The Cost of Competition and Attraction for Athletes to Compete

There is a post of mine that will follow a message posted in 2004 on ArcheryTalk and data from posted in 2010.  I read both after I’d written my post then I added them along with this introduction.  The posts aren’t exactly the same but they are related in theme.  Here’s the ArcheryTalk message:

“Come on now guys!! there is a lot of money being thrown around in archery!! millions and millions of dollars are spent every year on archery equipment for hunting, 3D, Target ….” (1)

Now the post:

“How much does a Professional Archer make per Year? Average Annual Pro Olympic Archery Salary Range

Archery has started to become a more popular sport in recent times. While there are not many full-time professional archers, Olympic archery contestants can earn a lot of money. The general salary range for Olympic archers is between $36,000 and $97,000. Serious archers who win tournaments on a regular basis can take in between $10,000 and $75,000 depending on their skill. They may also be paid for endorsements, training, running shops, and working with archery companies to develop better products.” (2)

Here is my post:

Competitive events for athletes are pricey. Decades of paying for and competing in sports has given me a perspective on cost.  When I measure the price to shoot it comes across a bit high in my experience. That opinion is based on venue of the sport, athlete support, volunteer support, vendor support, athlete appreciation, and marketing efforts made by stake holding companies to promote the sport throughout all levels of athletic accomplishment.  I gave that some thought then considered what I pay for to enjoy different types of competitive events.

An Ironman 70.3 race is going to cost a lot, around $250.00 to race. A full Ironman costs around $700.00. That’s big bucks and I’ve paid that and more many times. That cost is one of the reasons I don’t race Ironman brand triathlons any longer.  I still train for them, albeit with less effort and mileage, and would have no difficulty doing a short triathlon tomorrow.  But, archery gives me my competitive ‘fix’ and is less expensive – well, maybe less expensive.

It can take years to prepare for an Ironman. By the time an athlete is ready, that person will have to fork out big cash to enroll and ‘tri’. A major archery tournament’s registration, as it turns out, can cost $300.00 to $500.00. Pretty much the same as an Ironman triathlon – but more expensive than most triathlons. It can take years of preparation to reach level where spending that kind of money to compete is a sound investment (questionable investment). There are similarities to a point between an Ironman and an archery tournament.  But, the differences between venue and athletic recognition is vast.

If you can afford the pricey archery tournaments, even if you are a top professional, take a pause.  Odds are you are not a (for example only – but applicable in other sporting venues) triathlete.  Now, go to Youtube and search for Ironman World Championship.  Of those athletes, in 2014, perhaps 200 were professionals.  The other 2000 were amateurs. At that event there were 2.27 volunteers per athlete (5000 volunteers in total).

Those volunteers (speaking from experience) make getting through a labyrinth of sign-in, document control, drug control, and generally getting to the starting point a breeze.  Overall, there is an air of athletic respect.  That respect was not limited to the top pros.  It spread equally across all ranks and age groups. We don’t get that level of support in archery and maybe we don’t need it.  Archery is a lot safer than a triathlon and that may reduce the need for volunteers.

Should you think that for some reason the ‘treatment’ of a triathlete is different due to some unknown, check out a marathon on Youtube. I’ve run marathons in the US and abroad, only as a amateur.

Once I  was invited to run the Tokyo Marathon.  There were 42,000 runners in the race. Let me be clear, I am a poor excuse for a marathoner and have plans to never run another. But, while in Japan, before, during and after the marathon the Japanese treated all runners with amazing respect. After the run, I was directed to my post-run gear to find everything laid out and organized for me near a shower.  Seriously, as an archer, check out the differences between a major archery event and a major marathon.

You might think that because so many people are involved in those other sports that it isn’t a fair comparison to archery. Such consideration could suggest that other sports have more participates than archery thus warrant more support money, athletic recognition, marketing and promotions associated with those other sports. If you thought that, you’d be off point: Certainly there are 60 million runners /joggers in the US. (3)  However, there are only 1.9 million triathletes and there are 18.9 million people in the US that participate in archery who over the age of 18.(4,5)  That’s a lot of people shooting arrows. All of those sports comes with a price to the athlete. Just some sports seem to glorify their athletes more so than others.

Then there’s the high cost of sporting events that keeps many average wage earners out of major competition. Shortly after I started shooting I was on a trip and stopped for a few days in south Georgia.  I found a local indoor range and I was there practicing. Another archer arrived, stood next to me on the line and began shooting nothing but Xs on a Vegas 3-spot. He was still shooting them when I left.  The shop that hosted the range explained the X-shooting archer was there everyday and never shot anything other than an X. It was like going for a jog with the local running club and finding a 2:06 marathoner that never ran other than the local club events.  The X-shooting archer, as explained, didn’t travel to compete because it cost too much and there was nothing in it worth winning.

Then there’s the price-tag of equipment. Gear for a triathlon can cost well over $10,000 (a good bike and wheels can cost over $10K). Archery gear is less expensive but not cheap. A ‘good’ bow, sights, rest, stabilizers, arrows, and release can easily be over $2000.00. There are certainly less costly way to compete. Still it is not cheap.

