Bulls-eyes: The National Archery in the Schools Program

Apr 1, 2015
The development of archery is one of most important steps in human evolution. It allowed a person to project a small spear a much longer distance, increasing chances for success in hunting, conflict and self-defense. The oldest equipment discovered has been dated at about 13,000 BC, but some speculate that the first bows and arrows were created 50,000 years ago.

Following the invention of firearms in the 1300's, interest in archery declined. It did not become an Olympic sport until 1900. There were archery events in the Olympics in 1904, 1908 and 1920, but then archery did not become an Olympic sport for 52 years, returning in 1972. Today over 80 nations send archery teams to summer Olympics.

After the Civil War, Confederate soldiers were not allowed to own firearms, and so J. Maurice and William H. Thompson, learned to hunt with bow and arrow. They became accomplished archers, and became founding members of the National Archery Association in 1879.

US archery got a big boost in the 20th century from Howard Hill and Fred Bear, and later Ann Marston, but few schools included archery in their phys. ed. classes. That has all changed thanks to the National Archery In The Schools Programhttp://naspschools.org/ .

In the late summer and fall of 2001, the Kentucky Departments of Fish & Wildlife Resources and Department of Education and Mathews Archery met and decide to see if they could launch a program to bring archery into phys. Ed. programs in schools. Roy Grimes was then the Deputy Commissioner of the KDFW and he was assigned the task of creating the first school archery program in Kentucky.

The program was launched in 21 Kentucky middle schools on March 3, 2002 as the "Kentucky Archery in the Schools Program", with a goal to enroll 120 schools and teach target archery skills to 24,000 students each year. Kentucky set three years to achieve this goal.

The 120-school goal was achieved the first year and because of neighbor-state interest, "National" replaced "Kentucky" in the program's name, and standards were set to allow students in 4th-12th grade. NASP© was soon granted 501 c(3) status. Roy retired from KDFWR in 2007 to direct NASP and continues as its CEO/President.

In 2002, the Genesis bow by Matthews was the only universal draw length bow available. A Genesis bow, set at 20lbs. releases energy comparable to that of a 35lb. recurve. It eliminates let-off on light draw weight bows so there are no specific draw length requirements. The result is a bow that fits virtually everyone. NASP® has since adopted the Genesis bow as the standard to insure that the equipment is consistent for all participants, and graphite arrows are also universal. All shooting is at 15 meters.

A NASP® team is 12-24 archers with at least 4 of the opposite gender. Team scores are compiled from the top 12 archers scores & must include at least 4 of the opposite gender scores. For some students, this is their first chance to be a part of a team, the way the teams are structured, those students that need NASP® can be a part of the team.

In the last 14 years the expansion of NASP is nothing short of a miracle. Today, NASP® is in all states except RI, VT, & DE. Washington DC joined August 4, 2010. It has spread abroad. In Canada NASP programs are in Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, & Manitoba. NASP programs also are going strong in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana, Mongolia, the UK. As of June 2014, 12,219 schools are enrolled as by June 30, 2014, and NASP is growing at 1,000+ schools/year. In 2014, 2,150,000 million students participated and over 10 million students have participated in NASP. In the 2014 national tournament held in Madison, Wisconsin, 2,4267 Student Archers, 47% Female, U.S. Canada, S. Africa participated. These 4th-12th graders represented 665 schools in 39 states.

It's obvious that kids like archery, but are there benefits beyond simply enjoying shooting some arrows? Responsive Management and the University of Florida have both conduct research on the benefits of participating in NASP. IN these surveys students said: 82% like NASP; 85% said their teachers did a good job teaching archery; 77% had never or very rarely shot a bow before NASP; 74% - 76% said NASP is exciting & archery skills are good or very good after the course; 59% of students without an archery club said they'd like to have one; 66% of the students had only been in NASP one year; 64% Continue shooting after school -- 51% with their father; 51% say self-esteem increased after archery; 35% of NASP® graduates buy personal archery equipment.

When teachers were surveyed about how NASP has influenced students, 94% said that NASP training is effective in teaching life-time recreational skills, 84% said it increased student confidence, 76% -78% said it increased student motivation, concentration & focus; 74% said it helped improve student behavior, 43% -49% said it improved performance & attendance; 40% felt it increased interest in other sports; 79% felt it increased interest in target archery, 56% said it increased interest in bowhunting, and 30% said NASP increased interest in other shooting sports.

The expansion of NASP is extremely important in these times when there is so much apprehension about kids and weapons, especially in schools. Archery is already a safe sport, with an injury rate of less than one incident per 1,000 participants, while golf and fishing have an injury rate of up to 1.5 to 2 times the rate for archery, and soccer, baseball and basketball have injury rates 15 to 25 times that of archery.http://www.azgfd.gov/pdfs/i_e/archery/ArcherySafetyInsight.pdf

Even including times when record numbers of kids are shooting, NASP has turned out to be one of, if not the, safest of all school sports. According to Roy, "In 14 years we have had zero injuries involving a student being struck by an arrow. There have been some sore fingers, string burns on the arm, but that's about it. In 14 years there has been one case where an arrow bounced back, and the nock-end of the arrow struck a student's on the leg without breaking the skin.  So, the first aid station is a very boring place at our events." 

Before NASP® can be adopted in any State, Province, or Country there must be an entity that will be charged with coordinating NASP® in that location. In the United States it's a state government wildlife conservation agency provide. In Canada it's usually a province-wide Wildlife Federation or the Department of Education. In South Africa it is a country-wide Hunter Education organization. NASP in Australia is administered through the Police Department. NASP does it this way to make sure that the program is offered country-wide.

NASP is looking forward to the 2015 national competition that will be held in Nashville, TN, July 23-25, when they expect to set another record in the Guinness Book of Records for the largest archery tournament ever. NASP already holds this honor based on the 2014 national.

The number of students who will be able to attend the NASP national will be partially influenced by those who can afford to attend. NASP is a 501-C-3 charity, so if you would like to sponsor a family or a team, or just help NASP cover costs, donations are appreciated. http://naspschools.org/donate/

-- James Swan