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Archery season back in full swing and more popular than ever

Archery is more popular than ever.

Or at least for the last 100 years. To be fair archery will never be as popular again as it was many centuries ago when archery was a prevalent part of tribal hunting and warfare. With the rise of agriculture, civilization, crossbows, firearms, pre-packaged foods, factory farms, etc the need to hunt for our food has been reduced significantly.

But with respect to the last 100 years archery has seen only 2 periods where it was a fad. The 1950s, when a variety of movies - including many different renditions of Robin Hood - had archery as a major part of the action sequences. Such movies were Westerns, sword and sandal action flicks, and a variety of Robin Hood ripoffs like "The Flame and the Arrow" starring a very young Burt Lancaster.

But the 1950s was a hiccup compared to the height of popularity archery has achieved now. And movies like "The Flame and the Arrow" now feel poorly made, as even during their time they were low-budget flicks designed to capitalize on the archery fad of the times. By today's standards such films would be B movies at best - and certainly wouldn't have star power like Burt Lancaster in a B movie role.


But how do I know that archery is more popular now than it was in the 1950s?

It is a combination of factors. Facetime on mass media, equipment sales records, the sheer number of people at the archery range - which is 15 times what it used to be 4 - 5 years ago.

The 1950s had school archery clubs in a rare few schools. By a few, I mean a rare few. While some schools did hop on the archery bandwagon during the 1940s, 1950s and even 1960s it was not a popular thing to do at the time.

Now? Thanks to a school archery program that began in Alabama over a decade ago that program has spread to hundreds and then thousands of schools across the USA. Canadian schools have begun to create their own similar programs, but it is more rare as Canada doesn't have the obesity rate the USA does and the program was started primarily for the reason of fighting obesity amongst Alabama schools.

The National Archery in Schools Program (NASP) was started in 2001 and has since had some small headway in Canada - mostly in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Prince Edward Island.

It isn't that archery isn't in its own fad stage here in Canada too, the problem is Canadian schools have not been signing on for a Canadian version of the NASP program at the same speed as American schools.

So if you are a parent and have kids who want to do archery, my advice is that you visit the NASP website (naspschools.org) and see if you can encourage your local school board to add archery as an after-school program for kids.

You might wonder why I am promoting this. Well, I am not getting paid by NASP if that is what you think. The truth is I am contacted daily by Toronto parents looking for archery lessons for their kids after school and on weekends - and my schedule is so full with my personal training sessions, boxing lessons, archery lessons, etc - to say nothing of having a social life - that I know right now that I am going to be turning people away for archery lessons because my schedule on some days is so full.

Thus it makes sense for me to promote alternative ways for parents to get archery lessons for their kids. For example, in addition to promoting NASP in Toronto schools, parents could also send their kids to one of the many day camps or summer camps in Ontario that offer archery. You can see a list of archery camps near Toronto by visiting ArcheryToronto.ca.

However a bit of advice regarding summer camps, a lot of them get booked full months in advance. So if you want to send your kids to a summer camp that has archery, you will need to do this NOW rather than later. Some summer camps book up full in February and cannot accept any more.

And if you cannot get a spot at a summer camp, if your kid's school doesn't offer archery, if people like myself are too busy, well then your next best option is to buy your own archery equipment, buy a book like "Precision Archery" by Steve Ruis and Claudia Stevenson, and then learn as best as you can using the book. If you opt for this then I recommend that the parent ALSO learn archery so that their kid is learning from you, instead of just fumbling the process and achieving horrible results.

Another option, often ignored, is to enroll your kids in Boy Scouts / Girl Guides. Boy Scouts is how I first tried archery in 1989. Find a group that has archery listed amongst their activities, ask the organizers how often archery is done in the group (not as much as you like, but still often enough) and then enroll little Samuel or Samantha in scouts / guides.

When archery became vogue during the 1950s it stayed pretty popular until the early 1970s. I fully expect the current rise in archery's popularity to last until 2030 at least. Or maybe we will see a resurgence in the sport the likes we have never seen before, effecting generations to come. That would be welcome too.

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