Is Archery a Sport?

Archery has been around since the Palaeolithic period, which is to say, it’s really old. Traditionally, it’s been used as a weapon for hunting or for battle with other humans. But even after better weapons like guns were invented for hunting and war, it’s stuck around as a fun and sometimes competitive pastime.

Archery is considered a sport. To participate, athletes must have a certain level of strength and skill, which can be trained. Additionally, it is at the center of many world-wide competitions including the Olympics.

The Basics of Archery

Archery, like golf, is a solitary sport.

Many think that because archery does not involve a team, it is not a sport. But fans of golf will adamantly argue that sports can be played by individuals, and archery falls into that category of solitary sports.


The equipment needed to participate in archery are, essentially a bow and some arrows.

There are a variety of both bows and arrows, and the type of equipment you use will depend on the kind of archery you’re doing.

To greatly simplify bow varieties, there are two main camps.

Traditional bows, like those you see being used by Robin Hood or Katniss Everdeen, are basically a piece of wood (or multiple attached pieces of wood) and a string.

Their shape varies slightly depending on whether you’re using a longbow or a recurve bow, but they are similar enough to be part of the same category.

These are the kind of bows that hunter-gatherers and medieval armies would be using.

Modern bows with more advanced technology look very different from their predecessors and are called compound bows.

Compound bows utilize a pulley system made possible by the invention of cams, which are metal disks around which the string travels, creating increased tension.

This tension results in greater power and accuracy with less effort on the part of the archer.

Crossbows are also technically involved in the sport of archery, although their operation is so fundamentally different from that of other bows that they are more like the primitive ancestor of modern firearms.

The arrows used by an archer come in different materials and can be fitted with slightly different accessories, but they all essentially do the same thing: fly through the air until they are embedded in their target.

There are a lot of accessories and specialized equipment that archers can obtain to hone their abilities, but these are the basic requirements if you want to get involved in the sport.

Types of Archery

The modern sport of archery forks into a few different paths.

Target archery is the most basic and popular form of the sport and is the one that appears in the Summer Olympics.

It involves shooting arrows via bow at a stationary target, usually made of hay or some synthetic material to stop the arrow. Archers usually stand a fixed distance from the target as they shoot.

A bullseye surrounded by concentric circles is usually fixed to the target, denoting different point amounts awarded for landing an arrow within certain circles.

This is also the style of archery that you will find in most archery ranges.

Field archery is very similar to target archery, but with a slightly different setting.

In field archery, archers shoot at stationary targets along an outdoor path or course.

This kind of archery is slightly more difficult because it incorporates the elements. Archers have to contend with various lighting, distances, weather conditions, and ground levels.

For athletes that prefer to participate in their sports with the company of Mother Nature, this is one of the best forms of the sport. It also adds a variety that you don’t necessarily get with indoor range shooting.

3D archery sounds more high-tech than it really is.

It also typically takes place outdoors, but with targets shaped and painted like animals rather than squares with bullseyes on them.

This faction of the sport gets its name from the three-dimensional artificial animal targets that archers aim at.

As with field archery, you get the obstacle of distance and outside factors, but with the added challenge of shooting at targets with inconsistent shapes.

For anyone who wants to try their hand at bowhunting without the pain of waiting in the forest for hours or simply wants a challenge, this is a great sport to try. It’s also great for those who want the experience of hunting without the guilt of hurting real animals.

Bowhunting is also considered a faction of the sport of archery. Though it can be used as a means to provide food, it is now considered a sport because it isn’t necessary to acquire meat.

Whereas our ancestors could only come by animal meat if they shot it with a bow and arrow or killed it some other way, we can simply go to the supermarket and pick up some nicely packaged meat, ready to be cooked and served to our families.

So, when someone uses their bow and arrows to bring down an animal now, it is considered a sport because it’s really just for the experience that they’re doing it, not the end result.

Though they typically don’t involve a team, a ball, or some sort of referee, any of these types of archery are considered a sport.

The Olympics and Other Archery Competitions

The History of Archery in the Olympics

Archery was a sport long before the Olympics as we know it now exists, but they continue to be a major part of the biggest sports competition in the world.

In fact, it has a long history of presence in the Olympics’ consortium or athletic events, appearing first at the Paris Olympics in 1900.

In the next 20 years, archery would become the first Olympic sport to include women, and it was the International Archery Federation’s female president that brought it back to the Olympic Games in 1972 after disappearing from them more than fifty years earlier.

Despite archery’s reputation for being a individual sport, countries participating in the Olympics began to combine their most talented archers into teams.

Archers first participated in the Olympics as teams in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

The only kind of bow currently allowed for use in the Olympic Games is the recurve bow, though there are four different events that archers can now compete in.

Archers in the Olypmics participate in target shooting, typically standing 70 meters from the target with 10 concentric rings around a bullseye to aim at.

Individuals or teams go head-to-head, shooting 12 arrows each until a winner emerges.

Match play like this was introduced in 1992 to make the sport more interesting to watch from the spectators’ point of view.

It was a successful integration, as television ratings for this part of the Olympics has gone up.

Other Competitions

The sport’s official organization, World Archery, supports many other competitions outside of the Olympics.

These take place all over the world and are divided into three categories: international events, World Ranking events, and World Record Status events.

These events often include the other factions of archery such as 3D archery and field archery. They also include other bows outside of the recurve.

The most popular of these competitions is the World Cup, which has taken place in countries such as

  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Dubai
  • Switzerland
  • Japan
  • France
  • Mexico
  • Denmark
  • North America
  • Greece
  • England

The next World Cup, scheduled to happen in 2019, will take place in Antalya, Turkey.

Notable Figures in Archery

Though lesser known than athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, or Serena Williams, archery is not without its notable figures.

As you might have predicted, many of these famous archers have competed in the Olympics and won medals there.

Many of the Olympian archers are from Korea, but the most decorated Olympic archer in history is actually Hubert van Innis from Belgium.

Hubert won six gold medals and three silver medals in 1900 and 1920.

Kim Soo-Nyung seconds Hubert in Olympic titles with one silver medal, one bronze medal, and four titles in total.

Age 48 now, she represented the Republic of Korea at three different Olympic Games in 1988, 1992, and 2000. Her nickname is “Viper.”

Of course, Hollywood has been picking up on the popularity of archery, and now the most famous archers that many people can think of are fictional ones.

While Robin Hood is the most traditional and possibly the most popular choice, franchises like The Lord of the Rings, The Hunger Games, and even The Avengers have introduced characters whose expretise at the bow and arrow are what make them unique.

The popularity of characters like Legolas, Katniss, and Hawkeye are a big possible factor in the growth of archery as a sport, becoming idols for both children and adults.

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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