Feeling a bit adrift? There are plenty of progression awards and schemes that can help you track and monitor your progress, says Andrew Smith, from club level to international
In target archery, there are many ways of charting your progress. Some schemes are administered by national and world governing bodies (in the case of the UK this would be Archery GB and World Archery), while others are more informal and can run by your club.
When we all start out most of our efforts and concentration is on learning the process to shoot. For the first few months this is enough to keep our attention. While shooting arrows without any end goal might be relaxing, it does not give you any indication as to how well you are progressing.
In all forms of archery, and for all age groups, there are opportunities to collect awards and badges. Certain awards are score based, while others require coursework, and these enable you to enhance your knowledge and shooting skill. There is not enough space in this article to list all the awards for all bow styles and age groups, so instead I want to provide an overview of what is available for senior recurve target archers – though there are also similar awards for compound and junior archers.
It is worth noting before we start that scoring does add an additional pressure, and some archers find that they shoot better when they do not shoot a round or keep score. This is often used as an excuse not to score entirely. Books are written on the subject of an aversion to scoring and how to overcome it, but briefly this is all about what is going on in your head and where your mind feels comfortable. Whenever you are not in your “comfort zone” you will shoot worse. To overcome this, I suggest that you score every arrow that you shoot; this way your subconscious will not be freaked out when you do start scoring for real, and you will submit scores that reflect your true ability.
WA Arrow and Feather Awards
The WA arrow awards have been developed by the international governing body for archery, World Archery, specifically for beginners of all ages. This entry-level archery program has been designed to motivate and reward the newer archer and follows on from the beginner’s course. There are two categories of award: WA Feathers in red and gold for young and special needs beginners, and WA Arrows from white through to gold for everyone else. Once a beginner has gained the first award, they can develop at their own pace to the top award. Archers will need the co-operation of their club and coaches in this program, who act as teachers and assessors. The awards cover all aspects of archery from shooting technique and scores, to general equipment maintenance and the competition scene, providing a good platform to progress.
WA FITA Stars
Stars are probably the most acknowledged and appreciated awards you can achieve as they are truly international and recognised by all competitive archers. The most coveted are the 1350 and the purple 1400 Stars, but Stars start at 1000 and the pressures of trying to achieve one can be just as great when you need 42 out of 60 points on the last end of the day to get a particular Star, as it is to score 58 on the last end of the day to get a 1400 one. Stars can only be achieved at World Archery World Record Status open competitions, but these are not exclusive and are open to everyone affiliated to your national governing body (NGB). You simply submit an entry form with the required fee. Details of when and where these shoots are held are published by NGBs; there are many to choose from each year and they attract archers of all abilities.
They are based on the WA1440 round, in which the maximum score is 1440, and consist of 36 arrows at four different distances. The award is claimed on the day using the official form, which is signed by the organiser of the shoot and the director of shooting.
WA FITA Awards
You may have noticed that the WA1440 round is not used at the Olympics; for this event we shoot a qualifying round called the WA720. Many clubs now run WA720 events and again there are badges to be claimed based on your score. Like WA stars, these must be claimed on the day.
Most archers around the world only shoot World Archery metric rounds and follow those rules and regulations, but the UK is slightly different. Archers have the option of shooting both World Archery rounds as well as historical imperial rounds. This means that UK archers shooting in clubs affiliated to Archery GB (GNAS) have both the WA and AGB rule books and a few more badges and awards available to attain, which are as follows.
AGB Progress awards
Archery GB have developed a similar scheme to the WA Arrow and Feather Awards, called the AGB Progress Awards. These have a similar structure but include some of the idiosyncrasies of the UK setup.
AGB Handicaps and Classifications
The most popular awards administered by all clubs in the UK are the handicaps and classifications. These are achieved by shooting recognised national and international rounds, either at club target days or open competitions. Your outdoor or indoor handicap is based on your three best scores shot over a 12-month period. Your classification is also based on your best three scores and the distances you have shot. So, what does all this mean? Well your handicap means very little in the wider scheme as there are very few open handicap competitions, but monitoring your handicap over the years will enable you to chart your progress. Like in golf, the lower the number the better, and each year every club should award a handicap improver’s medal to the archer that has reduced their handicap by the biggest margin.
Your classification is a widely recognised personal achievement and archers regularly define themselves by their classification, such as Third, Second, First or Bowmen class. The two higher classifications – Master Bowmen (MB) and Grand Master Bowmen (GMB) – can only be achieved by shooting in open competitions with National or World Record Status. MB and GMB badges are awarded by Archery GB and provided free of charge, while Third Class to Bowmen badges are either provided free by clubs or they can be bought at most archery shops.
AGB Six Gold End Award
A nice badge to have on your quiver, this is usually claimed at an open competition but can also be made available to win on club target days. As the name suggests, you must shoot six consecutive arrows into the gold during one end at either of the two longest distances of a WA metric or AGB imperial round. For example, for men the minimum distance is 70m and women 60m.
AGB Rose Awards
These awards are run and administered by Archery GB, and can be claimed at National Record Status York and Hereford rounds. Like WA stars they must be claimed on the day, and are provided free to AGB members. There are different colours available depending on the level of score achieved that match a target face from white through to gold.
AGB National Ranking
Archery GB operate a national ranking system, which is published at the end of each outdoor season. To qualify for this, adults must shoot their longer distances: 90m and 70m for men and women respectively. It’s usual for archers to have been shooting a year or two before entering shoots with the aim of achieving a ranking, but I feel it important at this stage that you are aware that you can achieve one should you wish to. Full details of the qualifying rounds required can be found on the Archery GB website.
Clubs, Counties, Regions, Countries and World Archery all maintain records of the highest score achieved for each round. While some County, National and WA records may seem out of reach, there are always opportunities to increase club records, and there’s no harm in setting yourself targets based on these if that’s what motivates you.
UK Country awards
England, Scotland and Wales also operate score-based awards – English Crosses, Thistle Badges, Dragons and Daffodils – all of which can be claimed by members after an event and cost just a few pounds each. Full details can be found on the relevant country websites.
Perhaps the most popular award run by clubs in the UK is the 252 award. Sometimes clubs will suggest you score 252 or more at a distance before progressing to shooting at a longer distance; this ensures that when shooting at the club you spend more time hitting the boss than looking for arrows.
After six sighters, you shoot three dozen arrows on a 122cm face at your chosen distance. The round can be shot at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80 or 100 yards with the aim of scoring 252 or better. If you achieve the score twice you can claim a badge; these are different from club to club.
Entering competitions is probably the ultimate test of your progress. Shooting in a controlled environment gives you the opportunity to understand how well you are progressing and a chance to see where you stand against your peers.
Some newer archers are put off entering competitions because they believe the chances of coming in the top three are remote and don’t want to be embarrassed. However, being able to claim an award or improve your handicap or classification provides all archers the opportunity to achieve a goal independent of the results of the competition.
There is no way of getting away from it; for most archers, archery is a hobby or social event and because of this all countries around the world suffer from membership churn. Each year thousands of archers who have only been shooting for a year or two give up archery. The reasons are varied, but the one reason I hear most often is the lack of help to progress or even a structure to point you in the right direction. I hope the schemes mentioned here, which are open to all archers affiliated to World Archery via their clubs or direct membership of their national governing body, and the badges that can be earned, will encourage you to find out more and start collecting. They are a great way to add additional interest to your day’s shooting and offer a tangible sense of achievement, if only to justify all that expense on your equipment and effort you put in to improving! One final thought – most of the awards are nicely designed and they all look good pined to your quiver.