From Tommy Floyd, NASP® President, former school administrator
As someone who chose to adopt in-school archery as a high school program in 2003, I wanted to share my experiences for the school administrator that finds themselves with an invitation to join the program and lots of questions. Having served as a high school principal, assistant superintendent and finally as superintendent in a large Kentucky school district, I believe I have valuable insights based on my experiences with NASP®. I hope this document is helpful to any administrator who has been asked to consider the program.
The National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP®) is a 501c3 organization that was first launched in 2002 and established to create an exciting opportunity to engage students and promote the shooting sports in schools. In order to participate in the NASP® tournament structure, archers must attend a school where teachers provide NASP® archery instruction during the school day. The aim was to ensure that all students in a NASP® school had the opportunity to discover target archery.
NASP® is the largest youth archery program in history. NASP® continues to grow at a rate of about 1000 schools per year. NASP® archery is taught in 70% of the nearly 14,000 NASP® schools as part of the PE curriculum. The other 30% of NASP® schools make it a part of math, science, language arts, social studies, health, etc. In some of the most successful NASP® schools, teachers collaborate in interdisciplinary teams to provide theme-based lessons that build on the enthusiasm that students have for in-school archery.
From earlier educator surveys it was discovered that teaching NASP® improves student concentration, motivation, engagement, and behavior. Some parents have said that their child always wants to attend when archery is on the calendar. Of the of students who take NASP® in school, 77% said that they had never touched a bow before.
If NASP® were only an after-school or club program, certain students might never be able to have that opportunity to discover archery. Many NASP® schools also have an after-school club. These clubs are often led by parents with a faculty sponsor and experience great participation.
In 2017, NASP® took another giant step in surveying actual students in our program. The results of this survey may help you as you review the data regarding academic questions that we raised.
Some important findings for educators:
58.18% of Surveyed NASP® students indicated that NASP® had helped them feel more connected with their school. (School connectedness is seen as a major factor in dropout prevention and awareness).
40.15% of Surveyed NASP® students indicated that NASP® was a motivational factor for them to do better in the classroom. (Educators are looking for multiple ways to reach – previously underserved populations of students- many NASP® students identify their participation as an integral part of their school experience and success).
My Beginning in NASP®
I remember reading the email from my Fish and Wildlife Agency about the possibility of becoming involved in the National Archery in the Schools Program. I was a high school principal at the time and the idea was one that appealed to me, but also provided many things for me to consider before ever arriving at the decision to dive in and recommend the program for my school; I had a lot to think about…
- How would this new program affect my student population and school culture?
- What were the total costs to start and operate the program? Was it something we could afford- considering how challenging the budgetary constraints were already on a high school athletic department?
- How in the world would I satisfy my own concerns about safety and then ensure that others involved would be comfortable with it as well?
- What would be the potential impact on our insurance costs for the school district?
- Would archery result in a huge increase in liability coverage costs?
- Would archery become suitable for my in-school Physical Education program as well as after-school demand on what was already a taxed facility usage schedule?
- I thought about determining the “right” individual to lead this program for my Physical Education classes and beyond. Could I find the person with the appropriate attributes so that in-school archery would not only begin but thrive and grow?
- Lastly I thought about how this new consideration would appeal to physically challenged students and students with disabilities if they wanted to participate. Would we be able to meet their needs to participate?
- If my school became competitive with an after-school program, would I be able to find adequate parental and support staff to help
- How in the world I would present all of this to my superintendent and school board to achieve their support and approval in order to proceed?
