4-H Archery Teaches A Valuable Life-Long Lesson By Example

Challenging Oneself In Archery, or Compos Sui
by Tom Barker

In the 4H program in District 11 in Texas the project leaders have tried to create an atmosphere where the youth archers can challenge themselves and become masters of themselves, what is known as Compos Sui.

There is a class for 8 and under archers called clover kids where they shoot 5 ends of three arrows for participation only. They all get an award that says champion.

The 8 to12 year olds are separated out by bow type (barebow, recurve, and compound), and then by gender (open and female), and finally by talent. We have a graduation scale set up to challenge the kids as they become more proficient. The 8-12 year olds start at 9 meters for 30 arrows. Once they shoot a score of 250 out of a possible 300 we graduate these Beginner Sub-juniors to the Intermediate Sub-juniors, where they then shoot 30 arrows at 18 meters.

Once these Intermediates post a 200 out of a possible 300, then they are again graduated to Advanced sub-juniors where they shoot 60 arrows. Many of these advanced sub-juniors have further challenged themselves once they shoot a 500 out of a possible 600 and will shoot up in age division to find similar talent competitors. They are also considerate to not beat up on those that are progressing behind them. They are truly trying to be masters of themselves.

Juniors are age 13-14 while Seniors are 15-18. All Juniors and Seniors shoot at 18 meters, Junior recurves using the 60cm target and the Seniors  and all compounds using the 40 cm target.

It may be useful to help the reader understand why District 11 4H has an open and females division but no "males" only division. At the State 4H level there is only one gender division for the State 4H Indoor and State 4H Outdoor matches. The state matches separate out by bow type and age, but not gender. In other words, the boys and girls compete against each other. The reason the state shooting sports gives for this practice is so that there is no discrimination against any of the kids based on gender. In District 11 the project leaders felt that they needed a separate division for the young ladies. They felt that if they were to have just an open division they would run off some of the girls, especially at the beginner levels. In sort of an affirmative action compromise the leaders created two divisions, female and open. The reason that they called it "open" and not "male" was so that in the event a talented female archer wanted to challenge herself, she could compete in the open division against the males. In other words, they would not discriminate against the young lady if she wanted to shoot against the guys. Also, frequently the young ladies find themselves in a division of one and rather than just buying an award will enter in the open division.

The tournament planners end up with multiple shooting times to accommodate all the kids but will not let a youngster shoot the same division more than once in order to pick up a first and second in the same event. The kids are more than welcome to shoot up a division in age or a different bow type if they want to shoot multiple times. (Can't shoot down though.) The leaders also do not let a young lady shoot in both the female and open classes within the same bow and age group. The primary reason is that if we did we would in effect be reverse discriminating against the gentleman archers who would not be allowed to shoot in the female divisions. Furthermore, we limit the 12 and under archers to no more than 60 arrows per day to prevent injury.

The results have been very rewarding in the three years since these practices were adopted. Participation is up, particularly in the young ladies. In addition, the youth archers are to be complimented for their fine shooting and challenging themselves by seeking out the best competition. Many times that self-challenge is at the longer distance, smaller target, higher age group or all three. The kids have much better skills than those that shot just a few years ago. They shoot higher scores at an earlier age than has been seen in the past. A very small part is better equipment. Some is due to better coaching.

By and large the difference is the kids challenging themselves and there is no substitute for tournament experience. It is one of the reasons District 11 4H kids do so well at a state, national and now international events.

Compos Sui!

*Compos Sui is latin for "Master of Himself"

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copyright 2002-2003, Tom Barker & TSAA