Olympic Primer: ArcheryBy Amy Hatfield
If you flip through photos of Brady Ellison on NBC's Olympic Web pages, you'll see an Olympic athlete - an archer - often wearing red, white and blue gear. He's young and lean with a hip style. And then, on the bill of his cap, you'll see a fishhook.
As someone who grew up and still lives in rural America, I see that fishhook and think, "I know that guy." I actually don't know Ellison (I've only met him once), but I know his kind. He's one of us. He could just as easily be the small-town kid you see behind the wheel of a pickup truck with heavy mud caked on big tires. He's the neighbor who comes by to fish your pond and, before leaving, brings a string of brim by the backdoor, a thanks for your trouble.
Yes, he hunts and bends his bill. He recognizes the value of always having a toothpick handy. That is a toothpick, right?
There's a litany of reasons the archery and bowhunting community will tune in to follow Ellison and the USA Archery team. A sense of identification, that kinship, is only one. Anytime archery is in the spotlight, the sport has a chance to gain traction. And what a year it's been. Hollywood has shined on us: first with "Hunger Games," then Pixar's "Brave." Both feature archery as a critical piece of each film's storyline. ATA member shop Archery Only, located in northern California, and it's owner Wayne Piersol spent two days with Pixar Studios working to capture audio of arrows flying, arrow impacts and bows being shot so "Brave" would present archery authentically and accurately. You can see pics of the project and get more details here. Meanwhile, ATA member shop, K & B Archery, got creative and promoted their shop and the services it provides by offering shooting and instruction at a local theater before "Hunger Games" opened. Spotlight moments don't come easily and, often, we have little control over the next moments that come around. But when they do, when that mainstream-something splashes archery into the country's homes or theaters, we better have places for inspired novice archers to go. And, in many cases, we can now say we do.
I remember seeing "A River Runs Through It" the first time and thinking, "I WILL learn to fly fish." I was in high school, and I had never seen anyone fish like that. I couldn't get it out my head. It looked so cool. What fun! But I didn't know a soul who could teach me. So I bought books and read them and made notes in the margins about stopping the cast at 10 o'clock and ending the back cast at 2. Flick the wrist.
Right now, if I were in high school, saw "Hunger Games" and felt inspired to shoot archery, I wouldn't have to buy a book. There's ways to plug in. There's NASP. There's Explore Bowhunting. There's infrastructure: archery parks and ranges, archery instruction and participation opportunities through many city and county park-and-rec departments. The ways archery is available is growing. If you want specifics on what's been achieved and what's left to do to put archery within reach of anyone looking to shoot, check out the ATA's Archery Report here.
In the meantime, watch as the world tunes in to watch archery, America's brand of archery: bent bills, fishhooks and a 23-year-old named Brady who goes to London favored to win it all.
Olympic Archery Facts and Links
Did You Know?
The ATA has more than 1,600 members from all 50 states and 13 countries.