How to deliver Covid-safe archery beginners’ courses
Worried about organising beginners’ courses as we look to return to the range? Despite the challenges, welcoming new starters is still possible – and a great opportunity to showcase the socially-distanced nature of archery.
With a little pre-planning, you can be ready to welcome new archers to your club! We asked a number of clubs that successfully ran beginners’ courses last year to share their experiences. Here’s a round-up of their key points – thanks to Woking Archery Club, Deer Park Archers, Bowbrook Archers and Wymondham Archers for their contributions.
Beginners’ course plan under Covid restrictions, by Woking Archery Club
Course joining instructions were adapted to include details of the Covid security measures in place, meaning that beginners were aware of what to do before attending the course. This enabled them to make an informed decision on whether to attend or not. No-one declined to attend on Covid security grounds and indeed throughout all the courses, beginners repeatedly expressed great satisfaction at the precautions in place. The club provided anti-viral wipes, sanitiser gels and sprays.
Candidates were requested to wear gloves whilst opening and closing field gates on arrival and departure. They were instructed to bring face masks and it was made clear that a ‘no-mask-no-training’ rule was in place. Spare masks were available for beginners to purchase in the event they arrived without one. Prior to the course being called to order, candidates were advised to gather with full social distancing but without wearing a face mask. This was to ensure that they could properly socialise and come together as a group. It also enabled the coaching staff to see them clearly and form initial assessments about them prior to handing out kit.
Candidates and coaches donned fabric face masks and all used anti-viral hand sanitiser gel once the course was called to order and people gathered round. Masks were worn during the initial briefings and especially during the issue of kit, where people were operating on ‘1m plus extra protection’ social distancing rules. Bows and arrows were issued along with an anti-viral wipe and candidates cleaned all their own kit. Smaller items like tabs, bracers, stringing loops and target face pegs, in addition to being wiped or spray sanitised, were also packaged into group bundles and quarantined between courses. Target faces were also subject to quarantine, which was fixed at 48 hours for all items. Fabric quivers were dispensed with and metal ground quivers used instead. Candidates did not share bosses.
The shooting line and the range markings placed on the field by the armourer, in accordance with AGB guidelines, were used to ensure correct social distancing. The tripod and straw boss system had been taken out of use prior to the resumption of courses and the beginners used the all-weather foam bosses kept outside on our field permanently. This reduced the number of bosses available to the rest of the membership, but with a total of 12 bosses to use, even a five-person beginners’ course left plenty of space for up to 14 other members to shoot concurrently with a course, under AGB guidelines.
On the line
On the shooting line, candidates removed their face masks to facilitate good technique, especially for anchoring. This facilitated good coaching observations and ensured non-verbal facial contact, which is an essential element in the coach / candidate relationship and communication process.
Coaches remained (as much as possible) at least 2m from candidates during shooting EXCEPT at the outset or during specific individual coaching. At those times when a coach was less than 2m from a candidate, the coach flipped down a clear plastic visor fitted onto a skeleton safety helmet, to ensure there was a viral safety barrier in place.
At the beginning, whilst candidates were shooting their first few arrows, they shot singly, with a coach standing at the usual close proximity, for safety reasons. However, as soon as the new starters had demonstrated that they could operate the bow and shoot their arrows safely, the coach moved back, and a more usual style of group operation was employed. Coaches moved up and down the back of the shooting line to observe each candidate closely in turn during each shooting end.
On those occasions when the coaches needed to close in to teach a specific element of technique, the plastic facial barrier came into use again. There was none of the more usual categories of physical contact between coach and candidate such as handshakes, fist bumps, high fives or holding/prodding a candidate into the correct body posture. Instead, a pair of pointers (converted arrow shafts) were used to make the contacts which might have previously been made with fingertips. Candidates consented verbally to this in group session in advance.
Candidates retained possession of their anti-viral wipes throughout shooting so that any kit touched by anyone else could be immediately sanitised before its use continued. Both the traditional pre-Covid and the newer Covid-secure methods for pulling arrows were taught and used during the courses to maximise safety for novices on unshared targets, and to prepare them for shooting as a member on shared targets in club settings.
At the end of the session, candidates and coaches returned to wearing cloth face masks whilst all kit was resanitised by the candidates themselves, before being replaced into store by the coaches. Once all kit was away, non-mask social distancing was resumed and masks were removed, to facilitate non-verbal facial communication during the plenary, feedback and closing Q&A sessions.
The main challenge was to ensure that training was conducted and seen to be conducted, safely. This included protection for the candidates, the coaches, the kit being used and for any other archers or passers-by concurrently on the field. Sessions were extended by up to 30 minutes to ensure beginners received both adequate training and good value for money.
The last great challenge was to present the candidates with their certificates at the end of the course, and take appropriate photos too, whilst still maintaining unmasked social distancing – but we coped with it!
Key tips and advice from clubs on how to run beginners’ courses under Covid restrictions
Deer Park Archers
- Only run beginners’ courses if you have an entry strategy to join the club on completion of the course.
- Allow increased time to ensure lowest risks for coaches and participants.
- Use your most experienced and competent coaches to run the course.
- Recognise that the value of a successful beginners’ programme is the number of new members, not the profit from the course. As a club we do not receive any income from beginners’ courses just ready-made archers!
- Gather as much information about each participant and prepare them for first few shots to minimise risk.
- If you have everything in place other than the additional time required to deliver the programme safely, delivering Covid-compliant beginners’ courses is no less fulfilling than before!
- Make sure you only use licensed coaches.
- Make sure you have PPE available in case of need, and plan your sessions carefully.
- If you are not familiar with the Drills and Skills, make sure you have a look at Learning Curve, Archery GB’s online community forum, and learn them before the course. Take advice about how you can use Drills and Skills to develop good practice before the archer shoots and to help with fixing an archer’s faults.
- You will also need to manage the equipment carefully to make sure you reduce cross contamination.
- Have one bow per beginner
- Manage your contacts. We use MailChimp. Once set up it’s easy to use. You can create sign up pages that report to the administrator about who’s signed up. You can use a link to that sign up page from almost anywhere online; Facebook, Twitter, Email, websites. If you have the skill of the blag you can even get it put on somebody else’s website as it’s a plug in and can be unplugged if need be. Managing your contacts is key to being able to know who you’ve contacted, who’s on a course, who did a course but didn’t join. And of course, who joined.
- Get good at selling the benefits of your club: you are fabulous, you are safe, and you are outdoors. If you don’t say it, it won’t be heard!
- We spent quite a bit of money making the range Covid-safe: about £500 for outdoors on lane markings, sanitiser sprays and signage. We worked hard at obtaining a grant for this.
- Try something different: our club Chair contacted a local radio station (BBC Radio Norfolk) and managed to get on the breakfast show. Local media know how difficult life is right now and want to help – tap into that stream, it could be worth it. We received three or four new contacts due to that avenue.
- Apply for a grant. Sport England and Crowdfunder have joined forces to offer great funding initiatives.
- Even if nobody wants to help the lead coach, get the committee on board. They are an asset you cannot do without. They are your voice when you are not there; they are a backbone when things go wrong. You need them.
- Always canvas for coaches, assistant coaches and helpers. Never stop doing this.
- Like so many clubs, it is important to recognise that a lot gets done sometimes by a small group of people. Do your best to ensure those who have worked hard get noticed and thanked properly. If at all possible, do try and share the work out.