Drawing interest: Getting kids into archery
Things are different than they once were, of that there is no doubt. As kids, my friends and I entertained ourselves without the intervention of any adults because our parents were too busy working to make a living.
Today, there are dozens of activities that seem to be competing for a youngster’s attention. A few weeks ago I picked up the local paper and I was astounded with the number of activities offered for kids in our area. A million years ago, my friends and I entertained ourselves by playing baseball or scouring a nearby field searching for crickets we would later use as fishing bait. Swimming at the local pool or fishing for panfish in a nearby pond rounded out our summer opportunities.
As I scanned the paper, I noticed some of the activities listed were for soccer, football, ice skating, basketball, cheerleading, and there was even a sign up for a course in Chinese! All these physical activities are nice, of course, and who wouldn’t want to be able to speak Chinese? The problem as I see it is that the sports being offered are not lifelong activities, and therein lies the rub.
Few people play football or baseball beyond high school or college, but sports like golf, tennis and archery can follow a person throughout their lives. Archery, my favorite sport, is one thing to which a youngster can be introduced at an early age and, like golf or tennis, a sport they can practice throughout their lives. Let’s face it, kids hold the future of archery, and I’m not talking simply about bowhunting. I feel it’s crucial that each of us involved in the sport put some energy into sparking an interest among youngsters.
Once a child gets turned on by shooting arrows at a target, a lifetime participant may have been created. The key to making that happen rests in how that interest is cultivated.
My grandchildren live in North and South Carolina, respectively, but when they visit, we always head to the local pro shop to shoot some arrows, and they love it. I’ve found almost all pro shops offer equipment and instruction suitable for kids of any age and the cost is minimal.
If a youngster has never shot before, the key is to start them off slowly. First and foremost, emphasize range safety, including how to safely pull an arrow from the target. After an introduction to the equipment and how to use it, and another reminder of the safety rules, I go over the steps of proper stance, drawing, anchoring, aiming and the release. Then I step aside and simply let them shoot.
Like the rest of us, kids do better when what they do right is emphasized rather than what they’re doing wrong. I always try to use positive phrases and I never shout if a safety rule is about to be broken. Calmly pointing out the transgression works better than a raised voice. Praise the good shots and ignore the bad ones. The motivation to shoot will come from the child and when they’ve had enough, they’ll tell you.
Once the child has mastered the basics, consider mentioning any youth shooting programs like the National Archery in the Schools (NASP) program to his or her parents. Beginning in grade four, and continuing through grade 12, this program is offered by many schools throughout New York. The NASP is a cooperative effort between state conservation departments, some school systems and private organizations to help engage young citizens in outdoor activities while participating in what could turn out to be the lifelong sport of archery. These programs offer excellent coaching and the competition between other kids and other schools can boost a youngster’s enthusiasm for the sport even further.