Article and photos by Melissa Woerner, Assistant Biologist
Imagine a typical physical education class in high school. The athletic students quickly change into gym clothes and eagerly participate in the day’s activity, showcasing their natural coordination and speed. On the margins of the field or gym floor, isolated groups of reluctant students put forth minimal effort as they wait for the minutes to pass by. Often there is an obvious separation between the athletes and the students who are less physically fit, less coordinated or those with disabilities, as well as between boys and girls.
Now picture a physical education class in which the playing field has been leveled. Boys and girls equally excel. A student in a wheelchair lines up next to the varsity quarterback and outperforms him. A shy, overweight student suddenly expresses enthusiasm in participating and looks forward to gym class for the first time. A previously unruly student now demonstrates discipline and focus. The physical education teacher effortlessly manages the integrated class of students through a series of simple whistle commands. This is the reality attainable through the National Archery in the Schools Program.
The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) began in 2002 when the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources suggested introducing archery as a sport within the public school system. At that time, most schools didn’t offer archery due to safety concerns, lack of equipment, limited space to practice or compete and lack of appropriate training opportunities. With the collaboration of the Kentucky Department of Education, archery was introduced in middle school physical education classes which laid the foundation for today’s national program.
Today, the National Archery in the Schools Program is taught to over one million students annually across the United States and in several other countries. The New Jersey Archery in the Schools Program is the state affiliate of NASP and is funded and coordinated by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife. Designed in accordance with National Physical Education Standards, NASP teaches target archery in fourth through twelfth grade physical education classes. The program can be run in a standard school gymnasium or outdoors on school grounds. Before presenting the two week archery course, teachers undergo a free eight-hour Basic Archery Instructor training provided by NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife. Once certified through NASP, instructors can purchase standardized equipment at a discounted rate or borrow an archery kit from Fish and Wildlife, allowing the program to be implemented completely free of charge.
NASP in New Jersey
In 2006, the Easton Sports Development Foundation awarded a generous grant to Fish and Wildlife to pay for 21 archery equipment sets and launch NASP throughout schools in New Jersey. Since then, NJ NASP has continued to expand and is now offered in physical education classes and after school programs, recreational centers, summer camps and scout organizations. To further promote the growth of NASP in New Jersey, Fish and Wildlife recently hired two full-time employees dedicated to coordinating NASP throughout the state. As part of the renewed focus on the National Archery in the Schools Program, efforts are being made to contact currently participating schools, evaluate active programs, inventory and repair archery equipment, and introduce the program to new schools.
How You Can Help
There are several ways that you can help promote the National Archery in the Schools Program in New Jersey:
Spread the Word
Talk to your local school district and let them know you would like them to adopt NASP in their schools. Pass along NJ NASP information to physical education teachers, athletic supervisors, principals and superintendents.
Sponsor a School
Many schools currently run NASP using equipment borrowed from Fish and Wildlife that is only available to them for part of the school year. Sponsor a year-round archery program in a school by funding the $3000 purchase of an equipment kit.
Become a Trainer
Get certified as a Basic Archery Instructor Trainer (BAIT) and help train new instructors to implement NASP in schools. BAIT volunteers are often needed for a full day during the week to assist with school training sessions as they arise.
If you work at a sports shop or archery center, help maintain and repair archery equipment from NASP schools in your local area.
For more information about the National Archery in the Schools Program in New Jersey or to help promote the program through any of the methods listed above, contact Melissa Woerner or Wayne Tonnesen at (908) 735-2006.
Regulations in red are new this year.
Purple text indicates an important note.