Understanding the new ArcheryGB Age Groups

In October 2022, ArcheryGB changed the standard age-groups that are used for target archery in the UK. The 5 previous age groups were supplemented by 3 new age groups bringing the total to 8.

Old and new age groups

The addition of the 50+ and Under 21 groups brings the UK in line with the standard World Archery age groups. The new Under 15 age group is a necessary stepping stone caused by the fact that Under 12s and 14s now shoot the same distances, but later at U18 the boys and girls diverge. In order for there not to be a double jump in distance for boys at that point, the U15 group provides a one year “stepping stone” where the boys move up 10m in distance in two consecutive years rather than 20m all at once.

Birth Year v Birth Day

The other change that was introduced at the same time was the redefinition of age itself. Until now, an archer’s age group changed on their birthday. This caused a number of problems such as

  • World Archery age-groups change at the start of the year, regardless of when the archer’s birthday is. These multiple definitions caused a great deal of confusion in tournaments where AGB or WA rules were being used.
  • It could lead to age group changes during a competition. Some archers with birthday’s in mid-July, competing in multi-day competitions such as JNOC, might have been in a different age-group on the Saturday and the Sunday of the competition.

So, ArcheryGB have aligned with World Archery now in using the year of birth rather than the day of birth. This means that you are in an age group until the 31st December on the year of that birthday, regardless of when that birthday is in the year. It’s actually really hard to write a one-size-fits-all definition of how this works that covers all age groups, so I find it easier to write them all out

  • You can compete in the Under 12 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 11th birthday
  • You can compete in the Under 14 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 13th birthday
  • You can compete in the Under 15 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 14th birthday
  • You can compete in the Under 16 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 15th birthday
  • You can compete in the Under 18 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 17th birthday
  • You can compete in the Under 21 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 20th birthday
  • You can compete in the adult category at any age
  • You can compete in the 50+ category any time during the calendar year of your 50th birthday and thereafter

Records Eligibility

The ArcheryGB Rules of Shooting lists the official rounds recognised in the UK in tables 3-1, 3-2 and 3-3. In the left most column, there are some cryptic cross-references to Table 3-4, and together these tell you which rounds are eligible for records for each category of archer.

Tables 3-1 to 3-4 in the RoS

Reading these tables is quite hard work. With a little Excel formula, we can turn those sets of tables into one summary graphic which shows the record eligibility for each category. This table shows a green dot wherever the RoS tables indicate a record is available. Even though U12,U14 and U15 are the same for both Men and Women, I’ve duplicated them here to show the complete sets.

This visualisation shows the expected shape – for all round families, the Men’s table shows a straight diagonal up through the rounds, and they jump up one distance with each age group change. Since the recent change, the Women’s tables now have a plateau in them where the U16 Women stay on the same round as they were at U15 for another year while the U16 Men jump ahead.

What about Historical Records?

The change to birth year instead of birth day raises some interesting questions about how historical records should be handled. For junior age groups, the shift to birth year will make the members of each age group 6 months younger on average, so arguably the age-groups are no longer the same even though the names of those groups (e.g. U16, U14) might still be the same.

There may well be cases in national, regional, county and club records where records were shot by people who would no longer be eligible in the category as it is now defined.

It is not clear what the right course of action is here. Wiping the records to a blank slate would fix the problem, but in doing so would wipe out many records which would still be valid. Letting all current records stand is the easiest option, but we may be left in a situation where some records are essentially unbeatable as they were set by people who, through the luck of their birthday and the timing of competitions, were in a situation that nobody will ever be in again.

However, without a painstaking analysis of all records, which would need to include the date of birth of the record holders, it is difficult to separate the two types of records.

A more detailed analysis of this issue will form the basis of a future blog post.



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11 responses to “Understanding the new ArcheryGB Age Groups”

  1. Sue Denim avatar
    Sue Denim

    As you say, ‘it is really hard to write a one-size-fits-all definition of how this works that covers all age groups’.

    I’d be interested to hear the argument for and against upping the above definitions by one year – i.e. “You can compete in the Under 12 category right through to the end of the calendar year containing your 12th birthday” (instead of 11th).
    That would seem more sensible to me.

    Kids who turn 11 on 30th December might be a bit miffed about having to compete with 14 year olds when they are still only 11 ! Likewise a 17-year old being ‘elevated’ into the U21 category when they are still under 18?

    1. Chief Geek avatar
      Chief Geek

      So I think the first thing to do here is to blame World Archery, as this is their way of defining age groups that ArcheryGB have now fallen into line with. The second problem is that naming the age-groups with names like “Under 16” confusingly implies that you would leave that group when your birthday happens and you become over-16, but that’s not how it works in this system – you may actually move up to the under 18 age group a long time before your actual 18th birthday. This is definitely confusing, and is the reason I much preferred the old WA names such as Cadet, Junior, Masters because they don’t include a number in the title. Other countries do this, like France, where they have Juniors, Cadets, Minimes, Benjamins and Poussins!

      Anyway, on your suggestion that you nudge everything up to the end of the next year, I think that would just break the definitions the other way, maybe even in a worse way, as suddenly you’d have kids were actually over 12 shooting in the Under 12s category etc. At least the current way around it’s never actually wrong per se, it’s just not very precise.

