Maintaining Equipment in a Youth Shooting Sports Club
I speak here specifically about maintaining archery equipment, but the same is true of all similar youth shooting sports programs, so shotgunners and muzzleloaders, please read on…
As a youth archery instructor, one of the greatest challenges is to make sure the young people always have ready quality, safe equipment. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like it would be that hard, but when you consider all the things used in archery, it gets to be quite a challenge. One archer alone will use a bow, that has a string, multiple arrows that will have a quiver, the safety equipment of an arm guard, finger tab or glove, and will shoot at a target that has paper held on by pins, at a fixed distance that is laid out on a range with safety lines, perimeter rope, and signs. Right there I named about seven items, now multiply that by 10 to 20 shooters in a club. It takes a virtual warehouse to store all these things, and each of them is wearing out, if only just a little bit, one practice after another.
It can be justified to have a youth shooter and a dedicated parent to take charge of all the equipment because if not, it soon becomes more than a club leader can handle under the job description of a volunteer archery club leader. Let’s for a minute talk about cost.
Is your 4-H, Scout or JOAD program free of charge to the children? It better not be. A free program cannot survive, plus children must learn to pay to play. Where in your adult life can you have a free hobby? It is sending the wrong message of value when we run a program that is free of charge. It says to the participant that some fairy god person or organization is providing a charity program, which gives an unjustified sense of entitlement, or it says that your program is not worth much.
A quality program can have maintained equipment if even a token amount is charged, say $3.00 to $4.00 per session. Nowadays virtually every family can come up with that fee, which is about the same cost as candy or two bottled sodas. When I was managing a youth archery program a few years ago, I did have some kids that couldn’t afford that. I worked out a deal with them to bring in aluminum cans at every shoot and provided a barrel to put them in. Did that pay for the wear and tear on the equipment they were using? No, but it helped, and gave the children a sense of ownership in the activity, and that even by collecting aluminum cans they were paying their own way for the enjoyment of shooting.
If you are leading a youth shooting sports program, God bless you and thank you for your service. Every kid needs something like this to learn and reinforce safety, leadership, responsibility and build their self-worth. Please remember that keeping equipment ready, properly cared for and safe will make the program run smooth and will indirectly teach and remind us all to be good stewards over the things we have.
In researching this topic, I ran into a Hunt Chat forum post by a fellow archer and Dad, in Wisconsin with the username Rancid Crabtree. In his very detailed July 2008 post My Latest Longbow, he shows how to make a longbow bow, bow stringer, inset medallion, and tip guard (see photo, right), in a way that is very easy to understand. Check it out!