USA Archery JOAD Stars Pin Awards Part 2: Hoped for Fixes

The USA Archery JOAD Stars Pin Awards are a great system of benchmarks to encourage and reward youth archers’ efforts in archery. The awards program has a been great success at Golden Gate JOAD and with its archers. You can read our general overview of the JOAD Stars Pin program for more information on the program as it currently stands: USA Archery JOAD Stars Pin Awards for Young Archers, Part 1: Basics. And you can read our post on the sister program of recognition awards for adults, the USA Archery Adult Achievement Program here: Track Your Progress with USA Archery Achievement Awards.

On February 6th of this year the USA Archery JOAD committee met in Las Vegas to discuss the JOAD program including proposed updates to the Stars Pin Awards. There are no published details about what was proposed nor what was decided at the meeting. I brought the concerns and details listed below to the attention of USA Archery before the meeting. So, while we are waiting to find out what updates, if any, will be implemented and how, here is a run down of some of the issues at play for those who are interested.

JOAD Stars PIn Awards History


The Stars Pin Awards are a continuation of an earlier achievement awards program in which JOAD archers could earn various named levels, such as “Yeoman,” “Bowman” and “Archer” along with matching embroidered patches, somewhat akin to patches earned in scouting. The program, however, was waning in popularity. The award level names were confusing since some of them conflicted with the names of the age categories such as “Yeoman” and “Bowman”, and there wasn’t a clear graphic indication on the patches which of the named achievement levels were supposed to be the higher awards (which is better, Bowman Yeoman or Qualified Archer?). So, in 2006-7, USA Archery and the JOAD Committee worked to modernize the awards program by replacing the old fashioned patches with modern enameled pins, and the old award names with levels refereed to by the color of the pin.

New PIns

The new, colorful award pins have a clear graphic hierarchy, starting with a single star on the green pin all the way up through eight stars on the yellow. And the white through yellow pins represent the five colors on an official World Archery Federation target, starting from the outside in. The committee also implemented individual clip on lanyards for each bow division and indoor and outdoor disciplines for JOAD archers to pin their awards on to. Although these excellent changes were essentially cosmetic (the score requirements and other rules were left alone), they none the less made a dramatic improvement to the program and helped revitalize it.

A new, partial Barebow division: “Novice”

In addition to changing patches to pins and the level names to colors, the 2006-7JOAD Committee added a new bow division to the JOAD awards program: “Novice”. Previously there were two bow divisions, Recurve (Olympic-style recurve with sights and all the accessories allowed in the Olympics) and Compound (Compound bows with sights and all accessories). The new “Novice” division is a barebow division. From the 2007 JOAD Handbook:

A Novice Bow is defined as; any recurve, longbow or compound with no sight, stabilizer, peep or kisser button, and shot only with fingers (glove, tab or bare fingers)

This was a great addition to the awards program because barebow shooting is a popular form of archery around the country for kids and adults. Not only do most JOAD programs start all of their students on barebow, many archers prefer the simplicity and challenge it offers and choose barebow as their preferred bow division going forward. Unfortunately the division was only partially implemented, leaving barebow shooters as second class archers under the JOAD Stars Pin Awards program.

According to then JOAD Committee Co-Chair Bob Pian, the partial division was added to “facilitate NASP (ASAP) and traditional transition to JOAD.” That is, the division was added to let youth archers shoot some of the achievement awards using the same bow set up they shot in other youth archery programs such as the National Archery in the Schools Program in which all students shoot with standardized Genesis bows without sights. You’ll note Pian’s wording is specific: “transition to JOAD”. The idea was not so much to accommodate barebow archers but rather to wean them off of barebow, out of the style they learned and enjoyed in other archery programs, rather than fully accommodating them.

Barebow is a legitimate bow division, so it is somewhat demeaning for it to be called “Novice” on the presumption that barebow archers must be transitioned to “real” bow divisions using sights and accessories.The addition of the “Novice” was a step in the right direction, and with just a few steps more, the “Novice” division can be a full barebow division that will help USA Archery JOAD programs serve a wider range of archers as well as streamline the current awards system. A number of prominent JOAD coaches have called for the barebow division to be fixed, including JOAD Coach and former US Olympian John Magera, who notes that USA Archery should make JOAD consistent with standard of USA Archery’s international governing body, the World Archery Federation, which has a full barebow division.

