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Archery for kids: mixing business and bull

ARCHERY FOR KIDS: Mixing Business and Bull's-Eyes Is An Investment In Today And Tomorrow

The shooting world is shrinking. According to statistics furnished by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms(BATF) the production and sales of firearms has been declining dramatically over the past several years. It is down 50 percent in some areas since 1975. The manufacture of shotguns, rifles and handguns faces a decreased demand due to limited habitat and fewer young shooters.

Although the survival of the sports shop doesn't totally depend upon the shooting industry, changing attitudes toward guns will eventually have a ripple effect on the outdoor market in general. Spreading the word about the recreational use of firearms is difficult also, because of the inherent danger of kids and guns. However, one type of shooting is actually taught in some schools, routinely, across the nation and at camps and outdoor facilities--ARCHERY. What's more, the average "hook and bullet" merchant can open up the world of shooting to youngsters in a school or camp setting in such a way that will generate a positive experience and unleash a curiosity of wildlife and nature in general.

"What? Me teach archery? I'm no expert" a shop owner may say. Do you know a bull's-eye from the target butt? That's about all that's needed to get your message across and here's how you can do it. Also, this is a prime opportunity to share a host of outdoor topics with boys and girls that can't be experienced in any textbook or from a chalkboard. More importantly, it will introduce you to large numbers of potential customers and provide a chance to discuss other sporting related topics. If a kid wants to see something in your shop, he will bring his parents with him. Volunteering a few hours every now and then may sell a few bows, but more importantly the goodwill advertising can be far more productive in the future. Furthermore, you are not just doing it for the kids and yourself--the industry will benefit as well. The following example will show how easy it can be done.

"Do I have to do this?" whined the seven-year-old girl as her turn grew closer to try out the bow and arrow with the rest of her second grade class. The child had never handled a bow before and probably considered shooting one far too difficult to warrant even a try. However, after shooting only six arrows, she exclaimed with excitement what she wanted for Christmas..."A bow and arrow!"

Unfortunately, many youngsters initially have the same misconceptions about archery as this child had. They think it is too hard to do well or if they have an opportunity to give a staff a pull, it will probably meet with such little success that they will quickly become discouraged.

Even as a high school senior, I can remember archery class in physical education. As a budding country boy shooting anything had inherent motivation but this archery stuff seemed to have little promise. There wasn't any way to aim and the arrows flew all over the target, resulting in more frustration than recreation. In fact, it was probably this bad experience that prodded me to search for a better method of introducing kids to archery.

For the past ten years, I have been volunteering as an archery "resource person" for the local school system, conducting lessons and demonstrations for folks age three to adult. This method isn't foolproof but it has one consistent result--kids are turned on to archery. What's more, any competent archer can do it, including young shooters in their teens. It is remarkably easy and you will be amazed at how much success you will have on your first try.

The number one thing to keep in mind when introducing young people to archery is the word SUCCESS. Archery is fun and as long as kids can have reasonable success they will enjoy it. For example, -my wife is a second-grade school teacher and each year her class of 25 munchkins gets a dose of "stick and string" and they love it. No, they aren't exactly Robin Hoods when they leave, but they think they are.

The key is to make their experience successful. A good example of this philosophy is a champion bowler who seemed to have unlimited confidence in his ability. Once he was asked how he learned to bowl with such skill. "I don't ever remember not being able to knock down pins, even as a child" was his quick response. "You mean as a young boy you could roll those heavy balls down the lanes in a perfectly straight line and they would not go into the gutter?" said the acquaintance, somewhat skeptical of this innate prowess. "Heck no!" quipped the champ. "My dad put the pins in the gutter."

To teach kids to be successful at archery, you must stack the odds for hits--not misses. Youngsters have no notion of how big a bull's-eye is. The bigger the better. Likewise, distance may be important to adults but not to kids. I start shooting targets at a distance of from five to seven yards, depending upon the age of the students. If they aren't hitting the target, they are too far away.

Before getting into the "nitty gritty" of technique, it is important to clarify for the audience what this method is intended to address. In most cases, my presentation is the first time a child has had the chance to hold a bow much less shoot one. Ages run from seven to eleven years of age, roughly elementary school types, but can be for older kids too. Group sizes range from fifteen to thirty shooters and rarely is there more than one hour available for the whole session.

The fact that these youngsters are beginners allows you the opportunity to offer them not only archery success but the presentation of outdoor recreation as well.

At one time, I began each session with an archery demonstration but found that kids quickly got bored with it (Okay, you can hit the bull's-eye ten times in a row, now what?) and it consumed a lot of time. The kids want to shoot archery, not watch it, and it isn't necessary to their enjoyment or learning to be able to shoot well.

Youngsters are interested in archery gear, though.

I always wear full camouflage clothing, show hunting-related items such as game calls, and bring several bows to show. In a one hour session, fifteen minutes is allotted to showing different kinds of bows (long, recurve and compound), arrows and points, as well as discussing archery as an outdoor recreation. A real hit is a junior compound bow (about 20 pounds) that is passed around and each child gets to try to pull it back. First, a few hands go up and after one attempt, everyone gets excited.

