Archery is one of the safest sports in the world. And that’s in part thanks to judges. Judges play an important role in tournaments.
“We’re responsible for ensuring a fair field of play at events so that the archer’s performance decides the outcome of matches,” said USA Archery Level 3 Judge Andy Neville.
Neville is a World Archery Americas Continental judge and World Archery International judge candidate. He’s been serving as an archery judge for just shy of a decade. He has his kids to thank because attending their archery tournaments sparked his interest in judging.
“I owe this privilege to both of my children,” Neville said. “I just happened to ask a judge about the rules, and then the next thing I knew I was shadowing a judge at a national event. I was hooked.”
USA Archery helped Neville with the process. He spent hours studying and learning the rules, traveled to seminars and conferences, and mentored under other judges.
“I’m grateful to USA Archery and the mentors that I’ve had in my progression to be an international judge candidate,” Neville said. “Now here I am traveling the world serving the sport.”
Neville is responsible for keeping up with the latest tournament rules. Judges are also charged with keeping a safe environment for athletes and spectators. And they ensure a fair field of play by making sure archers use the proper equipment and that the field equipment also meets the rules. For Neville, it’s his knowledge and passion for the sport that fuels his desire to serve.
“The best part is the visual vantage point that we get to watch the competition,” Neville said. “We’re on the field of play a few meters from the top athletes in the world.”
Neville loves seeing people succeed. But just like in any competition, sometimes people make mistakes. Judges work to ensure a level playing field for all archers, and sometimes that involves imposing consequences. Judges always seek to educate rather than penalize, but penalties are sometimes necessary to ensure fair play.
“As a judge, we have to, unfortunately, implement a penalty without hesitation,” Neville said. “We have that mindset of doing what is right for the common field of play, and that can be a challenging part when you ruin an archer’s day, especially young ones.”
If there is an arrow in question, Neville and his fellow judges look at the arrow from a minimum of two different angles before making the call. If the arrow is touching the line, it gets the higher score. If there’s any doubt, the archer receives the benefit of the doubt and gets the higher score.
Neville says the judges aren’t there to decide the outcome of the tournament. Their role is to make sure everyone follows the rules and that athletes are allowed to perform to the best of their abilities.
“If you have a desire to serve the sport, not for your own but to literally have the mindset of a behind-the-scenes servant, judging is a good option for you,” Neville said.
Judges sometimes get a front-row seat to history. At the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Nationals in 2019, Neville watched Joonsuh Oh shatter the cadet recurve world record.
“He was shooting and he was just phenomenal,” Neville said. “It was pretty cool when he shot his last end, he knew he had the record and he came over on his way back to the spectators and he stopped and gave me a high-five. I had nothing to do with his performance, but I got to share in that moment of watching him shoot that world record. It was a sign of respect from the archer to judge. I had no arrow calls, nothing, but that moment that he came up and he thanked the judges for our part in serving the event, that was pretty cool.”
If you’re interested in judging, check out USA Archery’s courses, which are now available online for Level 1 and Level 2 certification.