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Thomas Kelly is a very busy archery coach. With over 900 students registered annually in his multiple NASP and Explore Archery programs, Kelly is a passionate advocate for the benefits and growth of youth archery in schools. We were lucky to spend some time talking to Coach Kelly about his experience bringing archery into several Michigan schools.
Initially, Kelly had a hard time instituting a program because of city ordinances about shooting, but he knew that all 5th and 6th grade students went to a school camp. He explained: "I met with the P.E. teachers and we started offering the first parts of archery, the safety and string bows at school during P.E. classes and then they would get the archery part at camp and that was how we established the NASP program."
On why Kelly choses to integrate Explore Archery with NASP: "With NASP, you get the equipment, but with Explore Archery, you take it even further, because there is this whole, rich handbook that you can use, with tons of creative activities you can adapt to your program to make it more interesting. Like the balloon shoot, the tic-tac-toe games, I like the idea of being able to integrate art into it too -I never would have gotten those ideas on my own without Explore Archery."
Kelly, a science teacher at three schools, also works to integrate archery into other parts of the school curriculum: "With the next generation of science majors coming up nationally, there's a lot in physical science, and archery is a great way to bring those concepts to life - the potential and kinetic energy between the bow and the arrow, it's very engaging for kids. It's really interesting to figure out how fast the arrow is going or to see the way an arrow bends when you look at slow-motion video."
He added that science is not the only subject that can integrate archery: "You can adapt it to other curricular areas, like technology, engineering, art and math. I've added a reading component in too, so as they're doing NASP programs in school, the teachers provide articles about archery for the students to read so it also promotes English and Language Arts."
To others who may struggle to get an archery program started in their schools Tom shared: "The biggest thing is persistence: don't give up. Meet with leaders in your community. I've met with the mayor, assistant mayor, township supervisors and people like that - those are the key people who can really help you open doors and get things started."
He continued: "Don't be discouraged by people saying no, if you offer a school camp program through a local Y or sponsored by the public school system, you can do all the preliminaries without even having a bow in their hand. You can use a stretch band or string bow without any safety concern and you can get all of the biomechanics of the shot can in place before you actually pick up a real bow."
In conclusion, Kelly raved: "The kids love archery, I love archery, and one thing about Explore Archery is the fact that the way you're training these young athletes and children is developmentally appropriate. They're close enough to the target that they're hitting it each time, they're being safe, and they're having so much fun they can't wait until the next time there is another opportunity to do it again. Kids can be successful at a really young age with the way the sport and the equipment has developed. A small boy or girl can also do just as well as the biggest kid in the class, and it's surprising to the students, there's a sense of pride, an increase in self-esteem!"
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