Running is a lot less expensive. Most running shoes last 6 months and cost around $100.00. Running attire, while expensive, lasts for years. And you don’t need the most expensive label to run. Wal-Mart or Target can set a runner up at a significant savings. Archery, however, is a bit irksome when is comes to cost to compete.

A local or regional 3D shoot can cost between $15.00 and $35.00. These are great social events and places to hone skills. Sure they’re fun, but $35.00 is a lot of money to shoot 20 targets. (My local price is less than $35.00 / 3D shoot. Regional 3D fees are higher) The major 3D tournaments are much higher when it comes to cost, but those events give archers a luxurious 40-target competition (more if you make the shoot off).

In a recent indoor tournament the registration fee was $40.00. Excluding the 6 warm up arrows we shot it was a 60-arrow tournament. That’s about $0.67 per shot or nearly a buck a shot. Other local or regional indoor contests might have a lower fee, like $20.00, and have 10 ends of 3 arrows. It works out to the same price per arrow to compete.

For perspective, I looked at the price of running events. Specifically, I went to and Down East Running then reviewed a list races and their registration fees. The average cost for 5K and 10K runs came to $30.42. You can see that is relative to the price of a local archery shoot. But, there are other significant differences. All of those shorter races provide swag and winners often receive awards worth displaying. Sway and thoughtful awards attracts runners. These small events aren’t going to have cash awards. The bigger runs will have cash awards. For amateurs, swag is nice.

Swag means gifts. Sway might contain t-shirts; discount cards, free food and water. In addition to swag and at times among the swag bootie,  there have been restaurant meals, frozen turkeys, and event short vacations.  You don’t get that in archery. In fact, you don’t your own bring food to a tournament you could end up premium at the event to eat.

Most archery competitive events I’ve attended have decent reasonably priced food, but some folks go over the top when trying to squeeze a buck from a hungry athlete. By they way, there are no 5-Star take out sandwiches regardless of the inflated price. Dry white bread, processed ham, and condiment packages are never worth $10.00.

To be fair, I’ve eaten some great burgers at archery tournaments. Particularly at Mid-Del Archers in Harrington, DE cooked by Clyde! Worth every penny! Heck, once Clyde even threw in a free burger for River, my dog. Clyde became one of River’s fast and great friends with the flip of a burger. And I’ve had fantastic barbeque at shoots in Madison, Ga.  Of course, I had to pay for it. On the other hand there is often free food at runs and triathlons. Not always great food, but frequently good free pizza, pasta, soft drinks, fruit and other foods. In those events, I’ve not gotten the impression that everyone connected to the race is trying to milk more cash out of me. Too often in archery it has seemed that too many people are trying dig a little deeper into my pocket.  It’s not so much I mind paying to get something I want, but I do mind feeling like I paid for more than I got.

My wife, Brenda, is not an archer.  She is an athlete.  She’s been around sports and was a professional in her field (at 62 she still practices between 1 and 4 hours per day 5 to 6 days per week. Yes, she is in better shape than you are. Yes, she made money in her field of sports. No she didn’t make money overnight -it took years).  She and I were talking about the differences between archery and other sports that we are familiar. I asked her, “Why is it, do you think, that archery seems to not get the recognition like, for example, triathlon?”  Her response surpassed me.

What she said is, “Look at triathlons, look at the athletes, now consider archery. Archery is not sexy. It is not exciting.” She went on to describe what she’s observed in archery compared to other sports.  What is apparent to her is that archers look and seem to match more closely to bowlers only not as fit.  (This is not a jab at bowlers – you bowlers are more fit than archers) Until archery can come up with a “Tiger Woods” or some other breakout elite it is not going to receive the marketing efforts by companies that promote other sports.

I understood and agreed adding it is a shame that in archery a major draw to the sport are fictious movie characters or comic book figures now appearing in TV shows.  Sure there are a handful of folks making a living in the sport of archery.  But, they are far from mainstream.  Their biggest audience are the fans that rush to buy whatever brand bow their hero is shooting today. (To be sure, anyone willing to pay me to shoot their bow has a ready archer – and that will be the best bow in my humble opinion.)

The companies that make that bows keep the prices of their top end models all very much relative to the other brands.  They’ve done their marking research and know your price points and their competitors price lists. They all seem to work toward enabling the fan archer to drop a grand or less every year or so for a unneeded new bow. (From my short time in this sport one of the biggest errors I’ve seen is archers replacing their equipment too often.  I’ve seen guys change their bow model 3 times in one season. Well, it’s not my money.)

In 2017 the cost to compete will be a major factor regarding when and where I shoot. Essentially, 2017 will come down to a cost benefit equation. The point is, to me, it seems that the general appreciation for the competitive archer is somewhat under valued. I make this conclusion on the cost, reward and marketing effort put forth to attract athletes to the sport.


1.) WIHoyt. Nov. 2004.