Basic Changes Needed for the USA Archery Stars Pin Awards

There are a number of issues I hope will be fixed in the awards program. The most essential are these:

  • Make the “Novice” bow division into a full and separate Barebow division with its own scores and lanyards.
  • Explicitly get rid of all age and gender categories for the Stars Pin Awards: all kids can shoot at all targets and distances available for their bow division and pin.
  • Combine the Rules and the Scoring matrix and fix the language so it clearly says what they are supposed mean in a way that someone with no experience can understand fully–(get someone with no experience in JOAD to vet the rules for clarity.)

The reasons these changes are needed are explained below. But first, a summary of what can and has gone wrong in the iterative process of updating the Stars Pin Awards.

Cumulative Errors in the Stars Pin Awards Rules and Score Matrix

Over the years, the JOAD handbook, the rules for the achievement awards and the achievement awards scoring matrix have been updated. During that time various errors, contradictions and other issues have cropped up. In fixing the program not only do these issues need to be fixed, but the process by which they got there in the first place needs to be anticipated so that similar issues do not re-occur as the rules are updated.


One of the broader issues in the current rules and scoring matrix is the difference between what is intended and what the rules actually actually wind up saying. I think one way the rules end up saying something unintended is that people too close to the fixes may be prone to making the same typo-like errors in the rules that earlier groups have made. Just as it is easy to miss duplicate words like the the when typing because you know in your mind what you mean I think it is also easy to miss errors in the JOAD rules if you are very familiar with them and can unconsciously fill in the blanks in your mind as you proof read them (and as I have undoubtedly done in proofing this post…) So, as the February 6th meeting was underway, I hope a change was made to the process of checking what the new rules actually say and that USA Archery runs the rules and the scoring matrix by someone who knows nothing of JOAD or USA Archery and asks them to summarize their understanding all the rules based on what the new rules say to see if the rules are properly self-contained, easy to understand and non-contradictory. (I suggest this specifically because all the errors I noticed became apparent when I tried to write a post summing up the rules for our JOAD archers, rules that were new to me at the time.)

With that in mind, I’d say the issues with the Stars Pin program fall roughly into two basic categories:

* Intention –  What the rules are intended to be.

* Execution – What the rules actually actually wind up saying.


This is where I’d put all the obvious issues most people are hoping to fix, such as existing proposals for changing “Novice” to a full “Barebow” category eligible for all indoor and outdoor pins, with its own lanyards, and changing the outdoor compound bow distances to reflect the new 50 meter standard outdoor distance for compounds.


This is where I think there are issues that have been overlooked. There are a number of typo-like accidental errors and omissions in the rules and scoring matrix that I think have been overlooked because the authors already know how JOAD works and their minds automatically fill in the blanks for them. An example of that is the fact that the JOAD Handbook never mentions that the usual JOAD age and gender divisions do not apply to the Stars Pin program. Obvious to a JOAD old timer, but completely opaque to a person who’s understanding of the award program is based solely on what the actual written rules say. The rule book needs to clearly state “There are no age or gender divisions in the Stars Pin program” – or what ever the rules actually are. Currently the rules are a mixed hodgepodge of standard JOAD conventions, explicit exceptions and unstated exceptions, with plenty of confusion mixed about, and the role of age groups is actually unclear in the rules and varies between Indoor and Outdoor disciplines.

Another fundamental issue is the separation of the rules for the Stars Pins Awards in the current “2011” JOAD Handbook from the separate scoring matrix. Neither is complete without the other, so they should be together. But since they aren’t, a number of errors and omissions have crept into them which might be obvious if they were side by side in the JOAD Handbook, but are not obvious when they are published separately. An example is that the JOAD Handbook says novices can shoot 60 and 40cm targets, but the scoring matrix only allows them to shoot 60cm targets.

