What to expect at an ITAA archery tournament:
Whether this is your first archery tournament, or your first FITA-style tournament, or your first tournament with the ITAA, it’s good to know what you’re walking into ahead of time.
(Note – In the time since this guide was first written the FITA organization has been renamed to be “World Archery”. )
Before the shoot:
When you register, make sure to find the right Division and Class you would like to compete in
Registration fees are due on-arrival at the tournament site.
USA Archery Membership:
Be sure to bring your physical membership card. (Print it out). That will make check-in easier at locations without good internet access.
ITAA State shoots require either a membership in USA Archery. Temporary memberships can be purchased on-site. NFAA memberships are also honored.
Prepare for the competition:
Stay On Target:
The FITA target face, or “4-color face”, is the yellow-red-blue-black-white target face. An arrow scores up to ten points, and a miss is worth zero points.
The yellow (gold!) zone has three scoring circles. The outer circle scores 9 points. The tiny center one always scores 10 points. The middle scoring circle scores 10 points for recurves, and 9 points for compounds (
except cub and younger divisions in JOAD tournaments now everybody). Many events will ask shooters to mark how many Xs, 10s, and 9s they score, as these are used sometimes for tie-breakers.
The FITA target face can be one single large colored circle, or a set of three smaller circles (either in a triangle “Vegas Face” layout or in a vertical line). The small circles have the same target size, they are just the inner 5 scoring zones instead of the full 10 scoring zones of the single-circle target face. For the “three spot” targets, one arrow needs to go into each target.
Once you have a target assignment, your target will -always- be in that location. In FITA tournaments, you do not switch your target face location between top and bottom half-way through a tournament (this is common in NFAA tournaments)
Each arrow counts for a maximum of 10 points, so the maximum score is 10 multiplied by the number of arrows. (Hence, a 60 arrow competition is a “600 round”)
Target faces are usually placed in groups of four. Four archers are typically assigned to a “target”, and the target faces are placed in positions A-D. A&B are on top (left & right). C&D are on the bottom (left & right). These groups of archers will also record their score cards together.
Indoor ITAA competitions are usually “600 round” tournaments, which are 60 arrow tournaments, shot in 3-arrow ends. Make sure that you have at least 3 “good” arrows (and it’s recommended to have several extras in case something goes amiss during the event).
All arrows are shot from the same distance (usually 20 yards or 18 meters, which is about a 1-foot difference, so they’re considered equivalent).
An indoor 600 round can take four (4) hours to complete from the time you arrive (1 hour before the shooting line start time) until the final whistle.
Outdoor ITAA competitions are usually “900 round” or “Half-FITA round” tournaments. A “FITA round” is 144 arrows, so a “Half-FITA is 72 arrows”. Outdoor tournaments are usually shot at several distances, and the distance is switched during the tournament (Always furthest distance first, so the target moves closer). Outdoor tournaments are shot with 6-arrow ends. It is much easier to lose arrows behind the targets in an outdoor tournament. We make every effort to find them, but make sure to bring plenty of spare arrows.
Update: “720 Rounds” are more popular now than in the past. These are single-distance tournaments, with 72 arrows being shot in 6-arrow ends at one distance (usually a challenging distance used for national competitions at your bow division and age class). Often 70 meters or 50 meters.
It is helpful to practice each distance before the tournament, so you are comfortable with each section of the competition.
There are some “quirks” in FITA tournaments that catch some people by surprise:
Equipment Check – Before the tournament, a judge can check your equipment to make sure everything is within the rules. Mostly, this is checking that your arrows are a legal diameter (23/64″ or less), and that they are marked with your initials. Finger tabs and releases will be checked. Sight apertures will be checked — compounds can only have one pin or a scope. Recurves cannot have a magnifying lens. Compound bows will have their peak draw checked for a 60lb maximum.
Dress Code – For historical and safety reasons, USA Archery events have a dress code. Event attendees are required to adhere to it.
Practice Order – During practice, the “top” (A, AB) line always shoots first. During competition, the lines alternate each end, starting with the “top” line.
Sticky Targets – Some target material is difficult to pull arrows out of. It is recommended that you lube your arrows. (Armor All, or shoe polish can work in a pinch)
At the competition
Sign-in — Locate the director of shooting (usually at a table), and sign in. Hand-in any forms, show your USAA membership card, deposit your payment, and receive your target assignment.
Tournaments will also have “judges” (typically dressed in red) who are your helpers. They are there to answer questions, make judgement calls during scoring, and help if there are any issues that inevitably arise during the competition.
Claim Your Space
The shooting line will be marked with spaces for each lane. You have the right to your space, and your neighbor is obligated to move out of it. But they have the right to their space, too, and you need to accommodate them, too. People are usually cooperative and this is rarely a problem.
If you’re not used to shooting in a line of archers, ask some friends to help you practice. The lanes should be at least 80cm (32 inches) wide. This can still feel very tight. Make sure to load your bow vertically, not horizontally.
ITAA events have a designated practice time before the event begins, and usually 1-2 practice ends just before scoring begins. Make sure to arrive in plenty of time to take advantage of this practice, as necessary.
You’re On the Clock
ITAA events have a shooting clock. Indoors, you get 2 minutes to shoot your three arrows for each end. Outdoors, you have 4 minutes to shoot 6 arrows. If you aren’t used to this, we recommend practicing with a clock before hand.
ITAA events use two shooting lines during events to maximize the number of folks who can participate in an event. These are called A/B lines or AB/CD lines, and it will be clear which is which at an individual event.
