Target Archery Competitions – Beginners Guide

Target Archery Competition

Within target archery, there are different stages that beginners should reach before competing at different levels. Whether you’re a youth beginner or an adult beginner, starting out on a competition journey is the same.

Archery is a competitive sport, as well as being a hobby. There are different levels for every ability of archer available, with different distances, competition lengths, etc. This article will explain a beginner's guide to getting into competitions, when is the right time to start competing, different competitions for different types of bows, when should a beginner move up a level in competition and where are different competitions are located around the country.

So, you are looking to compete in archery. Let us take a look at what a target archery competition actually is and gain some knowledge around what to expect.

What is a target archery competition?

Target archery is the discipline of archery that is used in the Olympics, the most common type of archery. The colored circular targets are set at specific distances, depending on age and discipline. World Archery is the World Governing Body for archery, and USA Archery is the National Governing Body for Archery in the US.

There are two distinct seasons for target archery, indoor archery and outdoor archery. The outdoor season is the majority of the warm weather months, going from Spring through until the Fall. With winter being the indoor season.

Target Archery Arrows
Outdoor archery is shot on target faces like this. Photo credit: World Archery

The normal round that is shot at outdoor target competitions is a WA720 (standing for World Archery 720). The number of arrows shot in the round is 72. This is followed by elimination rounds. The maximum score that an archer can achieve is 720 points.

Once qualification (the 72 arrows) has been scored, each archer is ranked and then elimination matches can begin. Elimination matches are 3 arrow ends in sets for barebow and recurve bows and a 15-arrow pass for compound bows. A win is 2 points, a draw is 1 point and a loss is none for recurve and barebow. The first archer to six points wins in individual matches.

A tiebreak occurs if an individual match is five or the same cumulative score for compounds. This means a one arrow shoot off happens. The arrow closest to the middle wins.

In competition, men and women are usually in different categories. There are a few competitions where men and women compete against each other, however, it is rare.

There are also team events. Men and Women teams are made up of three men or three women shooting the same bow style. A mixed team is one man and one woman shooting the same bow style.

Team rounds consist of 2 arrows each per end with a maximum of 60 points per end, with 24 arrows shot. A mixed team is 2 arrows per archer per end, with a maximum of 40 points per end and 16 arrows shot. Recurve and  barebow matches are still on a points system with compound shooting cumulative scores.

The first team in recurve and barebow to get five set points wins. Again, a tiebreak occurs if the same score is achieved after the allotted arrows are shot.

Which age group should an archer enter and compete in?

Competition is part of the sport of archery. As long as an archer is a member of an organization, such as USA Archery for target archery. Or theNational Field Archery Association to compete in field archery or3D archery (have a read of our UltimateBeginners Guide to Archery to find out about field archery).

Within USA Archery target competitions, there are different competitive age classes. When entering a competition, the entry form will ask which age class the archer will be shooting in.

Youth Archery
JOAD competitions are open to all youth archers. Photo credit: USA Archery

For youth archers:

– "Explorer" – through the calendar year of their 14th birthday (this is not applicable to National Events such as NationalChampionships).

– "Yeoman" – through the calendar year of their 9th birthday (not applicable to National Events, but optional at local and state events).

– "U13" – (under 13) through the calendar year of their 12th birthday.

– "U15" – (under 15) through the calendar year of their 14th birthday.

– "U18" – (under 18) through the calendar year of their 17th birthday.

– "U21" – (under 21) through the calendar year of their 20th birthday.

Archers are allowed to shoot up an age group (shoot in the U21 if they are 16 for example), but they cannot shoot down (shoot in the U15 when they are 17 years old).

For adult archers:

– "Senior" – any age.

– "50+" – when the competition takes place in the year of their 50th birthday and thereafter.

– "60+" – when the competition takes place in the year of their 60th birthday and thereafter.

– "70+" – when the competition takes place in the year of their 70th birthday and thereafter.

While youth archers can shoot up at age groups, this is not permitted in these divisions. However, just because someone is aged 60 or older, they do not need to shoot in that age group. They are allowed to shoot as a senior, rather than 60+, for example.

