From Training Wheels to Target Practice
The best gift you could ever give your daughter is the confidence to overcome any obstacle that threatens to get in her way of happiness. If you’re one of those dads making cameo appearances with stuffed animals at tea parties or you never miss a softball practice, it’s safe to say you’re already building that trait within her.
Archery, without a doubt, is one of the best ways to continue building a relationship while fostering that confidence in your tenacious little lady. It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States and has taken on a symbol of women's empowerment everywhere. And if phrases like father like daughter have you dreaming about her first bow kill or winning an Olympic medal, it’s important to remember a few things before just passing down one of your old bows.
After an insightful conversation with a group of female bowhunters, I’ve gathered a few things that men seem to overlook when raising their little pioneers.
Like her first date, her first bow better not give her any trouble.
And I’m not just talking about the learning efficiency of compounds here. Though they are great for the basics of shooting, recurve bows (despite their challenges) can offer a well-rounded education on technique and the weapon in hand. Which also makes them fit for beginners. But really, the most important thing about her first bow isn’t the style or color, or whether it’s pro-line or midrange. And while the sentiment of inheriting her dad’s bow is appreciated, the most important thing is that it fits her and it’s comfortable.
If she strains by trying to hold back too much draw weight, she may never want to hold a bow again or, worse — induce injuries. So before giving your daughter the 50# compound hanging on the wall, and I can’t stress this enough, get her draw length properly measured.
And while we’re on the topic of unique physiologies, you’ll need to be aware of more than just her wingspan and arrow length. One day (if she hasn’t already, despite your wishes), she will develop curves that may require adjustments in her form, her bow of choice, and even what kind of bra she wears.
Yes, I’m talking about boobs.
As hard as it is to think about your little girl growing into a young woman, imagine how she’s going to feel trying to adjust her stance around a body part that her male counterpart doesn’t understand.
If her arrows are scattered all over the place, she might not be able just to look straight down to evaluate her foot position. At least not without moving her hips or shoulders. Before telling her what you do to correct form, remember once again that you do not have a side boob problem. Help her navigate her body and bow by knowing a few strategies ahead of time. Good dads always have handy tricks up their sleeves. Great dads don’t let gender differences weaken their coaching tactics. This proactive approach can do wonders to avoid frustration and will nourish her confidence. Women don’t want to feel that their bodies impose challenges — especially in sport. And if they’re trained properly with understanding communication, they won’t.
In other words, there’s no need to make a big to-do about it. Being quick to recognize when adjustments need to be made with her curves in mind will make her feel included and secure in her abilities to succeed. Just proceed with as much patience and understanding as possible. After all, archery is an active meditation — meaning, it’s a practice.
To craft her talents into lifelong skills, you’ll need to teach her how to be fiercely independent with her bow and all that it encompasses. Let’s be real; if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we’re not far removed from being the next tribute in the hunger games. I think of protagonist Katniss Everdeen when I write my last piece of advice.
Bows in her hair don’t excuse the duties of the bow in her hand.
The first time I rode a bike without training wheels, dad sent me flying down an enormous hill quilted with fresh-cut grass.
“She’s fiiine, Ger!” He’d echo with his arms crossed. Likely holding a can of beer as his eyes followed my blazing saddle—sheer glistening pride. Mom could’ve killed him.
But that level of confidence is what you should have in your daughter before sending her off into the world of archery or bowhunting. It suffices to say her training doesn’t stop at the mastery of her shot.
To fully empower her inner toxophilite, she needs to be in touch with the workings of her weapon. From stringing her bow to (eventually) field dressing her kill, it’s imperative you raise her to be independent with her tool. Teaching this ancient art form's intricacies will solidify her authority and leadership in this fast and growing industry. She’ll likely gain the upper hand on most of her competition, and you’ll spend less time worrying about people preying on her vulnerability.
So, dads, I implore you, suppress the urge to take care of her every need. It feels like you’re helping now, but in reality, you’re stunting her growth. Just because she’s your little girl doesn’t mean she can’t learn to gut her own deer and provide for her family one day as the huntress of her household.
And when you feel like you’ve reached a point of cluelessness as far as daughters go, get her in front of other women she can relate to and learn from. In fact, doing this sooner than later could help both of you out earlier on in the learning process. There are thousands of women in archery for an up-and-coming female competitor to relate.
Setting her up for success will offer a father/daughter experience, she will cherish for a lifetime. Keep it fun and keep it light and remember that her confidence is key.