Walking into the Kokomo Conference and Event Center last weekend people stood in a perfect line all the way across the spacious exhibit hall concentrating on the targets that stood in front of them. Behind them hundreds sat watching.
People from across the state traveled to Kokomo to take part in the 2016 Indiana Field Archery Association state tournament. The annual event is broken down into many divisions and age brackets. Categories include every type of stick and string from recurves, longbows, modern compounds and even crossbows. Regardless of division all competitors shoot at standardized targets placed exactly 20 yards from the shooting line.
Over 260 of the state’s best archers took part in the annual event. To get here, competitors had to take part in qualifying shoots that take place throughout the year. Those scoring the highest earned the chance to become state champions.
The sport of archery dates back to primitive times. Although the methods and types of equipment have seen dramatic changes through the centuries, the desire between those who enjoy it has not.
“It is something anyone can take part in regardless of athletic ability,” said Julie Slitzer of Versailles, who travelled to Kokomo to watch her 10 year old son compete. “Archery can be an individual sport where you compete against yourself or it can be a team sport as well,” she added.
Brooklyn Stone, age five, was giddy with excitement while participating in her first state tournament while holding her pink colored compound bow. “This is so much fun,” she giggled while sending a few arrows downrange in an area designated for practice.
Adam Hay was silent as he focused intently on the target that stood in front of him. Slowly and methodically he placed an arrow on the string. He draws back and holds at full-draw for what seemed like minutes before dumping the string, sending the silver shaft downrange. Hay accomplishes this while sitting in his wheelchair.
Hay, now age 35, has enjoyed competitive archery since the age of 12. In 2006 the La Porte resident was involved in an ATV accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down. “Even though I can’t walk, I refused to give up archery,” he explained. “Thankfully it is an activity anyone can take part of regardless of physical ability,” he added.
Hay has two sons who also are actively involved in archery. “Not only is it a great activity, it gives us something we can still do together as a family.”
“Many people may consider archery a stationary sport,” explained Kokomo’s Rocky Kline, who is a councilman for the National Field Archery Association, and one who helped oversee last weekend’s event. “But competitive archers actually require a significant amount of upper body strength, endurance and focus to perform well,” he added.
No doubt drawing a bow string places stress on the muscles of both arms as well as chest, shoulders and back. Similar to lifting weights, this stress is typically maintained for several seconds before releasing the string. With repetition, the act of drawing a bow leads to muscle development.
Balance is also vital in becoming proficient as you must remain perfectly still while executing a shot. At the same time hand-eye coordination is essential for successful archers. Shooting a vertical bow trains your hands and eyes to work together while performing different tasks at the same time like aiming, holding the bow at full draw and releasing, all based on input from your eyes. The more you shoot the better coordination becomes.
To be good an archer must concentrate, whether shooting at a stationary target or live game. The more focused you become on the target the easier it is to clear your mind and develop intense concentration needed for greater accuracy. These same skills can help deal with other activities in your day to day life while helping remain more focused on other tasks as well.
There is no doubt archery can be dangerous if people are reckless. It is not an activity for the careless. It is important to be responsible for yourself, one another, as well as the equipment.
The joy of archery is in its simplicity and complexity. At its base level it is simply a bow and arrow. But to use them proficiently takes concentration, practice and desire to improve. This is what pulls so many people into the sport.