Archery in schools aims to grow hunting enjoyment
by Kent Brick
Passing along the mastery and enjoyment of archery is a passion for Becky Homes, who is the coach of the archery team at the Pingree-Buchanan (P-B) School District.
Homes, her team and the sport of archery also get a big boost from the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), provided through the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
Homes is part of a hunting family. She emphasizes that archery is accessible to youth with wide-ranging physical abilities.
“Anybody can do this,” Homes says. “They don’t have to be able to run fast or jump high. You just need to want to do it.”
Mastering the bow and arrow develops other key life skills, she adds. “It’s about discipline. The kids listen, and they have respect. And they get the personal gain of knowing what they’ve accomplished,” Homes says.
For local schools, NASP is a two-week physical education program designed to teach the fundamentals of archery in grades 4-12. The N.D. Game and Fish Department aids schools in offering the program, based on the belief that exposing young students to a shooting sport such as target archery will add to recruitment of the next generation of hunters.
The N.D. Game and Fish Department is responsible for training and certifying NASP basic archery instructors. The department also has a grant program to assist schools with getting started in archery education.
Many schools have also started after-school and summer programs, and formed teams that compete in local, state and national tournaments.
Homes says her archery and hunting passion is homegrown. Her family members are avid hunters, a trait shared by many multi-generation rural families.
Becky and Steve Homes (a lineworker safety instructor for the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives), are parents of two sons: Cody, a high school senior, and Cole, a freshman. Both sons are NASP participants and members of the P-B archery team.
Becky, who is also the cook for the P-B school, starts team practices about Dec. 1 each year. Twenty to 25 students, from fourth through 12th grade, typically join the team.
Her coaching emphasizes the physical and mental techniques which produce good arrow shooting, with a strong emphasis on safety.
“When we start out every year, I harp on safety,” Becky says.
Becky indicates that archery practice and competition activity is guided by whistle commands. These commands direct shooters to get their bows and wait on a shooting line, to record scores and retrieve arrows, and for emergencies. Shooting is done at 10-meter and 15-meter distances.
Competitions typically consist of local tournaments, drawing school teams from a particular area. Becky and the P-B team hosted a one-day tournament attended by 11 other school teams last February.
Competitors are divided into age and gender categories. A competition is based on a 300-point total score possibility, with each shot scored based on which ring of the target the arrow hits. At competitions, team and individual winners are recognized and coaches track individual accomplishments and present pins to competitors for personal best scores achieved.
She adds that there is a statewide archery competition held in March, when archers compete for scholarships, and chances to participate in national and world archery championships. Local school teams may also recognize “academic archers” – archers with excellent grades who then receive special recognition, a patch and chance to win a Genesis bow.
In addition, Becky serves on North Dakota Youth Archery Advisory Committee, a group which helps promote growth in youth archery programs.
Archery in schools program
Jeff Long coordinates the NASP for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
His efforts involve preparing instructors to present the archery module as part of local school physical education classwork. Through the department’s financial grant program, schools can purchase archery equipment for students to use.
Long says NASP and archery instruction is being utilized by about 175 schools in North Dakota. Nationwide, he says, approximately 2.3 million students receive the archery instruction NASP provides.
The aim of the program is to cultivate the skills and sport of archery, with the hope of producing new generations of archery hunters, Long says.
He indicates a key precept in wildlife conservation is a steady stream of hunting and fishing enthusiasts making investments crucial to preserving the outdoor wildlife harvest experience.
Long says NASP is connecting with youth, their schools and their families.
“We’re giving kids an opportunity to try something that they may never otherwise try,” Long says. “It’s a lot easier than they think, and it’s for non-athletes and athletes, alike.”
NASP provides instruction that challenges youth, and they respond, he adds.
“This requires their mental concentration and composure,” Long says, “and when they shoot that first arrow, they love it.”
Kent Brick is editor of North Dakota Living. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.