      I don’t think it’s true that kids who turn 11 on 30th Dec would be shooting with 14 year olds. For the rest of that year (30th and 31st Dec), they would be in the U12 category. The next day, on the 1st Jan, they would be shooting in the Under 14s category, but by definition there are no 14 year olds in that category, there will only be kids who are 13. The oldest person they’d find themselves shooting against in a competition on 1st Jan would be someone who had just turned 13 that same day. So, at most the separation in age would be 2 years, just as it was in the previous system.

      Unfortunately, as with any system where there is a cut off, there will be winners and losers. This World Archery cut off at the end of the year does favour kids born earlier in the year as they will be older in that category for longer, and will probably disadvantage kids with December birthdays. Wherever the cut off is in the year, some people will benefit from it and some will find it harder. Arguably, the previous system based on day of birth favoured those with summer birthdays who were at the oldest end of their age brackets in the peak on the competition season. This statistical effect is observed in many other sports, and also in educational settings – imagine an early September birthday child and a late August birthday child who could find themselves in the same school year but have a 364-day age difference between them. At young ages that relative difference is enormous – at the start of school at age 5, the Septmeber birthday kids will have been alive for 25% longer than the late-August kid. This is called the relative age effect, and you can read more about it here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relative_age_effect

  2. Greg [newly 50+ archer by lots!] avatar
    Greg [newly 50+ archer by lots!]

    Considering the extant records …
    there have been instances of long running records before but, eventually they are all “broken”. My “advice” is to just leave them. [newly 50+ archer]
    As Chief Geek explains above … statistically things will balance out.
    If we’re lucky our coaching will become so good that all historical records get broken (I wish ;¬)

    1. Chief Geek avatar
      Chief Geek

      I hope you’re right, but I do worry about the juniors. A shift of 6 months younger on average, coupled with the fact that record status shoots aren’t uniformly distributed through the year, might mean some of these records are unbeatable. I’ve done a whole post on this now here https://archerygeekery.co.uk/2023/02/07/effects-of-new-age-group-definitions-on-records/

  3. John O'Keeffe avatar
    John O’Keeffe

    Thank you for the easy to read table and breakdown of the age categories. On the table shouldn’t there be more entries for 50+ men and women? So using the Nationals as an example, should there be 50+ records for New National, Long National, National and National 50 (allowing for eligibility one distance down from Me/Women under 50)?

    1. Chief Geek avatar
      Chief Geek

      The table is correct, in the sense that it accurately reflects the Rules of Shooting. Currently, ArcheryGB are only allowing a handful of rounds to be eligible for 50+ records. I personally think that’s a bit unfair and any valid round for an age group should be eligible for records. The 50+ is a legitimate age group now, and is more legitimate than some of our other age groups as it’s also one of the few categories that World Archery recognise.

      1. John O'Keeffe avatar
        John O’Keeffe

        Agree. Appears to be a temporary measure whilst they check whether 50+ category works. If it sticks and they allow all one distance down rounds to be eligible for records it will be interesting if they allow back-dated claims. Personally I think it should be either 60+, 65+ or even 70+.

        1. Greg Mcnelly avatar
          Greg Mcnelly

          I agree about the age level .. I guess 65 is more “natural”, it being near the (moving goalposts) age of retirement (in the UK).
          FYI I have been 50+ for 25 years and am only just feeling it in my archery. [i.e. I’m only “legally” newly 50+]

  4. Dean E avatar
    Dean E

    Thank you for taking the time to put this information together. It’s extremely useful and reassuring in the fact that things aren’t all that clear.

    I’ve been a county records office for more than 15 years, and I’m struggling to get a grasp on the 50+ age group, even after a year since the age groups were brought in. I don’t know if we’re meant to make all rounds available for 50+, or just those referenced in the RoS. AGB themselves haven’t gone by their tables, as there’s a Recurve Men 50+ national record listed for the WA900 round achieved by an archer, incidentally from my county.

    I also agree that the age level is too low. I’ll be 50 in just over a year and I won’t be choosing to compete as 50+, it just doesn’t feel right. I understand those who do, as it means there’s new awards and new records available, but it should be at least 60+ in my opinion.

    1. Chief Geek avatar
      Chief Geek

      I agree – there’s lots of inconsistency. In my opinion, 50+ records should be available in every round family – one round down from the normal adult rounds. In fact, this is what we’ve done in our county to encourage the uptake of the 50+ category.

  5. Bill Latimer avatar
    Bill Latimer

    Information is very useful. I primarily shoot and administer field and 3D rounds. These changes reflect target. I am not sure despite trying to get clarification from AGB if the age groups transfer to Field and 3D as no update has been made in the rules of shooting (S500). Field & 3D Age categories are Senior, 50+ Under 18, Under 15 & Under 12.
    In the winter 2023 edition of the AGB Magazine (P17) It references new categories of: Senior, 50+ Under 18, Under 16, Under 15, Under 14 & Under 12. )Linked to new shooting pegs)But no reference to U21. Interested in others interpretation

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