Students and school culture considerations:
One of my most delightful discoveries regarding the introduction of NASP® into my school was its seemingly miraculous effect on the individual students that participated. This description is not overblown. I had students who seemed to blossom because finally they had discovered something that had yielded success for them. Several of these students were from low income homes and had not shared the experiences of some of their classmates. Yes, the students learned to shoot accurately with the standardized archery equipment; some very well. However, my strongest takeaway was the obvious boost to self-esteem, positivity and self confidence in the participants that seemed to arrive along with the program. I observed students that were previously quiet and reserved (many who had not participated in any co- or extracurricular activities) become outspoken advocates for archery and their new found team. They were very excited about what they were doing and if you stopped to listen to one of them, they would tell you all about it! An additional exciting discovery was that this program greatly appealed to female students as well as male students. I found an extra sense of wonder when I observed some of the girls in the program become not only the most proficient of archers, but some of the most outspoken advocates for taking up in-school archery. Students from PE class were soon telling others about how well it was going for them in the gym and excitement soon built among lunchroom conversations and on bus rides. Right before my very eyes, archery was becoming a huge “positive” on our campus and from there it simply continued to grow. What started with less then twenty participants had a total of 167 showing up for tryouts in year two. In looking back, and in continued conversations with current NASP® school leaders, I am reminded that so many success stories are shared about students that had previously not participated in school sponsored events. Many of them got on a bus in the morning and then off the bus at home that afternoon. The potential for actually engaging a previously unreached population of students, is truly motivational for today’s school leader. NASP® helped me do that repeatedly and it can help you!
Costs to start and operate the program
At the time of our startup, a NASP® kit was around $2700 (~$3100 now). I knew that it was imperative to seek support from our community. I created fliers announcing that our small high school and eventually our entire district was interested in beginning the program. I contacted local sportsmen groups including chapters from Ducks Unlimited, NWTF, Quail Unlimited along with community organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis and anyone who would allow me to speak. I visited a local dove hunt on a Saturday and placed fliers on windshields there. By Thursday of the next week, I had enough donations to purchase the equivalent of two kits. We were able to publicly thank each and every group and continued to experience their support when I had the archers come to speak and thank each group. This was a huge win for everyone. These groups were able to support students and the students were quickly made aware that their community was behind them! While my community immediately embraced the program from the beginning, I believe that some sort of this type of support is possible anywhere there are outdoors folks looking to support the shooting sports and conservation. While you are likely aware of many types of fundraising going on at your school, the community is indeed out there…Go and seek them!
Before I could fully embrace this program with my students, I had to understand just how likely others would be receptive in the explanation of just how safe NASP® was. I did not wait long. The training for Basic Archery Instructor (The term for someone trained by a NASP® instructor) was predominately about safety. I learned that the training was superior in quality to what I had received in many of my previous safety trainings. Since 2002, NASP® has now had more than 19 million students go through the program without a serious safety incident. Considering the statistics of most of my high school sports teams, I learned that archery was safer and was only behind table tennis with respect to safety. I learned that the Archery Trade Association had produced a document on the safety of archery that can be reviewed at:
Later, as I served as a superintendent, I remember discussing the program with my school board members at a work session and explained the available data and testimonials from similar sized districts that had enjoyed the program. Let me assure that you will be very pleased at the amount of information and the quality of the safety training and track record of NASP®!
I have heard from individuals considering NASP® that they are afraid that there will be increasing insurance costs for their district and that insurance costs will be a significant hurdle to overcome in implementing the program. On the contrary, I have not found this to be the case with any school district from my own experience or since. Having served as a member of the state-wide insurance committee for my state school board association (while I was a superintendent), I did not find any increases noted due to the adoption of the program. With the continued safety record of NASP®, the issues that contribute to rising costs in insurance coverage were not a factor that became additional expenses in premiums. Considering the safety record alluded to earlier, and the rising costs for student injuries in most contact sports, archery created no increases. As I know you will, I urge you to contact the many insurance vendors that offer coverage to districts in your state or jurisdiction that are likely already providing insurance coverage for school districts that are experiencing successful NASP® implementation. You will likely find my words to be true.
Regardless of the activity mentioned, I know that your facility is utilized almost every day, every evening, and most weekends. I also know from experience just how many outside groups want to use your fields, gymnasiums, buses and cafeterias. I know also that this is a constant conversation for those that manage your school or district facilities. Considering the information that I shared earlier with respect to student and culture considerations, I urge you to remember that while archery is the vehicle, it is the impact to students – many of whom you might have been previously unable to reach that will be participating sometime during the week both in PE class as well as after school – should your school or district engage in competitive after-school teams. While superintendent, we had archery going on after school in nineteen of our schools. This was a tremendous effort for scheduling with all the different organizations that request gym time. Again, it was the tremendously positive cultural impacts made with NASP® that made this so doable for us. On particular weekends when schools had fund raising tournaments, there were few parking spaces available there on whatever campus was hosting the event. Parents, grandparents, guardians, siblings and participants all came through to participate in the archery tournament. This was wonderful to see the families there together to support their archer(s). From this point, when our school teams were interested in participating in state and then national level events, we were more than excited due to the numbers of students that participated. I remind you that all I did as a superintendent, was to revisit what I had learned about NASP® as a high school principal, then open the door of possibilities for elementary, middle and high schools in our district. It was and continues to be a huge positive for my former school district.
