LOUISIANA — As a new school year begins, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Archery in Louisiana Schools Program (ALAS) continues efforts to attract participants.
Louisiana’s archery program in schools dates back to 2005. Since that time almost 400 basic archery instructors have been trained. There are currently 75 Louisiana schools participating in the program.
Each year in March, a state archery competition is held to allow ALAS schools and students to compete against their peers and qualify for national and world tournaments. The ALAS state tournament attempts to mirror National Archery in the School’s Program (NASP) tournament as closely as possible, following all NASP tournament rules.
The 2013 tournament, the largest so far, was held in the LSU Ag and Extension Service’s Mega Shelter in Alexandria and attracted 535 archers competing from 18 schools and a crowd of 2,000 people. Awards were given to the top 3 teams in each division and the top 5 individuals in each division including elementary, middle school and high school. Awards were provided by LDWF, NASP and the Quality Deer Management Association.
Archery as an extra-curricular program or part of a school’s physical education activities is ideal because any student who can draw back the bow can participate. Archery in schools programs at all levels can be used by teachers and coaches to build self- confidence in students, and most importantly it’s fun for the kids. Surveys of those who have been introduced to archery indicate 89 percent like it and 62 percent said they love it.
Teachers surveyed indicate that they have seen improved confidence, motivation, attendance, attitude and behavior. It also adds another non-gender specific competitive opportunity for the school and students who become involved develop pride in their school.
Some students may choose to develop their skills for hunting, but all who participate have the opportunity to compete beyond high school and hone their skills based on the practice time dedicated to target shooting.
So how big are archery programs for students outside of Louisiana? In 2012, more students in the U.S. participated in NASP than in Little League Baseball. Currently 47 U.S. states participate, as well as six Canadian provinces, and even countries such as: Botswana, Mongolia, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Last year almost 44,000 students participated in state tournaments, and nearly 9,500 shot at the 2013 Nationals. And if anyone thinks this is just a boys sport, 43 percent of those shooters were female.
Over 10 million students have participated in NASP since 2002, with over 10,440 schools participating. The program is currently growing by about 1,600 schools per year.