Is archery a sport? The complete and definitive answer

One of the largest debates around archery is if it is or not a sport. This controversial question has been the origin of several heated-up discussions.

The short answer to the question of “is archery a sport” is simple: archery is a sport. However, it’s not trivial to determine if an activity can be considered a sport or not. They have to meet some requirements.

How do you define a sport

Different organizations define the word sport in different ways. I read several of them and liked the one given by the Oxford Dictionary:

A sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill, one regulated by a set of rules or customs in which an individual or team competes against another or others.

Oxford Dictionary

As you can see, the reason I liked this definition so much is that there isn’t a single factor that defines a sport. If we split this definition, we can see, at least, four concepts to evaluate if a given activity can be considered a sport or not:

  1. A sport is an activity involving physical exertion,
  2. It also involves skills (usually, physical skills),
  3. It’s regulated by a set of rules or customs
  4. It involves some kind of competition between individuals or teams

Let’s see below, one by one, what each requisite means. You will easily see that archery satisfies all of them. One thing I want to clarify is that, in this article, we are excluding archery types like hunting, of bowfishing, where people usually hunt for food.

Does archery involve physical exertion?

Here, by physical exertion, we mean any action that requires some kind of physical effort. Of course, when you are chopping a tree or even carrying your asleep kid to bed requires an effort from our muscles. But, as we can see later, they don’t meet all the conditions to be considered a sport, although a child bed-lying tournament would be a bizarre thing to see.

There are several people (specifically non-archers) who say that archery is not a sport because you just stand there without making physical exertion, point, and shoot an arrow. You don’t have to run, jump, dodge, etc. Clearly, they never grabbed a 40lbs bow and tried to draw it, without mentioning to keep it at full draw for 20 or 30 seconds, or shoot 100-200 arrows a day, every day.

This is a clear example that archery requires some physical exertion. Since the draw weight that we use in our bows is chosen for our specific capacities, we aren’t exerting a tremendous amount of effort. But, anyway, it’s still an effort.

There are some cases, especially in professional-tier categories, that archers train their muscles doing weight lifting and shoulders strengthening. 

So, archery checks the first requirement.

Does archery involve skills?

One of the main things that archery requires is skill. The ability to have a steady draw and the focus to aim is a skill that an archer must acquire. 

Moreover, another important skill in archery is the ability to replicate consistently a shot. What does it mean? In simple terms, anyone can hit the gold. Even a beginner. That’s not a great feat. But, can they do it again? And again? And again? That’s what consistency means. An archer has not only to hit the center but being able to reproduce exactly each step in the shot process to hit the center again. And that is one of the hardest skills for an archer to achieve.

So, again, archery meets the second requirement. So far so good.

Which set of rules or customs regulate archery?

When archery is practiced as a sport, several rules regulate the activity. These rules cover from which bow types are allowed in competition, the official target’s distances, archer’s clothing, etc.

The World Archery Federation is the governing body for the sport of archery, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, and is recognized by the International Olympic Committee. It has a rulebook that covers every aspect of the sport (championship, archers equipment, scoring, etc.). If you want, you can download the rulebook, split into chapters for easier reading, from the official World Archery webpage. 

Once more, archery also meets this requirement. One more to go.

Archery: Is there a competition?

As I briefly mentioned before, archery has competition, and its rules are governed by the World Archery Federation. There are different types of competition, depending on the bow type (recurve, compound), the class (cadet, junior, master), and gender (men and women), among others.

The World Archery Federation not only regulates target archery tournaments, but also other types of archery, like field or 3d archery.

Finally, archery meets this final requirement.


According to the definition of the word “sport”, archery meets all the requirements to be considered a sport. Moreover, the International Olympic Committee also recognizes archery as a sport. So, there’s no doubt that archery is a sport.

Nevertheless, there are a lot of people that do not practice archery as a sport like, for instance, hunters. Some people just like to shoot some arrows at a target for fun, and that’s great. Some even do it in their backyard. You don’t need to follow the official rules of target archery to have some fun. After all, anyone can do whatever they consider fun but, in the case of archery, try to be safe, to avoid hurting others or yourself.

I think archery is an awesome sport and is beneficial for anyone. Everyone should try archery, at least, once in their lifetime. If you like the sport of archery and are thinking about giving it a try, I invite you to read this quick beginner’s guide to start.

I hope this article was helpful for you, and I hope to see you around.

Good arrows! 






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