Taking Aim

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Students across Oklahoma are setting their sights on a sport that may be new to them but has ancient roots. Whether it is because of adventurous Merida in Brave or the defiant hero that is Katniss in The Hunger Games, kids today have been inspired to grab a bow and arrow and give archery a shot.

Helping facilitate this growing interest is Jay Rouk, the information and education specialist for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.

“Archery has definitely received a boost from the movies, especially from females and recreational archers,” he says.

Since 2004, Rouk has helped introduce archery to 450 schools across Oklahoma through The National Archery in Schools Program, allowing more than 30,000 students in fourth through 12th grades to reap the benefits.

Archery gives students a boost in self-esteem and personal success,” says Rouk. “It allows them to set a goal and accomplish that goal on a small and larger scale.”

“Students love it,” he says. “Schools contact me regularly to bring this program to their school.”

Once the curriculum is in place, students learn about archery history, safety practices and shooting techniques. The program is designed to improve mental concentration and self-discipline.

Shooting in teams of up to 16 members or as individuals, students compete at the local level to qualify for one of six regional shoots. The young archers work toward a perfect score of 300, and those who come closest go on to compete at the state shoot, which is scheduled for March 27 in Tulsa.

In the interest of fairness, there are equipment requirements that have to be met.

“Archers in the NASP program shoot only one type of bow: a Mathews Genesis that has universal draw length and light draw weight,” Rouk explains. “Young and old all shoot the same model of bow.”

The resurgence of this sport at the hands of pop culture has provided a great platform for positive social interaction as students share their passion and gain self-confidence.

“Archery gives students a boost in self-esteem and personal success,” says Rouk. “It allows them to set a goal and accomplish that goal on a small and larger scale.”

The small goal is to hit the bull’s eye; the larger goal is to become state champion, Rouk explains. The unique characteristic of archery is that virtually all students have a chance to achieve those goals if they are willing to put in the time.

“It differs [from] other sports by not selecting for a particular gender or body type or particular athletic ability,” says Rouk. “It is hard to predict what student will make a great archer.”

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