Archive for Thursday, June 15, 2006

Program aims to teach archery

June 15, 2006

If Tracy Jonas has his way, public schools across Kansas will offer students the opportunity to learn a new sport. They'll learn to shoot with a bow and arrow.

Jonas, an Edwardsville resident, was hired several weeks ago as the archery coordinator for schools by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.

Recently, in conjunction with the National Archery in Schools Program, the department trained 15 instructors to train eight school teachers from as far away as Pratt how to teach students archery.

"For kids who can't run the fastest, it's an opportunity to do something athletic," Jonas said. "It's more like learning martial arts."

Jonas said his eventual goal was to have school archery teams form to compete in state and national competitions.

The NASP program began as a joint venture between the Kentucky state departments of wildlife and education, and is funded through the Archery Trade Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, and Matthew Archery.

Roy Grimes, administrative coordinator of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife and resources president of the NASP foundation, said NASP gave $22,000 in gear to every state participating in the program. Kansas is the 38th state to join the program.

Grimes said he hoped to have 5,000 schools eventually signed into the program.

By the end of this year, he said, there will be about 3,000.

Grimes said the benefits of learning archery are myriad: Children feel good about themselves, they "don't have to be tall or pretty" to be good at the sport, and it can give them a better appreciation of the importance of conservation if they take up bowhunting.

Grimes said NASP was formed in 2002, in part, because of a perceived decline in "outdoor skills."

Grimes said that in a survey of students who had taken NASP-designed, 53 percent reporting they felt better about themselves after finishing the program, and 66 percent said the archery unit made their physical education classes better.

The trainers for teachers, or Basic Archery Instructor Trainers, spent a recent Saturday and Sunday in classes at the Bonner Springs High School gym, and the following day, BAITs trained the Basic Archery Instructors.

Jeff Prothe, a wholesale building materials seller from Kansas City, Kan., believes so much in the value of archery he attended the Basic Archery Instructor Trainer classes -- to train those who train school instructors --as a volunteer, and took turns with the other BAITs teaching school instructors.

"I've been a lifetime archer. I feel strongly about shooting sports," he said.

Prothe said what he wanted teachers to carry away from the class was that archery is safe and enjoyable.

Teachers learn from the BAITs the 11 steps they must teach students in class:

Stance, nock (positioning the arrow's notch in the string, setting the string hand, setting the bow hand, pre-draw, drawing, anchoring the feet, aiming, setting up the shot, releasing, and the follow-through and reflection.

Tim Schaid, a parks and wildlife employee from Hillsdale teaching as a BAIT, said the last step entailed the student's thinking about not how well or badly the shot went, but how "they feel they did or didn't do" correctly, and what he or she wants to do differently on the next shot.

Safety is a big part of training, and the layout of the range is a major part of the safety instruction. Included in the teachers' training are lessons on safety orientation, how to run a shooting range, and how to deal with a disruptive student.

In addition to the 13 Kansans who came to the weekend training sessions to learn how to teach physical education teachers how to teach archery, two men from way down under came.

Neil Curtis, leading senior constable with the Melbourne, Australia, police, came to learn how to train instructors in archery.

Curtis said he learned of the NASP program through a link on a Web site. Curtis said archery would benefit Australian children by giving them something they can engage themselves and which provides the same benefits as other, more intensely athletic sports do.

"We're hoping to go statewide (in Victoria), then countrywide," Curtis said.

Eventually, he said, he hopes to bring teams to the United States to compete.

Dean Clark, the other Australian in attendance, came as a volunteer. The manager of a manufacturing company, Clark said he wanted to see more children learn how to bowhunt.

Midway through one of the classes, Curtis presented Grimes with an Australian flag to hang beside the American banner on the backdrop behind the targets.

"As a token of our appreciation and of our developing relationship," Curtis said, and "for all the help and assistance NASP has given us."

Curtis later said NASP had donated $30,000 worth of archery gear to the program in Melbourne.

Although it was largely a review for her, Kerri Jennings, physical education teacher at Bonner Springs High School, was one of the eight teachers taking instruction on how to teach archery.

"I'm almost a beginner," she said, "but I think I got it."

Jennings said she'd always wanted to teach a dedicated archery unit in her physical education classes, but the school didn't have enough archery gear to accommodate the number of students in her classes. Through the NASP program, the high school will receive 11 compound bows, 60 arrows, five targets, a backdrop to hang behind the targets, two bow stands and a repair kit. As with the other schools' deals, NASP paid for half the equipment's $4,800 cost, and the school paid for the other half.

The equipment is the same from school to school, Grimes said, making it easier for students to start teams, and easier for teachers, so they don't have to become experts on the equipment.

The program, including the gear used in it, is designed for students in fourth through 12th grades.

David Cobb, a physical education teacher at Wichita West high School who took a class, said he thought archery could be a "part of lifetime fitness skills" for students, "something kids can do who can't play football and basketball."

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