If this is your first indoor season, Andrew Smith has listed the 10 things to be aware of that will help you hit the ground running
1. It Builds Confidence
Novice archers who have only been shooting for a few months outdoors have had to contend with improving their form while battling with the weather and shooting at longer distances. Indoors we instantly eliminate the weather. Yes, the targets are smaller, but we are only shooting 18m or 20 yards, and this means that our arrow groups are smaller and the chances of hitting the middle more times during a session are greater. There is nothing like the feeling of collecting your arrows after you have pulled all three from the middle, something that might be less frequent at 30m and beyond.
2. Instant feedback
This applies to all archers of all abilities, not just novices. At longer distances the benefits of a change in form and the results are not so easily identified, but at 18m you get instant feedback as to where your arrow landed and specific issues can be identified. For example, dropping your bow arm after the release will instantly be seen as a low shot; not keeping in line and lining up the string will result in easily identifiable left or right shots. At longer distances there can be more questions than answers as to why an arrow has not hit the middle.
Indoors you shoot more arrows in a quicker time, mainly because you are not looking for lost arrows and not having to walk so far. Additionally, most scoring rounds are no more than 60 arrows, which means it only takes a couple of hours to complete a round. Most clubs shoot for at least two hours in an evening and longer at weekends, so archers will be able to shoot more rounds and plot their progress each week. That said, don’t be tempted to rush your shots; you have two minutes to shoot three arrows so give your body time to recover, otherwise you will tire quickly and shoot poorly.
If you have not entered a competition yet, the indoor season is a great time to start. Archers who put off shooting competitions over the summer because they take up too much time at the weekend can now enter local shoots and still be home early enough to spend time with the family. The shorter distances mean that your groups will be respectable and you will not feel so self-conscious.
Over the indoor season you may also find that your club has entered a postal league. There are usually a number of divisions in these and bigger clubs will often enter more than one team. It is a good chance to plot your progress against other archers both locally and all over the country without needing to leave your club.
5. Working on form
Whether you are ultra-competitive or see yourself as a social archer or somewhere in between, we all like to feel that we have improved year on year.
The indoor season is a great time to work on improving your shooting form, free from the effects of the weather. Remember to work on only one or two things at a time and be patient – you are not going to see longstanding improvements after a few arrows or a couple of shooting sessions. It is also a good time to introduce a new piece of equipment or up your draw weight again ready for the outdoor season.
If things are not going as well as you think they should be and you are getting unexplained errors it could be the lighting in the hall affecting your feel for the shot and aiming. Hall lighting can vary greatly from venue to venue. Good or poor lighting has a big effect on how we feel, our ability to focus, and how we see the target, arrows, sight pin and string picture. Solutions such as coloured shooting glasses, or a change of prescription might help, as can a small hand-held shooting scope or monocular – ideally one with a big focal length to give a brighter image as magnification is not so important.
Other less costly options are changing to a light-coloured string, as for most people this is easier to see, or looking into changing the size or colour of your sight ring or adding a fluorescent pin to see if it helps with aiming. It is a case of trial and error as the light affects us all differently. For newer archers, being able to see the sight pin and string picture are important to help accuracy and form feedback. It does nothing for your confidence if you get lots of wild left and right shots because you are not lining up correctly.
You have probably already heard the discussions about the size and type of arrows you should shoot indoors, but the simplest solution is to carry on shooting what you already have. This is because if they have been selected correctly they will fly out of your bow accurately and you will score far more points as your form improves, compared to a shaft that is three or four 64th of an inch bigger in diameter.
You will see archers shooting the biggest diameter arrows allowed, but to do this a lot of bodging of the specification of the arrow is required to get them to fly straight, and this is because most archers do not shoot the higher draw weights to make them bend and fly correctly. A larger diameter shaft will allow better archers to possibly gain the odd two or three points during a round shooting at a three-spot face, but on the flip side they could lose more points when trying to put all three arrows into the 10 ring on a single spot face.
The other reason some archers change from their outdoor arrows is purely down to cost; outdoors they may be shooting arrows that cost £30-plus each and at close range the chances of hitting them and breaking them is far greater. Indoors, aluminium arrows are much cheaper to replace. Ironically the best quality aluminium shafts are made to tighter tolerances than carbon shafts and are more consistent, so it is not hard to integrate a new shaft into a slightly older set. Finally, the main benefits of a thin carbon arrow are not so important indoors.
8. Target Faces
Most target faces indoors are smaller versions of the faces we shoot outdoors – the exceptions being three-spot faces. In the UK the most popular round shot is the Portsmouth, consisting of 60 arrows at 20 yards on a 1-10 scoring zone 60cm face.
Internationally, the FITA 18 round is most popular, shot on a vertical three-spot face with 6-10 scoring zones (5-1 is a miss) at 18m. In the UK we also have a quirky round called the Worcester, consisting of 60 arrows shot on a black and white face with 1-5 scoring zones at 20 yards, which is a good round to shoot to introduce a bit of variety.
While it is not possible to cross reference indoor and outdoor scores because of the absence of the weather and distances involved, it is fair to say that there is some correlation between higher scores indoors and big improvements outdoors.
9. Handicaps & Classifications
Indoor handicaps and classifications are different to those achieved outdoors, giving you more ways to plot your progress. You can also get some badges for your quiver; in the UK some of the Archery GB Progress awards for beginners and juniors can be achieved shooting indoors, and worldwide some of the World Archery awards for beginners and juniors, such as the WA Beginners Arrow and Feather, can be claimed.
10. Have fun
Indoor shooting can be strange to start with, but it does allow target archers to keep fit and practice all year round. There are different challenges, badges and goals to achieve along the way. Embrace it and your scores will improve, as will your confidence, and when you go outdoors in the spring you will be a better archer, more prepared and ready to enjoy the sunshine once more.