Once an archer has registered at a competition, and it has begun, the age group cannot be changed. Up until registration is complete, the age group can be changed (within the rules) at the discretion of the competition organizer and provided targets and distances are available.

Different age groups also come with different distances that are shot. It also depends on whether the competition is a state and national event, or JOAD state event.

Check the pictures below for the full details of the distances shot for each age group.

Make sure the beginner archer works closely with their ArcheryUP instructor to shoot the distances required for competition. Practicing all the distances that will be shot at a competition, to ensure that the archer is ready and prepared to compete.

When should a beginner start competing in archery?

Every beginner will follow their own journey and be ready to compete at their own pace. Talking with your ArcheryUP instructor is essential. Keeping a progression plan and S.M.A.R.T. goals will help. This will help with stages of archery tournaments in relation to training and practice.

Depending on the skill level of the archer will determine when and how an archer should enter an archery tournament. Progressing from the archery range to the competition ground won’t be as different as expected. A lot of local competitions will be done at other ranges, hosted by other archery clubs. There will normally be a range of skill levels, from beginners through to experienced archers.

A key point to remember is that a beginner should not be pushed too much too soon. Being able to hit the target repeatedly and consistently is essential before entering their first competition.

For youth archers, USA Archery has a great scheme called the JOAD Achievement Awards. These star pin badges can be gained by shooting and scoring indoors and/or outdoors for barebow archers, basic compound, fixed pins, recurve and/or compound archers. For more information on how to order these, see here.

JOAD Achievement Awards.

For adult archers, Adult Star Pins are also available for scoring achievements. The Star Pins are available for shooting indoors and or/outdoors with recurve and/or compound bows. With the archer being a full USA Archery Youth, Adult, or Family membership. Full details and ordering can be found here.

Adult Star Pins

A good starting place to think about competition would be while these are being achieved. Once on the path to achieving these badges, archers are becoming more experienced and learn how to keep the archery process under control in pressure situations. By using the badge system from USA Archery, progress can be tracked easily. This will also give confidence to the archer and the instructor that competition is the right place to be. As the score is good enough to have an enjoyable day, it won't be demoralizing and progress can begin!

So, working with the ArcheryUP instructor, create a plan of what archery tournaments to look at, enter and get competing!

What to expect at the first archery competition?

When planning for the first archery competition, a beginner should remember that just because they are attending a competition, they do not need to carry the stress of competing. The first one is always going to be daunting, a bit scary, the unknown. But at the end of the day, it is just shooting arrows in a different environment.

Being able to score and shoot at an official round and competition is a very important thing for progression within archery. Being able to see the progression from that first time the bow and arrows were picked up, to completing a competition. By doing this, a mark in the sand has been drawn to benchmark and progress onwards.

So, on the day of the first competition, an archer should arrive around an hour earlier than the expected shooting time. Upon arrival, the registration desk will be clearly visible, make sure you head there first. This is where you essentially sign in and let the organizers know that you are present for the day.

At registration, the lane assignment will be posted and can be checked to set up for the day behind it. The majority of competitions have assigned archers into A, B, C or D on each target. A and B assignments shoot together with C and D shooting together on the shooting line.

Once registration is done, it's time to set up. Having arrived an hour early gives time to relax, get a feel of the surroundings, and set up equipment. If a parent or spectator has gone to the event, they should find a place to spectate out of the way of any other archers.

Once the equipment is set up, the archer needs to take it to the designated judges for equipment inspections. This is normal and nothing to worry about. They are checking that arrows are marked with the archers' name or initials, draw weight on compounds bows, and all equipment follows the USA Archery and World Archery equipment and safety rules.

Archery shooting line

Throughout the competition, spectators and parents aren't usually allowed up to the targets with the archer. Unless they have a disability or injury and have notified the organizers prior, the archers need to walk up to the target, score and collect their arrows.

What should be brought to an archery competition?

Preparing for a competition is essential for a successful and enjoyable time. All archery shooters, from beginners to experienced archers should know that preparation is key.

The day before competing, it is important to make sure everything that is going to be needed has been packed. Run through the equipment, has the riser been packed, bowstring, arrows, tab, release aid, everything. Spare nocks and fletchings are also good to have, along with enough arrows (minimum of 7 arrows in case you need to use a spare).

