-S. Nicola Chmelir – Do you remember the first bike you ever rode? Mine was this tiny, little pink bike with streamers coming out the handlebars, two wobbly training wheels attached to each side, a basket on the front, and bells on the handlebar–it looked and felt like a party every time I rode it. My time with this precious pink-mobile eventually came to an end when my chubby little knees started bumping the decked-out handlebars while peddling. Although I truly cherished my first bike, it was time to move on–onto bigger and better things.
A lifetime packed full of growth and change, we sometimes outgrow the equipment we use. Take my older brother for example: when he started shooting, he was a wee 8th grader, only 5’4” at the time, but now as a graduating senior, he towers over these crowds of his past, measuring a whopping height of 6’4”. Imagine shooting a bow right now. But then imagine walking into your next archery practice, prepared to shoot with the same bow just as you always have, while measuring an entire full foot taller.
Following his major growth spurt, my brother spent nearly an entire year of adjustment: trying to find a reliable anchor point for his new arm length; searching for the correct aiming point that would not let him down with his declining sight; and seeking a worthy stance for his sprouting legs. Although simplified on paper, let me assure you that this was no easy endeavor. For months on end our beloved coach, Mrs. Cushing, sacrificed her time and effort almost solely to his aid: standing awkwardly upon chairs to film my brother’s shot cycle; adjusting about every mechanism on his bow that remained in the legal spectrum; and encouraging him to keep going and progressing, especially after the worst days. The development of archery truly takes a village, not just a single mind and body.
The combination of coaches, mentors, and fellow participants who all put in the often-tedious work to uplift him, along with an annoying little sister who needed a ride and companion for archery, my brother truly had an archery-encouraging community to fall back upon. After almost an entire year of sheer frustration and mistake, he has emerged on the other side as a reestablished archer. With scores ranging from equal-to or even higher than those before his unique growth spurt, my brother has defined his height as merely a set-back to his archery experience, and not an inevitable reason for quitting.
Would you have kept coming to practice every week and utterly failing–getting increasingly worse, long before better, with no improvement in sight? Take one of my closest friends for example, who for years intentionally shot without her much needed eyeglasses in order to perform as well as she had before she received them. Instead of learning to adapt and grow into the changes her body put her archery experience through, she has not yet returned to the sport. As some participants take everlasting challenges like these–the uncontrolled and inconsistent growth one experiences throughout life–and works day and night to overcome them, others simply quit.
However, it was not until my epiphany: the opportunity to assist those around us toward far-off or near-at-hand goals never depletes, that I decided to offer a hand and beg my friend to come out for archery again. Although a bit weary at first–her mind still swarming with poor memories of her past archery experiences–I, with the help of some fellow archers, have persuaded her to give the sport and community another shot. Overcoming her past fears, she plans to try shooting with the help of not only other participants, coaches, and mentors, but also her eyeglasses. Even though it may be the job of those suffering to reach out and ask for it, it is truly our responsibility, as archery-community-members, to offer the much-needed resources to build those around us into stronger archers and, ultimately, people.
As we all once adapted from our first favorite thing to one with greater opportunity, we must work to assist others in this process now. Whether this assistance leads to more variety in our bows or means working to build those around us into the sturdy skyscrapers they may grow to, we all must resort back to our hardwiring and care for one another in this community-based sport. Only together may we reach those bigger and better things we dream of.
Nicola is a 2022 NASP® student contributor. Be on the watch for her next submission.