Charlize Tate, 14, became interested in archery after reading books like “The Hunger Games.”
About a year ago she went to Cabela’s, in Kansas City, Kan., purchased a bow and target, and taught herself to shoot.
A few weeks ago, Tate joined Overton’s Archery Center's Junior Olympic Archery Development club after her mom read an article about the North Lawrence business.
“We’re teaching these kids the same way Olympic coaches teach,” said Liz Rice, the team coordinator. “It’s very easy to learn the basics and it’s very hard to get to the level of an Olympian, but it’s all about consistency. ... If you put the work in and practice, there are opportunities to take it on to a higher level.”
Rice helped start the group because her son, Kit Rice, wanted to participate in archery but the only team in the area practiced in Olathe. When Overton’s opened in February, it was an opportunity to start a youth archery club based in Lawrence. The club was formed in May. About 20 youths participate in the club, and for the past six weeks, popularity has grown with at least one new student joining every week.
Every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., the club meets to practice shooting as a group. Members are instructed in archery etiquette, safety, vocabulary and basic shooting techniques.
One of the most important things the kids do, from Rice’s perspective, is create friendships and learn to communicate with others. The members of the club are from different schools and towns in Douglas County, and they range from elementary to high school age. Even so, they’re all good friends, brought together by their interest in archery.
“We certainly have kids from all backgrounds — from kids who grew up wearing camo to girls coming in with high heels,” Rice said. “It’s amazing that these kids from different backgrounds can stand out here and talk the same language and understand.”
Students can participate in JOAD whether they already know how to shoot or have never touched a bow, Rice said. Participants don’t have to own equipment, and they can pursue archery as a leisure activity or competitively.
A lot of the appeal of archery is that it isn’t expensive, said Rice. Anyone can rent equipment — including a recurve bow, arrows, an arm guard and finger tab — for $5 and use the shooting range all day for $10.
Eric Green said he bought his 9-year-old son, Wyatt, a compound bow and asked him whether he wanted to join JOAD a few months ago. Since then, Wyatt spends most of his free time either shooting at home or at Overton’s. Wyatt is a top shooter at the center, and Eric says part of it is because of the help of the staff and his training with the club.
The coaches for all JOAD teams are trained and had to complete specific certification classes.
Wyatt’s training is helping him to become competitive, but Eric said it’s helping him to become more social and outgoing, too.
“When he first came he was really quiet,” Eric said. “But he’s 9 and he’s talking with a 14-year-old; he’s making a lot of friends.”
JOAD is for archers ages 8-20. To learn more, call Overton’s Archery Center at 832-1654 or visit the store.
“It’s fun and it’s not really hard to learn,” said Tate. A plus: Her friends think it’s cool.