So you’ve been shooting your bow in the backyard or at the local range for a while now, and you’re feeling pretty good about your skills. Is it time to take the next step and start competing? How old should you be to compete? How do you know if you’re ready for competition?
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer to those questions. It’s all personal choice. You should go when you feel ready for the challenge.
Just to get an idea of how others approached the decision about when to get started competing in archery, we asked a handful of top pros when they decided to take the jump and how they knew they were ready for it.
Mackenzie Brown is a two-time Olympian, who represented the United States in archery at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Since Tokyo, she has traded in her Olympic recurve for a compound bow, which she uses to compete in the Women’s Known Pro division at national ASA 3D tournaments.
But long before that, Brown was introduced to archery through the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) at her middle school in Texas. And competing was just part of who she was.
“I grew up competing and loved doing that so it was kind of ingrained in me to want to try to go as far as I could with archery,” Brown said.
“I don’t remember thinking ‘I am ready.’ I just knew it’s what I wanted to do. … It was my dad who told me I could go to the Olympics with archery, and it was all uphill from there.”
Mathews pro Christopher Perkins has won The Vegas Shoot, the ASA Known Pro Shooter of the Year crown and the NFAA Marked 3D Championships in Redding, California, among other prestigious archery titles. But his passion for target archery started as a desire to take up bowhunting — which he still does today.
Perkins got his first compound bow at age 11, in anticipation of starting to bowhunt at 12. Practicing to become a better bowhunter, Perkins found himself spending a lot of time on the range. With encouragement from others to give it a try, he went to his first tournament at a local club at age 13. At 16, he made his first national/international team representing his home nation of Canada.
Madison Cox was a cheerleader through middle school and into high school. She said her father constantly asked her if she would try archery if he bought her a bow. One day, when she was 16, she finally said yes.
“I set it up probably on a Monday, and we went to an S3DA tournament that weekend,” Cox said. “I definitely lost a few arrows that day, but I also hit my first 12 on a 3D target on the hardest target on the course.”
Cox continued, “In the beginning, I never felt ready to compete. I was just kind of thrown into it, and I was like, ‘I’m really bad at this.’”
Her archery journey turned around, however, when she went to University of the Cumberlands, where she competed for the team, practiced religiously and started racking up wins. In 2023, Cox landed on two podiums out of the six national ASA tournaments in her first year as a pro competing in the Women’s Known Pro division. She also was part of the three-archer team that won a gold medal for the USA in the Women’s Compound Team event at the first World Cup tournament of 2023 in Turkey.
“It’s still a work in progress,” Cox said. “It’s something I strive at daily to get better at.”
Everyone we’ve talked to so far started competing at a relatively young age. That’s not the path taken by PSE pro Sharon Wallace, who has won scores of ASA and IBO tournaments and Shooter of the Year crowns in the Women’s Pro class, as well as winning NFAA Indoor Nationals in 2021.
Wallace, who said she is “so competitive,” decided to take up tournament archery at local events at age 30.
“I was practicing a lot and enjoyed it so much … I just felt it in my heart that I was ready to compete,” Wallace said. “I didn’t expect much at first, but I knew that I would get better and better, as in, I knew if I went ahead and competed, that it would only make me better.”
As 2023 came to a close, Casey Kaufhold was the No. 1 ranked female Olympic recurve archer in the world, shooting for Team USA. She started competing at local tournaments when she was 8 years old.
“I knew I was ready to start because I was consistently hitting the target at 18 meters, and I have a naturally competitive spirit that I wanted to feed.”
Chris Bee has shot a 900 at The Vegas Shoot and competes at the pro level in both indoor and 3D national tournaments.
He went to his first tournament — a local competition — at age 12. How he remembers that first event sums up perfectly how to know when it’s time to take up the tournament game.
“You are never ready,” Bee said. “You just start.”
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