By Nick Simonson
Like many other youth-oriented activities, the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) powered its way through the pandemic year, with virtual events serving in place of the state tournaments normally held each March in North Dakota. With more than 15,000 participants in grades 4 through 12 in the state and an in-person season-ending event in Minot on the calendar for Mar. 18 and 19, the program now appears back on trajectory in 2022 to bring more archers into the fold, and to recruit more bowhunters into the ranks of sportsmen, according to Jeff Long, ND NASP State Coordinator.
“Going into the pandemic, when everything shut down, that was the week of the state tournament a couple years ago,” Long states, adding, “it was a year since we had any local tournaments as well, so far those are all going really well, they’re well-attended, and we have, I’d say at least five maybe six more than we had last year and 10 more than we did the year before, so the local tournament scene actually grew,” he concludes, putting the number of events over 30 in the season running from January to March each year.
NASP has proven successful in North Dakota and throughout the country due primarily to its incorporation into elementary, middle, and high school physical education curricula. Alongside other units on sports and activities such as basketball, running and weightlifting, archery takes center stage, introduced to every student, and reinforced on an annual basis at more than 200 schools in the state. From that point, students in each school with a NASP program can compete in local and regional events along with the state tournament, which will be held at the Minot State Fairgrounds building and will attract more than 1,000 competitors at all three levels; the school-based course becoming a springboard to competitive archery.
“One of the founding fathers [of NASP] said, ‘if they get on the bus, they ain’t coming back,” Long relates, further explaining, “but if they get to try it in school, they just walk into that PE class, and go ‘oh this is what we’re doing today, cool,’ they’re going to try something they’re very well going to like and the reason for it is it might be the first sport they’ve ever had success at,” he concludes.
Through the program, young archers learn not only the basics of the sport including all about the equipment, stance, and draw, but also the mental acuity and focus required to be successful. It is the latter skill honed by all participants from elementary students to high school seniors that carries over into their other activities and life, regardless of a participant’s size, age, gender or strength.
“One of the coaches told me somewhere down in the southeast that the football coach wanted his kids -or required them – to go take the archery class, because he wanted them to have to experience something that they couldn’t muscle their way through, they couldn’t power their way through, they couldn’t will their way through. They actually had to just let go and just let it happen and learn how to follow something that takes a lot of discipline and patience, and you can’t give it all your might and get through it. It’s not the same thing, you have to train your brain,” Long relates.
The 2022 NASP ND State Tournament consists of three events, a bullseye tournament which is a standard target event with the familiar concentric rings numbered one-through-ten; a 3D tournament where shooters take on a variety of foam targets of animals such as deer, pronghorn and wild hogs; and a varsity tournament designed for those participants in high school, where shooters utilize more advanced archery equipment. More information on the event and the program can be found at NASP.org, and registration is open to those students who participate in a NASP-affiliated school or team.
Featured Photo: All Aquiver. Anticipation is building for the ND NASP State Tournament, where more than 1,000 archers in grades 4-12 will compete for top honors in a year that has seen participant numbers increase. Simonson Photo.