By JANET HEIM
5:55 PM EST, February 17, 2013
David Flowers says he believes archery is the great equalizer.
“It’s one of the few things we do where students line up and can be equal, said the Clear Spring Middle School physical education teacher, who has been teaching archery to his students for four years. “All can shoot the bow and be successful.”
“We have some very good shooters,” said Flowers, who is certified through the National Archery in the Schools Program, or NASP. “Sometimes they really surprise us and they surprise themselves. It’s something any student can participate in, even with disabilities.”
This year, some of his students are taking it to the next level at the first Maryland NASP State Tournament. Flowers said he will take 48 students to the competition on Saturday, Feb. 23, at Hagerstown Community College’s Athletic Recreation and Community Center.
One team of sixth-graders will compete in the elementary division. The other team, competing in the middle school division, is comprised of seventh- and eighth-graders.
There are boys and girls on both teams.
“The best part is not the archery team. The best part is teaching archery. ... Having a team is icing on the cake,” Flowers said.
Students from Clear Spring High School, Hancock Middle-Senior High School and Smithsburg Middle School also are expected to participate. Their instructor coaches received training from Flowers in November 2012, after he earned his certification as a basic archery instructor trainer at the end of the last school year.
“It’s set up so well, it’s easy to teach,” Flowers said.
He said he got excited about the program after watching a DVD about the NASP.
“I just like the way I can relax and shoot the bow,” said eighth-grader Jared Caudell, who said he has hunted with a bow for about two years.
“I just try to focus on the target as much as I can. Just aim at the target in the same spot every time and follow through,” Jared said.
A bull’s-eye earns 10 points and the points go down from there, with fewer points the farther the arrow is from the center.
Jared said Flowers shoots 10s most of the time, while Jared shoots nines and 10s.
Flowers said most of the teams at the state competition are from Washington County and he expects his teams to do well. The Maryland team winner and individual winner will advance to the national tournament in May in Louisville, Ky.
NASP was started in Kentucky 12 years ago. Its mission is to promote “international-style target archery as part of the in-school curriculum, to improve educational performance and participation in the shooting sports among students in grades four to 12.”
The program was introduced in Maryland in 2005, but growth was slowed when the Department of Natural Resources was forced to drop funding due to budget cuts.
Flowers expects it will grow each year with the help of the state tournament.
All Clear Spring Middle students participate in an archery unit in physical education and their shooting scores in the class were used to select the teams. Students also had to show good character and be academically eligible, which means they can’t be failing a class.
“I’ve taught phys ed for 20 years now. This is the best activity we do. The kids are excited about it and can compete in archery,” Flowers said. “People don’t understand how safe it is. The only phys ed activity that’s safer is table tennis.”
The 11-step process through NASP stresses safety, and the students learn the whistle commands for steps such as getting bows and retrieving arrows.
“Dave is very good. He can teach anybody,” said Jessica Custer, who teaches physical education with Flowers and helps with the administrative side of the team.
“The kids we selected for the tournament are very excited. They’re successful at this. It’s confidence-boosting,” Custer said.
Most of the students on the Clear Spring teams are experienced archers, having hunted with bows and arrows or done target practice before.
“I can’t emphasize how much it doesn’t matter age, gender, size or ability. It’s incentive for the kids, too,” Flowers said.
Eighth-grader Catherine Kinman was selected for the team in January and said she has “improved a lot” since then.
“It’s really fun. I like counting my score,” Catherine said.
“I think that boys normally dominate in sports. Archery doesn’t matter about gender. Some of our top shooters are girls,” Catherine said.
Catherine’s father, Matt Kinman, is the physical education teacher at Clear Spring High School. His team of 20 was selected from the 130 students who were taking physical education at the time.
The Clear Spring Middle School teams started tournament practice last week and practice once a week after school. On tournament day, there will be four flights for shooting in the morning.
Archers will shoot three rounds from two distances from the target — 10 meters and 15 meters — with two minutes to shoot five arrows. The highest possible score is 300 points.
“I feel like our teams are going to do pretty good. We have some good archers in our school,” Jared said.
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