The Hunger Games heroine Katniss Everdeen would approve of a recent proposal to begin teaching the sport of archery at Seymour Community Schools.
School board trustees are considering the idea of forming an archery team to compete with other area schools and adding the activity to physical education classes from fourth through 12th grade.
Seymour Police Officer Keith Williams, who serves as a school resource officer, and Jill Purkhiser, a National Archery in the Schools Program instructor, presented the request Tuesday night.
“This is something Officer (Jack) Hauer and myself are very interested in doing as a way of interacting with the students on a different level outside of our uniforms,” Williams said. Hauer is Seymour’s other resource officer.
The officers are responsible for school safety and security issues. Williams said he knows some people, including board members, might be concerned about bringing bows and arrows into the schools.
But Purkhiser said there’s not a lot to be worried about because the program is extremely safe.
“A lot of people are concerned it’s a weapon,” she said. “The bow is not a compound bow. It’s not a hunting bow. It’s not a re-curve bow. This bow was made specifically for the school program.”
If approved, the archery team would practice and compete in the auxiliary gymnasium at Seymour High School. Students also would be exposed to the sport for two weeks in physical education classes.
One of the benefits is that all students can participate in archery.
“Not everyone can throw a ball or shoot a ball or run fast, but anyone can shoot a bow,” Purkhiser said. “It’s a competition for boys and girls. They compete together on equal levels.”
Archery also can be taught to students with special needs, providing physical activity and instilling responsibility, discipline and respect in those who participate.
Schools offering archery see increases in attendance, involvement and self-esteem in students who often are labeled at-risk or difficult to reach, Purkhiser said.
Several million kids participate in Archery in the Schools every year.
“Basically, it comes down to we’re changing lives one arrow at a time,” she said.
Williams, a bow hunter himself, said he was approached by Seymour High School Assistant Principal Talmadge Reasoner about starting a team.
“Several people from the community have been asking them to start this program,” Williams said.
The National Archery in the Schools Program is sponsored by the Indiana Hunter Education Association in 63 Indiana counties, including Bartholomew, Jennings, Scott, Washington and Lawrence counties. Purkhiser said this year’s state finals will have around 2,000 competitors, up from 1,000 last year.
There is a great need for archery tournaments in this area, and Seymour could host those events, she added.
Since several colleges have picked up archery, there are scholarships available for students, too.
Purkhiser has been involved with the archery program since 2008. She would be assisted in coaching Seymour’s team by her son, Drew, who works as a part-time custodian at Seymour High School.
“For the past several years, she has been coaching an archery team,” Williams said. “She has taken kids in Kentucky to finals, regional finals and qualified them for world finals.”
To get started, Seymour High School has applied for an Indiana Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Grant and a National Wild Turkey Federation Grant to purchase several thousand dollars worth of archery equipment, including bows, arrows, targets, a backdrop safety net and other items.
School board President Art Juergens said he’s not against the program but wants to see a demonstration before he approves it. Purkhiser said she would be happy to set that up so trustees can see how it will work.
Trustee Nancy Franke, a teacher at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Columbus, said she had a former student who qualified for the Olympics in archery after being involved in a school archery program.
The sport wouldn’t be completely new to Seymour, as the high school used to offer archery in physical education classes during the summer, Trustee Stu Silver said.