Hopefully, by this point, some of you may be thinking to yourselves: "This isn't so tough...I could do that."

And, of course, you can, with a little planning and the right equipment. Both forethought and tackle are important for several reasons. The introductory sharing of information about gear will motivate kids to the point that they can't wait until they can grab a bow and shoot.

So that they are successful, you should be aware of some of the most common problems that will crop up. Since students are hearing archery instruction for the first time, only use positive examples. By this, I mean tell them what to do in direct terms. The only exceptions are with safety rules and dry firing the bow. The following are key concepts to cover:

HANDEDNESS

"If you are right-handed (the hand you write with) then you pull the string with that hand. Watch and I'll show you." Students will get this mixed up from time to time. This also, is a good time to bring in dry firing. Shooting a bow without an arrow, even once, can shatter it. Show students the handle. It is okay to grip it like a ball bat.

NOCKING

Equipment is important at this point, as bow strings should have a nocking point in place and arrows must have snap-on nocks so that the arrow will not fall off the string. If camp equipment doesn't come with a nocking point, duct tape will work very well and will last a surprisingly long time. Shaft material isn't critical, although arrows should be as straight as possible. The nocking point and the nocks are the critical factors. The importance of these two items will be evident in the next step.

DRAWING THE BOW

This is the most critical aspect of instruction but one that kids can master quickly if you take it one step at a time. For right-handed shooters, ask them to raise their right-hand and make the "Scout sign". Even very young children may know this and it is easy to teach. (In case you may have forgotten, it is made by placing the thumb on the nail of the "pinkie" finger and holding the other three fingers straight up.) Once the Scout sign hold is mastered show students how they grip the string with the three extended fingers at the last joint. Do not touch the arrow but (Apache-style) drop down one-inch below the nocking point and pull the string with the three extended fingers. If you have never tried this, you may be surprised to find that when you draw the string back to your face, you will be looking right down the arrow shaft so that aiming the arrow becomes very easy -- like pointing a stick at the target.

MODELING THE SHOT

So as not to make this first time too complicated, model these techniques along with a few others. Start with feet spread comfortably apart and perpendicular to the line of fire. The bow should be held out from the body in the "other hand" so that the arm is straight. Make a Scout sign, grasp the string, pull the string back, aim at the target, and release.

An effective way to teach this technique to large groups is to "pretend" that kids are shooting and go through the process several times, congratulating them on their excellent "hits" each time. Technically, this is a concept called "visualization" but to the students it is just plain fun. Ham it up a bit.

Once the shooting process has been practiced, students will be anxious to begin shooting. Usually there are several adults, counselors or older students, with a group, so that they are sub-grouped such that each one has a bow, three arrows and their own target. Students stand in a line and shoot as if in a relay game. Students stand in a line and shoot as if in a relay game. The first person shoots, while the second holds the arrows. Upon completion (and the all clear signal has been given) the shooter retrieves the arrows and then goes to the end of the line. It is important to show students how to pull arrows out of the target safely and without bending them. This can wait until the end of the first volley.

One additional problem will be encountered by youngsters, as the arrow will tend to jump from the rest upon drawing the shaft. Canting (tilting) the bow is one solution that usually helps. Also, kids will want to grab the arrow or put four or five fingers on the string. This almost always caused problems so that repeated assistance may be necessary until they get the hang of it.

Even after your best instructions, a step-by-step approach, and modeling the correct shooting form, children will usually not be able to remember all of the parts to the shooting process. However, with a little patience, any steps they forget can be reviewed as they shoot and, frequently, by the second trial, the youngster gets things down pat and can go on their own.

Remember, children learn best by concrete example and by doing. You will be amazed how quickly they catch on.

Finally, thirty students, in this manner, will only get to shoot from six to nine arrows, during a 60-minute session, but the quantity of shooting isn't as important as the quality. Some students may get a bull's-eye on their very first try and most should hit the target. I give a special "Bull's-eye Certificate" to anyone who gets one and kids really beam when they get a shaft in the center. With older students, using balloons is a real motivator especially, since it takes a direct hit to pop one.

In conclusion, whether it is bursting a balloon, shooting a bull's-eye, or just learning how to do something new, a youngster's first experience with archery is extremely important. With the proper preparation, students can shoot, successfully, their very first time out, a foundation which may be the corner stone for years of enjoyment in the decades ahead. It is tough growing up these days given the multitude of single parent families and the lure of alcohol and illicit drugs. Adults and teenagers can help enrich a child's life by sharing their skills and interests. Without your help, students will probably have a tough time mastering the "stick and string" and most will never get the chance to even try. Like the story of the small train puffing up the steep hill. If you "think you can", you will be a success...and so will the kids.

PHOTO : 10 year-old Andrew Myers shows off his marksmanship. Not bad for the first time.

PHOTO : The "3 fingers under" method allows kid to look right down the shaft at the target.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Publishers' Development Corporation
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Byers, Joe
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:Jun 1, 1989
Words:2290
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