How to Choose a Coach

Archery is one of those individual activities that anyone can pick up and do. That is, it’s pretty easy to grasp the process of nocking an arrow on the string, drawing back and releasing the arrow toward a target.

But just completing that process doesn’t mean you’re shooting the bow correctly or in the most efficient manner. Or maybe you’re already an experienced archer and you’ve found you’ve hit a ceiling with your success. You shoot and shoot, but you just can’t seem to improve beyond a certain point.

In both instances, an archery coach could be what you need to achieve your archery goals. 

“The benefit is, if you have goals in archery, it’s nice to have a second set of eyes on what you’re doing to help you achieve what you want to achieve,” said Heather Pfeil, who is director of the Lancaster Archery Academy in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and is also a Level 4 USA Archery certified instructor.

The first step in deciding whether to go with an archery coach is to be realistic with what you want from archery. For beginners, it’s easy to wing it on your own and try to figure things out as you go. That can work, but it can also lead to injury and frustration.

Be honest with yourself. Recognize archery is a game where you could injure yourself and others. It’s a game where if you don’t know what you’re doing, it’s probably going to frustrate the daylights out of you trying to hit the bull’s-eye.

Advanced archers have to recognize when they are not getting any better. If others are better than you, and you want to achieve their level of success, you should consider getting a coach to help you figure out how to improve.

“You might think you’ve been doing something perfect for a while, but a coach might look at your form and see issues you never considered,” Pfeil said. “As long as you’re open to that kind of feedback, a coach can help you make improvements.”

Once you’ve decided to go with a coach, now you’ve got to find one. Seeking a coach with certification from an established archery organization helps ensure you’re getting instruction from a qualified individual. 

Organizations that have coaching programs include USA Archery, World Archery, NASP and S3DA. NASP and S3DA are involved in two specific types of archery, so if you’re involved with one of those programs, you might want to find coaches specific to those organizations. Reach out to NASP about its coaches here, and S3DA here.

World Archery and USA Archery produce coaches with very similar knowledge bases, who are trained in overall archery instruction, rather than program-specific instruction. To find coaches certified by World Archery in the U.S., you can reach out to the regional organization here.

USA Archery has a database of coaches the organization has certified. Coaches can be searched by state, zip code and/or certification level. The higher the level of certification, the more advanced the coach’s training. According to Pfeil, archers looking for basic coaching should consider coaches certified at least as Level 2 instructors, while competitive archers should consider coaches certified as Level 3 or higher.

Archery 360 has a coaching filter that can be applied to its archery supply store locator. This filter will allow you to find facilities that offer coaching. Access that database here.

Most archery coaching programs incorporate SafeSport training into the certification process. SafeSport is dedicated to preventing emotional, physical and sexual abuse. You can ask a prospective coach if they have SafeSport training as part of their certification.

Another route archers can take in seeking coaching is to ask a professional archer. There are professional archers in the U.S. who do not hold coaching certifications from any of the established archery organizations but who are expert archers capable of offering quality instruction. 

Finding one of these archers for coaching is largely done through word-of-mouth recommendations or internet searches. Before hiring such a person, be sure to ask for several student references and ask those students about their experiences working with that pro as a coach. 

Pfeil recommended archers ask potential coaches what services they offer and what an archer can expect to gain from working with them. See if the answers align with your expectations. 

Also, she said to ask if a coach has a particular expertise. If you’re a barebow archer, for example, working with a coach who focuses primarily on compound archery might not be the best fit.

“Some coaches can work with compound, barebow and recurve equally, but others might specialize in one area, or maybe they aren’t too familiar with one of the disciplines,” she said.

Cost, of course, is a factor to consider. According to Pfeil, there is no structure guiding what coaches can charge in the U.S. 

“It’s all over the place,” she said.

Pfeil estimated an average cost of $60-$80 per hour. Lancaster Archery Academy charges $40 per hour for beginner lessons and $60 per hour for intermediate/advanced coaching.

If you think an archery coach is what you need, do your homework to find the right one for your game. Once you find that coach, be open to their coaching and be willing to change the way you shoot. A good coach could be the key to unlocking your archery success. 

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