Archery programs growing in West Virginia schools

CHARLESTON (AP) — Since the state Department of Education approved the Archery in the Schools program in 2004, more than 250 schools have adopted the program and host an archery team. A coordinator says teams are added each month.

“Don’t rush the shot,” Kevin McMillion tells his daughter. “It’s not about speed it’s about accuracy.”

Samantha McMillion is working on her shot in a Mercer County sporting goods store.

“I work with her whatever she needs,” McMillion said. “Any equipment and stuff I’ll make sure she has it.”

“You can’t handicap yourself with equipment. As long as she shows an interested I’ll feed whatever she wants to do.”

Kevin has been passionate about archery for 25 years and even won competitions on a national level. He says archery has helped to build a strong bond with his daughter.

“She’s hunted with me some,” he said. “We’ve got to spend a lot more time together that we really wouldn’t have had a mutual interest in something (otherwise). It’s really tickled me.”

He also sees it as a way to teach his daughter valuable life lessons and keep her out of trouble.

“Persistence and tenacity,” he said. “Just not giving up that you really have to work for something to get good.”

“Up until last year she’s never really finished below fifth in anything with just starting out. I was pretty impressed with that. I started noticing a natural ability of her doing that so I entered her into some higher caliber competitions and stuff and she’s taken it upon herself to commit to it and hold up her end of the bargain to a team sport. She’s’ doing pretty good.”

Archery in the Schools is a program approved by the Department of Education and overseen by the Division of Natural Resources. The program puts archery into public schools as a team sport for grades fourth through 12th. Coordinator Krista Snodgrass says new schools are added each month.

“Just to see their excitement,” Coordinator of Archery in the Schools Krista Snodgrass said, “gives you cold chills because a lot of these kids you know that they don’t participate in anything else.”

“This is the only time that they get to come and be a part of something that’s involved with their school and they come wearing their school colors and actually have their parents up in the stands or 2,000 people in the stands cheering them on. And they feel really a part of their school and an accomplishment that maybe they couldn’t have in any other sport or activity in the school.”

Last year more than 650 students competed. Because of the surge in popularity, Snodgrass says only top scorers will qualify for state competition this year.

But Samantha McMillion, Kevin’s daughter, may never have a shot at the state title. Samantha is a 16-year-old Pikeview High School Junior. There are no schools in Mercer County that host an Archery in the Schools program.

“I wish it would be at our school because a whole lot of other people would want to do it too that can’t play sports,” she said.

Instructors have to go through a 12-hour training course. The DNR hosts training session every three months and the limited space fills up quickly. Schools are also responsible for purchasing equipment but financial help is available. Snodgrass says the program is designed for kids who may not be able or interested in traditional sports.

“We just had an instructor call us that he has a kid in his class that is an amputee,” she said. “We go them in contact with someone that is going to help them in making something, a brace, where they can use a bow as well. The same bow that all the other kids are using.”

“It’s really changing some lives of students in other counties to commit to something to work and stay in school,” Kevin said.

Snodgrass says adoption of the program usually starts with community interest. Officials with the Mercer County Board of Education encourage anyone interested in starting a team to write a letter of interest and meet with the assistant superintendent.

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