LDWF’s Archery In Louisiana Schools Program Hits The Mark
story by Trey Iles, LDWF Public Information
When Robert Stroede came to work for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in May of 2012, he inherited a program in its early stages of development known as Archery in Louisiana Schools (ALAS), which taught basic archery skills to students.
About 35 Louisiana schools participated in the program, which is part of the National Archery in Schools Program (NASP).
Almost five years later, ALAS has become a juggernaut in the Bayou State. About 200 schools and almost 20,000 students now participate in the program. It’s in every nook and cranny in the state, from rural areas to inner cities, from the northwest to the southeast portions of Louisiana.
“It’s big,’’ said Stroede, an LDWF biologist supervisor and the ALAS state coordinator. “It has exploded. The more schools that got involved, the more schools wanted in. You get two or three schools in a parish and they start competing then all the other schools say, ‘Why don’t we have that?’ Or you get one kid who transfers from a school that has the program to a school that doesn’t and the parents say, ‘Hey, my son or daughter got to do archery at the last school. Why don’t you guys have it?’ It really kind of snowballed once it got started.’’
The program appears to be going against national trends that see participation dropping in most recreational sports as youth gravitate to the digital world. That’s why the growth of ALAS and NASP is good for outdoor sports like hunting and fishing, Stroede said.
“It’s kind of twofold in that we want to get this next generation involved in the outdoors even if we have to start doing that by putting bows and arrows in their hands indoors,’’ said Stroede, noting many ALAS sessions take place inside school gyms. “You’ll see that light switch go off and they’ll think, ‘What else can I do besides just shooting archery? Can I shoot archery outside of school? Can I hunt?’ They get into bow hunting, then gun hunting. You don’t know where they’re going to go from there. But it’s a good first step to get their wheels turning.’’
The NASP/ALAS program is designed primarily to introduce students in grades 4-12 to international target style archery. The intention is for it to be taught as part of the in-school curriculum, usually in physical education classes. But there are many cross-curriculum adaptations, Stroede said.
There is also a competition component. ALAS features two regional tournaments and the state tournament. Competitors can then move on to the national and world events. About 1,100 students from Louisiana schools participated in the 2016 ALAS tournaments. And because of ALAS sponsors, more than $17,000 was awarded in post-secondary scholarships.
Louisiana has made its mark in the national and world tournaments. Benton Middle School captured both national and world titles in 2016 and several individual archers have placed high in both events.
Stroede said he’s been impressed with how students from throughout the state have taken to archery. He expected students from rural areas to be interested. After all, he said, many have already been exposed to bow hunting. But the inner city school students have enjoyed it just as much.
“They think it’s cool,’’ Stroede said. “When we get into an inner city school what we see are kids that have never handled a bow and arrow before. Some have never seen a bow and arrow in real life. The neat part is those kids are just as excited to get out there and sling some arrows as the kids who grew up watching other family members go bow hunting.’’
NASP was developed in Kentucky in 2001. It uses standardized equipment designed to be safe, durable, economical and of a universal fit for most students. All students shoot the same model of bow and arrows. Sights, release aids and stabilizers are not part of the program. In competition, archers shoot 15 arrows at a bullseye target from 15 meters and 15 from 10 meters.
“In the schools, they may shoot as close as five to seven meters when they’re just getting started,’’ Stroede said.
Benton Middle teacher Terrie Streetman, one of that school’s archery coaches, said Stroede and LDWF have done a good job of growing the ALAS program.
“Every time we need something, he’s there,’’ Streetman said of Stroede. “He’ll make a trip if we need some targets or something extra if we’re going to hold a camp. He’s always willing to share his equipment. ALAS is such a well-run program and Robert and (LDWF) should be proud.’’
There’s more to schools just signing up to take part in the ALAS program. Each school must have at least one teacher trained in the NASP program in basic archery instructor courses. Those are conducted throughout the year by LDWF personnel.
“In order for a school to get started the first thing that they have to do is send someone to the basic archery instructor training to get certified,’’ Stroede said. “Once they have someone certified they can go about getting equipment and applying for grants and coming to tournaments.
“The whole program revolves around having properly certified people to teach the kids. The big thing about the program is we want the kids to be taught the correct way to shoot so they can be successful.’’
Stroede said one of the reasons for the increase in participation has been equipment grants being made available to the schools through LDWF to help offset the initial cost of getting started. Additionally, thanks to support from the archery industry, equipment kits valued at more than $6,000 may be purchased by schools for $3,000-$3,500 depending upon the equipment selected.
“Once we were able to start using the equipment grants for these schools where we can pay for half the equipment to get them started, the program began to grow quickly,’’ Stroede said. “The biggest hurdle for these schools to get an archery program is the money. If I could give every school that wanted the program a set of equipment at no cost, we’d probably have 300 or 400 schools.
“The ultimate goal is to get every school that wants the program to get the equipment in their hands. The only thing that keeps another 10,000 to 15,000 kids in Louisiana from getting to shoot archery in schools is the fact that the schools don’t have the funds available.’’
The Archery in Louisiana Schools Program, administered by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, is part of the National Archery in Schools Program, which teaches basic archery skills to students in grades 4-12.
ALAS Facts and Figures
About 200 schools and 20,000 students in Louisiana take part in the program. Two regional tournaments and a state tournament add a competitive component to ALAS. Winners from the state tournament can move on to the national and world events.
Can My School Participate?
Any public or private school can take part. Schools must have a certified teacher who directs the program.
For more information, contact ALAS state coordinator Robert Stroede at firstname.lastname@example.org or 318-484-2276.
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