Archery programs are growing in popularity in physical education classes across the country, and providing a strong foundation for an excellent lifetime sport. After all, archery teaches focus, safety, discipline and self-reliance. That’s also true for those participating in adaptive archery.
Adaptive archery helps those with physical or nonphysical disabilities participate by using modified equipment. Their disabilities include autism, amputations, blindness, Down syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more.
Indiana’s Seymour High School introduced an archery program four years ago. Coaches teach 50 to 70 students in regular PE classes, including 14 adaptive students. The school recently held an adaptive archery tournament.
“It gives them an opportunity to do something they may never ever get a chance to do, and archery is an extremely safe sport everybody can enjoy,” Tim Beck said in an interview with the local newspaper. Beck attended the tournament and is a member of the National Archery in the Schools Program. “They compete against themselves, so they set their own goals, their own achievements. It has provided so many more benefits than just shooting an arrow at a target.”
Coach Jill Purkhiser said she’s seen breakthroughs in students because of archery. She said one boy couldn’t verbalize words, but when asked after archery season if he wanted to do it again, he made a sound like “yes.” Another girl mouthed the word “fun.” “I’ve never heard her speak in four years,” Purkhiser said in an interview.
Adaptive archery gives students confidence and enforces life lessons outside of the classroom. “So many kids and adults don’t get a chance to enrich their lives with a community outside of their community that has a special need,” said Josahan Jaime-Santacruz, who directs the archery and coaching programs at the NFAA Easton Yankton Archery Center in South Dakota. “It’s really great when they find a place where they can be part of a group like everyone else.”
Jamie-Santacruz says adaptive archers are some of her most dedicated, energetic and consistent shooters. “I really think there is an untapped market for adaptive archery, but people have to know about it first,” she said.
If you’re already a coach or instructor, you need no additional training to teach adaptive archery. Several resources give coaches ideas on how to adapt equipment. Disabled Sports USA has detailed information on its website about equipment and positioning. The site also has an adaptive archery manual available for free download. USA Archery produced a series of videos about adaptive archery techniques.
“Adaptive archery is about being creative,” Jamie-Santacruz said. “It’s trial and error. I haven’t found a single archer who can’t shoot a bow if they really want to.”