How Archery is contributing to the world?
Archery is a lifestyle much more than a simple activity. From Ulysses to Robin Hood and Wilhelm Tell, from ice-age hunters to middle age soldiers, the history of the Archery is full of highly symbolic and powerful figures all around the world.
But archery does not belong to the past, far from it! It has indeed been made even more popular by some recent movies: the Lord of the Rings, the Avengers, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Hunger Games, Brave… And what’s new in the last three, is that women are taking the lead and grabbing bow and arrows! It seems that for the rest of the world, the sport has finally found its cool factor.
These stories have been setting awesome and inspiring role models for the whole society… Have you ever heard of better ambassadors for a sport that has been struggling to gain coverage from the sport media since it was re-introduced at the Olympic Games in 1972?
How to explain this new rise?
True is there is no coincidence in archery having been in the limelight within the last months. It indeed managed to become a sport while being able to evolve over the centuries. We can even wonder if any other human activity has survived the test of time better than archery.
Taking advantage of materials progress, it has allowed archers to reach higher scores. Just have a quick look at the bows you will then be much surprised… From wood only Robin Hood style to laminated wood, fiberglass, metals, and carbon fiber components top elite athletes style, materials may be different but it is still all about finding the perfect match between the elements, the bow and the arrows in order to reach one’s target.
An international federation at the forefront of innovation
And it is worth noticing that the world archery umbrella organisation has been setting up promising foundations for the future and effectively contribute to the sport entering the new era. Sport organisations are only as good as the people steering them! And obviously, the Archery governing body has channeled it correctly and proved to be quite visionary. While many other sport organisations are struggling with governance and TV rights issue, the World Archery Federation launched a strategic approach based on a five years World Plan (2017-2012) aimed at making Archery an important Olympic sport. A global comprehensive and recognisable brand has been developed as well as innovative experiences on site and a repositioning of coverage in order to catch up with the London 2012 momentum.
Not surprisingly, therefore, archery has become trendier and many people are joining the archers’ rows. In the US only, youth participation in the sport has jumped by 75% in the past few years! Furthermore, archery has proved to be one of the breakout sports at the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in London. Athletes have attracted record viewership record. Moreover, according to a recent survey, 61% of the 85 experts polled from the world of sport agreed that, over the last five years, World Archery has increased its status amongst the Olympic sports.
What wood is this sport made of?
You may wonder what people are finding in archery they may are not be finding in other sports. Well according to some amateur players I met in a remote corner of France (where archery is actually becoming much popular thanks to a musical comedy devoted to Robin Hood or Robin des Bois as the French say ), the most important and interesting dimension of the sport is that it is made for everybody.
«Anyone can do it and it’s nice to go to the pitch with the whole family. We can all share it together», said a 43 years old mum, who joined the small village archery club two years ago and whose two daughters became members a year later.
Tom, an astonishingly mature and honest 12 years old boy, confessed that at first he took it as a joke when his grandfather offered him to give it a try.
«For me archery was old fashioned and to be honest I had always seen it as my grandpa’s whim… I finally ended up saying yes for a try but not before making sure I will not be compelled to wear tights [so as Robin Hood I guess]. But when I tried it… What a surprise! It requires strength and skills to use a bow, this I would not have imagined before actually going there. For me archery was only about dealing with a mix of some pieces of wood and metals. How stupid I was. I’d like to say thanks to my grandfather and to all the club members who had been nice to me. Through archery I really rediscovered the world I am leaving in and I am not scared anymore of reaching my targets. What a lovely feeling!».
Practicing archery requires and develops self-control and understandings of the elements. An ability to shoot with consistent and repeatable technique, to remain calm under pressure and to judge the wind are the most often quoted qualities for a good archer.
Little exercise on the philosophical rope
To my mind, archery is “simply” about opening up new horizons. It forges a link between the past, present, and future of mankind.
From a survival activity to a more leisure one, it has gone through the centuries and offers nowadays an interesting path for our society. Indeed though bow and arrows might be one of the most primitive weapons, they provide useful assets for individuals in our modern societies.
At first, it provides interesting answers to the physical inactivity crisis while developing serious fitness combined with the attractive power of fun and play. Indeed archers training involve working on their upper body strength, stability, stance and aim. It, therefore, provides keys to well being while providing better mental and physical health conditions… Some keys that are simply priceless in a more and more demanding society in which it is so crucial to be able to act under pressure.
Secondly archery is a tremendous vector for inclusion. Of course, so do many sports while bringing people together. Yet archery is at a momentum and offers a good mirror of the diversity of our societies. It brings together people whatever their age, sex or ability. The story of Im Dong-Hyun, known as the Blind Archer, is a crystal clear example of how inclusive and empowering the practice of archery can be.
Finally archery itself provides answers to two of the most insidious issues of our time: the fear of getting older and the deadly use of weapons. Indeed the history of archery has long showed one should not be afraid of going through the years but on the contrary building on experience and always get ready for new challenges. Furthermore, it also introduces us to a sport that can be played outside the realms of “Middle Earth”  and video games in real life providing live experience of being an actor of your own life through a weapon but in a safe environment. It might seem adventurous and a little bit dangerous but that’s exactly what made it cool for many archers.
No doubt archery is a sport that can contribute more to our society and deserves to be more known. Through its long lasting history, it has the power to stir up our imagination and refill our hope tanks. It creates bridges between the culture of movement and the culture of words hence being an art embodying Human fulfillment and empowerment.
Keep your eyes wide open on the target, archery will keep on developing itself and reaching new fans.
Article developed as part of an interview with World Archery in April 2013.
Are you an archer? We would love to hear from your experience. Use the “Comment” section to tell us which skills you learned and your best memory!
 Source: USA Archery
 Source: USA Today.
 Source: Survey run by the World Archery in June 2012.
 Im Dong-Hyun is a South Corean Olympic, World and World Cup champion in archery. Legally registered as blind, he made his country claimed the first world records of London 2012 with a stunning display in the men’s archery ranking round.
 The “Middle Earth” is the fictional universe setting of the majority of author J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy writings (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit).