Straight as an arrow: The intricacies of archery

17 April 2024 | Story Kamva Somdyala. Photos Lerato Maduna. Read time 4 min.
Chairperson of the UCT Archery Club, Monde Zwane, relays the many benefits of participating in the sport.
Chairperson of the UCT Archery Club, Monde Zwane, relays the many benefits of participating in the sport.

“Archery as a sport is equal parts physical and mental. It’s quite strange because if you come into archery as a newcomer, your biggest struggle is just pulling the string and having the physical strength to shoot arrows for even a short period of time.”

This is the view of the University of Cape Town’s (UCT) archery chairperson, Monde Zwane, who spoke at length about the sport.

“Archery is an individual sport at heart, but the teamwork components are there, especially when you compete in a team format. Archery encourages open communication, encouragement and reassurance from your teammates. When you are on the shooting line, and you hear your teammate’s voice just talking you through your nerves or telling you to focus on your problem area (maybe how you pull the string), it really does make you a better archer,” said Zwane.

As part of the International Day of Sport Development and Peace (IDSDP), observed annually on 6 April, the niche sport of archery at UCT is in the spotlight. The day, as marked by the United Nations, “presents an opportunity to recognise the positive role sport and physical activity play in communities and in people’s lives across the globe.”


“The total points you can score are typically either 720 or 1 440.”

The team currently has a first team, which was chosen via trials, and there are regular competitions the team compete in. The most recent indoor competition they participated in was the South African Indoor Nationals, where Zwane got a gold medal in his category. Alex Green, another player, got silver in his category; and coach, Kim Pitts, got bronze in her category.

“We shoot at targets with the centre being 10 points. There are concentric rings around this ring of different colours that go all the way to one point for the outermost ring. The total points you can score are typically either 720 or 1 440. If, in the round, you can score 720 points, it is called a 720 round. You therefore shoot 72 arrows. In a round where you can score 1 440 points, it is called a 1 440 round, where 144 arrows [were] shot. These two rounds dominate the outdoor format.”

There is a different kind of teamwork to archery.

“When you do archery, the goal isn’t to think about what you’re doing, but rather to just do it. Although, you do have to think about a lot of things in the beginning and do it regularly enough that you can stop thinking about it.

“UCT archery, right now, is in a pretty good place, especially considering how niche of a sport it is, and I am elated at just how many people want to do archery. It really warms my heart to share the sport with other people and to help forge new connections and a larger community. Archery at UCT has close associations with CLAWs [Cape Legion of Adventurers and Wargamers] and Fencing, as well as … queer spaces at UCT. Something about archery – [it] is a great place for LGBTQ+ people. Even the committee is largely LGBTQ+, which I find to be amazing,” Zwane added.

Welcoming community

“Archery’s main selling point, apart from the Hunger Games and general fantasy interest, is that it gives you a lot more than just the base benefits from doing archery. Shooting arrows and improving your form allows you to calm your mind, be better able to handle nerves and be better at concentration and focus.

“You also get a bit of training in muscles you never really use. But apart from these, the archery community, especially at UCT, is very welcoming. We try to be friendly and joke with one another very frequently. We even have grown relationships outside of archery. I know a lot of people say this a lot about societies and sport, but archery is really a great place to make friends and form connections.”

Members of the archery club at UCT.

Zwane encouraged people to not only take up the sport, but to support its measured growth on campus. “A lot of people I speak to about the sport have absolutely no idea what it is until I say ‘bow and arrow’ or show them a picture or a video. The intrigue about the sport rarely extends beyond that point, which is really a shame given how amazing it is.

“On a provincial level, participation is usually recreational and even then, it is a lot lower than what you see in other sports. I think archery really is one of those things you seek out rather than it being something you passively know about. The goal, moving forward, is to give archery a bit of a bigger name and presence, especially within the UCT space. It would be really cool to see a crowd of people attending our internal leagues and for more people to have a passive interest in the sport.”

How to join

If you’re a UCT student or staff member, go onto PeopleSoft and click “Join Club and Societies”. In the search bar, type the code “ARH”. If you’re not a part of UCT*, email (any other enquiries go to this email as well).

*The club is open to people who are not students/staff at UCT, but typically UCT alumni are favoured or people who are students at other universities. The club also deals with this on a case-by-case basis. Archery equipment costs vary depending on level of experience and interest.

The club also offers financial assistance to people that are not able to afford it.

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