Is Archery A Sport?

When we think about sports, we usually think about things like soccer, tennis or perhaps even wrestling, but not many people would pick archery out of the air when coming up with a list of sports.

But in reality, archery is, in fact, deemed to be a sport and to participate, you must have a certain degree of physical ability. So why, then, do so many dispute that this is indeed a sport?

In this article, we are going to be looking at why archery is considered to be a sport and learning more about what it takes to become successful in it.

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What Is A Sport?

This may seem like an inane question, but how many of us could successfully define the word sport? We might think of particular activities, but is there something that all of these activities have in common?

According to the Oxford dictionary, a sport is an activity which requires a level of skill and physical exertion. It also defines sport as something which takes place between two players or teams and is overseen by a set of rules.

If we follow these observations, it is not difficult to see how archery might fall into this category. So let’s take a closer look at this.

Does Archery Meet The Criteria For Being Considered A Sport?

When we look at the definition of what a sport is, we can see that it must meet four basic criteria; it must be played competitively, it must have a set of rules, it must require some physical exertion, and finally, a sport must require a degree of skill. So, with each of these things in mind, does archery measure up as a sport?

It Must Be played Competitively.

Archery can be and is played competitively. Of course, there are those who simply take their bow and arrow out into the wilderness and hunt or take part for fun; but this can be said of any sport.

In the world of competitive archery, there are several tournaments globally which are overseen by the World Archery Federation. There are four main types of archery, each with a slightly different goal. In order to understand how this activity can be played as a competitive sport, it is essential to understand the various types.

  • Target archery is perhaps the most common type of competitive archery and is likely what you would imagine when thinking about archery as a sport. It requires players to stand a predetermined distance from a static target and aim their arrows at the bullseye. In most cases, the target will be made from a material like hay and feature a series of concentric circles, each with its own number of points which are obtained by landing the arrow inside them.
  • Field archery is another of the most common forms of the sport and has very similar rules and goals as target archery. The key difference here is that in field archery, rather than one static target, you will aim to hit a series of targets in a particular setting. This course will feature targets with varying degrees of difficulty, and you may need to work in different lighting conditions or at different heights.
  • Bowhunting may be less common as a sport, but it is still considered to be one. In short, this type of archery is used as a means to obtain food by shooting an animal. The reason that this is considered to be a sport rather than necessity is that unlike thousands of years ago, we now have access to food through shops and farms. So, when people take part in bowhunting, it is more as a way of experiencing the activity.
  • 3D archery is very similar in nature to field archery in that it takes place on an outdoor course. However, rather than aiming at circular targets, there is a series of animal-shaped targets. This is great if you want a little more of a challenge but do not want to take part in bowhunting.

Each of these types of archery can be played competitively with players or teams working on scoring more points than their rivals; clearly demonstrating that archery is competitive.

It Must Have A Set Of Rules

Indeed, if archery is played at a competitive level, there must be a set of rules that players must abide by in order to make the play fair. This suggestion would be correct since archery is overseen and regulated by the World Archery Federation which dictates a series of rules that must be followed.

Amazingly, these rules don’t just dictate how the sport should be played but go into far more detail, such as the type of clothing that players must wear and the type of bow that is used.

It Must Require Some Physical Exertion

If you have never taken part in archery, it would be easy to assume that there isn’t a lot of physical exertion needed but most archers would disagree with this.

One of the first things that you should consider is that the bow itself can weigh as much as 40lbs, this would be fine if you were holding it up for a few seconds, but retaining this position whilst at full draw can take a severe physical toll.

Furthermore, the muscles that are involved in drawing and shooting the bow are far more diverse than one might first imagine with the shoulders, arms and core all being involved.

When archers play at very competitive levels, there is some muscle and weight training involved, further adding to the physical exertion of this sport.

It Must Require A Degree of Skill

The level of skill is perhaps one of the things that contribute most to archery being considered a sport. Aiming the arrow and getting it on target is no mean feat and simply being able to hit the target is just the beginning.

In order to be successful in archery, a player must be able to remain consistent with their aim. Even someone who has never picked up a bow in their life might be able to hit the bullseye on their first attempt, even if by fluke. However, to be able to do this time and time again does require a certain level of skill which can only be gained through practice.

Is Archery An Olympic Sport?

If you are still in any doubt that archery is a sport then perhaps when we consider that this is an event in both the Olympics and Paralympics, you might change your mind.

The sport first appeared in the huge worldwide games way back in 1900, so it has been around for some time as an Olympic sport. It continued to appear throughout the following years and became so popular that by the 1920s, it became the first Olympic sport to be played by women. However, the sport disappeared from the games for more than fifty years and was reintroduced in 1976.

By 2020, at the Tokyo Olympic games, it is thought that more than 140 countries will offer up athletes ready to take part in this event.

There are three types of competition in the archery event at the Olympics, and these are individual, team and mixed which sees men and women competing together; this is a relatively new concept for the Olympics and perfectly demonstrates how gender equality is becoming massively influential in the sporting world.

Out of the four main types of archery, only target archery is played during the Olympic games and the rules are as follows:

  • Players must stand 70 metres away from the target.
  • The target will feature ten concentric circles, each with varying numbers of points.
  • Each player will shoot 12 arrows, and the player with the highest number of points will win the event.
  • Players must use a recurve bow in order to compete.


Archery is an activity that is done by many people around the world. In days gone by, this would have been a means to an end and would have helped our ancestors obtain food to survive.

However, over time, more and more people enjoy taking part in this activity as a competitive sport, and it is even played in both the Olympics and Paralympics.

To be called a sport, an activity must meet four basic criteria; it requires skill, physical exertion, a clear set of rules and must be competitive. Archery meets all of these requirements and so is widely considered to be a sport.

Despite many people arguing to the contrary, there is no denying that this is a sport and will continue to be played as one for many years to come.

About Brad Harris