The National Archery in Schools Program, or NASP, brings archery to thousands of students nationwide. It has been growing in popularity in the U.P. and especially at Gwinn High School where there are now about 200 participating students.
For years the NASP has expanded at Gwinn High School. It now includes a nearly even mix of boys and girls from grades six through twelve. A growing number of students is a bittersweet workload for the volunteer instructors.
"To get everybody to shoot these bows and get them involved in the program in less than an hour is kind of a challenge for the whole day. I mean, you're talking 200 students here, but it's very rewarding," said John Filizetti, NASP Instructor.
The archers in training are taught how to properly stand, aim, and shoot with emphasis on safety. Each class is structured in a disciplined manner so there's no room to step out of line. Students follow the coaches' commands. The class is only two weeks long and is offered as an alternative to physical education. Students receive a grade and even take a test at the end.
The program is open to students of all skill levels. For some, it's a whole new experience, but for one Gwinn senior, it's second nature. Casey Devooght loves to hunt and has been shooting a bow and arrow since she was nine years old. The NASP for her is more for fun, but it provides some unique challenges.
"Most of the time I shoot with a compound bow, so I have sights, but when shooting this, you have to look down the arrow to line it up so you have to get used to looking down the arrow and lining it up and figure out if your right eye or left eye dominant," said Devooght.
The students keep score on their accuracy, but the classes are not competitive. Scores are kept to gauge personal improvement over the two weeks. If the students wish, the 12 highest scorers can compete at a higher level.
The NASP is constantly trying to expand to a wider range of students across the country. In Gwinn, the next step is the elementary school, but they need more interest.
"You don't have to be an athlete to do this. You don't have to be a football player. You don't have to be a basketball player. Girls and boys are both eligible to take it," said Bernie Stiritz, NASP Instructor.
According to Instructor Stiritz, to date the NASP has never reported a single injury across the country.
The program still needs more volunteers to become certified instructors. Find out more about the National Archery in the Schools Program.