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Books and movies attract kids to archery

By KBell
June 23, 2012 at 1:23 a.m.

In target archery, students shoot three arrows per round at targets approximately 18 meters, or about 59 feet away.

ARCHERY IN VICTORIA

• Straight Arrow Archery Learning Center is a nonprofit organization that's home to regional archery programs like the Victoria County 4-H, District 11 4-H Archery, South Texas Junior Olympic Archery Development and Victoria College.

• To find out how to donate to the organization or how to get involved, call 361-571-1567 or visit the Straight Arrow Archery website.

Twenty kids drew back their elbows at the sound of the whistle. With the release of the bow between their fingers, arrows raced ahead, some hitting the bulls eye, others bouncing far from the target.

Tiva Wallace, 11, had wanted to try out archery since the first time she read "The Hunger Games," whose main character is a sharpshooter named Katniss.

"She was really good, and I was like, 'I want to be like her,'" said Tiva, who's now on her third round of reading the books. "It's actually pretty fun because I'm better than some of the boys here."

Archery has become in vogue as of late, thanks to the popular book series turned Hollywood film. Tom Barker, who teaches the Victoria school district's archery summer camp at Straight Arrow Archery, said the sport also got a boost from the release of "The Avengers," which features another archer - Hawkeye.

"There's something magical about shooting a bow. Hollywood took a few years to discover that," Barker said.

Kids arrived at his camp with grand images from the books and big screen, and they were mesmerized by the fancy equipment they would soon learn how to use. But beyond just being cool for the moment, Barker said he hopes kids take away something more lasting from archery.

"Do you ever miss a target? If you're not missing, you're not shooting," he said. "What we're doing is teaching kids how to deal with failure, and that's a great life skill."

Elizabeth Haynes, a 14-year-old who volunteers at the camp, said the recent books and movies that have attracted kids to archery sometimes give a wrong impression.

"It doesn't go into all the practice that's gone on behind the scenes," she said. "It takes some months to be able to learn how to shoot that well."

And sometimes, the movie scenes actually prove detrimental to the fundamentals Barker said he's trying to teach.

"Hawkeye in 'Avengers' did not help us. He has terrible form. You can't shoot the bow sideways," Barker said.

But that's just where twin brothers Bailey and Blake Opiela learned their latest archery techniques. They received their bow and arrow a few years ago, and both said they were intrigued by Hawkeye's skills to come to their first archery camp.

After some formal training, "I get better and better," Bailey said.

Ask Blake, though, and he's the one who has improved the most.

Who's better? "Me," they said together.

Barker said archery is less about competition, though, and more about perseverance.

"When I have 20 kids shooting, they can all go away feeling, 'I had a good day,'" he said. "We're trying to make a difference with these kids ... and our leverage is archery."

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