While focused archers send fast-flying arrows whizzing toward the bullseye at the College of William and Mary’s Archery Club’s weekly practices, this student group has other targets off the range. Archery Club is a student-run organization which competitively practices the sport of archery while aiming to foster an inviting and engaging club environment.
“I’m so thankful that we’ve gotten the opportunity to create that kind of community where, no matter who you are, that you’re welcome,” Archery Club President Angelica Wood ’24 said.
Archery Club holds general body meetings on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in Chancellors Hall 134. These meetings include brief lessons on archery technique but largely focus on team bonding. Members play games such as Pictionary, Jeopardy and the Mafia-inspired deduction game Werewolf, which executive members note as a club favorite. Executive board meetings for planning and organizing club happenings are likewise open to any members who wish to attend.
When it comes to honing the sport, Archery Club also hosts practices on Fridays from 2:30-5:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 1:30-4:00 p.m. at the Newport News Park Archery Range, which is a 20 minute drive from campus. Archery Club includes five USA Archery certified coaches, with a captain for each of the three types of bows. Archery Club Social Chair Alexis Knicker ’24 described how coaches help archers at all levels enhance their shooting skills for practice and beyond.
“When I started, we were very small, so now that we’re getting bigger, we are putting a little bit more of a focus on competitions,” Knicker said.
Archery Club is currently preparing for USA Archery’s Virginia Indoor Nationals in February. Eight club members, including Archery Club Vice President Julia Tucker ’25, will travel to James Madison University to compete. Tucker outlined the club’s aims for the competition, explaining the emphasis on enjoying the opportunity over perfecting athletic achievement.
“We aren’t really looking to win everything,” Tucker said. “Of course, winning is great, but we’re really looking for bonding experiences, and being able to offer those opportunities for competition for the people who want them, to really be able to give people the experience of going to the competition.”
Wood attended last year’s Nationals, which hosted over 200 competitors. She reminisced on the benefits of interacting with a larger community of archers.
“You really get to meet a good amount of people, as well as, along with the experience, also getting a better understanding — or a deeper understanding — from the people who are there,” Wood said.
While preparing for the competition, club executives have also planned social events, such as a formal held last semester. With such get-togethers, interactive games at meetings and the athletic practices, Archery Club strikes a unique balance between being a sports team and a social community.
“We have some people who are really just social members,” Tucker said. “They don’t come to a whole lot of practices, but you see them every Tuesday; and we have some people who are just really into the sport, who maybe don’t come to as many Tuesday meetings, but come to competitions with us and always show up to practice. So, it’s really what you want it to be.”
Socially-oriented events seem to have hit the mark for creating club camaraderie, as members like Knicker consistently attested to the bonds they had built with fellow archers.
“I think almost every single friend group chat that I have on this campus has someone from archery,” Knicker said. “Archery has just kind of been my family away from home.”
Along with building a strong social network, Archery Club emphasizes accessibility for all skill levels. Coaches aid beginners in learning the sport, and the club provides any equipment needed. Wood entered the club at a relatively low skill level, with her only prior archery experience coming from a childhood camp.
“It doesn’t matter if you haven’t shot a bow before, or if you’ve dabbled a little bit, or if you’ve gone to competitions, and you’re looking to get back,” Wood said.
Of course, as the club encompasses a wide range of skill levels, some members are highly trained in archery and frame their club experience through an emphasis on the sport itself.
Club member Meredith Endres ’26 detailed how her family history of high-level competitive archers inspired her to begin shooting at a young age. Endres joined Archery Club to continue practicing her lifelong sport, and she is gearing up for her second year of competition in Nationals by attending the weekly practices.
The sport of archery also comes with unlikely benefits in terms of mental health. Endres described the calming effect inherent in the quiet focus required for precise shooting.
“There are so many other things your brain is thinking about, about the shot and every aspect of it, that it’s very, very helpful for your brain to be able to process and not have to deal with everything else that’s always going through it,” Endres said.
Even athletically-focused members recognize the strong bond and welcoming nature of Archery Club. Endres explained how the kindness of club members enhances her experience with an already beloved sport.
“Sometimes I’ll shoot only ten arrows the entire practice because I keep getting distracted talking to people,” Endres said. “It’s a very social sport because in between, when you’re waiting for someone else to finish their shot, you sit, and you chat, and you meet really amazing people.”
Those interested in joining Archery Club can attend its weekly meetings or practices. The club has no formal attendance requirements and is open to all at any time in the semester. Their Instagram @wmarchery provides information on upcoming events and meetings.
Tucker encourages prospective archers not to let impressions of the sport being intimidating scare them away from this truly friendly troupe.
“When I tell people I do archery, they imagine it to be so much more intense than it is,” Tucker said. “We’re not like Katniss Everdeen; this isn’t ‘The Hunger Games’. We’re a very chill group of people who miss the target half the time, and that’s okay. We have fun looking for arrows together just as much as we have fun shooting together.”