A pencil or pen is also very important. This is in case you must mark the arrow holes on the target (a judge will tell you if you need to on the day). Or to score, to sign the scorecard at the end of the round.

Marking arrow hole
A pen will be needed to mark the arrows in the target.

When a youth archer or beginner starts out their archery journey and starts competing, they will need a lot of support.

Support could be things from, helping the archer pack the day before, doing groceries shop to make sure food is ready, setting up on the day of competition. All through to the emotional support on the competition day.

Helping the archer find their target assignment and set up on the correct lane is important. Odds are the archer is quite nervous. Competing brings a totally new element and dynamic to participating in archery. They are putting all that they have learned from their ArcheryUP Instructor, into competition practice.

Between ends, spectators and parents can encourage their archer, quietly. However, while the archer is shooting, there should be little to no verbal communication, when they are on the shooting line. Feedback between ends, quietly, is allowed to ensure the competition is enjoyed and done to the full ability.

At the majority of USA Archery competitions, there is a specific area for spectators and parents. This is behind the archers' chairs and seated area, to ensure they have somewhere to sit and relax between ends.

Remember, the first few competitions are all about learning. Do not be hard on the result for the athlete. Support them, encourage them. If there is a clear improvement needed, discuss with the ArcheryUP Instructor at the next session to work on it and implement a way of improving. Avoid talking to the athlete during competition unless it can be easily fixed without causing frustration or upset.

What should parents or spectators do at an archery competition?

When a youth archer or beginner starts out their archery journey and starts competing, they will need a lot of support.

Support could be things from, helping the archer pack the day before, doing groceries shop to make sure food is ready, setting up on the day of competition. All through to the emotional support on the competition day.

Helping the archer find their target assignment and set up on the correct lane is important. Odds are the archer is quite nervous. Competing brings a totally new element and dynamic to participating in archery. They are putting all that they have learned from their ArcheryUP Instructor, into competition practice.

Between ends, spectators and parents can encourage their archer, quietly. However, while the archer is shooting, there should be little to no verbal communication, when they are on the shooting line. Feedback between ends, quietly, is allowed to ensure the competition is enjoyed and done to the full ability.

At the majority of USA Archery competitions, there is a specific area for spectators and parents. This is behind the archers' chairs and seated area, to ensure they have somewhere to sit and relax between ends.

Remember, the first few competitions are all about learning. Do not be hard on the result for the athlete. Support them, encourage them. If there is a clear improvement needed, discuss with the ArcheryUP Instructor at the next session to work on it and implement a way of improving. Avoid talking to the athlete during competition unless it can be easily fixed without causing frustration or upset.

Parents helping at competition

What are the levels of archery competition?

There are different levels of archery competitions available in the US and the wider world. There are local, state, regional, national championships, international, collegiate, and of course the Olympics and Paralympics.

As an intro into competitions, starting out at local competitions at local archery ranges or pro shops is highly recommended. These will be smaller, less pressure in the atmosphere and very friendly.

Some local and smaller competitions will have beginner archers shoot with experienced archers. This is to help ensure the beginners know what is going on and happening at all times.

State, regional and national championships are higher-level competitions. These could be aimed for after a year or two of competing. This will help ensure beginners are comfortable competing, they understand what to expect from themselves at competitions and know they can hit all distances required at these higher-level competitions.

International competitions are where an archer will need to qualify to attend. The USA ArcheryTeam (known as USAT) has trials throughout the Summer to qualify and compete for the USA. These are the highest and most elite-level competitions that are around. For compound, the highest level is a WorldChampionships (it is yet to be put into the Olympics), with recurve‘s highest level at the Olympic Games.

The USAT trials information and competitions can be found here.

USAT Archery Trials

When should an archery beginner move up a level in competition?

It is very important to know when a beginner should start competing and once this journey has begun, move up a level in competition. Moving up a level does not just mean moving to a regional competition from a state one, or state from local. It could be shooting up an age group (shooting in the u18 instead of u16 when 15 years old). It is about gaining experience, building confidence and becoming a better archer and competitor.

