Masters Athletes

If an archer over 60 is performs well, in his or her age group, unless they’ve got connections it seems unlikely any of the archery organizations or manufacturers are going to identify that individual as a potential athlete.  On the other hand is an archer is younger than 18 and shoots well that archer is more likely to attract support.

It is nice that the young people get support as athletes.  It is less of a compliment to the governing organizations and manufacturers that they reduce the support for the older population.  The support provided to older folks is feeble.  That’s  dumb  when in archery the largest segment of competitive archers are over 50!(1)

In a study, representative of USA archers, the investigators found that 25.5% of the archers in the US are under the age of 18, 30.4% are between 18 and 49 years old, and 35.2% are over 50. (1)

Now, the math is off. The total population should equal 100%. The total in their breakdown of age segments comes to 91.1% (opps). The researchers do point out that nearly 40% of the archers are over the age of 50, where their data shows that percentage is 35.2.  Arithmetic aside, the study suggests there are a lot of older archers.

USA Cycling and USA Triathlon put significant emphasis on older athletes.  The same is true with USA Track and Field.  Those organizations have figured out that the maturing population isn’t simply growing old and dying.  A huge amount of older folks are extremely active.

During my 50s I had corporate support to compete at the Ironman World Championship on Kona, HI. (2)   The same was true for the ITU World Duathlon Championships and the USA Masters Track Cycling Nationals. It really helped.   Perhaps, I was a better swimmer, runner and cyclist than I am an archer, but I wasn’t alone in having support in the other sports.

A fellow I used to train with in Atlanta was a professional triathlete in his 50s.  He wasn’t winning the major events.  He did well enough to continue to have corporate support as a age grouper.  Older athletes make up a market that corporations should be highlighting.  Being older and staying or becoming athletic is important for the general health of our population.

Todays 63 years olds – not the grandparents of the 1960s
“64 year old Grandaddy’s Pot Belly” Today’s seniors are often in better fitness than youngsters

Recently, I heard a news piece that suggested, with modern medicine, our bodies are out living our brains. Let me state, I do not believe it. The report cited the rising cases of dementia, Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment associated associated with aging.  I believe our modern sleep patterns, lack of restorative sleep, poor nutrition, poor use of cognitive function (watching television versus reading a book for example) and decline in physical exercise contributes to various dysfunction of the brain over time.  Essentially, as a population too many people seek easily available and instantly satisfying rewards rather than putting forth too much strain for an achievement.

Being active and staying cognitively engaged can improve fitness, health, decrease cognitive impairment and the risk of cognitive impairment. (2,3) To age well people need to stay both physically and cognitive active.  Archery is an ideal sport for that combination.  People seem to be figuring that out for themselves.

In the US there are 21.6 million people that participate in archery.  Nearly half of them, 46.6%, say they are competitive in the sport.(1) Serious practice is a lot of work.  Certainly, it isn’t as demanding from a cardiovascular standpoint as training for an Ironman, but you do not need to train for an Ironman to be physically fit.  There’s a lot of walking in archery and walking is good. Archery also helps with upper body strength, core strength and balance.

There’s also the mental element of the sport.  Archery is as much a mental discipline as a physical one. Of the 9.8 million people that claim to be competitive archers there are 3.5 million of them over 50.   Of those over 50 years old the majority are over 60. The combined health effects of archery, mental and physical, is a beneficial to this athletes.

The 50+ year old archers equal about half the total population of US athletes involved with triathlon. Believe me, if you are over 50 and winning triathlons in your age group, winning state and regional triathlons and ranking high nationally some sports corporation will notice.  In archery, not so much.

Charles Eugster, 96 years old, posing with his World Rowing Masters trophy. All photos courtesy of Charles Eugster

That’s too bad.  The older population can achieve both physical and cognitive benefits from archery.  It is a sport that is ideally suited for a more mature audience.  In fact, it is one of two sports where an athlete over 50 can become an elite – the other is shooting.

I think archery as a hole is missing the boat considering this segment of the population.  Nowhere do I find aggressive marketing or competitive assignments directed to the older archery population or the recruitment of older individuals to the sport.  Even at a recent  World Archery Championship for Masters the organizers limited the World Championship  award to the 50-year-old age group.  The 60 year olds would be shooting against the 50 year olds or for fun.  I know, I got an invitation to go last year. I considered entering until I read the fine print.  Similar with the Gator Cup – I could not find a 60+ class to enter.

Sister Madonna Buda – The Iron Nun
Sister Madonna Buda, 85 years old.

There was a time in Ironman events when there were no age groups for 75, 80 or 85 year olds. Sister Madonna Buda changed that.  Nike dubbed her, “The Iron Nun” and triathlon celebrates her for her unyielding success. Archery is a much older sport than triathlon.  When it comes to promoting the older athlete archery is way behind triathlon.

85 year old Ibone de Belausteguigoitia.

I am not alone in my assessment  regarding the lack of concentration on the older athlete by US corporations and organizations. “In the U.S., masters athletes receive little or no corporate, governmental or organizational support to attend competitions. This is not true in France, where Renault sponsors masters athletes, or in Germany, where Mercedes Benz offers support…..on a more mercenary level, I hope to get corporate America to recognize that it is good business to offer sponsorships to older athletes. Baby boomers do not buy products from 20-year-old spokespeople.” Rob Jerome.(4)

Ron Ortiz, 52 years old

I understand Jerome’s position, I don’t care what a 20-year-old spokesperson is trying to sale – especially in archery. I expect that 20 year old archer will be gone from the limelight as soon as he or she needs to earn a living.

Reference:

  1. hitting-the-bullseye-reel-girl-archers-inspire-real-girl-archers-full
  2. Karssemeijer EGA1,Aaronson JA2Bossers WJ3Smits T4Olde Rikkert MGM1Kessels RPC5. Positive effects of combined cognitive and physical exercise training on cognitive function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment or dementia: A meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev.2017 Nov;40:75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2017.09.003. Epub 2017 Sep 12.
  3. Wang C1Yu JT2Wang HF3Tan CC1Meng XF1Tan L2. Non-pharmacological interventions for patients with mild cognitive impairment: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of cognition-based and exercise J Alzheimers Dis.2014;42(2):663-78. doi: 10.3233/JAD-140660.
  4. https://www.asaging.org/blog/older-masters-athletes-just-do-it-shatter-stereotypes

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