Pirates are known for their love of the sea, gold and weaponry. Jack Sparrow, for instance, is famously adept with his sword. But will his sword outmatch the certified, bow-wielding pirates at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology?
MIT has taken all the pirates’ best traits (minus the pillaging and plundering), and incorporated them into a program that fulfills students’ undergraduate physical-education requirements.
“It’s been an unofficial, underground practice among students at MIT for at least 20 years,” the Boston Globe reported. “Any student who completes courses in pistol, archery, sailing and fencing is considered a pirate.”
The MIT physical education program made that 20-year-long tradition official when implementing the Pirate Certification Program for the 2011 fall semester. Students who complete these courses meet their P.E. requirement and receive an actual certification. Imagine combining Jack Sparrow’s flair with Hawkeye’s precision for ultimate bow-wielding, pirate domination!
But what makes Sparrow’s flair so memorable? A suave aesthetic is a vital ingredient in making a pirate; a certain swagger, if you will. Part of that comes from self-confidence. Archery and the other certification components are certainly a way to achieve that.
Archery 360 interviewed Michelle Simpson-Pitts in January 2015 about her daughter Emma’s newfound confidence as a result of shooting archery. “One big thing that contributes to confidence is that you can’t blame others,” Simpson-Pitts said. “Archery is a personal journey and singular task. Your own work and discipline puts the arrows where they’re supposed to go. Once archers figure out it’s all in their hands – and heads – they want to see the success repeatedly.”
Simpson-Pitts explained that Emma’s improvements in archery helped her overcome negative self-talk. “When she started putting arrows in the red and yellow (target rings), she immediately felt a confidence boost,” she said.
For MIT’s pirate candidates, putting arrows in the red and yellow targets rings results in an official pirate certificate.
Upon completing the courses, students must prove their sea-worthiness. Carrie Sampson Moore, MIT’s director of physical education, told the Globe that students “must take an oath in the physical education office,” though Moore declined to disclose it, citing a desire to maintain the “secrecy and mystique of MIT piracy.”
Stephanie Holden, a pirate certification alumna, revealed: “I remember it saying I swear to run from any fight I can’t win. To win any fight I cannot run from.” So much for secrecy. “Also, to sing yo-ho-ho at the top of my lungs.’’ An honest commitment, indeed.
At first glance, this program might look like pure fun, but it’s actually sharpening vital skills college students need. “The courses are cerebral,” Moore told the Globe. “They’re tactical. They involve strategy. Plus they’re a challenge to complete. MIT students are driven: ‘How do I figure out how to do this in addition to all my other courses?’”
Archery requires clear concentration. It relies on your mind as much, if not more, than your body. That makes it a great stress reliever, a universal need among college students. Archery uses physics, which is perfect for MIT’s historically academically driven students. One must account for trajectories and calculations in their shots.
Untamed Science offers these reminders: “Hooke’s Law states that the draw weight is proportional to the draw length. The greater amount that you deform the limbs by pulling them back further in your draw length, the more you increase the force that in turn increases the stored potential energy.”
Those who discover a zest for archery during this certification can consider MIT’s Archery Club.
E.G. LeBre, head coach of the archery club at MIT for three years, said the club is “open to both archers looking to compete, and archers just looking to shoot for recreation.” They practice four times a week, but only once with coaches. LeBre gives the competitors assignments to work on during the other practices. The team competes locally and nationally, first in indoor competitions from September through March, and then onto the outdoor program in May.
Club members Alexis Drake and Jin Kim earned the Collegiate Archery Program Academic All-American Award. LeBre also revealed that Lauren Clamon, a top-eight contender for USA archery, has signed on to attend MIT and join their ranks.
MIT students keep proving that intelligence and piracy can go hand in hand. They can calculate the best stance for the best possible shot, and then sail off into the sunset.
It’s a pirate’s life for MIT students.