Camp keeps archers on target

A line of targets stretched down one side of the Seymour High School auxiliary gym across from the camp members.

At Jill Purkhiser’s whistle, the first set of students picked up their bows, stepped to the line and waited for the next command.

Finally, the students took aim and let their arrows fly.

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Seymour High School hosted a four-day archery camp last week, offering kids a chance to try a new sport or continue to improve on skills.

Twenty-eight kids from elementary to high school sold the camp out.

A coach was on hand for each student, critiquing their shots.

“I love working with new archers. They’re blank slates. We get to take them from safety and what a bow is to aiming for a bullseye,” Purkhiser said.

She said they had a lot of blank slates at this year’s camp.

Archery, like many skill-based sports, is built on the basics.

“It’s fun because you get to have conversations with other people and see how they do archery,” Seymour sixth-grader Dalton Lawyer said.

The camp uses the National Archery in the Schools Program education curriculum to teach students about archery.

“I like that the coaches make sure everyone knows it’s all about fun and that it’s all about learning,” Seymour High School sophomore Emma Nowling said. “I like how they make sure we know that it’s all inclusive, that girls and boys compete against each other fairly.”

The camp starts with safety and understanding the whistle commands for the range where they shoot.

From there, they move on to what a bow is, which might seem basic but some students have the same “gun shy” approach to bows that they have to firearms.

“Some of them are scared of the bow, and we have to show them that you respect it and not fear it,” Purkhiser said.

First among the basics is stance.

“Stance affects their whole shot — bad stance, bad shot,” Purkhiser said.

Next, the group worked on holding the bow, including proper placement of the hand holding the bow and the draw hand.

All of this is before they even begin to look at where the arrow they release lands on the target, which comes next.

Purkhiser said they want the students consistent before they start worrying about making them accurate.

She takes the students from whatever level they enter at and tries to raise them up to the best they can be as archers and as people.

“I think we’ve learned a lot about confidence,” Nowling said. “Confidence is the thing me and many friends learn, that doubt that you’re not as good as someone else on the team. You learn you’re capable of much more than you thought.”

Ultimately, the goal of Seymour High School’s archery team, as well as the NASP organization, is building better archers through a supportive community.

“I want them to come away from this camp with a lifetime love of archery, and hopefully, they’ll continue in archery, but if they don’t, I still want them to have a respect for themselves and others,” Purkhiser said.

The next event for the Seymour High School archery team would have been the NASP Championships in Tennessee, which the team qualified for by placing 69th and 169th in the NASP Nationals.

“We did qualify for (the championship) in July, but I don’t have a team because the students are already gone for summer or headed to college,” Purkhiser said.

This won’t be a problem next year for the Owls, as the NASP Championships will be in Daytona, Florida, in June.

The next event for the archery team is Pig in the Park, where the archery team works with the Seymour Noon Lions Club.