Disarray: The National Archery Association

After a long hiatus on writing about archery something for people to think about.

I love archery. I believe it is a sport that I will be able to do long into my aged years and more importantly something I can share with my children. I recently completed my membership applications for the National Archery Association the governing body for archery in the Olympics in the United States and for the National Field Archery Association. Knowing that here in Indiana where I live is the birthplace of modern archery and that archery is a small if impressive sport. I am very interested in making sure that it succeeds.

It might be interesting to think about what would success for archery mean? From my perspective it means a growing sport, filled with several age groups and a complete set of programs nationwide. There are a variety of programs and archery support groups that have been set up over the years, but still archery remains a fringe sport. If you start with football and baseball, and work your way out from the surface of the planet to soccer as a moon orbiting the bit two sports, then you can go all the way out to Pluto to find archery. It is lonely out here in the hinterlands of sports where the equipment is banned from schools in many places. Out here in archeryville there are the nicest people. I want to see archery grow but I’ll be honest that isn’t my biggest concern.

Archery has a problem with leadership and the sustainability of the organizations. The roots of the problem are in the leadership, the issues of differing opinions, the problems with past practices. There is also some temerity in the different organizations for buy-in. The idea that the membership is more than supporting the very few is empty. The practice of the National Archery Association currently is to promogulate a ponzi scheme where all of the membership supports very few athletes who go to the Olympics. The wholesale changes to the coaching and high performance programs centralize and denigrate the efforts of smaller clubs. The governing processes and representation are woefully inadequate for a membership driven organization. 

If the purpose of the National Archery Association is to simply field the next Olympic team then they should not be requiring dues of Junior Olympic Archery Division (JOAD) teams or National Alliance for the Development or Archery (NADA). Current changes in the coaching requirements for JOAD coaches are going to block a lot of really good people from moving up in the coaching skills and learning process. This type of centralization has hit many corporations as they centralize and create strict hierarchies. Something you see in banks and investment firms.  Centralization has another negative repercussion in it artificially restricts the applicant pool for new archers. If the skills necessary for great coaches are not being taught at the lowest level then the number of superior archers will dwindle. It is simple. If you do not push the education of trainers of the highest level, out to the leaves of the organization, then you will not see superior archers except by chance.

I do not believe though that the National Archery Association is listening. 

If the organization is unwilling to change, it has followed a process of exclusion (as the current decisions suggest), and then you see the absolute tumult of issues, firings, resignations, and various coaching issues that have arisen. If all of that is taken in total then the archery organization charged with choosing the next Olympians to represent America are suspect. I am concerned that by excluding and centralizing and making participation harder USA Archery is going down a dark path rapidly and about to get a sharp stick to the eye. Once again I paid my membership up for three years, but watching the absolute disarray I do not think the value will be there.

I am also concerned with those great people who support the sport at the local level. Removing or making the coaching requirement onerous versus supportive is never a good idea. I do like the standardization process as we have seen in the past with groups like the Motorcycle Safety Foundation  (MSF) it can allow for rapid growth. Unfortunately MSF was taken over by the manufacturers and stopped representing the instructors (coaches now) and the system was watered down extensively. So much so that the training program was fractured and taken over by state organizations.  That is an example from a legally supported, national program, with huge lobbying groups, and a diverse population of enthusiasts. It would be interesting to see how much sway manufacturers of archery equipment have over the NAA. The possible parallels between the two organizations could be interesting to follow.

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