Once in a while I’ll deviate from the topics contained in North Dakota OUTDOORS to go on my own little jaunt, completely separate from the featured matters in the magazine. In this instance, I want to talk about the National Archery in the Schools Program.
The Game and Fish Department, and Jeff Long, Department NASP coordinator, in particular, has been involved in this program for several years. It is an extracurricular activity where boys and girls in elementary, middle and high school shoot at archery targets before or after school. It is a highly structured program, and is not biased regarding size, gender, strength, or any other physical attributes.
Some of the youngsters involved in NASP, it’s been said, have increased their grades in school and reduced or eliminated tardiness, or cutting classes. Overall, it’s a tremendous program and provides opportunity for many who may not have other activities in which they wish to participate.
I attended the first state NASP archery tournament held in Bismarck about three years ago. My memory might be failing, but I remember about 100 or so kids at the tournament. It was apparent it was going to grow from that first year.
When I arrived at the building it was difficult to find a place to park. Cars and buses lined the streets. When I walked into the building the first thing I noticed was the quiet “thunks” of arrows hitting targets, followed by cheers for well-placed shots. I also remember a young woman who had skipped a track meet to shoot in the state tournament. And, if my memory serves, she won the archery tournament that particular year.
The latest state NASP tournament held in mid-April stands out fresh in my mind. The venue has changed to accommodate the growing number of fans and participants.
While I didn’t have the opportunity to stay for the entire event, a few things really caught my attention. The absolute focus on the faces of each individual shooting in the tournament was apparent. I remember one young woman standing on the line shooting and realizing that she was “creeping” on her first two shots. (Meaning: the hand holding the string moved slightly forward before she released the arrow.) She caught herself and corrected it, and the result was a pretty good grouping of arrows.
My point is that archery is a sport and the individuals attending these tournaments are some of the most well-mannered young adults I’ve seen in such a setting. I’ve attended numerous other high school sporting events and someone is always getting in trouble for something, somewhere. I attribute the lack of problems at the NASP event with the volunteer coaches from each school, plus the North Dakota Bowhunters Association that provided some targets and fun games associated with archery. But most of all, applause falls on the participants.
To you NASP participants, you all performed wonderfully. No matter if you went home with a trophy, you should all be proud, as should the coaches who mentored you.
I anticipate that the state NASP tournament will continue to grow and we’ll once again have to find a bigger venue, but that’s a good problem to have. Archery is a safe sport and one that everyone can enjoy. I encourage schools across the state to give it a try and see what it does for your students. It’s a lifelong sport that can lead students into the great North Dakota outdoors, if it hasn’t already.