With around 30 archery clubs in Sussex, there is plenty of choice for anyone wanting to take up the sport in God’s beloved county.
Not surprisingly, most people join a club that’s local to them or their place of work. It’s the logical thing to do, right? Maybe not!
There are other factors to take into consideration when you’re looking for the club that’s right for you and your archery. A bit of research before you sign up will circumvent a lot of heartache and ensure that you get the most out of the sport. And while it’s unlikely that one club will fit all your personal criteria, try to find one that will suit most of the following.
One thing that’s often overlooked at the outset is the times at which you’ll be able to shoot.
Some clubs have 24/7 access to their field (and at The High Weald AC the indoor range is also available seven days a week). Most, however, are limited to one or two evenings each week and a day or half a day at weekends. If you are a commuter or work shifts, that could mean you’ll sometimes go a fortnight without any archery. So when you’re looking for a club, check the availability of their outdoor and indoor ranges and make sure that will fit with your schedule.
A related consideration is how often you want to shoot. If it’s once or twice a week most clubs will suit. If you think you’ll want to do more than that, the choice becomes limited. And if you want to continue shooting throughout the Autumn and Winter, you’ll need a club that has an indoor range.
Learning and Improving
If you’re fresh out of a beginners course, you’ll understandably want some help in selecting equipment and getting the most out of it.
Most Sussex archery clubs have one, two or more coaches among their members. As in every walk of life, you’ll find that some are better than others. What’s important is that you find the right one for you.
Some coaches are very good with kids. Worthing AC has a thriving junior section that’s largely founded on the efforts of its resident county coach. If you’re starting archery with your offspring in tow, that’s something you’ll want to consider.
Other clubs, like Adur Valley Archers, have an excellent record for coaching archers of all ages and abilities. But given that you probably won’t know the reputation of a club’s coaches and their records, a useful first step in deciding whether or not to join is to pay them a visit to discuss what you’re hoping to achieve in the sport. That might simply be good fun with a decent bunch of people rather than competitive excellence, but bear in mind that most of the fun in archery comes from putting your arrows in the centre of the target. Like all of us, you’ll need some help to do that consistently.
While you’re at a club, take the opportunity to chat to the current members. Most have people who’ve represented Sussex, sometimes England and Great Britain as well. Over time you can learn a lot from people who’ve been there and done it, even if they don’t have a coaching qualification.
When you’re starting out, you might not have made up your mind about the style of bow you want to shoot or decided on the type of archery you want to do. Even so, there are a couple of things you need to think about before joining a club.
Firstly, bow style. There are basically four of these, namely recurve (the bow used at the Olympics), recurve barebow (a recurve used without a sight or stabilisation), compound (bows originally designed for hunting but now also for target and field archery) and longbow (if you need a description for this one, you’ve chosen the wrong sport).
The point to be made here is simple: whichever bow style you choose to shoot, you need to join a club with members who do the same.
As to the type of archery you want to do, your choice of club is again largely a matter of common sense: find one that does it.
If, for example, the idea of yomping up hill and down dale through the woods grabs your imagination, you need a club with a field archery course like Crawley AC, Eastbourne Archers or Friars Gate Archers.
If it’s clout archery (where you aim at a flag on a stick at distances up to 180 yards away) that butters your muffin, there is only one place to go in Sussex and that’s Arundown AC.