Hunger Games Nation (aka Archery Mania)

It’s Friday Rambles time! Ready for flight?

 Today, I’m sounding off on the popularity of archery. I did, after all, name my main character Matt Archer, but I have more than a passing interest–more on that in a moment. Anyway, the archery events at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games had the most viewers for non-primetime coverage. Millions of kids, some as young as five, are joining archery clubs, while more and more schools are adding archery teams and programs.  It’s always been a cool sport, but it used to be relegated to summer camp and outdoor programs, not school teams. Why this sudden burst of interest? Well, that actually seems to be somewhat simple:

We have Katniss Everdeen (and her creator, Suzanne Collins) to thank. 

According to several news articles, archery is entering a kind of renaissance as a skill kids want to learn. Thanks to the National Archery in the Schools Program (started in the early 2000s), schools had been adding archery classes and teams at an increasing rate. But this interest has exploded in the last three years…about the time The Hunger Games did.

Now, my son’s middle school has had an archery team for 10+ years. It’s one of the things they’ve become known for, and they’ve won state more than once. His coach is a task-master of the first order; he has to be. He’s allowing dozens of 6th-8th graders to handle DEADLY WEAPONS at school on a daily basis. No kidding–if T (the aforementioned son) wants to take his own equipment to school, the bow has to arrive in a padlocked case and be under adult supervision or in a locked storage room at ALL times. If an archer doesn’t comply, he/she could be arrested or expelled.  Ouch. This is serious business.

When T decided he wanted to try out, I balked. Not because of the DEADLY WEAPONS–he started shooting arrows at Cub Scout camp when he was seven. In fact, he was only one of two kids to shoot well enough to earn his archery merit badge at Boy Scout camp this past summer, despite being one of the youngest scouts there. He knows how to shoot, how to shoot safely, and to respect the privilege of handling a bow. Rather, my concern was the time commitment. In addition to attending tournaments across the great state of Texas, T has to be at school before 6:45 every morning for practice. If anyone is late, everyone does a two-minute wall-sit or thirty push-ups. Coach–being a physical education instructor for more than 20 years–wants them to be strong in body and mind for those meets.   As Coach put it, “An archer with an elevated heart rate is gonna lose. Period. You have to be utterly calm to excel in this sport.  We don’t run, bounce or high-five before a flight. We don’t pace. We don’t drink sodas or eat candy, either. And parents, don’t let me catch you jacking up your kid with a pep talk.”  Or, in other words, discipline is King for a competitive archer.  

That’s ultimately what decided it for me. T is already a fairly disciplined kid. But being an archer takes a higher level of self-control. Only shoot on command. Make sure the range is clear. NEVER mess around with the equipment, even if you’re sure no one is in range. Listen to everything the coach says. Follow directions. Practice, practice, practice. Is it regimented? Sure–but he’s having the time of his life.  

Katniss Everdeen is the very picture of discipline and perseverance.  Before the Games, she rose every morning to hunt to ensure her family had food and enough fresh meat to sell to provide for the other things they needed. After taking her sister’s place in the Games, facing near-certain death, she survived the Hunger Games not only because she could shoot an arrow dead on target ninety-nine times out of a hundred, but because she had self-discipline and could take care of herself. Find water, ration food, tie yourself in a tree to sleep out of harm’s way, make a fire at dusk to ensure the smoke is harder to see from a distance. Learning to be an archer may not teach you how to survive in the wilderness, but it will teach you about yourself and the way you approach a new task. For that reason, archery might be a good skill for a writer to practice. Finishing a novel takes some dogged determination. Like any other major skill, you have to work hard in order to master it.


 This is T’s practice round at 15 meters yesterday. 

I think he’s learned this lesson pretty well so far.



How about you? What sport/activity/passion has taught you about perseverance and self-discipline?