Breakdown of the Current 2011 USA Archery JOAD Stars Pin Rules and Needed Fixes

You can read the “2011” JOAD Handbook and separate scoring matrix yourself to learn the context for the needed fixes.

  • General Needed Changes

    • Get a thorough outside review of rules and scoring matrix before setting it in stone and publishing it.
    • Add Scoring Matrix to JOAD Handbook.
      • Make it so people don’t have to flip back and forth between the two to figure out the rules.
        • This will also help to highlight and eliminate the kinds of discrepancies listed below.
        • It the scoring matrix can still be offered separately for reference as a PDF to printout and take to the range, perhaps with the most applicable rules on page two, which people can choose to print or not.
    • Simplify the Stars PIns by making them explicitly and entirely merit based, without age or gender categories. This will eliminate some of the unnecessarily complicated issues below.
    • Use version numbers and revision dates printed on the Handbook and Scoring Matrix themselves, not just in the metadata, so users can easily know if they have the current version.
    • Publish an ongoing change log so users can know what has changed without having to do line by line comparisons between old and new rules.
  • JOAD Handbook
    • Clearly state “There are no age or gender divisions in the Stars Pin program,” in section 3.1.3 “JOAD Qualification Rounds” of the JOAD Handbook. (This will fix many of of the issues below)
      • The non-standard exceptions to age and gender divisions in the Stars PIn are contrary to standard aspects of JOAD which all revolve around the age and gender categories, so exceptions must be explicitly stated.
      • The non-standard exceptions to age and gender divisions in the Stars Pin program are not currently mentioned at all in the JOAD Handbook 2011.
    • Clearly state “Any age can shoot any target/distance combination listed for their bow division for the pin they are currently eligible for.”  (This will fix many of the target size issues below).
        • Current rules are vague or contradictory on what size targets different ages can shoot:
          • Anyone can shoot any distance (“There is no age requirement for either distance [9 or 18 meters] for [Indoor] JOAD Qualification Rounds.” –§ 3.1.3)
            • The only 9M target is the 60cm target.
          • Indoor Qualification Round targets are the “JOAD Target” or “USA Archery Target” (§ 3.1.3)
            • “JOAD Targets” are defined by age category
              • “For Olympic, Cub and Bowman or Novice shooters, the JOAD target is the 60cm” (§ 3.1.3) Unclear rule – needs to be fixed.
                • (“Novice” in this context **seems** to refer to the “Novice” all-ages beginner category, but it is impossible to know because this rule mixes “Olympic” (a bow division) with “Cub” and “Bowman” (which are categories/class) and “Novice” which is a bow divison and, separately and unrelated, a beginner category/class” )
              • “For Cub and Bowman Compound shooters, the JOAD Target is the 40cm target using the outer 10 ring” (§ 3.1.3)
              • No JOAD target is listed in § 3.1.3 for Junior or Cadet.
                • The section 3.1.3 needs to list all the age category target sizes if there are to be age categories.
                • Referring to section 4.1.8  “Disciplines, Divisions and Categories” for the target sizes doesn’t work because it also lists the standard distances for those categories, distances the Stars Pin program ignores, so a reference to that section would be contradictory.
              • Standard Indoor JOAD targets (§ 4.1.8) for Junior and Cadet are the same as USA Archery adult targets, 40cm. Olympic outer 10, Compound inner 10.
            • Therefore, if you follow the target sizes listed for Qualifying Rounds in § 3.1.8 and fill in the omitted Junior and Cadet standard targets by referencing § 4.1.8 you’ll find that Juniors and Cadets must shoot the bottom row of the scoring matrix (the unstated 40cm target, outer 10 Olympic, inner 10 Compound) and there are no bottom row scores for targets Juniors or Cadets can shoot for Blue or below. Since all pins must be earned in order, no Junior or Cadet can earn any indoor pins at all if they don’t already have Blue (that is, if they didn’t earn Blue before they became a Junior or Cadet.)

