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Okaloosa Schools on Target

02/29/2016 07:56AM ● Published by Nancy Babin

Gallery: School On Target [19 Images] Click any image to expand.

Ask any educator what their greatest challenges are and they will likely tell you keeping students motivated and focused, and when students aren’t motivated, behavior and attendance become a problem as well.  Ask any parent what their greatest challenges are and they might list these traits too, but a lot of them are going to say just getting the kids to be active and to go outside! 

Wildlife conservation agencies would agree.  A big concern is too many young people are forgoing learning outdoor skills, skills that would inspire them to spend more time with wild things in wild places.

So imagine a program, during the school day, that motivates and excites students.  Such a program would teach them listening and observation skills.   Combine that with discipline and even development of motor ability and focus and you have the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), which was developed to serve these specific educational and conservation purposes.  

The NASP program started in Kentucky in 2002 and has spread to virtually every state in the United States.  The program is offered to students in the 4th through 12th grades as part of the school curriculum.  In schools that offer this program, 70% include it as part of the PE curriculum and the other 30% make it a part of other classes such as math, science, language arts, social studies, health.  This means kids get excited to go to school!

Some Okaloosa schools are hitting the target with NASP.  Shalimar Elementary School started the NASP program in Okaloosa County in 2013 with Coach Keith Oliver organizing the team in his Physical Education program.  He took his first archery team of 15 archers to compete in Mobile, AL in December 2013.  Over the next few months, the Shalimar team grew to 24 archers and competed in their first state tournament.  

Dorian Templin is a 5th grader at Shalimar Elementary and this is her second year on the team.  "I had never shot before, and it was something new I wanted to try," she explains when asked why she joined the team.  "I love shooting arrows to see if I get a bullseye.  I have gotten stronger pulling back a 20-pound bow."

The advantage of NASP is that it offers an equal opportunity for all archers.  The archers all shoot the same bows and use the same arrows regardless of their grade.  The pull weight on the bows can be changed to suit each archer’s strength. 

For teams that cannot travel to the State Tournament, NASP offers virtual tournaments.  In a virtual tournament, the teams shoot in a local environment and their scores are sent to the State Tournament coordinators to be entered among archers from other areas of Florida.  Shalimar’s inaugural team placed 3rd in the state among all participating elementary schools, and three of Shalimar’s girls placed in the top 10 and were able to shoot in the National Tournament in Louisville, KY.

Although the initial equipment for the Shalimar team was purchased with a donation, in 2014 the Okaloosa County School District provided funding for schools to purchase archery equipment.   Meigs Middle School was the first to take advantage of the funds and organized their first archery team, led by Don and Jennie Myrick.  Elliott Point Elementary, under the leadership of Coach Connie Wilson, also joined the competition.  Shalimar, Meigs and Elliott Point competed in the 2015 state tournament where Shalimar placed 2nd and was able to take four girls and one boy to the national competition.   Aubrey Schamahorn, now a 5th grader at Shalimar, placed 1st overall among 4th grade girls and 3rd among all elementary girls in the tournament.  Leah Price, a 6th grader at Meigs, brought home the state title among middle school girls and earned her position at the national competition for the second year.

“My favorite part of archery is when I hit a bulls-eye,” explains Jonas Cantey, a 5th grader at Shalimar Elementary, and other students would agree.  “It’s exciting to see other people shoot the target, see what scores you get and becoming Top Archer in a tournament," says Jazzy Hornbacker, a 5th grader at Elliott Point Elementary.

At the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. Bluewater Bay Elementary and Ruckel Middle School took advantage of the district funding and started their archery programs coached by Annie Samac and Tony Noah, respectively.  Meigs hosted local tournaments in October 2015 and Jan 2016 where archers from Panama City, FL and Mobile, AL joined our local schools in competition.  Shalimar Elementary and Meigs Middle took first place in their divisions in the October tournament, and Elliott Point and Meigs took first place in their divisions in the January tournament.

The 2016 State Virtual Tournament was hosted by Meigs on February 13th.  Shalimar and Elliott Point competed in the elementary division, while Meigs and Ruckel competed in the middle school division.  Since scores have to be sent to the state coordinators, the archers will not know the outcome of the tournament until late February.  

Many students who participate in NASP are motivated by the fact that they can be a part of a team sport while focusing on individual achievements.  When asked how archery has added to his life, Jonas explains, “Helping others in archery and when somebody beats you, it makes you want to work harder." 

Although NASP has not made it to the high school level in Okaloosa County, the opportunity is just around the corner.   The success of the local programs can be contributed to the support of the Okaloosa County School District, who so graciously added funding to the budget for NASP, as well as the volunteers who so generously devote their time to offer our students an opportunity to be a part of this rewarding program.  This type of local support is what keeps our Okaloosa County students RIGHT ON TARGET.

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Community Archery Meigs Middle School Shalimar Elementary School Keith Oliver Rickle Middle School Bluewater Bay ELementary School Destin Middle School OKaloosa County School District NASP National Archery in Schools Amanda Giles Price Don Myrick Jennie Myrick Connie Wilson

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