Margaretville students take aim at new skills in archery class

By Brian Sweeney
Margaretville students in grades 6-12 are participating in an innovative physical education experience via the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP®).
The archery program is designed to provide a complete overview of the sport, including history, safety, technique, equipment, mental concentration, core-strengthening physical fitness and self-improvement.

The class runs for two weeks as part of the physical education curriculum. Students shoot at 80 cm bulls-eye targets that are placed in front of a curtain in the gymnasium. Participants utilize state-of-the-art equipment that is designed to fit younger archers.

The program is available nationwide for students in grades 6-12. Staff who will be teaching the students undergo an eight-hour NASP® Basic Archery Instructor Training Program.

Physical education instructor Jim Owdienko has been working for several years to add the archery program bring archery to MCS. He first became aware of the program after attending a conference in 2008.

“Since then, it was always in the back of mind as a new addition to our Physical Education (PE) curriculum,” he explained.

Mr. Owdienko said the archery idea gained momentum a couple of years ago when Superintendent Tony Albanese approached PE staff and expressed a desire to enrich the program with an activity that interconnected with the culture and customs of the people of the area.

Additional plans
Mr. Owdienko pointed out that the archery program began taking shape as a result of this meeting. In addition, other ideas emerged such as fly-fishing, kayaking, hiking, orienteering and more.
“All of these options are still part of our vision,” he noted.
In the meantime, the archery program got underway this fall and has been enthusiastically received by students.

“I knew this was the time to bring NASP® to fruition here at MCS,” explained Mr. Owdienko. “Mr. Albanese was outstandingly supportive for the idea and began to search for grant money, which allowed me to network with the NYSDEC as NASP® is a cooperative effort between state conservation departments, school systems and private organizations. It was at this point that I came into contact with Melissa Bailey, the state program coordinator for NASP®-NY, who was extremely helpful in getting me started in the right direction and getting me certified as a NASP® instructor.”

Other student benefits
Mr. Owdienko continued, “NASP® inspired me from the moment I laid eyes upon it. Originally conceived as a method of promoting and expanding the sport of archery in schools, it soon became apparent that teachers and administrators were realizing additional benefits. NASP® was improving school attendance and discipline, fostering self-confidence, improving classroom performance, inspiring students to greater achievements in school, and engaging students who might otherwise not be engaged within our education process.”

The equipment for the MCS program was obtained in late 2011, however, there were problems fitting it into the curriculum.

Program delayed
“We wanted to shoot solely indoors within our small gym, but increasing testing and other interests prevailed over our NASP® unit leaving us without a space to conduct classes. The small gym was set up with a special archery curtain and the layout of the facility was ideal for archery. I was reluctant to move the program to our larger, less accommodating gym, so we decided to move the NASP® lessons to the beginning of the school year where we would have full use of the smaller gym,” Mr. Owdienko explained.

Now that the program is up and running, lessons are being provided to all students in grade 6-12. The archery instructions are the same for each grade.

“At this point, as it takes several days to understand and practice certain protocols and procedures involved within the program of International Style Target Archery. Eventually a progression will emerge that will allow our students to become competent to proficient archers,” Mr. Owdienko remarked.

He said that, as a result of the NASP® program, regional, state and national tournaments are held annually. A virtual archery tournament also takes place each year.

Standard learning
The key to the NASP® instruction is that everyone competes utilizing the same instruction, equipment and rules.

“The beauty of the program is that all schools have the exact same equipment and use the exact same procedures to shoot. The only bow used is a Genesis compound that has a universal fit for almost every student and is adjustable from 10-20 pounds in draw weight at any draw length,” Mr. Owdienko noted.

“Only full-length aluminum arrows are used in NASP® to fit every student and to preserve NASP®’s perfect safety record. Sights, releases and stabilizers are not used to facilitate equipment sharing among students. This universality basically will allow MCS to compete with students all over the country on a totally equal ‘shooting field,’” he added.

Mr. Owdienko said that, by the end of the year, more than 200 MCS students will learn International Style Target Archery. The emphasis is placed on teaching proper protocols.

More than scores
“In NASP® learning the ‘process’ of shooting is stressed far more than the arrow scores. Our beginners will shoot at a range of 5-7 yards or meters, but for the more spirited pupils, the competitive distances will be 10 and 15 meters. Hopefully, we will garner a regional or state champion someday as we will eventually participate in tournaments,” he stated.

The archery education program for schools was started in Kentucky a decade ago and has rapidly gaining popularity nationally and in other countries, as well. The program provides instruction in international-style target archery and follows National Standards for Physical Education.