I coach at a small Parochial school in Louisville, Kentucky, where I’ve seen numerous students improve their self-esteem, concentration, and social skills by becoming contributing members of our archery team. There is one archer who distinctly stands out as a most impressive example of how this sport can have a positive impact on students. Her name is Keri Anne.
I first met Keri Anne when teaching archery during PE to the 4th graders at our school. I was aware that she was diagnosed with Selective Mutism, which is an anxiety disorder in which a person is unable to speak in certain situations. School is one of those situations for Keri Anne. I knew she would only communicate with smiles and nods.
She showed promise in archery, and I had no trouble teaching her the basics. Keri Anne decided to join the team! When team practices started in October, the full-gym environment of archers was too chaotic and overwhelming. Keri Anne chose not to join that year.
At the start of 5th grade, I once again taught archery in PE, and Keri Anne showed the same potential as before. When the team formed this time, with bravery and determination, she joined the team – and stayed! As she participated in her first tournaments, I had my daughter (as assistant coach for our team) keep close during scoring. I didn’t want any of Keri Anne’s partners from other schools to question her lack of speaking or do anything to discourage her. I soon found out that wasn’t necessary. One of the magical aspects of NASP® is that most archers are kind, friendly, and accepting of each other. Turns out scoring works just fine with smiles and nods.
Keri Anne is now in 8th grade. She is a solid shooter who earned a team score for us at the Kentucky state competition last year. I am excited to see how she fares as she heads to high school, where I am sure NASP® archery will allow her to keep making friends and enjoying meaningful team sport experiences all while defying adversity.