Mark Brown takes a look at an online course for recurve beginners.
So you’re stuck at home dreaming about taking up archery, waiting for the clubs near you to reopen so you can start learning how to shoot, and take the first few steps on your path to Olympic glory. How can you keep this desire alive? Is there anything you can do in the meantime?
Ashe Morgan and Songi Woo at onlinearcheryacademy.com have put together a web-based course containing well over three hours of instruction and information for the beginner or novice archer – the idea being that the Recurve Archery 101 for Beginners video course supplements and reinforces the instruction you will get on a subsequent introductory club course.
Like the club offering, the video course is structured into several major topics, from Introductions and Safety, through Posture, Holding and Drawing the bow, Release, and the Follow Through, all the way to Troubleshooting Your Technique, and Buying Your First Bow.
Within each topic there are many segments, typically five minutes long, with techniques, exercises, and equipment all demonstrated.
The course is aimed at the absolute beginner wanting to learn to shoot correctly, but it would be very useful to a novice archer who has already completed a beginners course, and wants to go over points again. And the video course is an excellent way to do this, enabling you to quickly locate the segment and play it as many times as you need, while the information settles in your head and muscles.
The interface is extremely simple, a metaphor for the course itself: providing just the stuff you need, with nothing distracting.
It worked on my laptop and phone. It remembers where you are up to, and you are free to dip in and out of topics as you desire – but it is advisable to go through in sequence for the first viewing.
Our presenter is Ashe Morgan, a senior GB archer for many years making multiple international appearances for the national team. Ashe is also a very experienced coach; he clearly knows his stuff.
The presentation style is clear, and to the point, with none of the tedious anecdotes sometimes foisted upon a captive audience about that time the coach almost got selected for the county squad. Just useful experience conveyed in an engaging, concise and direct way.
The only equipment we will need for our journey through the course is some sort of resistance band (nothing too heavy) and a full-length mirror or smartphone to keep an eye on our form. That’s it: we don’t actually need a bow, and in fact buying our kit is literally the last thing the course talks about.
Having attentively sat through the three hours and 12 minutes of the course, would I recommend it? I’m a qualified coach, not at Ashe’s level, but I know the standard club course, and I am happy to say I would have no issues teaching a beginner who had already watched these videos.
There is nothing significant I disagreed with, plenty of emphasis on safety and starting with a low poundage bow; and most of the things covered on a club course are present here, some in remarkable detail – I certainly learnt from it.
We are only looking at shooting a recurve bow though – there is nothing about scoring, etiquette, looking after your equipment – but then that’s the sort of stuff you usually only really need to hear once. So yes, absolutely I would recommend it, but with some minor caveats.
The assumption is very much that we are wanting to shoot in the Olympic style, using a bow suitable for the purpose. In my experience this is the style that the majority of novice archers do initially take up, but the first style you will probably learn on the club course is barebow, where the technique, and where you put your hands, may differ from what is presented here.
Ashe uses a fully-kitted out Olympic recurve for the demonstrations: impressive, and worth seeing, but perhaps using a beginners’ bow may have been more helpful and less distracting while teaching us how to shoot. A better variety of viewpoints – overhead for example – may have helped illustrate some of the points being made.
There are lots of great exercises and drills, but nothing on warming-up, something repeatedly drummed into all beginners on the club course. It’s really not for younger children: they would need adult supervision and much patience to get everything out of it.
And, if you are going to buy your first bow (using Ashe’s excellent help ,as he battles heroically with a couple of unfriendly websites while guiding us through the confounding world of bow lengths and arrow spines) do check that the parts will actually fit together: not all equipment, from beginners gear to top-of-the-range kit, is designed to mix and match.
But enough with the caveats. The videos are an excellent addition to the standard club course: the advice is clear and helpful, with the huge bonus of being able to revisit segments over and over.
If you are hankering to send some arrows thumping into a target and want to learn the correct way to do it, then this is probably a splendid option until the world gets back to normal – and even then, I can see it being of tremendous use.
The standard price (charged in US dollars) is $99 – about £72.50. But you could take advantage of the current – at the time of writing – offer of $79 (£58).
When I watched the course to review it, I did not know the cost, so I asked myself how much I would be prepared to pay for it, and the figure I came up with is comfortably in that range – and typically less than half the cost of your average club course.
Even if you’re not in the market for an online beginners course, you could still head on over to the onlinearcheryacademy.com and check out the very useful free resources they have amassed for us all to share.
It is focused mostly on recurve, but there’s always more to learn, and you will find the full width of the ability spectrum catered for.