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April 23, 2013

Club Spotlight on John Muir Magnet School by Keaton Chia

The Olympic Archery in Schools (OAS) and Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) programs go hand in hand. This week, we're featuring a story on the Juhn Muir Magnet School in San Diego, part of both the OAS and JOAD programs. Level 4-NTS Coach Keaton Chia is also the OAS Program Supervisor. 

A Culture of Heroes

Every school has its own, unique identity that is shaped by the many parts that compose it, from the look of the classrooms to the personalities of the teachers and the students they teach.  For a school in central San Diego, their identity and culture is being re-shaped by the introduction of a new sport on their campus…Olympic-style archery.  In fact, archery is the only sport that the school offers, which is having impacts beyond the target.

John Muir Magnet School is relatively new to the OAS Program (Olympic Archery in Schools) and Junior Olympic Archery Development Program (JOAD).  It was just over a year ago that their coach, Vincent Stevens, first got trained by me during one of our OAS coach courses.  By joining OAS, John Muir became part of a growing movement to give youth more opportunities to participate and excel in Olympic-style archery and to establish it as a mainstream sport.  Operated by the Easton Foundations, OAS organizes leagues and inter-school competitions as well as provides the needed archery equipment, training, insurance, and support to have safe, fun, and quality archery programs. 

After getting certified, Coach Stevens started up John Muir's archery program in late February of 2012.  Three months later, their small team would journey up to Los Angeles for the California OAS State Championships held at Glendale High School and return with medals in hand: four medals were earned from the ranking round, gold from the team round, and four medals from the Olympic Round.  Though a majority of their archers graduated in June, this year's team is off to a strong start, finishing at the top of their divisions in the OAS Mail-in Tournament.  The club has continued to grow and meets every Monday after school.  Students wanting to get in more practice, come to school early each day to work with Coach Vince on the range.  Archery was also added to the PE program when Caryn Maroni, the school's PE teacher, got certified to teach the sport.

Not only are these achievements cause for celebration, but this success has had a much deeper impact back home, both on the individual archers and the school itself.  "The culture of our school has changed now…archery has become something that identifies our school," says Vince.  "In our school's 40 some odd years history there's never been a sport at our school, just been too small and not enough money for it.  Now there is and the best part about it is kids who weren't necessarily great at academics, who didn't necessarily think they were good at anything, have found out they are good at something .  Not only are they good at sports, kids who weren't focusing well, are learning how to focus, learning how to become more precise not just on the target but also in a classroom.  They're learning some character traits that they didn't necessarily have before, or at least weren't evident."

These archers are also having an impact on their peers.  Earlier during their club practice we had the opportunity to present medals to several of their archers for their performance in the OAS Mail-in Tournament.  "These awards, the ribbons and medals...I've given lots of them for lots of different topics and subjects and things.  You know we can go to any trophy store and we can buy stuff and buy them online...but it's special...it's special to the kid who is getting it.  It means something because it's symbolic of the work and the effort and the pain and the joy that they've put into that accomplishment," says Vince.  "And when these kids walk around tomorrow wearing those medals, and they will!  I mean after our State competition, our archers wore those for two weeks they did!  Everybody else in this school sees those medals and that gives them something to aspire to....that creates a culture of heroes, where we didn't have any before."

 What started as curiosity from a small group of students has now created a legacy for future generations at the school.  It was inspiring to be able to talk with Vince about his first hand experiences with their team and impacts the sport has on his school.  We are excited to share this small glimpse into their archery story and we hope that you enjoy our interview with Coach Vincent Stevens.

Thank you for taking the time to talk with us Coach Vince!  Tell us about what you do here at John Muir.

Coach Stevens:  I teach science from 7th through 12th...everything from 7th grade life science to 10th grade biology, chemistry in 11th grade to physical science and earth science in 9th grade.  I've also even taught American literature for a year and currently I'm the ASB advisor and also, thanks to this program, I'm the OAS coach on our site.

How did you get involved with archery?

Coach Stevens:  I've been involved with archery kind of off and on since I was a kid.  I grew up in South East Missouri, kind of in the woods, so it was really a love of the outdoors that drew me towards archery.  I've never done any real hunting, but it was traditional archery that interested me.  Traditional styles probably because I grew up with you know, old movies from the 30's, 40's, 50's about Robin Hood and Errol Flynn and I was interested in the traditional side at first.

So years pass, and my daughter and I were thinking of something to do for the summer and we were in Balboa Park and happened across the archery range there.  I had known it was there, but had forgotten about it for years.  She was fascinated with it and it sort of brought back a lot of my interest in archery.  We got her a bow from one of the local shops as well as a cheap bow for myself and we went to the range and started playing around with it.  She still shoots occasionally, but really I'm the one that got really drawn into it, the whole culture really of archery, because it really is a culture.  

Having starting out with traditional archery, what are your thoughts on the Olympic style?

Coach Stevens:  Well in Olympic archery, and I'm sure it's true with a lot of Olympic sports, there's a terrific amount of very poignant research that goes into the biomechanics of that particular sport.  For a lot of the biomechanics, traditional archers kind of fall into it sometimes, and sort of stumble upon, not really knowing what it is, not knowing how to characterize or qualify it in a way.  So it's difficult to turn and teach someone else how to be a good archer.

The National Training System is delineated in a way that shows you each step of the way.  Even though it has certain steps, it doesn't necessarily force you into any kind of box either so you can tweak things a little bit to each body type, because not everyone is built the same way, not everybody's musculature is exactly the same.  Some people have longer or shorter arms and so on.  I found that taking some of the Olympic technique, the NTS system, and applying it to the traditional style I have learned from other people, I'm able to improve upon what I'm doing with it.  Certainly I've known lots of traditional archers that were phenomenal archers up to a point in the range.  I'm not one of them , however the NTS system has taught me to be the best archer that I can be.

It is apparent that you love archery, what other aspects of the sport interest you?

Coach Stevens:  It's not just the bow that fascinates me, it's really the arrow, and you look at these new space age material arrows and they're phenomenal, but they're really not that much different from the master craftsmen arrows of yesterday...of wood.  I'm not a woodworker, but I am building my own arrows. I've paid somebody else to actually take the dowels and taper them the way I want to make a barreled, wooden arrow, for my bare bow.  I've learned all this stuff through reading, and I am also fascinated with the history and culture of archery, and the kind of character it sort of develops in people.  I've yet to meet anyone in the traditional or Olympic world that wasn't a fantastic human being.

What other coaching are you involved with?

Coach Stevens:  The only other thing as far as coaching goes, is coaching every other Saturday down at the Olympic Training Center for the Roadrunner Archery Club.  That has been a terrific experience.  I've learned an awful lot by watching expert master coaches that are half my age.  I'm just amazed every time I go there because it really is all put on by, and all run by primarily people in their 20s and 30s.  And I'm the kid.  I'm the new guy, even though I'm old enough to be their father.   I learn just like all those other little kids down there every time I go.  So it's a terrific coaching experience, learning more really about the fine tuning of the form and the equipment itself.  The Olympic bow has a lot of moving parts and I still don't have them all straight.  One thing I really like about the traditional bow is...it's a bow.   There's no shelf.   There's a handle and there's two pieces of wood sticking out of it.  The < Back to All News

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