By David Fong
TROY — Barb Roberts gave a series of whistles, at which point roughly two dozen seventh and eighth grade students walked forward to a line on the Troy Junior High School gymnasium floor, selected arrows from the quivers spaced out on the gym floor and inserted them into their bows.
The boys and girls pulled the strings of their bows back in unison, then let the arrows fly toward the intended target. Less than a second later, the arrows hit the targets — some of them landing in the yellow bullseye — with a satisfying “THWACK!”
“The kids love this,” said Roberts, a physical education teacher and — along with fellow physical education teacher Jeff Olden — one of two coaches for the TJHS archery team. “We brought this in 10 years ago as part of our physical education curriculum, and the kids went nuts.”
Because of the popularity of the archery program within the physical education classes, Roberts began looking for ways to turn a class activity into a full-fledged club team.
“We found were were getting a lot of kids who weren’t necessarily into the more traditional sports who wanted to participate in this,” Roberts said. The majority of the students who are now on the junior high school team do not participate in either a TJHS sport or a recreational youth sport other than archery. “The parents love it, too. They love the fact their kids are getting involved in something. Our parents have been wonderful — they’ve been so supportive of what we are doing.”
The parents haven’t been the only ones who have been supportive of the program. The year after archery was introduced into the classroom, the first Troy Junior High School archery team was formed. In the early days, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources played a key role in getting the team off the ground.
“One of the ODNR officers, Jeff Wenning, asked us, ‘Why don’t you compete?’ That first year, the ODNR let us borrow the equipment we needed,” Roberts said.
Soon after, the archery team applied for and received grants from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Troy Foundation. The Troy Fish and Game has continued to provide financial support throughout the history of the team, Roberts said.
The program has continued to grow and the Troy Trojan Archery Booster Association has helped the team become more financially self-sufficient through a series of fundraisers, such as an upcoming shoot-a-thon this weekend and helping with parking at Troy Strawberry Festival events.
“The support we’ve had has been incredible,” Roberts said. “Not just the financial support, but the support from school administrators. When we first started, (former Troy superintendent) Tom Dunn and (former Troy athletic director) Tom Mercer both came out and saw what we were doing. They were both very supportive. (Current Troy superintendent) Eric Herman has been to see us a number of times and has been very supportive.
“I think the big thing everyone wanted to make sure of at first was that we were being safe. Absolutely, safety is our number one concern when we do this. We spend a lot of time teaching the kids safety before we ever let them start shooting.”
Since the Trojans have started shooting, they’ve seen nothing but success. The Troy Junior High School team currently boasts 82 archers. In 2008, the program was expanded to Troy High School. Tim Anderson, who manages the Tackle Shack in Troy — which features an indoor archery range — coaches the 39 members of the high school team.
On March 4, the junior high and high school teams both will compete at the state meet, which is a part of the Arnold Classic in Columbus. The teams will attempt to qualify for the National Archery Tournament, which will take place in Louisville, Ky., in May. Troy has qualified for nationals every year the program has been in existence.
“The kids and parents have been amazing,” Roberts said. “I’ve been coaching different sports for 32 years now, and these archery kids and parents are as dedicated as any I’ve ever coached. If we tell them to be here at 6:45 a.m. for practice, they are here and the parents get them here. It’s just a really neat thing to see.”
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong