By Shane Chuning
Now is a great time to introduce your kids to the sport of archery. With all the movies lately that have some type of archery in them it is really peaking the interest of our youth. I myself used to own an archery shop and have yet to see a kid not like the sport of archery. There are a vast number of boys that might not find themselves in a sport because they are intimidated by the mainstream sports such as football, baseball, soccer etc. Or they just might not have the God given skills that some are born with. Even though girls have dance, cheerleading, gymnastics etc, this might not fit the bill for them either. Well, archery is one of those sports that will put all of those kids on an even playing field. I will say it is really neat to see some of these kids that might not have excelled in any other sports all of a sudden shine with a little time behind a bow. It will also prove to be very challenging for those same top athletes and the reason why I feel it puts everybody on a level playing field. It would definitely be worth getting your kids away from the TV and outside for some great family fun that everybody can take part in. This is a sport I would definitely recommend for the entire family and a great way to build memories that will last for years to come.
Archery is a very convenient sport and makes for great family time. How many sports out there can you practice in your basement or even in your own backyard? Of course, there are always safety precautions that would need to be followed, but depending on where you live, it is quite possible to spend some quality family time in your own back yard.
Most areas around the country have archery ranges available. Some are available to the public and others through membership. Most of these memberships are not that expensive and generally have specials for the entire family. For instance, where I live, it only costs $ 40 for my whole family and we have access to the outdoor range all year. Most of these outdoor ranges will have your general practice butts and a course that you can walk to shoot at a variety of distances. Generally, when spring and summer roll around, they will offer 3D shoots. These consist of foam animal targets and are set up in various hunting situations. They will usually have some challenging shots, a couple of easy ones and a few somewhere in between. They are run very family friendly and have different distances and degrees of difficulty that take all skill levels and ages into consideration. I have even been to a few that offer barbecues during the spring and summer months with raffles and giveaways for attendees to spice things up even more.
Other opportunities worth looking up can be found at your local archery pro shops and of course your Sportsman’s Warehouse. They will have information on some of these local clubs that you and your family can participate in. Some of these archery shops will have indoor ranges and for low cost fees can make for some great family fun during the winter months when the weather is not the greatest. The ones that offer lanes for shooting will generally offer league nights during the off season as well. Some might even have indoor 3D shoots that will generally run anywhere from 20-40 yards, depending on their facility. Other’s will offer target archers the chance to hone in their skills with the NFAA 5-spot target and also the Vegas 3-spot. These paper targets can be very challenging for any level of archer and are generally shot at 20 yards indoors. Every February there is a national shoot in Las Vegas, Nevada. I went down last year and competed in this shoot and it was a blast. It really takes you by surprise when you see a thousand archers carrying their bows through a casino! It was a great experience and I really enjoyed my time there. I would highly recommend it for something to do as a family event in the future. You can also find other great national events throughout the country and you can look up these different venues at www.nfaaarchery.org/about/info.cfm.
The Junior Olympic Archery Development or JOAD is another great program for the youth. JOAD offers both recurve and compound archers the opportunity to learn range safety and proper shooting technique in an environment that also fosters focus, increased self-confidence and team building skills. JOAD is open to any youth archer ages 8 to 20 and is designed to grow with the youth archer. Introductory JOAD classes teach the fundamentals of proper shooting form. As the young archer develops, they will learn more advanced techniques. Both recurve and compound bows are used in club activities and in tournaments. JOAD archers who use a compound bow can train to compete in local and regional tournaments and can even earn a seat on a youth world team to compete in other countries representing the United States on behalf of USA Archery. Recurve archers can compete likewise, with the added benefit of being able to use their recurve bow to try out for a spot on the US Olympic Archery Team, which is selected and managed by USA Archery. Whether your child’s interest is purely recreational or they have Olympic, Paralympics or World Championship dreams, USA Archery’s JOAD program is tailored to help the young archers achieve their goals.
There is another great program that I would highly recommend families to take a look at in their local school districts and that is the NASP. The National Archery in the Schools Program promotes international-style target archery as part of the in-school curriculum, to improve educational performance and participation in the shooting sports among students in grades 4-12. This program is phenomenal with lots of participation from a wide range of kids. Schools with these programs are seeing higher attendance records and find that it raises their bar even on an academic level. This program is filling in the gap for the non-traditional athlete, fostering students’ athletic skills in a positive environment. Students are learning critical thinking skills, patience, discipline, self-control, concentration skills and self confidence. These attributes shape them for success both in and out of the classroom. It would be great to see more of this in our schools nationwide; it could really have an impact on our youth today.
There aren’t many sports that offer families the chance to actively participate together. Life seems to be pulling today’s families in all directions. With the on slot of social media and busy lifestyles, most families aren’t spending much quality time together. Archery offers the avenue in which a broad range of ages, abilities, fitness levels and genders can come together to bond and build successful life lessons. Whether it’s for leisure or competition, archers alike will proclaim the benefits they reap from the sport. Get involved today and in the words of a fellow archer, “Enjoy each arrow, no matter the result”!