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
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
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
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org),
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
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!
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
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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happy to post your experience.