From the Blog of International Judge Bob Pian – a great how-to of preparing for your first tournament:
Heading to the first “real” tourney: Deciding to take part in that first tournament is often more of an accident than by design. Someone mentions that an event might be fun or worthwhile and suggest giving it a try. Now what? A book could be written about tournament preparation and competition. All events are different, but following are some steps you can take to help you feel more prepared.
Ask the Question: Am I ready? If you don’t need to go behind the target to look for your arrows after most every end and can score arrows on a target face, write the values and add arrow values, you are ready to try competition.
Registration and membership: The amount of tournament advertising and information varies. Most events have registration forms that can be downloaded and printed. When in doubt, contact the tournament host. Most tournament organizers will be delighted to hear of an archer that is taking part in their first event and are more than willing to provide information. Tournaments often neglect to offer “guest” or “novice” categories. Ask! Most tournaments are eager to fit you in where they can.
Membership can affect who is eligible to take part. Levels of tournaments include, club, local, state, regional, national, team trials and international. Where there is no specific membership requirement information, contact the tournament organizers and inquire.
Dress code and equipment: Showing up ready to compete requires the archer to be in proper dress and have equipment that is compliant with the rules. Events have different dress code requirement just as there are different membership requirements. Compliance is easy: for complete information on the USA Archery dress code, click here.
Equipment rules can be a concern for those new to FITA style archery. If at all possible ask a judge or an experienced target archer to explain the equipment rules before the day of your competition. For compound archers, common compliance issues are bows in excess of 60 pounds, multiple aiming points, a battery lighted sight pin, or arrows that are over 9.3mm (2315s). Recurve bows rarely have issues except when an archer has left a training aid on the bow such as a sight level or a sight tube over 2cm in length. For complete rules and regulations, click here.
Schedules: Schedules indicate the starting time. Experienced archers arrive on site early to claim seating space, review posted information, set up their equipment, hang their target face, stretch, and get situated before the day’s events begin. Think of the remainder of the schedule as a general concept versus something that is fixed. Check daily for schedule updates.
Think of the tournament as starting with check-in, equipment inspection and official practice. Official practice is the time for archers to become familiar with the range and relax a bit before the first scoring arrow. It is unsettling to not have time to practice because of a delay. It is disappointing to have prepared and spent money only to perform poorly because of rushing caused by corner cutting.
Tournament delays happen for a variety of reasons including inclement weather, power failures and protest deliberations. For a local tournament, plan to arrive at least 45 minutes to an hour ahead of your scheduled shooting time. If you’re traveling out of town, plan to arrive the day before and depart the day after if at all possible.
Travel: Getting to and from the event is typically an individual effort. Plan your trip just as you would any other important event. Events can take place in obscure places including those that have no address. Give yourself even more time to find your way. Many tournament hosts help guide archers to the venue by displaying a FITA target face. One of the primary roles of a friend, family member or parent is to “get lunch”. Many bring a cooler with beverages and snacks and a sandwich.
Arrival: There are several things to do when you arrive. Get a lay of the land. Find out where and when check-in and equipment inspection will be. If competing in an outdoor tournament, you’ll find that many are interested to learn their target assignment in order to practice on their target. At an indoor competition, you’ll want to secure a seat and a spot for your bow, and get a sense of the lighting on your target. Friends and family are encouraged to volunteer with set up and take down and during the tourney. Becoming a “friend of the tournament” can be very beneficial; being around the folks that are running the event can provide some insight on what to expect.
Competition: Typically, the process of shooting and scoring is easy to follow. There is usually time to have questions answered during practice. The most common interaction with an official is to ask for an arrow call when the target group does not agree.
Archers, including those in youth divisions, should be prepared to call arrow values and mark scorecards legibly. Finally, archers should be able to add and check the addition of others. The integrity of the tournament depends on the accuracy of the scorecards. The efficiency of the tournament depends on the archers’ ability to score and total quickly.
End of the competition day: Scorecards should only be turned in after archers check and double check the math, and ensure that all required information is properly recorded. Scorecards are required to be signed by the archer and others in the scoring group including the score recorder. Do not leave the group until all off the cards in the group are fully checked and signed. Scorecards must be turned in on time to be a part of the results. Note that in order for your score to set a new record, your scorecard must be signed by a judge.The best way to learn the tournament process is to dive in and take part!