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Dodgeball archery finds a home in NoVA with Ultimate Archery

The Sterling-based location gives visitors a chance to grab a bow and arrow and fight to be the last one standing.

The recently opened location welcomes guests to enjoy themselves while pulling back a bow and arrow. (Photo courtesy of Puneet Maheshwari)

Between bowling, trampoline parks, indoor swimming pools and Topgolf, there’s a wide array of social activities in NoVA that can get all ages up and moving. So why not try your hand at the newest addition in Loudoun County?

That’s what co-founder of Sterling’s Ultimate Archery, Puneet Maheshwari, is hoping for. The Northern Virginia native opened the location dedicated to “archery dodgeball” in July with his business partner, Jesse Warlick.

“I think people [in the NoVA area] really appreciate having a new activity,” says Maheshwari. He says visitors have often commented on feeling burned out with other activities, and this one holds its own as unique and enjoyable. “It’s just nice to have, especially when Loudoun County has other options.”

In 2018, Maheshwari and Warlick tried their hands at the activity at a bachelor party in Montreal, Canada, and later decided to open two of their own locations in the United States. Warlick spearheaded a successful opening of Archery Games Denver and Maheshwari followed suit with the Loudoun County location in mid-2019.

Ever since the doors opened for the summer-long soft-opening, Maheshwari has seen people start to fall in love with the adrenaline-inducing, heart-pumping activity.

“People have really surprised themselves playing the game and how much they like it,” says Maheshwari. “I have not seen anyone walk out of the arena and not be happy.”

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So, what actually is archery dodgeball anyway?

Bows and arrows are fit with padded tips, and participants gear up in face masks and arm guards. Players are then placed on teams (although, the last person standing at the end of the 60-minute session wins) and after a 15-minute training session, are led through six to 10 different games that vary in goals and outcomes. Some are more sudden-death while others are more strategic.

Without spoiling too much of the surprise, Maheshwari shared that the games are meant to be exciting and keep people entertained, beyond simply getting hit and being eliminated.

“The first game is called Zombies. So If you get hit [by a flying arrow], you would cross over to the opposing side to become a Zombie, and keep playing,” says Maheshwari. “Another is Jailbreak, where if and when you get hit, you go to the other side and you stand in a designated area called (jail) and you have to catch an arrow that is shot by your teammate in order to get back into the game.”

Maheshwari says the action of shooting the arrow is an easy concept for anyone to pick up, it just requires a few practice shots to get the feel for it.

“I think shooting a bow is pretty intuitive for most people,” says Maheshwari. “With one instruction shot and a try-it-yourself shot, I think you can shoot a bow properly within two shots. And we don’t teach it the same way as if you were trying to be competitive. We teach you how to play in the arena.”

Since the launch of the new concept, the location has hosted several birthday parties and corporate events, including a team-building session with teachers from Little Run Elementary school prior to Loudoun County’s first day of school.

Groups of more than 18 can book a session during public hours for $475 (rather than the $28 per person admission cost), and birthday party groups are free to use the location’s tables for meals and other activities during their reserved time frame.

As the popularity for Ultimate Archery increases, Maheshwari is planning on extending youth hours (specifically for children 7 to 10 years old), drop-in hours throughout the week and starting a league for frequent players.

But for now, it’s more about getting everyone into the arena, Maheshwari says.

“It doesn’t matter your size, shape, gender or age,” says Maheshwari. “The playing field is equalized with the action of pulling back the bow. It’s not like when you’re throwing a ball or doing something where you need athletic ability. But, you will get your heart rate up.”

In order words, give it a shot. Pun intended. // Ultimate Archery: 22370 Davis Drive, Suite 150, Sterling; Open Friday through Sunday; $28 per person

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