Jennyne Pinter, email@example.com
Kingston Elementary School in Benton has a young archery team that is aiming at big targets this spring.
Last year’s team were National Champions and Coach Laurie Chaffin hopes to have a repeat this year. The team will embark for nationals in Louisville, Ken. May 9-11 where they are confident of qualifying for the World Tournament scheduled for June 7-9.
This group recently took second place in the State Tournament at the Shreveport Convention Center on March 3 and Kingston’s Mikayela Sanchez won the title of Louisiana Girls Elementary State Champion.
As the Physical Education Teacher at Kingston Elementary, Chaffin implements 10 weeks of archery in her 4th and 5th grade classes, allowing students to be exposed to the sport and peak the interest of potential competitors. She then selects 24 team members from a roster of 40.
“I keep 40 kids at the beginning, and then I will have that one kid who will just be like, the 40-something kid. We keep so many because there is always going to be that one kid that comes in here and does everything she’s supposed to do,” Chaffin smiles, “She works, practices, gets private instruction.”
Nine-year-old Olivia Nawrocki just happened to be this year’s 40-something and ended up being something of a diamond in the rough, making the top 24. Which delighted her coach.
“She moved up all those spots. And she’s just a fourth grader, which is a really an accomplishment to be on the national/world team as a fourth grader,” Chaffin exclaimed.
When asked why she is passionate about archery, Olivia said, “It’s just really fun! The hard part is winning.”
Another remarkable student is Abby Aldrich, an 11-year-old in the 5th grade.
“I think of this every day now. I tried out in fourth grade and didn’t make it. Now I think about that today and it gives me the strength to pull forward. I am taking lessons and coming to archery practice and shooting my best.”
Five competitors from 2017 returned to the team this year, but most others have moved onto middle school and made way for incoming members who had not yet participated. Hunter Alford is also in his first year on the team.
Coed sports are uncommon, but this archery team is breaking the mold.
“In middle school, the girls are just dominating the boys. Last year my girls were better than my boys. You just never know. And this year I have girls coming on that are nipping at the boys’ heals. It really doesn’t matter,” Chaffin said. “Archery is something anyone can do and it could be your typical athlete, but when you look in here you see all shapes and sizes. ”
The school competes in the National Archery in the Schools Program (N.A.S.P.), an in-school program for grades 4-12. The N.A.S.P. boasts that its “Students are learning focus, self-control, discipline, patience, and the life lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life.”
At the competitions, the archers shoot a warm up and three scoring rounds for the 10 meters and a warm up and three rounds at the 15 meters. It is the responsibility of the archer to inspect where their arrow is has landed and whether or not they agree with the officials scoring. If the arrow is on the line, a decision made incorrectly could cost the archer a point. While the coach cannot contest the decision, a higher official can be asked to judge the call if so requested by the archer. Objecting to authority is a skill which, while difficult and often uncomfortable, is necessary for success and confidence throughout life.
The team gets extra assistance from certified coaches Wayne “Papa” Gleason and Edna Sanchez, who volunteer their time along with Coach Chaffin. The N.A.S.P. donates some equipment through grants, and the team purchases the rest through fundraising. The team uses shirt sponsors, cash raffles, Johnny’s Night, Smoothie King, Sonic Night, Field Day Concessions and also private donations to raise the money they need for supplies and travel.
“Our biggest challenge is the funding,” Chaffin says, “So participation in the fundraising is essential for students and parents.”