Over the years, I’ve written several columns about girls and the shooting sports. I wrote those because people need to understand that guns and bows are not weapons of crime for kids, when they are trained to use them in a controlled environment. Shooting sports are fun for kids and always have been.
I’ve cited scientific studies that show that girls who participate in the shooting sports (archery, trap, and skeet) get better grades in school, have higher attendance records, and develop self-esteem.
Look at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Started in Kentucky in 2002, there have now been nine million participants in 9,000 schools worldwide. And the spinoffs have been fantastic; indoor and outdoor ranges constructed, hundreds of afterschool archery clubs formed, thousands of kids buying new bows, etc. Demand for NASP has grown exponentially as more and more kids, especially girls, are developing an interest in archery. This boom in archery has seen a major jump in interest, and bow sales this past April. Why?
As a kid, I watched Howard Hill and Robin Hood doing their thing on the movie screen. All my buddies left the Robin Hood movie and went home to build their own crude bows. Of course, those self-made bows broke often enough that we realized real bows were needed.
I still have vivid memories of the day my dad brought home Bear Grizzly bows for my twin brother and me. We harassed the neighborhood rabbits and squirrels for a few years, and shot in the local archery club’s winter league. Then, at age 12, we started hunting deer with those bows. No question, shooting bows was an adventure, and it was fun.
For many of us, the key boost to our interest in shooting bows was the movies. In recent months there has been a huge increase in the sale of bows to children and women. Apparently a blockbuster movie, The Hunger Games, has been the spark. We’ve seen this spark before. There was a growth in the interest in archery with the bow-carrying character Legolas in Lord of the Rings. Of course, there were archers in Clash of the Titans and The Lightning Thief, but the heroine of The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen, is the recent trigger for the interest in archery.
In the case of The Hunger Games, the boost to the public’s interest in archery has been huge. But prior to that movie, USA Archery tournaments saw a big increase in youth divisions, as have competitions held by the National Field Archery Association. In the past year, the Facebook pages for these two organizations have gotten enormous traffic. Kids want to shoot competitive archery.
When one girl picks up a bow, friends join in. A recently completed study done by Responsive Management showed that the more familiar youth were with individuals their own age that shoot targets and hunt, the more likely they were to participate in these activities. Also, they were “…more likely to believe that hunters and shooters possess desirable qualities like intelligence, care for the environment, and care for other people. At the same time, youths who are not around hunting and shooting (particularly because they lack close friends or relatives who hunt or shoot) tend to fill in the gaps in their knowledge with anecdotal impressions or — worse — misinformation, myth, and misperception…”
Why are youths so intrigued by The Hunger Games heroine using her bow to get food and killing others to survive? They definitely are not turning to archery to develop skills to kill people. That is obviously not what is happening here. But young people today face challenges, challenges that my generation did not have to face. My young world was very simple. Work hard, do your chores around the house (farm), do your homework, listen to the radio an hour each night, and go to bed. Things are so different for kids in our fast-paced world.
But in archery, there are similarities not separated by generation gaps. Kids don’t want to be “cookie punched.” They want to be different, feel important, and not be just another unknown in a huge crowd. Not all kids can be individualistic by playing football or basketball. Some don’t weigh enough, some are too short, and some can’t run fast. But they all can shoot bows, and girls are especially good at it. Archery is great fun for kids. Always has been, and a blockbuster movie is apparently a big part of this recent boom.