One line shoots at the top row of targets. The other row shoots at the bottom row of targets. During practice, the “top” (A, AB) line always shoots first. During competition, the lines alternate each end, starting with the “top” line. (End 1: “top” shoots first. End 2: “bottom” shoots first)
There is typically a sign reminding archers of which line is shooting first. A helpful backup strategy is to watch who else is on your line and use a buddy system to make sure no one forgets when it is the right turn to shoot.
All the Beeps and Whistles
ITAA uses standard “whistle commands” to safely coordinate the shooters.
- 2 whistles: Take your place on the shooting line. Do not draw your bow. (You may nock an arrow). Officially, you have 10 seconds to take your place.
- 1 whistle: The shooting time starts. Begin shooting.
- 3 whistles: The shooting time has ended. Stop shooting, and leave the shooting line
- 5 or more whistles: (emergency) Stop shooting immediately and wait for instructions.
In a two-line tournament, this will sound like:
- 2 whistles – first line steps up (10 seconds)
- 1 whistle – first line starts shooting (2 minutes indoor)
- 2 whistles — end of the first line, second line steps up (10 seconds)
- 1 whistle – second line starts shooting (2 minutes indoor)
- 3 whistles — end of the second line. Put down bows and everyone walks forward to score
For tournaments using electronic speakers, the “whistles” are often electronic beep tones instead.
3 meter line:
Arrows are only considered “shot” if they travel farther than three meters in front of the shooter. Arrows that fall or misfire closer than that (any part is closer than 3 meters) are not considered “shot” and do not count toward the allowed number of arrows for that end. (obviously, don’t walk up and get fallen arrows while everyone else is shooting — shoot one of your spare arrows).
Food and Fluids:
All archery takes energy. Make sure you bring snacks and fluids to replenish your energy. Many sites have a kitchen selling food and snacks. We appreciate you supporting our host clubs, but sometimes time constraints make it easier to pack a lunch to eat during the break times.
When you are finished shooting your arrows, do not step away from the line if either of your neighboring archers have their bows drawn. The last thing you want is to bump someone or distract them when they are at full draw. Wait until after they shoot or let down to step off the line.
While shooting, however, feel free to shoot at your own rhythm. i.e. There is no need to only shoot when the person next to you is resting.
There are a lot of steps during scoring, but the goal is simple — safely and accurately record the results of all of the hard work you just put in! It seems complicated, but it will become routine after a few ends.
The golden rule: If you have questions, ask a judge.
You will typically score with a group of 3-4 shooters. ITAA events use double-scoring — two separate people record the scores on separate score cards, to help be as accurate as possible.
Do not touch any of the arrows or target faces until all of the arrows (of your whole target group) have been called and recorded.
On arrows close to lines, don’t be shy about calling a judge if you disagree with the call that the caller has made. That’s what the judges are there for.
If too many arrows were shot (including if they missed the target), the -lowest- scoring arrows are counted (including misses).
If arrows were shot after time expired, the lowest-scoring arrows are counted.
If arrows bounce out of the target or pass through the target, look for unmarked holes in the target, and try to score the arrows as best you can.
If an arrow is visibly in danger of falling out of a target while shooting, raise your hand to call a judge to request cease of shooting.
If you have equipment failure or a medical emergency, raise your hand and step off of the shooting line. You will be given the opportunity to complete your shooting.
There are several “jobs” to do during scoring. Each shooter should be designated at least one job:
Caller: “calls” the score for each arrow on each target face.
Recorder(s): Writes the scores for each arrow, the total for that end, and keeps the running total for each archer
Marker: Marks each arrow in the target before they are pulled. Please use a pen/pencil, not a fat marker/sharpie. The marks should not be visible from the shooting line.
Puller: Typically each archer is responsible for pulling their own arrows. If appropriate, one of the non-Recorders can pull the recorders’ arrows to save time.
Clearly speaks the arrow score for each arrow. Make sure the recorders are ready to write before calling. Call the arrow values from the highest to the lowest: (i.e. “10-8-5”, not “8-5-10”). If an arrow shaft crosses any part of a line, it receives the higher point value.
(Bending the paper doesn’t count. The shaft must cross where the line would be if the paper was ideal, not damaged, and unbent)
Each archer should make sure that the calling is accurate.
If there is a doubt or disagreement, any shooter may call a judge. The judge’s decision becomes final.
Writes the scores for each arrow, the total for that end, and keeps the running total for each
It is helpful for both recorders to check that their totals are the same after each end. This helps catch mismatches and mistakes early, when they are easy to correct.
If an arrow misses the scoring zones, mark is with an “M” on the scorecard.
Each archer should make sure that the arrow values are marked accurately before the arrows are pulled.
You can bring a small calculator (or phone) to help with the adding up.
The marker should make two small lines at each arrow, at right angles to each other.
Marking the targets helps score accurately in the case of a bounce-out arrow or a pass-through arrow.
After the shooting is finished:
Only you are responsible for an accurate score total. Mistakes get made — everyone is thinking about shooting. Make sure to sign your scorecards only when you are satisfied that it is accurate and every box is filled in. Once your cards are completed and finally, hand them in to the Director of Shooting. You will receive one back as your record.
Move your equipment out of the competition area promptly. There may be another session of shooters arriving, and they will need that space. If you are staying to watch another session, please move your equipment to a storage area or your vehicle.
Out-of-state shooters are eligible for medals at ITAA events. In state tournaments, we also ensure that Illinois resident shooters are not displaced out of medals. Duplicate medals are awarded to Illinois shooters when an out-of-state shooter scores into a higher position.
This is another good write-up of what to expect at a FITA/USA Archery tournament
Even Further Reading:
If you’re a real glutton for information, here are links to 300 pages of archery rules that every certified judge needs to be familiar with. These include by-laws and interpretations of questions that have arisen at various events. Normal participants should know the basics, but have no need to know the details of how to arrange something specific like a world championship field archery tie-breaker…