Feb. 02–HARRISBURG — From a popularity standpoint, interest in archery is enjoying an unprecedented surge among youngsters.
Locally, participation in the sport is high among pre-teens at youth field days conducted by the Schuylkill County Sportsmen’s Association and Valley View Gun Club. As teenagers, youngsters have even more time to enjoy the sport when they move on to events like the Norm Thornburg Youth Conservation Camp sponsored by the SCSA.
Unfortunately, few of these youngsters have the opportunity to participate in archery as a competitive sport because area school districts have been slow to embrace the National Archery in the Schools Program, which has support and financial backing by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
According to PGC NASP outreach coordinator and state administer Samantha Pedder, only the Williams Valley School District and Gillingham Charter School are certified in Schuylkill County. Panther Valley and Pine Grove are working towards certification.
Williams Valley has earned numerous individual and team medals — including championships — in the Pennsylvania State NASP Tournament. Free registration began Friday and remains open through Friday, Feb. 21, for this year’s tournament, which will be held Friday, March 14, at the Penn State Multi-Sport Facility.
“I like to joke that there is a huge opportunity is ‘nocking’ for Pennsylvania’s student archers, and this year’s event is expected to be the largest student archery tournament ever in Pennsylvania,” Pedder said at last week’s quarterly meeting of the PGC board of game commissioners. “In addition to offering students a state archery championship for teams and individuals to compete for honors and trophies, the Game Commission is working with various partners to provide tournament participants and spectators the opportunity to visit a host of vendors from archery equipment suppliers to a 3D range again this year for the Shooter’s Expo.
“Approximately 1,300 students from more than 30 schools across Pennsylvania are expected to participate in this year’s state tournament, which represents nearly a 60 percent increase in the 817 participants who competed last year. There will be 115 lanes, each with two archers, operating at once, which translates to about 9,200 arrows flying each hour and somewhere near 46,000 arrows being that day.
“While the increase is encouraging and represents growth in the program statewide, we certainly would like to see more schools become involved in the program. Schools can start NASP by contacting the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and usually grant funding is available to offset the purchase of a starter equipment kit.”
Once the PGC receives a commitment letter specifically noting that NASP will become part of the school’s physical education curriculum or other related curricula and an equipment kit is ordered, $1,500 of the $3,094 cost is provided by the agency. In addition, other funding may be available through grants and donations from organizations such as Easton Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Safari Club International.
After a school receives its equipment order, the PGC coordinates a free Basic Archery Instructor training course for instructors. This eight-hour course covers topics that include everything from setting up a range to coaching students on shooting form.
“To maintain student interest in archery, schools may want to create an after-school program or team to compete in the state tournament,” Pedder said. “For some students, the next step in shooting may be bowhunting, and the most recent statistics show that more than 300,000 archery licenses were purchased by bowhunters.”
NASP started in Kentucky in 2002 and has since gained participants around the globe, coming to Pennsylvania in 2005. The PGC started to coordinate the program in 2010. In some areas, sportsmen’s clubs and programs such as 4-H Shooting Sports and Junior Olympic Archer Development support the NASP.
Pedder said that those interested in starting a NASP can call her direct line at PGC headquarters at (717) 787-4250, Ext. 3327. Information is also available on the agency website at www.pgc.state.pa.us by clicking on the NASP link and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PennNASP.