexpensive 5” sight, a finger sling or wrist sling, and a finger tab.  That’s enough to start learning good form. A stabilizer would be next in line, but keep it short and light for younger archers.

8.                   Quivers with 4 tubes work best for tournaments in which the archers shoot 3- or 6-arrow ends. 3 tube quivers don’t have room for spare arrows during tournaments.

9.                   Tuning a recurve bow is difficult to learn and master for a beginner, its probably better to get the darned bow and arrow tuned as well as possible with your child shooting it, and then to stop messing with it. One can easily become overly obsessed with tuning! It’s probably better to spend more time practicing proper form and clean releases.

10.               Encourage your child to participate in tournaments are fun, learning experiences! Most of them are pretty low key, and people are always willing to help!


If you have a story to tell, email azjoad@cox.net and we will be happy to post your experience.