A line of eager students waited their turns to grab a bow and take a shot at the targets set up in the gym at the Pocahontas County Community Wellness Center in Marlinton.
Every Thursday and Saturday, this routine takes place as nearly 60 members of the Pocahontas County Archery Team practice.
The team began this year with the help of coaches Jody Spencer, Becky Spencer and Bob Simmons. The trio opened the team to all students in fourth through 12th grades in the county.
Jody Spencer said the team is following the guidelines of the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP).
“It’s the exact same program, the same equipment, and the same techniques that they teach them in PE classes when they have archery in the schools,” he said. “Basically, we’re teaching them a life skill. We’re teaching the basics of fundamental indoor archery. It’s not three-D targets, it’s not bow hunting, it’s none of that trick shooting. It’s more of an Olympic-style indoor target archery.”
The skills the students are learning will remain with them throughout life, Spencer said, speaking from experience.
“I got my first bow when I was their age, so I’ve been doing this forty years now,” he said. “You don’t need to have good knees or a good back. So, hopefully we’re teaching them a skill that they can have the rest of their life. I would imagine that most kids will progress into being bow hunters, or maybe they’ll just stay to the target style archery.”
The team is preparing for a couple tournaments coming up this winter and early spring.
“There’s one in Shady Springs in February, and Elk View in March,” Spencer said. “We don’t want to do too many. We’re going to try to get something here in January at [Marlinton] Middle School and maybe do an exhibition shoot where we can kind of walk through the steps, and everyone can know what to expect before we actually do a real tournament.”
At the tournament level, there is a limit to the number of members per team, but Spencer said that won’t be an issue.
“There’s actually a sixteen shooter limit on a team but you don’t have to register only one team,” he said. “Besides the team aspect of it, each tournament will also shoot individuals. There’s a team break down. They have to come from fourth and fifth grades; then sixth, seventh and eighth grade, so if you don’t have enough members from the fourth and fifth grade to make a team, they can go and shoot individually.”
In order to make the team assignment fair, Spencer said he will hold a shoot for students to compete for spots.
“It kind of rewards the shooters that are here twice a week, the ones shooting at home,” he said. “If they’re actually practicing to be good enough to make that top sixteen every time we go to shoot, it gives them something to shoot for.”
The tournaments will also have an entry fee, something Spencer hopes the team can raise funds to pay.
The team uses Genesis compound bows that do not have let-off and are adjustable from 10 to 20 pounds in draw weight at any draw length. The bows do not have sights, release aids or stabilizers.
The team will be fundraising and has received donations from the National Wild Turkey Federation and Glades Building Supply in Marlinton.
Deadline to join the team is November 23. For more information, contact Spencer at jodyspencer74@hotmail. com or 304-653-4180. The team also has a Facebook page at Pocahontas County Archery Team.
Suzanne Stewart may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org