Finding Aim

They say it’s hard to get kids to focus on anything these days besides TV and video games. Yet there they were, a whole string of school kids, stretched out nearly 200 feet, all standing at the shooting line and staring at the targets in front of them.

One hundred and forty eyes were boring holes in the bull’s-eyes, willing the arrows they were about to launch to follow the same path as their penetrating gaze. The young archers were motionless, waiting for the command to shoot, and it was intensely quiet. I think I heard a stomach growl from the kid at the end of the line.

The students were competing at the Missouri National Archery in the Schools Program’s first state tournament, held on March 7 at Linn State Technical College. Dave Murphy, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, stared at the impressive line of kids and shook his head. “This is unbelievable,” he said with a huge grin on his face.

The Conservation Federation partners with the Department of Conservation to help NASP grow in Missouri. The first state tournament, where 274 kids came from 17 schools to compete, is a happy page in Missouri NASP’s scrapbook.

NASP is international-style target archery taught in grades 4-12 as a part of in-school curriculum. NASP is usually taught in physical education classes, but is sometimes a part of math, science, physics, conservation and lifetime sports classes, as well. NASP focuses on safety and beginning instruction, and it requires certified teachers and standard equipment. It also requires positive language and instruction. In their training, teachers learn to properly set up and operate an archery range so they can maintain NASP’s impeccable safety record. The National Safety Council ranks archery as safer than any ball sport taught in any school in North America except for table tennis.

NASP began in 2002 in Kentucky as a partnership between the departments of education and fish, game and wildlife. PE teachers were trained, and the program was piloted in 21 schools. NASP’s founders knew they were onto something big when, a year later, the number of NASP schools in Kentucky had grown to 120, and educators from 30 states had called asking how they could get archery started in their schools.

Today, NASP is being taught in more than 5,000 schools in 46 states and five countries. Since NASP began, 4.6 million kids have participated — more than 1