Participating in sports can be a vital part of a student’s education. Individual and team sports teach hard work, create healthy habits, and promote good sportsmanship and lifelong passions.
Football, soccer, basketball, and track and field are common school sports, but archery is now an option for many students. The Easton Foundation, for example, offers the Olympic Archery in Schools program. Founded in 2006 in California, the OAS mission is to reintroduce archery to middle schools and high schools. OAS was initially designed to be part of the schools’ physical education curriculum. However, many students wanted more than a brief introduction to archery, and asked for more competitive opportunities.
Therefore, the Easton Foundation reinvented OAS in a league format and includes local, state and national tournaments. Modeled after Olympic archery’s format, OAS helps athletes compete in individual and team rounds. “We started hearing from coaches, parents and archers about how archery had totally changed their lives,” said Idida Briones, OAS manager. “Many of these archers would not be part of a regular sports team. So, having archery at the school made them feel like they were part of something bigger.”
Five states offer OAS programs: California, Colorado, Florida, New York and Texas. The goal is to offer OAS programs in all 50 states. Educators interested in starting an OAS program at their schools must apply through the foundation’s website. The school selects a staff member to become the OAS coach. This can be a PE coach, school-approved volunteer, or chemistry, algebra, English or other teacher.
Once the school is accepted, OAS works with USA Archery to train the coach. OAS also works with USA Archery-certified instructors in the area to provide additional coaching. Schools fund the OAS programs themselves, but a partnership with Lancaster Archery Supply lets schools buy an archery kit at a discount.
The OAS program teaches archery’s fundamentals, and trains students to compete in tournaments. The curriculum also works to develop character. “Our focus is not just on having schools compete against each other, but also helping better prepare these children for life,” Briones said.
OAS added the “I AM an Archer” program in 2017. Coaches and students can nominate archers who showcase extraordinary values like leadership, teamwork and commitment. “You hear from parents who are so appreciative for having their children be part of the program,” Briones said. “They really love that their son or daughter is part of a team. Having archery at the school gives them an opportunity to experience sportsmanship and team sports.”
Middle and high schools can host OAS programs. Similar to other high-school sports, some OAS athletes go on to compete in college. But unlike some other sports, archery can easily become a lifelong sport. Many athletes graduate and continue to shoot recreationally or in leagues.