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National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) expanding nationwide

How good an archer are you? Think you could beat a high-school girl from Ohio? How about if you had been severely injured in a vehicle accident just a few weeks prior?


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Such were the obstacles 16-year-old Kelsey Taylor had to overcome in winning the recent 2010 National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Ohio state tournament, held in Columbus, Ohio. A junior at Morgan High School in McConnelsville, located in the southeast section of the state, Taylor was injured when a pickup truck she was riding in left the roadway and hit a tree.

"I broke two bones in my left forearm, my sternum, eight ribs, and badly damaged my right knee, as well as had other scrapes and bruises," Kelsey said. "During surgery, the doctors had to put plates, screws, and wires into my body to put me back together."

Just weeks before the 2010 Ohio State NASP tournament Kelsey was still in the hospital, and no one knew if she was even going to be able to attend the event, let alone compete. But compete she did, winning the shoot-off and title of over-all Ohio State Female Champion.

Kelsey was the 2009 NASP Ohio State Female Champion, as well, so was able to defend her title despite her injuries. She was also honored with the Spirit Award, usually given in recognition of an entire team's enthusiasm and support of fellow archers in the tournament. But tradition was broken this year by giving the award to Kelsey individually, based on everything she was able to overcome.

Tyler Finley, of Maysville Middle School, was the top overall male archer of the tournament. Both Tyler and Kelsey received full, two-year scholarships to Hocking College in Nelsonville, Ohio, for their achievements. The top male and female archers were determined by a shoot-off between the top three boys and top three girls from each of three divisions: elementary, middle, and high school.

Kelsey had not shot a bow and arrow until three years ago during physical education class at her school. She enjoys the sport of archery because, as she says, "It gives everyone an equal chance to compete. You don't have to be particularly athletic to do well."

She has been able to excel at target archery because of her work ethic, not only practicing at school, but at home, as well.

"I shoot more often as a tournament approaches," Kelsey said. "In preparation, I'll shoot every other day for about two hours."

Arnold Sports Festival

The Ohio NASP state tournament is held annually in conjunction with the Arnold Sports Festival in early March. The largest multi-sport event in the nation, the Festival is attended by some 17,000 athletes who compete in 40 sports and events, including 13 Olympic sports. In addition, 170,000 spectators and fitness enthusiasts attend the Festival each year.

The Festival is named for and was developed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, now Governor of California, who is always in attendance at the four-day event. Schwarzenegger addressed the archery tournament participants, their coaches and parents during the awards ceremony. Student archers numbering 1,034 from 45 teams participated in the Ohio NASP state tournament.

NASP is a collaboration between state departments of education and state wildlife resource agencies, and is designed to teach International-style target archery in school physical education classes, grades four through 12. Core content of the program covers: archery history, safety, shooting techniques, equipment, mental concentration, core strengthening, physical fitness, and self-improvement.

Before presenting the two-week archery course to students, teachers complete an eight-hour NASP Basic Archery Instructor Training Program. In addition, the NASP curriculum follows National Physical Education Standards.

The students shoot at 80 centimeter bulls-eye targets, placed before an arrow curtain in their school's gymnasium. The archery equipment used in the program is state-of-the art and designed to fit every student.

Thanks to cooperation and support from manufacturers in the archery industry, the $6,000 equipment "kits" are purchased by schools for about half their retail value — anywhere from $2,800 to $3,100, depending upon which targets and bow hanging units are chosen.

How it all started ...

The NASP began in 2002 when Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR) Commissioner Tom Bennett wanted archery to become a high-school sport choice.

As a result, the KDFWR hosted a Step Outside event to introduce Kentucky Department of Education administrators to the sport of archery. During the event, it was suggested that archery would be a popular sport with students.

The Kentucky Department of Education agreed to help if the program was started as a physical education class in middle school. Prior to that time, most schools didn't offer archery for a number of reasons, such as questions about safety, lack of equipment, no place to practice or compete, and teachers lacking the appropriate archery training.

"The NASP has proven so successful that in the brief eight years since its inception, the program has spread throughout the United States," Bennett said. "More than 4.6 million American youth have participated in the program so far, and over 5,000 schools have joined. And the program is still growing ..."

A side benefit that teachers and parents have observed is that motivation and grades have improved in those students participating in the program. Kids know that if their grades slip, they won't be permitted to shoot and compete.

If you're a teacher, parent, target archer, or bowhunter who would like to see NASP get started in your local schools, more information is available at www.nasparchery.com. The 2010 NASP National Invitational Tournament is scheduled for May 7 and 8 in Kentucky.

W. H. "Chip" Gross is a professional outdoors writer and photographer from Fredericktown, Ohio, and frequent contributor to ESPNoutdoors.com. He can be reached for comment about this story through his Web site: www.chipgross.com.