An archery team? At Beechwood?!? Brandt Coleman gives us the inside scoop.
The big moment; concentration is everything. You look and see the prize: the yellow circles for the top score. You concentrate hard. You draw back; fix your eyes on the target…Release! These are feelings that go through one’s mind when they shoot a bow. This year is a historic year for Beechwood Schools; this is the first time in its 160 year history it has an archery team. The man selected for the job of coaching the infant team is Joe Oka, a local archer who runs a summer program for the city of Ft. Mitchell and has competed in national events and the Olympic Trials for the 2012 London Games.
The program Beechwood Archery adopted is called N.A.S.P. This stands for National Archery in the Schools Program. On its website,www.nasparchery.com, its “core content covers archery history, safety, technique, equipment, mental concentration, core strengthening physical fitness and self-improvement”. NASP started when Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources Commissioner Tom Bennett wanted archery to become a sport option for high schoolers. NASP says that over 10 million youth have participated in the program. From a brochure at archeryintheschools.org, within the first year of its founding, the program’s 120-school enrollment goal was achieved and because of neighbor-state interest, “National” replaced “Kentucky” in the program’s name. Here are some numbers: under the heading ‘What Do Students Think?’ “80% liked NASP, 77% of participants are new to archery, 65% continue shooting, 53% like themselves better, and 37% start an archery club”. Under another heading: ‘What Do Teachers Say?’ “Students are enthusiastic about learning archery, student behavior and attendance is improved on archery days, students who historically resisted PE class are eager to participate in archery”, and “Students of all genders, sizes, and abilities are enjoying success.”
Joe Oka teaches archery for the city of Ft. Mitchell and the Children’s home and saw what a positive effect it has on young people, so he wanted to “share that with Beechwood”. Mr. Oka says Mr. Zimmerman was supportive when presented the idea, but there were “many hoops to jump through, we had to win approval from the SBDM council, the school board and the parents, as well as find a location. It eventually all came together and we were able to have a season. This would have been impossible if it were not for the support of the students who were dedicated to to the idea of having a team”. As some say, it is not the thrill of winning, but what you learn that matters, and Oka says “seeing the student archers focus intently on a goal and excel” is his favorite part of being a coach.
An archery shooter line-up
Besides coaching, Mr. Oka also balances his work as a pilot and his family. To others that are stressed out, “Don’t forget to pray and thank God. If you are too busy to do that or remember to go to Mass then you are too busy and your priorities are in the wrong place.” Despite coming into the season so late, the students on the team were still not allowed to shoot a real bow until the school board approved them. So, they used rubber “stretchy-bands” to perfect their form. Although there was little time to practice until competitions started, Oka already had an attack plan. “Archery is 10% mechanics and 90% mental. With such a short season I had to work 90% on mechanics and only 10% on the mental aspects.” He laments, “Without the mechanics of form and shooting you can have no mental game. We had to concentrate on the basic elements that make up a good shot. The “stretchy” band was our secret weapon”. On note, Oka congratulates Tate Schroder: “Tate did more practice in front of a mirror with a “stretchy” band than he did with a real bow. Having shot only three times with a bow, at Regionals, his first ever tournament, Tate shot a 241/300. That is impressive.”
Overall, given such a short timeframe, the whole team did impressively. Everybody shot well and had good form. At the team’s shoot-off with Twenhoffel and at Regionals, the other coaches and line judges couldn’t help but remark how impressive the team is doing having had almost no experience with shooting a bow and arrow. If the sport is approved for a full season next year, I’m sure Beechwood parents and the archers on this team will be overjoyed if Joe Oka is their coach. And I’m sure that the students on the team are certainly hoping for another season to be approved; one archer remarked, “If we could accomplish that much in 5 or 6 practices, look at what we can accomplish in a full season!”