The sport of archery is making a comeback and the Duluth Parks and Rec team is right on target with the trend. Recreation specialist, Sam Werle is one of three employees who recently completed training to become a certified archery instructor through the National Archery in the Schools Program or “NASP.” He and his colleagues trained last summer and began teaching archery classes outdoors in September, then moved into the Duluth recreation center as temperatures dropped.
Currently, there are a few different types of courses in the archery program. In the required introductory course, students should expect to learn the basics and safety.
“We don’t shoot the bows yet. We go over eye dominance, range safety, and how a bow operates. Then we start with a string bow and go through the steps of progression before using a bow on the range,” Werle explained.
After taking the intro course, students can take the Archery Games and Challenges class where they learn how to play games like “archery tic-tac-toe” and how to use a scorecard. They also offer a program specifically for homeschool groups. The program uses 12 Genesis compound bows since they fit the NASP curriculum and can virtually fit all draw lengths and, essentially, can be used by everyone. For the classes held through Duluth Parks and Rec, the ages range from 8-year-olds to senior citizens.
Werle says that it has been tough getting into the public’s view, but interest has been picking up, especially since it just started out and recreation programming in general is only about a year old.
“Our goal is to help the community stay active and engaged in recreation and building community all year-round and this archery program helps to achieve that,” he said.
According to the most recent survey commissioned by the Archery Trade Association (ATA), 9.9 percent of Americans over the age of 18 participated in shooting archery in 2015. There were also surveys conducted in 2012 and 2014. From the initial 2012 study to the 2015 results, archery participation actually increased 20.6 percent. It probably isn’t a coincidence that archery gained more popularity after 2012. The movies Brave, The Hunger Games, The Avengers, and the TV show Arrow all came out that year.
Breaking down the 2015 survey even further, it showed that 6.5 percent shot archery only for fun or competition while 1.2 percent only bowhunted. The percentage that did both archery and bowhunting was 2.3 percent. That theme seems to hold true for the Duluth Parks and Rec archery students, too. Werle says that most of the groups are interested in archery as a sport, just for something different to do.
As far as demographics go, everyone over the age of eight is welcome. There is a pretty even mix of both male and female participants with some youth participants coming on their own and some attending with a parent. There are also adults that come on their own or friends. Groups, such as the cub scouts also have participated. Classes are capped at 16 people and students are rotated through in groups during the two-hour session.
The feedback about the program has been good so far. Werle says they take feedback seriously because the program is so new that they can be flexible.
“We are trying a lot of new things, so the feedback that we are getting we can take really literally and try to work that into the community,” he said.
The archery classes are also extremely affordable. At only $5 per class, they wanted to make sure that it could be an option for all. Plus, for families that can’t afford it, they do offer assistance.
“Duluth is around 25 miles long, so we are trying to be mindful to spread the programming geographically, and we also know that recreation can be expensive, so we have the goal of keeping it inexpensive,” Werle said.
To get the word out about the program, they added it to the seasonal brochure and have a calendar on their website, duluthmn.gov/parks. The biggest way the word has spread about the program, though, has been through their Facebook page, “Duluth Parks MN.”