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February 26, 2019

Collegiate Corner: Julia Lam and the Pitt Archery Team

PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania – Julia Lam had great success as both an archer and a coach in her Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) years, and when she graduated high school, she wanted to carry her passion to college. “When I toured the University of Pittsburgh and saw the programs and all the healthcare and rehab science Pitt does, I knew I wanted to come here, and they just didn’t have an archery club,” shared Lam, “but because I had so much experience in JOAD and coaching younger kids and running camps for our advanced archers, I knew I had the experience and ability to start my own program.” 

Several years later, Pitt now has a booming archery team, coached by Lam and Para USAT archer Eric Burkett, and Lam serves as an athlete representative on USA Archery’s Collegiate Committee. Lam’s efforts in spearheading fundraising campaigns, securing school support and building a network with other archery programs have paved a path and created a model for many other archers and schools to follow.

Having grown up around collegiate archers from Princeton University who practiced at Lam’s local range, she felt inspired and enabled to create her own program. “The first year, I emailed people, talked to people to find archers in the school and we would go off campus once a week to practice, scrape together carpools, and at the end of our first year we found the collegiate grant program and that was really what made everything possible.”

USA Archery’s Collegiate Grant Programprovides funding for long term program sustainability and growth. Lam commented: “A lot of the grant application requires saying what you’ve done in the past, but because we were so new, we hadn’t yet done much, so we took a chance in applying and with the funding, we got all of the bales we have now, arrow curtains and bows, and that’s what made our second year as a club possible. We were able to show the campus rec and club sports coordinator our plans and equipment and they gave us a racquetball court and storage space.” 

The Pitt team has also secured rental space on a turf field on campus with the assistance of other collegiate coaches. “The reason they were able to give us the turf field was because I had data and photos of practices from other schools; the network of collegiate coaches is so cooperative and supportive.” 

Also a major contributing factor of the Pitt archery team’s success has been fundraising: “Last year we were surprised,” shared Lam. “There’s the Pitt Day of Giving and we’re a small club with no alumni to ask for donations, but we managed to get in the top five, which enabled us to get some bonus money from the school. We purchased new equipment for competitive members, which has really improved their enthusiasm and ability because now their equipment matches their skill level.”

Lam says the team fundraises tournament to tournament, now that they have equipment and infrastructure for a competitive team. Their goal this year is to send a team to Regional Outdoor Collegiate Championships and the U.S. National Outdoor Collegiate Championships: “I’ve always wanted to do the team rounds because that’s a huge thing in collegiate archery and so fun, so our goal right now is to get a team to outdoor nationals.” 

Some of the team’s other initiatives in fundraising have included bake sales, partnering with local businesses, and campaigns on social media. Facebook and Instagram have been instrumental in building donors and growing awareness of the Pitt team: “It just started with sharing what we were doing, and the little successes we were having or teaching people things I wanted to share, but it has helped us connect to other students on campus and people off campus. I’ve had parents from local NASP programs message us with questions. I find building a community on social media is helpful to build a presence, connect with coaches, get advice on how to improve, and it has had a huge impact on our success in fundraising.”

Having put so much effort into community outreach, Lam is enjoying some of the success of the team she has built: “This is the first year we’ve had kids come to Pitt from local JOAD programs and it’s nice to see them and the team environment that I’ve been able to create. It’s amazing to know that it’s something that I’ve built and we have a leadership board and a competitive team and a real community like what I experienced in JOAD, because that’s what I enjoy in archery and what I want to share with people.”

Follow the Pitt Archery Team’s journey here. To learn more about USA Archery’s Collegiate Archery Program, click here

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