James Murray tells a story for a small crowd at the Salmon Arm library. (File photo)

Column: Archery program right on target

Well, I’m off to the Kelowna Friday where I will be volunteering to help at the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) 2018 Provincial Archery Competition being held over the weekend.

Young archers from all over the province will be testing their skills, demonstrating their marksmanship and attempting to qualify for the national championships, which will take place April 27-29 in Regina, Sask.

Originally developed in 2002 in the U.S., NASP began as an archery program for schools. It is now in five countries and three continents and is offered to schools, camps, community groups and other organizations. NASP provides international-style target archery training to youths from Grade 4 through to 12. The program covers archery safety, technique, concentration skills, self-improvement and the proper use of equipment.

The BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF) serves as the regional headquarters for NASP. They also provide support to NASP basic archery instructors and trainers, as well as coordinating annual NASP tournaments.

BCWF youth programs and NASP coordinator Chris Lim says that event organizers are looking forward to this year’s event.”I have been getting more and more calls from teachers, community leaders and youth programs about NASP. It is safe to say interest is increasing.” Lim goes on to say, “Things are really shaping up for this year’s provincial competition. We are expecting teams from as far away as the Skeena Region.”

Archery is an activity in which people from all walks of life and almost every size and ability level can participate and according to the NASP website, it has been shown to be effective in helping young people experience success.

“Once they experience success through archery, they can accomplish many other things with proper instruction, practice and a positive attitude.

Prior to taking part in a NASP competition, students/participants have been given thorough instruction and training in a strictly controlled shooting environment. School students take archery classes as part of their physical education curriculum. The set up and design of the NASP archery ranges, as well as the equipment and targets used has been standardized throughout all participating schools and organizations. All participants use he same model of Genesis bow, the same brand and model of arrows and shoot at the same standardized target. This follows through to the competition level making for a level playing field (target range) for all participants.

NASP states that the program uses “time-proven, state-of-the-art training techniques and educational methods to provide a foundation to support a lifetime of archery enjoyment.”

Simply put, students learn how to shoot safely in a controlled setting from certified instructors and learn self-disciplinary skills that will see them through life.

Before presenting an archery course to students, all teachers/instructors must undergo an eight-hour NASP Basic Archery Instructor Training program. During this training, teachers/instructors learn how to set up and operate a safe archery range in their gymnasium. They are taught whistle signals which are used to direct students to do various maneuvers. They are also taught archery techniques, safety, and the “Eleven Steps to Archery Success.” Finally, sessions are conducted to explain inspection, maintenance and operation of the bows and arrows.

Throughout each class and at every step through the process, safety of all participants is of utmost concern at all times. Whether in the class setting or at competition levels, strict NASP safety protocols are in place. Even event volunteers such as myself are giving safety instruction so that everyone will be able to understand and implement these safety protocols. An integral part of the safety protocol is a series of whistle commands that can be clearly heard and recognized by everyone taking part in an event. Competitors are more than familiar and used to working with both verbal and whistle commands.

All in all, it is a pretty impressive program that provides a safe learning environment for young people who are interested or wanting to learn about archery. I wish NASP had been around when I was a kid going to school. Maybe I would have learned to be a better archer.

What I do know for sure is that this coming weekend, a lot of young archers are going to be having a lot of fun competing and meeting new people with alike interests. Who knows, maybe some of them will get to compete in the Canadian National NASP Championships. You never know, some day one of them might even step up on the Olympic podium.

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