Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Archery has become the hip new thing

Those of us that have been doing this for awhile are nodding sagely with a hint of “I told you so.”  Girls that shoot are now definitely regarded as cooler by the boys, especially in high-school, where coolness can be tough to come by. Between the Hunger Games, the Avengers movie and the upcoming summer release of Brave, kids and adults alike are getting more than usual exposure to archery this year.  And don’t forget the London summer Olympics, which is right around the corner.

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Wired magazine’s GeekDad author Jim MacQuarrie coaches JOAD kids along with his wife Terri, and has helped the sport gain exposure through a non-sport avenue by bringing his experience to bear in tongue-in-cheek fashion on how it’s done (or not) in the movies recently. Because of Wired, Jim has probably introduced archery to more hipsters in NYC and Chicago than anyone else, so there are more skinny-jean and fedora types out on the range with the camo’d club these days.  In the Pasadena area the interest shift has been a little older than expected.  Jim and Terri have noticed that, “After Hunger Games, the single largest increase at our range has been women age 25-35, which more than doubled.” They expect they will get more boys after Avengers, and a wave of 6-12 year old girls after Brave.

My new friend Sydney is 15 and is also a dancer.  This girl also loves to shoot targets with her dad and siblings on their property for fun.  Sydney is also looking at getting her small-game license to have even more fun this summer.  Bit by the bug just before the movie rush hit, she’s shot some 3-D this winter as well.
Local shops from Pasadena, California to Fox Valley, Wisconsin are seeing a boost in kids wearing mockingjay necklaces leading their parents in to look at bows.  Both shops where Matt and I shoot have definitely seen growth in league signups, classes and just general interest. Camps that offer archery are expected to get more kids in the door this summer.

Clubs are getting more calls, too.  Doug and Sue Ludwig, coaches for the Points to the Cross club, run one of the upstate NY JOAD programs that introduces kids to Olympic-style archery. Doug is also one of the coaches for the Olympic Dream Team, which is bringing up the talent for the limited spots that will go to London. PTTC has received more interest recently, but they aren’t sure if it’s from the movie buzz or from the upcoming Olympics.

Teresa Iaconi, PR consultant for USA Archery and certified coach, has a similar perspective. “Clubs in general are reporting big increases in beginners wanting to learn how to shoot, and the biggest thing USA Archery is in need of right now are instructors, and people who are willing to start Junior Olympic Archery Development (youth) clubs in their community.”

Just to give you an idea of how much interest has grown this year, www.usarchery.org  quoted 30,585 unique visitors in March 2012, versus 19,206 in March 2011.

It’s an Olympic year. I know this because the P&G tear-jerker commercials with the gymnast mom are already running and my friend Dan is shooting full-time just in case this is THE year.  According to US Archery, the U.S. “currently has the number one world-ranked athletes and teams in six of eight categories, including superstar Brady Ellison, increasing the country's hopes for a gold medal performance in London and making the sport more popular than ever.”  World Archery recently nominated the USA as the “top archery country since 2008”. Until then, Korea had been the perceived power house team to beat in the past along with India and Italy. Lee Ford-Faherty, US Archery Para-Olympic Team member, has definitely noticed a jump in interest in her club from high-schoolers all the way up to middle-aged women where she trains.  Watch for Lee this summer as she competes in London with the USA team.

Fads happen in every sport. Daniel Grundman, owner of Flex-Fletch Products Inc., attests to the fact as their clear fletching is selling like hotcakes due to the Hunger Games using it in the star’s set up.  All teenage girls know that if you look like Katniss, you will shoot like her as well. Amen and pass the fletch glue. I suppose training with Khatuna Lorig wouldn’t hurt either. Lorig has been a great ambassador to the sport at the Olympic level and the Katniss Everdeen character showed correct form throughout the movie due to her excellent coaching.

It’s not just the clubs that are seeing more popularity. Archery themed anything has become easier to find and more mainstream.  Etsy and Pinterest are seeing a burst of handmade quivers, archery themed home décor, and archery related jewelry now being sold online. Those of us who already decorate with our extra arrows and gear laying around the house now look like we know what we were doing the entire time.  Score. 

Of course, I am truly excited that my sport is getting so much attention right now.  Any sport that welcomes and is accessible to so many age groups gets a solid thumbs up.  It’s a sport that kids who may not be quick with a bat or big enough for football can excel in.  It’s a sport where a 30-something woman (or man) can figure out well enough to fill the freezer or hit some foam in the middle. It’s satisfying, relaxing, social and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why more people don’t love it with or without the movies.

*** Since this was written, I've continued to receive more feedback from all over on this subject. It really has become a world-wide growth phenomenon. Folks from California to the UK are continuing to tell me that they are doubling or tripling their student numbers. Woot!

See this article and more in the Summer Issue of Bow Adventures.


Katniss The Hunger Games Archery said...

Wow- we would so love to see a Junior Olympics league get started all over the country. Despite the upsurge in interest in archery since Katniss in The Hunger Games and now Disney's Brave- it's always been a fabulous sport that deserves recognition and encouragement. Thanks for a great article!

Amanda MacDonald said...

JOAD clubs are currently all over, but harder to find. Check the USA Archery website to find one in your area.

by Jim MacQuarrie said...

Hey, thanks for the shout-out. Sorry I didn't see it before. I really need to get better at this online ego-search thing.

Amanda MacDonald said...

Jim :)