The ArcheryUP instructor will be able to guide and assist in making this decision, as it isn't something to rush. Moving up too soon could lead to disinterest from lack of preparation and success. It could bash confidence, reduce willingness to try again or turn away beginners from archery in general.  

When an archer feels comfortable they can hit the bullseye consistently under pressure at a competition, and they have the chance to move up a level than they should. Remember, it is at the discretion of the archer, as well as the ArcheryUP instructor. If the archer does not feel confident or comfortable pushing themselves just yet, that is a big indicator that they should not.

Whether competition is at a local archery shop, archery range or on a USA Archery competition field, an archer should feel comfortable enough to be able to make the shot. Competing can bring a host of mental issues. So support from parents, friends and their ArcheryUP instructor is essential.

Doing research prior to heading to a new level competition is key to helping. Knowing what level of archers will be there, look at previous scores from previous years to compare. However, scores do not mean everything. If the competition level is all about learning, then just ensuring the archer is comfortable in their surroundings is a great start.  

What are Collegiate target archery competitions?

USA Archery has a Collegiate Archery Program for students that are enrolled in a college or university in the States. The program runs for indoor and outdoor seasons, with competitions year-round.

The program has grant opportunities and scholarships for high school archers to head to college and university to study and shoot archery through their education.

College and universities students can start archery during their education, but also head to an institute of their choice with a scholarship in archery, provided they've followed the correct routes.

Collegiate Archery

USA Archery Collegiate events happen across the country and include the Collegiate 3D Nationals, Target Nationals, 3D Regionals and Target Regionals. The team travels and competes together across local, state, regional and national championships. Along with the World University Games. The program supports barebow, recurve, compound and bowhunter divisions.

For more information on the USA ArcheryCollegiate Program, see here.

Where can all target archery competitions be found?

Year-round there are competitions around the country. From indoors to outdoors.Archery shops to archery ranges. There will be a competition for everyone and anyone to attend pretty much every weekend. It does not matter on the types of bows, USA Archery even offers traditional archery target competitions throughout the year.

As the world has changed how it does things, USA Archery created virtual competitions that can be done from the comfort of the local archery range. The competition is year-round and open to any USA Archery member.

In-person competitions are back in full force. Meaning there are competitions year-round, around the country. While training and practice are probably done close to home, competitions can require some traveling to get to, sometimes across the country.

With the majority of outdoor competitions from April until October, there is a wide selection available. The JOAD target nationals are usually mid-summer, in July. And the Target Nationals and U.S. Open in August. Indoor competitions run through the rest of the months, with USA Nationals through January and February, with finals in March. Indoor Nationals are spread across the country, to help with entry, just the finals in-person and live-streamed. The Collegiate Target Nationals sit quite early on in the year in May.

On the USA Archeryevent finder, it is easier than ever to find competitions of specific levels, within your state. Simply put in your zip code, how far you would like to travel, the level of competition and which state.

March 2022

03/04 – 2022 Texas State Indoor Championships – State level – Texas

03/05 – 2022 Indiana Open and State Indoor Championships – State level – Indiana

03/05 – 2022 Wisconsin State 18m Championship – State level – Wisconsin

03/05 – 2022 USA Archery Nebraska State Indoor Championships – State level – Nebraska

03/06 – State Classic 600 Fund Raiser – Local level – Arizona

03/06 – Hershey Winter Series at Palmyra Sportsmen’s and Shoot-Up Finals – Local level – Pennsylvania

03/11 – X10 Archery Classic and JOAD Cup – Local level – Texas

03/11 – 2022 Indoor Archer’s Cup – Local level – Massachusetts

03/12 – 2022 NYSAA Indoor Championship West Falls, NY – State level – New York

03/12 – 2022 Wisconsin State JOAD Indoor Championship – State level – Wisconsin

03/12 – 2022 USA Archery Colorado State JOAD Indoor Championship – State level – Colorado

03/12 – 2022 Virginia State JOAD Indoor Championship – State level – Virginia

03/19 – 2022 USA Archery Colorado State Indoor Championship – State level – Colorado

03/21 – Shamrock Slam – Local level – Arizona

03/25 – 2022 USA Archery Collegiate Target Regionals – North Region – Regional level – Illinois

