Local interest in archery has exploded over the last several years, and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.
That much was evident last week, when a number of area teams walked away with top finishes at the S3DA Indoor National Championship in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Owensboro Archery Club claimed first place in the high school club competition and second in the elementary club division, Daviess County Middle School won the middle school team portion, and Daviess County High School finished second among high school teams in the two-day event at the Duke Energy Convention Center.
Of the 1,130 archers that competed — a number that doubled from its 2018 mark — more than 100 were from Owensboro and the surrounding area.
“I’m proud of everybody in the Owensboro-Daviess County area,” said Owensboro Archery Club coach Chris Curtis, whose squad sent an event-high 54 archers to compete. “If you combine everybody who went up there, we were 10 percent of the total number of kids. … It’s citywide and countywide.”
Curtis, whose club also finished fourth out of 11 teams in the middle school division, began coaching archery in 2013. Since then, he’s noticed a massive influx of interest.
And, he added, a big part of that growth has stemmed from laying a foundation at the elementary school level.
“I’m seeing kids that I started with that are already shooting in college or have already graduated,” Curtis said. “The lion’s share of those kids are seniors this year.
“Getting in on the ground floor is key. I’ve got a lot of elementary kids right now. I’ll be out of (coaching) by the time they’re in high school, but I can’t wait to see what they look like when they’re that age.”
Curtis, who generally draws competitors to his club from Apollo High School and Apollo feeder schools, says the interest has grown so much that there’s now a waiting list to join.
“We shoot out at the fairgrounds without much space, so we’ve got a waiting list of about 15 people wanting to get their kids on, due to sheer lack of space,” he said. “Somehow, someway, though, we’re going to get something bigger. We’ve got 64 kids this year, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we had over 100 kids next year.”
Matt Murphy, in his third season coaching the Daviess County Middle School archery team, can see why the sport is bringing in so many new participants.
“It’s just different,” he said. “You don’t have to be a dominant athlete to do it. You can be any age or any background. Last year, I coached a kid with autism. There are no limits to who can do it. If you want to do it, you can. You don’t have to hit the hardest or throw the furthest, you just have to be willing to put in the arrow time.
“It’s not for everybody, but it opens up more opportunities for kids.”
Opportunities, Murphy added, that teach life lessons along the way and can even lead to college scholarships down the line.
“One thing people are really starting to figure out is there’s millions of dollars in scholarship money out there,” he said. “If you start at age 7, by the time you get to be a senior, you could get a full-ride scholarship to Lindsey Wilson or Pikeville or University of the Cumberlands. The opportunities are endless.
“With this sport, they’re not just learning how to shoot a bow. They’re learning discipline, patience, camaraderie, teamwork, self-motivation — if you fail, it’s on your terms. It’s all a self-driven sport, so you can only get as good as however much you put into it.”
According to John Austin, a coach with Daviess County High School, more opportunities are on the way, as well.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said, estimating that more than 200 up-and-coming archers reside in the county. “Kentucky is, by far, the biggest state as far as archery is going. Every year, it’s growing like crazy. This year at the state tournament, 425 kids showed up to shoot.
“Kentucky is the fastest-growing, for sure, and Daviess County is the biggest in Kentucky.”