Along The Trail 12-26-13

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“Dad, I have archery practice after school”

Words that I never expected to hear while my son was in school, but thanks to the hard work and determination of a few, our school corporation has joined the ranks of nearly 12,000 other schools world wide that have signed on to the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).

We’ve seen lots of changes in our school systems over the years, in particular in the sporting arena. We now have growing and successful wrestling teams, swimmers and an upstart football team.

Not many years ago, no one would have thought that soccer would have taken hold the way it has, so why not archery?

The program started with a question on how to engage a “lost generation” of kids that were losing touch with their rural roots and outdoor heritage. Even kids today in rural areas are becoming more “urbanized” in today’s culture and the direction of our technology based society.

Most kids today haven’t grown up with shooting sports or a background in wildlife conservation. Just a generation ago, the outdoors, wilderness and wild places were how we as kids entertained ourselves. Hiking, hunting, fishing, camping, chasing butterflies, catching lightning bugs and minnows.

Some of us can still remember having a basic archery in our phys ed classes, but usually the equipment sat in the back of a storage closet or the corner of the room. Nothing was uniform and more than likely, the instructor had no specialized training.

Fast forward to today and NASP.

The program was created with a three-pronged approach including educators, and experts in the field of conservation and target archery. The instructors, usually teachers, but some volunteers help to serve as coaches, are taught safety first and foremost. They teach the students in a way that coincides with their core studies, typically physical education, but sometimes history and language arts as well.

The students are taught proper shooting form, shot execution and follow through.

Aside from the student’s natural abilities, NASP is a level “playing field”. All the equipment is uniform across the board. There are no sights, release aids or stabilizers allowed on the bows. All of the arrows used are identical.

The goal is to teach the kids proper form, muscle memory and hand/eye coordination that comes from repetition. Everything involved is universal fit and encourages sharing.

Students who participate in NASP have shown improvement in motivation, attention, behavior and attendance. Archery improves both micro and macro motor skills as well as improving a student’s listening and observational techniques. It also helps the students build stronger relationships with their teachers, instructors and coaches and encourages success and graduation.

NASP is based strictly on target archery, but numerous natural resources and conservation agencies are concerned that today’s youth aren’t learning time honored outdoor pastimes and skills. It is their hope that by participating in NASP, students will be drawn outdoors and develop a passion for wild things and wild places.

They are also convinced that by participating in NASP and similar projects, it will result in building the student’s character and build self-reliance, thus helping the future of wildlife conservation.

And folks, if you’re worried about the safety aspect of NASP, several years worth of study has shown that it is safer than all of the “ball” related sports in school today, except for ping pong!

So, from this parent, my hat is off to all that helped NASP get a foot hold here in Switzerland County and I hope that our archery team enjoys the same success and support from the community as the rest of our great kids and athletic teams at our schools.

– David Hewitt