Bow weights for beginners and Juniors

At a recent coaching course I was co-running, the question of bow draw weights for beginners and junior archers was raised. This is both a very important question and a complex one, with no easy answer.
The true answer is partly dependent on what age the archer is when they start along with their physical development. Everyone is different and trying to standardise and prescribe anything in stone simply doesn’t work. So here are some points to consider to help you decide.
  • If you start with too high a poundage in draw weight  for the newbie they can become fatigued quickly and their form will suffer as the archer struggles to cope.
  • Too heavy a mass weight can tire the arms of young archers, resulting in dropping their arm.
  • Another factor that is worth considering is how some young archers develop in height earlier than others but this does not mean they have muscle development for longer draws.
There are other elements that play a part here too, such as peer pressure which can occur when coaching a group or even a family if there are two siblings that try to compete with one another. Peer pressure can cause anxiety and increased stress associated with being watched and not doing as well as others or drawing the same poundage as their fellow archers.
I was lucky enough to be shown the specifications that the scouting organisation in the UK use which provides some good guidance on potential draw weights for different age ranges.
Age Range Maximum bow weight at start of course Maximum draw weight by end of the course
Up to 12 yrs old 14 lbs 16 lbs
13-14 16 lbs 18 lbs
15-16 18 lbs 22 lbs
17-18 20 lbs 24 lbs
19+ 20 lbs 24 lbs

I have to say I am a fan of using small “jelly bows” that are very low draw weight and light in hand. Ideal for under 10 year old. We bought a couple of these from Merlin Archery (https://www.merlinarchery.co.uk/ek-crusader-bow-kit.html) though we don’t use the arrows provided.

On take down recurves I start low 10lb or 12lb and let them see how it feels. We have a selection of limbs which we can swap out and have found this of great benefit. Again we bought some bows from Merlin – the Core Pulse in both 54 inch and 64 inch.
When I get the opportunity I will write up a review of these bows in the near future.
The best advice I can give anyone is start with a low draw weight and light bow. If they aren’t having to fight the bow or struggle holding the mass weight they are more likely to learn and in turn succeed.
Thanks for reading.

How can a six sided dice help with your archery practice? 

It may sound a little strange, even a bit far fetched to many, but I have found that using a six sided dice can prove very helpful and no I’m not talking about gambling.
Firstly though I have to say that I can’t claim this was entirely my own idea though, as it was spawned from a book I’ve been reading on archery. Many of you know I enjoy reading on all topics of archery and am slowly building a decent library of material, which I share with my students and fellow coaches.
The book in question which generated this idea is “Instinctive archery insights” by Jay Kidwell.

This was a book recommend to me by another coach and I’ll type up a full literature review on it shortly, but for now I’m going to focus on one aspect, that of practice to overcome target panic. There you go I have said it “Target Panic

I really hate that phrase, as I personally prefer describing target panic as “shot anxiety”, since I see it manifest in so many different ways in archers, often long before the archer ever gets to draw up on the target. Anyway back to how a six sided die can help along your with archery practice.

In the exercises described the archer practices drawing up on the target but not shooting. Rather than immediately releasing, they move on and off the gold or centre spot a random number of times. Jay suggests having a coach or buddy saying a number to denote the number of times but you might be practicing on your own so I came up with the idea of using a die.
I modified the dice so there was no 1,5 or 6. This was easily done by sticking a blank label over the numbers. I wanted the die to show 1 four, 3 two’s and 2 threes. This may sound strange but you don’t want too many higher numbers when performing the exercise as you would get fatigued.

I then housed the die in a small clear plastic tub large enough to allow the die to roll and clear enough to see the result.

Dice in a box

There are three exercises in the book, the key thing to remember with all of them is using a light poundage bow rather than your competition bow. I use a 16lb-18lb draw weight recurve with my students.

I’ll briefly describe the way I use this. The archer rolls the die and obtains a random number, say 3.

They draw up and when they get to full draw on the gold they pass to the right and then left, whilst not releasing. In this case they would pass over the gold 3 times before coming down. When I am coaching this technique I recommend the student does this for 15- 20 minutes. Anymore and it can become tedious and the students tend to lose concentration.

The theory behind this is best described int he book but to put it simply it helps to train the brain into not releasing the arrow and being able to move on and off the target.

Further exercises work on the same principle but having you hold on the target for a second and then move off.
I’ve found the exercise works well as I have used them with people and die gives you a random number so you are not always doing 2 or 3 each time.
I hope this helps. I’m going to try and write up some target anxiety material.
Thanks for reading.
Close up of Sharon shooting

Whats your top 3

I’m calling all the archery coaches and instructors out there for your input please.

If you coach complete beginners or nationals champions, traditional archer or Olympic recurve. I’m trying to compile some coaching materials on two main topics, one being the most common faults you encounter and the other being areas of improvement you target with your students.

So can I ask you, what you think are the 3 top or most common faults that you encounter when coaching archers?

Maybe you think its’ stance, or release? What about consistency in anchor?

Secondly what are the top 3 things that you think make the greatest impact on improving someone you are coaching?

Likewise this might be associated with shot sequence or simply slowing down? What about equipment and tuning?

The list is endless and I’m looking forward to hearing your input

Thanks for reading.