Archery program introduces youth to lifetime sport

On Friday, March 8, nearly 900 elementary, middle and high school students representing 30 schools from all over Pennsylvania will converge at the Multi-Sport Facility of Penn State to compete in the National Archery in the Schools Program 2013 State Tournament.

Participants will shoot three rounds of five arrows at 10 meters, followed by three rounds of five arrows at 15 meters. The top-scoring teams and individual shooters will qualify for the National NASP Tournament this May in Louisville, Ky.

NASP originated in Kentucky in 2002. The premise of this worthwhile program is to introduce students from fourth to 12th grade to the fundamentals of international-style tournament archery shooting as part of the physical education curriculum in their schools. The program quickly gained popularity nationwide, and schools in 48 states are currently participating in NASP. The first Pennsylvania schools joined NASP around 2005 through the efforts of volunteer groups.

In 2010, the Pennsylvania Game Commission became the official coordinating body for NASP here in Pennsylvania, and under the direction of that agency, the number of schools involved in NASP currently totals 125. Here in our area, some of the schools participating in NASP include Hollidaysburg High School, Grier School, Park Forest Middle School, Northern Bedford Middle School, Forest Hills Elementary and Forest Hills High School.

I’m almost a little envious of the kids nowadays who can have activities like this incorporated into their phys ed requirements. How great it would have been to shoot a bow and arrow instead of basketball, gymnastics and all the other diversions that comprised “gym class” back in the 1960s. And while things volleyball, flag football or other similar games could be fun, these are things most kids would do for recreation whether or not they were offered to them in school. Most of us, however, stopped playing those kind of games when we finished school or shortly thereafter. I’ve always been grateful that during my youth I also embraced hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities Not only did they fascinate me back then, but most of those same pursuits also continue to be a significant part of my lifestyle so many years later.

So while young folks will always be willing to play the traditional stick-and-ball sports and games, it would make abundant sense to provide them with introductions to more diverse pastimes and leisure interests, especially ones that would benefit them later in life as well. Many outdoor sports, of course, can be lifetime hobbies, and archery is certainly one of those. For generations, young folks were introduced to the outdoor sports mostly by other family members. That tradition has weakened in recent years as fewer adults are participating in hunting or fishing, and that decline is reflected in fewer young folks getting the opportunity to try those sports as well. Programs like NASP can be an effective way of turning that trend around.

Samantha Pedder, outreach coordinator for the Game Commission, supervises the NASP for the agency, and I spoke with her last week about the success and remarkable growth of the program. One of the first things she noted was the impeccable safety record of NASP: in more than a decade of its existence, there hasn’t been a single safety-related issue anywhere in the country. Another significant factor is that unlike so many sports, being successful at archery doesn’t require exceptional size or strength, and both boys and girls in the various age groups can and do compete on the same range with the same equipment. Pedder was also pleased to point out that 45 percent of the participants registered for the NASP state tournament this year are girls.

Pedder is also available to provide all the necessary assistance to parents, teachers or school administrators who would like to bring NASP to their local school. The cost for the for the startup equipment kit, which includes 12 bows, arrows, targets and more, is just $3094, the Game Commission has grants of $1500 available to cover nearly half of that, along with free training for teachers who will be the NASP instructors. That seems like a very small investment indeed for something that has the potential to reach so many young persons in a positive way. For more information about NASP, check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission website ( or contact Pedder at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters.