College is exciting for students. It offers opportunities to start fresh with new friends, vast fields of study, and responsibilities of navigating life away from home. Meanwhile, students often overlook opportunities to try new sports.
Some collegiate sports are tough to break into, but not archery. “I got involved in archery during a random chance encounter in college,” said Bryan Brady, a former collegiate archer at James Madison University. While attending a student indoctrination event at JMU, an archery booth caught Brady’s eye.
“The people at the table looked really cool,” he said. “The bows they had were shiny and futuristic, and looked amazing. I said, ‘This looks really amazing, but I have zero idea what I’m doing.’ They said: ‘That’s fine. We’ll coach you and teach you.’”
Brady attended practice the next day, started shooting, and immediately got hooked. He joined the team and began practicing seriously. “That year we went to nationals and won the national championship, and I became hopelessly addicted,” Brady said.
Brady picked up the sport quickly, mostly because his coach and teammates were so helpful and encouraging. “I would say the vast majority of the archery community is just as excited to share their community as they are to shoot their bows,” Brady said.
Learning, excelling and competing in a new sport sounds like a lot to balance for a college student, but Brady said sports helped him in school. “Not only did archery provide a social life I would not have had without that team, it gave me a great deal of structure and motivation,” he said.
Knowing he had practice later in the day also motivated him to keep up with his history and education studies. He planned to graduate and become a history teacher, but archery eventually changed his career trajectory. Brady was working as a teacher when a chance encounter led him back to archery. He saw a job posting for an archery instructor at Lancaster Archery Supply in Pennsylvania. He applied on a whim and got the job.
“I decided I was just going to have fun the rest of my life and make a career out of it,” Brady said. “I’ve seen very few people who get the bug as bad as I did and then keep it going.”
Most college archers don’t make careers out of it, but it often becomes a lifelong passion. Archers keep participating in leagues, club shoots, and even tournaments. Even if it’s just shooting solo in the backyard, archery provides fun and exercise anyone can do.
“I was the least athletically inclined person you’ve ever met,” Brady said. “I went way out of my comfort zone to try an organized sport. I would never have done that if I just didn’t have that 10 seconds of courage. Everything that happened since was because of that 10 seconds of insane, unreasonable courage I just happened to have. It changed my entire life.”
If you’re interested in trying something new, even if it scares you, Brady encourages you to give archery a shot.