              • The age division target size requirements also conflict with § 3.1.8 “There is no age requirement for either distance [9 or 18 meters] for [Indoor] JOAD Qualification Rounds.” given that the only 9 meter target is the 60cm target, which is not the JOAD target for Juniors or Cadets.
    • Clarify the “A qualification round requires a minimum of three JOAD archers and one adult JOAD leader” (§ 3.1.3)
      • Does this apply to sanctioned and/or non-sanctioned tournaments?
        • Does a JOAD archer have to have 2 other JOAD archers and JOAD leader present for a score at an adult tournament to count towards a Stars Pin award?
  • Scoring Matrix
    • Correctly note that Novice/Barebow (or just “Barebow” if the name is changed) can shoot both 60 and 40cm targets, as stated in the JOAD Handbook.
    • Correct bottom row to indicate it refers to a 40cm target at 18M, outer 10 Olympic, Inner 10 Compound.
    • Correct bottom row 18M/40cm with mathematically equivalent/difficulty equivalent scores.
      • For the the bottom two rows on the table for Indoor Olympic division is 60 vs 40cm target, the Red Star pin requires a 250 on a 60 cm or 240 on a 40cm outer ten. That’s a 4% reduction in required score, but a 44% reduction in area of the target (if I’ve done my math right).
      • Because the awards program is essentially merit based, not age based, scores should be equivalent, not harder for different target sizes for the same pin.
      • This should also apply to different sized barebow targets for the same pin when it is added as a full bow division
    • Explain that archers can shoot either of the listed dual distance/score combinations for Outdoor Yellow Star and above regardless of gender, if that is the intent, or that they must shoot one or the other based on gender, if that is the intent. And that they don’t have to shoot both.
      • There is currently no explanation of the dual score/distances anywhere.
      • The option for either gender to shoot either of the dual score/distance combinations is what would be consistent with keeping the program as streamlined as possible.
    • Explicitly state inner or outer 10 for each bow division.
      • Currently only some bow divisions state inner or outer 10
      • Not everyone knows FITA Rules or JOAD conventions, or whether they are supposed to apply to Stars Pins awards, so inner/outer 10 must be explicit for all bow divisions.
    • Explicitly state on the scoring matrix that Black and above require USA Archery membership.
      • Because this requirement is clearly listed in the JOAD Handbook it might seem redundant by USA Archery leadership to list it on the scoring matrix, but not all JOAD leaders actually read the Handbook thoroughly, something to keep in mind when deciding how much detail to put on the scoring matrix.
  • “Novice” Division
    • Change name to Barebow
      • “Barebow” is more representative of the division
      • There is already an optional, all-ages category/class for novice archers (not a bow/equipment division) called “novice” (JOAD Handbook 2011, p. 21) so it is confusing to have a bow division by the same name.
    • Add full range of adjusted scores and outdoor pins.
    • Add separate rows of adjusted scores for Indoor Barebow  for all 3 indoor target/distance combinations.
      • (Indoor Novice/Barebow shooters are currently required to shoot the same scores FITA Recurve (“Olympic”) archers.)
    • Add indoor and outdoor lanyards for Barebow.

Transparency and Public Input into Governance at USA Archery and the JOAD Committee

As of this moment only time will tell how well the JOAD Committee has navigated these issues. We can only guess. And that is part of the problem. The process by which JOAD is updated is essentially secret, where secret proposals are decided upon in secret even though they will affect volunteer JOAD programs nationwide. It is likely that the many excellent people at USA Archery and the JOAD Committee do not think of their process in such nefarious sounding terms, however, neither the proposals submitted to the JOAD Committee nor the meeting were public, nor are minutes published, so it was impossible to comment on whether the proposals submitted to the committed or created by it had any of the kind of issues listed above. Given how slow the process is and how infrequently changes are made to JOAD, this means that it is all the more important to catch issues before they are implemented since it can take years to get them fixed, if at all.

One process that might be helpful would be for proposals submitted to the JOAD Committee be posted with a Request for Public Comment. Comments emailed to USA Archery could then be collated and published on-line, the comments forming outside input the Committee could reference in its procedures.