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By Mary Emmons, Outreach Director
One year ago today USA Archery launched the Explore Archery Program. This introductory program was designed to provide people interested in trying archery a safe and fun opportunity to get involved. A short-term archery experience for first-time archers. In other words, something even more basic than the programs we already had.
Today, nearly 200 Explore Archery programs are registered with USA Archery, and we're getting photos of smiling new archers all the time.
Why did we develop another youth program when we already have Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD)? For starters, there was a growing need for a first-step program that made archery even more approachable and easy to try than it already is in JOAD. True, both programs offer achievement awards, and both teach archery. But Explore Archery focuses solely on the basics for the very newest beginners.
Equally important: Park and Recreation Departments, camps, archery retailers, and other community organizations expressed a strong need for archery programs that could be modified to a variety of formats, whether their archery class was one day, six weeks or somewhere in between.
USA Archery and the Archery Trade Association developed Explore Archery with the support of the Easton Foundations, with input from national and local community based organizations, retail staff, program leaders and young archers, in order to ensure the program would be available and viable for all in the heart of local communities nationwide.
Archery has always been a natural fit for most recreation and camp program providers, but demand for our favorite sport has exploded in recent years. Think "Hunger Games," CW's "Arrow," and movies like "Avengers: Age of Ultron." From fashion runways to "The Tonight Show," archery is everywhere, and we need to give communities the resources they need to get beginners started, so they become lifelong archers. (Like you!)
When you combine archery with challenging games like horseshoes, exploding paint balloons and a chance to compete and earn awards with friends and family, the sport gets even better.
For program providers, Explore Archery offers an instructor's guide complete with information on range safety and the steps of shooting, but more importantly lesson plans for more than 30 fun, exciting and challenging activities. The program makes certain implementing an archery program is simple and keeps participants coming back for more. In fact, many leaders of multi-sport programs are reporting that archery has quickly become their most popular activity offered.
Once a program is registered, program leaders receive many benefits, including access to equipment grant programs and a quarterly newsletter that includes even more new games and activities.
In the past, it was uncommon to see archery listed in community recreation program guides as an activity option, but thanks to Explore Archery, archery is starting to appear in local communities alongside sports like soccer and baseball. Some park and recreation departments are even building permanent archery ranges.
This is great news for the sport and also for organizations like USA Archery, the National Field Archery Association and the Archery Shooters Association. All of us are committed to providing next step program and/or event opportunities.
No matter which path an archer chooses, it's all good for the sport of archery.
I can't think of a better way to celebrate the anniversary of Explore Archery than to invite more people and organizations to try archery. If you would like to become a recreational or competitive archer you can find an Explore Archery program in your community by clicking on your state here.
If you have a USA Archery Club, a retail store, or a community recreation program, I'm challenging you to try this innovative program. Offer something that's totally different, fun and perfect for brand-new beginners in a way that keeps them thinking about bows and arrows.
It's so easy to start an Explore Archery program. Seriously simple - just click here. And to the many instructors and coaches who work tirelessly to offer safe and impactful quality archery programs: thank you. You're growing our sport, and I couldn't be more grateful.
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