Choosing the BAI candidate for your school
I know that few other decisions are more important than “who” you hire or select to spend time with your students. For all certified and classified staff as well as the many volunteers and paraprofessionals that you choose, all have a tremendous role to play in building an environment where students can become more successful every day. I also know that certification and other issues sometime may prevent a wide array of choices for your particular situation. When choosing your BAI candidate who will lead the NASP® effort in your school or district, I have some experience to share for making a great choice every time. I suggest that if at all possible and prior to any other consideration, you look for the most “student-centered” educator available. Someone who is totally about every child’s success and someone that is a great relationship builder. I have so much faith in what I saw happen as a result of NASP® BAI training being able to establish safety and instructional expectations for the teacher. They will be ready to teach NASP®. However, it is the interpersonal attributes that I find most common among truly great NASP® teachers and coaches. These people arrive in the role from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. What they all seem to have in common is that they use archery as a tool to reach each student and enable them to continue to grow and develop as individuals and as team members. They become not only be better archers, but also better students in the classroom and more respectful citizens. In my opinion, someone who has a lot of archery experience prior to the BAI course is not at all a factor that I would now consider. The BAI training will give you as a school leader peace of mind regarding the instructor’s ability to address safety and quality of programming. However, if you choose the individual that matches the previous description and match these competent BAI teachers with “super kid advocate” attributes, you will soon be responding to many expressions of gratitude from the parents, guardians and students at your school where you adopted NASP®. As you know in any personnel decision, it is all about the “who” that you choose!
Reducing barriers for special needs students
I can think of no other better example of where NASP® provides yet another leverage point for consideration at your school than what it does for the physically challenged student. Like you, I have watched so many of them observing classmates that are engaged in a school sponsored event where their particular physical situation prevents them from taking part in the action. I am proud to relay that I have seen hundreds of examples where a student is able to fully participate right alongside all other students in NASP®. I have spoken with family members again and again to hear how this opportunity has once again been recognized as “life changing” though the participation of the student – many for the first time. Realizing that your efforts for inclusion, connectedness and participation for all students with disabilities is high on your list of priorities as a school leader, I urge you to give NASP® a serious look!
Introducing NASP® to your school council or school board
Most of what I have provided above would be excellent to share in-advance with decision makers such as school councils or school boards. Whatever, your role and whatever the process in your school system; I strongly suggest that you get these folks on board to share in the pending success that is about to unfold in your school or district. Most decision makers are in those positions to help students experience success. Please plan on explaining to them about your plans to utilize in-school archery to engage and motivate students (many for the first time) as NASP® continues to do what it does in 47 States, 8 Canadian Provinces, & 11 Countries. Yes, once you do, you will have official support due to council or board action. What you will really have are partnerships with people who said “yes” to something that can alter lives.
Thank you for considering the adoption of NASP®. There are many things that I was able to accomplish in my 30+ years in public education of which I am very proud of. NASP® and all that I have seen it do in my multiple roles is definitely one of them. I urge you to find a district in your state or jurisdiction that already has the program in place. Talk to the leadership there. Find out all you can about the impact that it made and is making. After you do, I think you will agree that is a great investment of your time and effort. It will do for you what it has done for so many….Change lives one arrow at a time!
Thomas G. Floyd Ed. D.
Former educational roles
Kentucky Department of Education Chief of staff
Madison County Schools Superintendent
Madison County Schools Assistant Superintendent
Kentucky Department of Education Highly Skilled Educator
Somerset High School Principal
Montgomery County High School Assistant Principal
Teacher – Biology, Human Anatomy and Physiology, Science – Wayne County Schools, Somerset Schools, Montgomery County Schools.