NEW ULM, Minn. - The Kentucky High School Athletic Association has sanctioned archery as an official high school sport.
Now students in the bluegrass state can hone their skills and passion for the sport in the same ways as members of football, baseball, soccer and other traditional high school teams.
"This announcement is a positive step toward weaving archery into the fabric of communities nationwide," said Mitch King, ATA director of government relations. "Once archery is offered as a sanctioned sport at this level, it will likely thrive and produce additional opportunities for archery enthusiasts."
The ATA promotes archery at all stages and recognizes that, for the sport to grow in popularity, it must be readily available like little league baseball - easy to get involved in with chances to progress.
"Now that archery is sanctioned, kids can start learning the basics early on and think about archery as a long-term goal," said Jennifer Mazur, ATA archery and bowhunting programs coordinator. "It will increase the amount of interest and motivation to get involved among middle school students, whether they choose to continue to compete in high school and possibly in college, or become bowhunters."
Unlike the straight path of an accurately aimed arrow to its target, the path for young archers branches in multiple directions, offering options to suit individual interests.
The competitive archery path begins at schools through programs such as the National Archery in the Schools Program, which originated in Kentucky.
"NASP has done an incredible job getting kids involved in their schools through providing archery instruction and equipment," King said. "Sanctioning archery for high schools will expand the introductory knowledge students gain through NASP while introducing new archers to the sport."
Another path archers may choose is to shoot bows and arrows with the intent to eventually become bowhunt.
While the paths diverge in some ways, archers on any path will likely visit an archery shop, seek instruction or repairs, purchase equipment and, ultimately, support the growth of archery programs through the excise taxes levied on the equipment they buy.
Mazur said interest in archery is growing nationwide thanks, in part, to the Olympic Games, movies including "The Hunger Games" and "Brave," and various TV shows where archery is a central theme. She foresees other states following Kentucky in sanctioning the sport in high schools - a positive movement for students, manufacturers and retailers.
"The more high school athletic associations we get to participate, the more students we can help bridge the gap between first trying archery and sticking with it for life," Mazur said.
Earlier this year, the KHSAA also sanctioned bowling and bass fishing as varsity sports for the state's 220 public high schools, hoping to attract more student athletes into organized sporting activities.
Featured photo on News page: Teresa Iaconi