After just finishing a dodge ball unit in PE, eighth grader Skyler Correia says he likes archery quite a bit, even though dodge ball was “extremely fun.” The stillness and concentration of shooting a bow and arrow offers a contrast to the frenzy of ball sports.
Seventh and eighth graders at Gethsemane Lutheran School in Tempe chatted, laughed and (typical of middle school kids) made plenty of noise, but they respectfully followed the procedures of archery class without hesitation. They understood that ”bows on toes” means the end of the bow rests on their shoes while standing on the firing line before being given the command to nock and shoot their quiver of arrows at targets 10 meters away.
Students stood behind a blue line while awaiting their next turn. After everyone had shot all their arrows they stood behind another blue line while scores were tallied. One — just one — of the two people who shot arrows at each target pulled the arrows from the target and laid the arrows on the ground.
Each archer collected the arrows of the color they shot, with their hands around the points and put them back in the quivers, which were orange traffic cones.
I asked Correia whether everyone followed the rules and behaved themselves, given that arrows have much sharper points than a dodge ball.
“We have enough common sense,” he said, adding that the teacher “are on top of it, it’s extremely safe.” If they blow the whistle five times, everyone must stop what they are doing immediately. If, while preparing to shoot an arrow, the arrow falls on the floor, it cannot be picked up until firing has ceased for that round.
Students must bring their bowstrings, a length of rope that helps approximate the length of the bow draw, or they cannot participate. From what I could tell, students had no problem with the rules. They enjoy the competition of archery and wouldn’t want anything to interfere with the fun.
Eric Hoffman, athletic director at Gethsemane, says he was watching the Olympics while recuperating from surgery when he wondered if he could bring an archery program to the school. After some web searching he found out that Arizona Game and Fish is the state sponsor for the National Archery in Schools Program. Arizona Game and Fish provides the archery equipment and provides staff members with eight hours of training.
Hoffman plans to expand the archery program to grades 4-8, with after-school tournaments for avid archers. Archery will be included in Gethsemane’s summer program. And there are regional and state archery tournaments to which students can aspire.