Even though Rylie Duos needs a walker to stand and move around, her independent spirit fuels her fiery love and passion for sports. But until she was introduced to archery last year, this 10-year-old Louisiana fifth-grader had a hard time finding a sport that suited her skills.
For a time, in fact, Rylie’s family didn’t know if she would ever talk or be mobile, let alone play sports. Doctors diagnosed her with cerebral palsy when she was six months old. This neurological disorder affects its victims’ movements, muscle tone and motor skills. About 500,000 Americans have cerebral palsy and, although there’s no cure, some treatment options relieve its symptoms.
Rylie won’t let cerebral palsy hold her back. She’s on her school’s cheerleading squad, and she played softball, but she felt frustrated when she couldn’t compete at the same level as her peers. “She feels like she can do (sports) just like everybody else,” said Jessica Duos, Rylie’s mother.
Rylie found her sport when introduced to archery. “She’s very competitive, so being able to compete with everyone is really fun for her,” Jessica said. “She can fully participate the same as everybody else.”
Archery requires strength, focus and balance. Rylie uses a walker, so she needed help balancing to shoot her bow. Autry Lowry, a volunteer archery coach, designed a stand to help Rylie shoot her bow. The stand helps Rylie focus on drawing and aiming her bow, and then releasing the arrow. Her mother said Rylie’s form and strength improved tremendously the past year.
Rylie competes on her school’s archery team. Her nerves got the best of her during her first tournament, and she placed last with a score of 69 out of 300. “That discouraged her, but each time after that she fought a little harder and got higher scores,” Jessica said.
Rylie and her team attended the state, national and world championships last year. Her team placed first at the world championships, and she shot a 191 out of 300. Her goal for next year is to shoot a 250.
“She is adamant she is going to get it,” Jessica said.
“I’m not shooting for it; I’m going to make it,” Rylie said.
Rylie is one of many archers participating in adaptive archery, a growing sport that helps archers who require modified equipment to accommodate disabilities. Jessica hopes her daughter’s story will inspire others to try archery.