The high school recently began an archery program, administered by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and so far it is a hit among students.
“Where some might be good at some of your regular P.E. sports, others are not as athletic, but this is something everyone can do,” said FHS athletic director and archery coach John Limbaugh. “It puts everyone, boys and girls, on a level playing field. Some of our girls are even beating the guys. It’s a great competition for them, and everybody’s loving it. They’re having a great time.”
The program, part of the National Archery in Schools Program, was made possible through donations totaling about $3,500 from Heritage Plastics, Jimmy King of Sylacauga Outdoors and a $1,000 state scholarship. Limbaugh said the school is appreciative of the community interest and support it has received for its new endeavor.
“This whole community is full of fishers and hunters, so this is right up their alley,” he said. “One thing we’re about here is community, and we’re striving for excellence, and that’s one thing I’m proud of about this community is they will always come together for the kids, and this is one of those times.”
State conservation officer Jerry Fincher said NASP has shown proven results, particularly in discipline and attendance, since it began in Alabama six years ago.
“It’s a program that gives the kid that can’t be the stand-out on the football field or he may not be the academic giant, it gives them a place to shine,” Fincher said. “A lot of times they see with a little bit of discipline and applying yourself, you can be successful at this, and that translates to other areas of their life like academics or other sports. It has been a highly successful program.”
Glenn Stockdale, Heritage Plastics plant manager, said archery is an education option for students that Heritage is happy to support.
“It fits the area, and I think it’ll be beneficial to the kids to give them another means of getting out from behind a computer and doing something hands-on,” Stockdale said.
King, who said he has wanted archery at FHS for years, raised the money he donated by raffling a bow that was donated to him by Matthews Inc.
“Anybody can shoot a bow,” he said. “It helps the kids in many ways, because they learn teamwork, which is No. 1; and they learn safety and self-confidence, and that’s a key ingredient. I love seeing a kid that can’t do anything else excel at archery. It’s a great thing. It just makes you smile.”
Archery skills are taught in a two-week unit, mainly during physical education classes, where students learn Olympic-style whistle commands for target shooting. Although they use real bows and arrows, the program is 100 percent safe, Fincher said.
“We’ve had over 6 million kids nationally go through it, and there has not been one accident,” Fincher said. “And as long as the instructors follow the whistle commands and teach the kids appropriately, we’ll never have one.”
Participating students have the opportunity to progress to regional and state competition. Fincher said the state competition, which will be held in Montgomery in April this year, grew from 200 participants its first year to 1,350 last year. Two elementary schools in Talladega have competed in nationals, and B.B. Comer High School recently started the program as well.
About 250 schools in the state currently participate in NASP, and the goal is to eventually have it in every Alabama school. The state is using the program to garner more interest in archery for all ages, as evidenced with the recent opening of a state-of-the-art archery park in Lincoln. Also, an “Explore Bow Hunting” pilot program is being taught in 60 schools in Alabama this year. The program arose as a transition from target archery to actual hunting skills, Fincher said.
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