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NASP - National Archery in the Schools Program and How It Works In The Schools
National Archery in the Schools Program is a fairly recent endeavor to find a way to help keep kids in school. The dropout rate has been escalating in recent years so an attempt was made to find some way to coax them to stay. Most sports require a large amount of money, time, and investment from the schools and the community to be a viable participant, plus the students need to be in pretty good shape to compete. This left out those who are younger, weaker, less coordinated and just not as competitive.
Archery, however requires nothing more than a steady eye and hand and the ability to try. With a little work and a modest investment a school can have a team in short order. How good you become requires a bit of coaching, some practice, and a desire to do one's best. In other words, anyone can do it.
Our school entered the ring two years ago. The school made the decision to start with the High School first in order to see how much of an interest there was. Well, there definitely was an interest and in the first year of competition we qualified for State. The school is keeping more kids involved with school and giving the students something they may have never had before.
This year, the determination was made to open it up to all students in fourth grade and up. I think they underestimated the interest. At the first meeting set for our Intermediate School (grades 4 through 6) there was over 200 students there! In the upper grades, 7th to 12th, there were another 200 or so. Unfortunately there were not enough supplies and time to include everyone so the Intermediate students were told "maybe next year".
National Archery in the Schools Program Website
As for the Junior High and High School students, they are having a blast, and they are doing very well. Both teams have qualified for State this year and will be traveling to Tan Tar A Resort on Lake of the Ozarks in late March to compete with the best in the state.
One of those participants will be my daughter, Bailey. She is sixteen, a Junior, and had never really shot a bow before this year. She had played a bit with one before but not seriously. Now, she is becoming a died in the wool Archer. Can you say Proud Papa?
This last weekend she posted a score of 266 out of 300. Not bad for a girl, and one who has never shot competitively before three months ago.
Here is how the competition works. Each participant will shoot a warm-up round of five arrows from the first distance, which is ten meters. They then shoot three rounds of five arrows each. Scoring is on a ten point system, with the center "bulls-eye" being worth ten points. Then the scoring rings move outward, decreasing in value the further one gets from the center. Thus a perfect score would be five ten point shots per round valued at 50 points per round. So at ten meters one could shoot a possible 150 points.
The contestants then move back to fifteen meters and follow the same procedure. At the end of that round, the scores are combined and a final score is announced. Your rank is determined based upon your total. In our state to qualify for State a team must shoot a combined 3,000 or higher for twelve shooters. To qualify as an individual one must shoot a score of 269.
I am an archer and have shot for the past 35 years or more. While I have never shot competitively, I feel I have a good working knowledge of how to shoot accurately.
Well, I thought I did.
The rules in the NASP program require a level playing field for all. To that end, the bow is the same for all, a Matthews Genesis bow. This bow is a compound, but one without a let-off percentage. It is capable of being set for 10 to 20 pounds of pull so anyone (almost) can pull it back. The draw length is the key as it has the unique ability to be used for anyone who is big enough to pull it. So my youngest son who is nine years old can use the same bow that a high school senior uses, only changing the weight down a bit for the younger child.
No sights are allowed on the bow, as this can aid in the accuracy. One uses what is termed "instinctive" shooting which is estimating with your eyes where you need to aim in relation to the arrow. No releases are allowed either, so the shooters shoot either with bare fingers or a shooting glove. Nothing is to be added to the bow that could give one a competitive advantage. I really like this thought process.
Is your local school involved in NASP?
Schools can buy equipment directly from NASP at a discount. For example, to buy the bow as an individual one might pay over $200, but the schools can buy from NASP at only $111. These bows cannot be resold or purchased for individual students, they must be retained as school bows. Arrows run $145 for five dozen compared to $65 for one dozen from a store. So you see, a considerable discount is available for the schools.
Beyond that, one needs an arrow curtain to deflect wayward arrows in flight, targets and scoring sheets. That's pretty much it.
To be a coach one must attend a course provided free of charge by the state conservation department. The course is only eight hours so basically one day will provide the training necessary to teach these youngsters. Of course it helps if one is an archer going in but it is not mandatory.
The tough thing is to find where to practice. As this takes place during basketball season a school's gym is usually off limits. We are using a local church gym and are thankful for their offer. Practice runs after school for about an hour and a half with Junior High and High School alternating days. The coaches are offering morning practices as well should a student be unavailable for after school practice.
I have to say something here about our coaches: they are dedicated! They love the sport and are having as much fun as the kids are. I have found myself hanging around at odd times helping out a bit. My work schedule precludes me from being as involved as I desire but whenever I can be there I am.
As I stated my daughter is really getting in to this program. She is a junior with excellent grades and has more fun practicing shooting that anything else. We took the plunge and bought her a bow at a local archery shop. This shop was kind enough to offer bows to those shooting in the area schools at a discount. Their regular price ran $179 but because she is in school they dropped the price $20. We appreciated the price break and let them know how much we did by returning two days later to buy one for my youngest son.
It took a bit for her to get used to her bow, but not too long. On her first day of practice with it, she Robin-Hooded one of her arrows. Well, she would have if the bow had been a bit stronger in pull. As it was, she put on arrow in the ten ring, then her next arrow hit and bounced back. She turned around to look at me, shock written on her face. "What happened? Did my arrow not stick in the target or something?" I smiled and said "Actually I think you just shot the nock off your other arrow!" When the round was completed, we walked up to check and sure enough, her second arrow had the nock of the first arrow splintered and part of it down inside the aluminum shaft.
Not too shabby, eh?
Last night she invited me to shoot in an upcoming tournament they are hosting as a tune-up for State. I'm not too sure I want to try to match her one on one using her bow; I might get shown up!
Anyway, this wonderful program seems like it is here to stay and should provide benefits to millions of youth every year. If your school has this, go out and support them. If it doesn't, find out how you can help get it in play. It has supplies a lot of great benefits, provides an outlet for students to learn while encouraging them to be active and to remain in school, forges friendships between students who might not otherwise meet, and can lead to long lasting trips to the outdoors with your children which is something many kids (and parents) today sorely need.
UPDATE March 10, 2014
My daughter shot a personal best 273 (out of 300) this weekend! She will be attending the State Tournament the end of the month, representing her school as the #1 girl on the squad. She was the #1 girl in this tournament, and #7 person overall, out of over 150 archers. I am one proud papa!
My wife and I are making plans to attend the State tourney at Tan Tar A Resort in Osage Beach. There will be some stiff competition, but I feel she is up to the task. As far as I can find, her 273 is the 8th best score by an 11th grade girl in the state this year. We will see how she does, but win lose or draw, we love and support her. Send prayers and luck our way everybody!!!