03/26 – 2022 NYSAA Indoor Championship Phelps, NY – State level – New York

03/26 – 2022 USA Archery Connecticut State Indoor Championship – State level – Connecticut

03/26 – C.O.R.R. California Olympic Round & Round Robin Tournament – Local level – California

03/26 – 2022 MAA State JOAD Indoor & 18 Meter (adults only) Championship – State level – Minnesota

03/27 – 2022 MAA State 25-meter Championship – State level – Minnesota

03/27 – Hello Yellow #5 Indoor Series 2021/22 – Local level – Massachusetts

April

04/01 – USAT #1 2022 USA Archery AAE Arizona Cup – National level – Arizona

04/02 – 2022 World University Games – U.S. Team Trials – National level – Arizona

04/03 – Hello Yellow #1 Outdoor Series 2022 – Local level – Massachusetts

04/09 – 2022 Collegiate Invitational – Local level – Massachusetts

04/10 – 2022 ChiCombo – Local level – Illinois

04/22 – 2022 USA Archery Collegiate Target Regionals – MS South Central Region – Regional level – Mississippi

04/23 – 2022 USA Archery Collegiate Target Regionals – East Region – Regional level – Virginia

04/24 – Hello Yellow #2 Outdoor Series 2022 – Local level – Massachusetts

May

05/01 – Opening Day Spectacular – Local level – New York

05/15 – Penn Del Archers Fita & JOAD 720 Outdoor Round – Local level – Pennsylvania

05/19 – 2022 USA Archery Collegiate Target Nationals – National level – California

05/27 – USAT #2 – Easton Foundations Gator Cup 2022 – National level – Florida

05/28 – Nassau Bowmen Showdown – Local level – New York

05/29 – Hello Yellow #3 Outdoor Series 2022 – Local level – Massachusetts

June

06/04 – CA Beach Cup 2022 – Local level – California

06/10 – 2022 SoCal Showdown – USAT Series Event – National level – California

06/19 – 25th Annual Brandywine Valley STAR Fita – Local level – Pennsylvania

06/19 – Hello Yellow #4 Outdoor Series 2022 – Local level – Massachusetts

06/19 – Spring Fling – Local level – New York

July

07/09 – Tri-State JOAD/Youth Championship – Local level – New York

07/10 – Penn Del Archers Fita & JOAD 720 Outdoor Round – Local level – Pennsylvania

07/16 – Jr. Beach Cup – 2022 – Local level – California

07/30 – 2022 USA Archery Traditional Target Archery Nationals – National level – California

07/31 – Summer Slam – Local level – New York

August

08/07 – Penn Del Archers Star Qualification & JOAD Outdoor Round – Local level – Pennsylvania

08/26 – 2022 Chicago Para-Archery Championship – Local level – Illinois

08/27 – President’s Cup – Local level – New York

08/27 – 26th Annual Grapestakes Tournament – Local level – California

September

09/23 – 2022 Pacific Coast Championship – Local level – California

09/25 – Hello Yellow #5 Outdoor Series 2022 – Local level – Massachusetts

09/25 – Nassau Bowmen Club Championship – Local level – New York

August

10/15 – California Classic 1440 – Local level – California

How can ArcheryUP help?

ArcheryUP have instructors around the US. They are fully qualified and fully equipped to teach you archery. Whether you have picked up a bow, have your own equipment or never even set eyes on a bow, they are here to teach you.

Your ArcheryUP instructor will work with you to build a personalized training program. From the first time your get to full draw to competing at your first competition, we are by your side!

Get in contact with ArcheryUP today to book your sessions and start on your archery journey.

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Mimi Landstrom

I have shot since the age of 7, after starting archery at a summer camp. As a junior I won National and county titles, whilst breaking county records throughout the years. As a senior, I still compete at a national level and travel to compete at the Indoor World Series.  After university I went to Summer Camp in Pennsylvania, Camp Westmont. I taught summer to all ages throughout the summer and loved every second!  Being able to stand on the shooting line and have myself, my bow and arrow is my idea of heaven. It’s peaceful, calming and an escape from work and life stresses.