The sport of Archery depends on caring, capable coaches who introduce the sport to young archers. In the United States, archery coaches and instructors are certified under a single regulating body, USA Archery. The USA Archery certification program prepares coaches to help athletes successfully and safely develop their skills and abilities as they progress in competition. Instructors who possess a certification have been trained and tested in archery skills and safety, and is an important credential for professional or semi-pro coaches to market their service. There are 5 tiers of archery instructor certifications, as follows:
Level 1 Coach
The Level 1 or Basic instructor specializes in introducing basic safety and archery skills to beginners. Typically this type of certification is for instructors who would like to work for summer camps, boy or girl scout organizations, or parks and recreation departments.
To receive a Level 1 certification, you must first take a 4-12 hour course in range safety, set-up, and commands, basic equipment information and care, and the fundamentals of shooting. The only pre-requisite to this course is that you be at least 15 years of age. The course costs between $30 and $50 on average.
Level 2 Coach
While it would seem intuitive that you must first pass a Level 1 certification before moving on to Level 2, that is not the case. As long as you are at least 18, have passed a background check successfully, and are a current member of NFAA or USA Archery, you can begin your Level 2 course. While Level 1 is not a pre-requisite to the Level 2 certification, a Level 2 coach is certified to teach Level 1 courses. Typically the Level 2 coach is found in more established archery classes, such as J.O.A.D., college archery clubs, or larger community clubs. This certification also costs between $30 and $50.
The Level 2 course is typically longer than the Level 1 course and covers the bow shooting cycle in finer detail, adding a little more depth to the archer's technique. The aspiring instructor will also be trained how to fit equipment to their athletes, how to set up, tune, and repair equipment, and how to teach regular archery lessons as well as the Level 1 Instructor class.
Level 3 Coach - National Training System Certified
Whereas the Level 1 and Level 2 certifications primarily dealt with archery instruction in a class setting, the Level 3 certification focuses more on athlete development on an individual basis. All Level 3 coaches are eligible to teach Level 1 or 2 courses. In order to become certified, the candidate instructor must be at least 18 years of age, and have held a level 2 certification for at least a year. Alternatively, if the instructor has three years of experience as an archery instructor, they can 'test out' of their Level 2 certification. Level 3 certifications require membership to once of the major certifying bodies (NFAA or USA Archery), and a successful background check.
The Level 3 certification can cost around $250 for over 20 hours of instruction on coaching philosophy, training plan development, competition prep, bow tuning, and competitive psychology. Holding a level 3 certification means you will spend less time working with beginner, youth, and amateur archers, and start focusing on athletes who are hoping to take their competition to another level.
After an instructor has served as a Level 3 coach for 2 years and they are ready to take their career to the next level, they can advance to a level 4 certification. This certification makes the coach eligible to work for the USA Archery national training camps and the International Team Staff. Level 4 coaches can also teach Level 1 and Level 2 certification courses.
The Level 4 course costs just under $500, and will most likely require travel and a hotel-stay for the week-long duration of the course. This course focuses intensively on sports science, including biomechanics, sports psychology, nutrition, training cycles, and the National Training System.
Level 5 - Elite Level Coach
When a coach has reached the pinnacle of their career, including at least two years as a Level 4 instructor, and a record of successfully coaching three or more archers to a national podium place, top 10 ranking, or Olympic, World, or International team placement, he or she may be eligible for their Level 5 certification. Rather than taking a course, a Level 5 certification is self-paced and self-directed to highlight the candidate's ability to coach athletes to a high level of performance. Typically the coach will be required to pursue higher-level training, including the ASEP Coaching Principles certification, and the USCO Safe Sport certification. The Level 5 certification also requires training and supervision from a mentor or through a Coach Observer Program. In short, the Level 5 certification is the pinnacle of an archery coach's credentials.
Every certification except the Level 1 certification requires a background check through the USA Archery organization. Many of the archers a coach will work with in their career will likely compete in youth leagues. Anyone who works professionally with children is required to submit to a background check. Successfully passing a background check is a strong credential and will help ease the minds of the parents of athletes you may work with in your career.
Additionally, all but the Level 1 certification require membership in either USA Archery or the National Field Archers Association. These organizations provide a lot of valuable information regarding training and competitions, and can serve as yet another credential to market yourself as a highly qualified archery instructor.
Expiration and Renewal
Every one of the above certifications is good for three years from the date of your certification course. You can usually renew your certification every three years by teaching archery classes consistent with your certification (Level 1 - Summer Camp, Level 2 - J.O.A.D., Level 4 - Archery camps and attending continuing education). The cost of renewal is usually as low as $30, and may require a re-check of your background screening.
If you have a passion for archery and working with athletes from all walks of life, becoming an archery instructor can be an intensely rewarding career. Though it takes time and dedication to improve both your archery and your coaching technique, there is no greater thrill than seeing your athletes excel in competition after months or years of careful training.