Archery is becoming an important component of high school thanks to an initiative called National Archery in the Schools Program that was started in March 2002. The idea behind the formation of NASP was to work closely with state conservation departments, school systems and private groups to help engage more kids with the outdoors. It’s a skill that can be honed, promoting a popular activity, as well as fine-tuning physical agility and mental toughness. To date, more than 4 million students in over 8,500 schools located in 47 states and five countries participate in NASP.
New York is slowly starting to catch on. This state was the 44th to get the arrows flying for youth grades 4 through 12. In just 10 years, the Empire State has seen 333 schools from 178 school districts bring more than 34,000 students to the shooting line during the 2016-17 school year.
Earlier in March, the state's Department of Environmental Conservation host the 10th annual NASP state tournament in Utica. A total of 485 students participated in the marksmanship challenge, representing 25 school districts across the state. The tournament is offered only to students who participated in NASP during in-school classes taught by certified instructors.
For brothers Dan and Reed Hoffman of Holland, archery has come to be an important part of their lives. It hasn’t always been that way. Dan, a ninth-grader from Holland Central School, recently became the top male archer in the state contest with a score of 289 out of 300. Reed, a fifth-grader, scored 265 out of 300 that was good for seventh place overall and first place in the Elementary School Division. Dan still has a possible three years more in the program and Reed has seven.
In fourth grade, Dan was not very serious about archery or the necessary practice it took to be a consistent performer. In fifth grade, Dan placed seventh in the state and was invited to the National Shoot in Louisville, Ky.
“Nationals was an amazing experience,” Dan said. “There are targets lined up as far as the eye can see. Nearly 12,000 archers compete over the course of three days. Once you’ve made it to the nationals, it’s a heartbreaker not to qualify. It’s something to look forward to.”
Dan enjoys archery because it’s something he can do for fun, compete as an individual and apply his skills in the woods during bow season as a big game hunter.
“It’s something we can practice at home and as a family,” he said. “And it’s fun to have ‘bragging rights’ and know that you are really good at something that you’ve worked really hard for.”
“We started the National Archery in the Schools Program about five years ago,” said Timothy Buckenmeyer, who helps coach and run the program at Holland. “We teach all of our 4-12 grade students archery in the district each year. Dan started as a fourth-grader and took to it right away. He shoots all year at home and his score at the state tournament showed. He is very passionate about archery and makes it a part of his daily life, which is amazing."
Unfortunately, they had only nine students shoot at the state tournament, not quite enough to constitute a team. Instead, they shot as individuals and did superb.
Enter Dan’s brother Reed, who also started to shoot while he was in fourth grade at H.O. Brumsted Elementary School in Holland. His incentive is to beat his brother’s accomplishments along the way.
“I like to earn trophies and I want to beat my brother’s scores,” Reed said.
He’s well on his way. He beat Dan’s fifth grade final score by 50 points and placed seventh overall. Sound familiar?
Dan and Reed say that dedication is important if they desire continued success.
“Practice, practice, practice,” Dan said. “We keep a notebook and track our scores with the help of our parents every time we shoot. We are constantly trying to improve our scores.”
“Watch other successful archers and pay attention,” Reed said. “Listen to your coach. Practice even when you don’t feel like practicing. If you shoot a bad arrow, forget about it and move on. Focus on the next arrow.”
It’s hard to believe he’s just 10 years old.
You can see this is more than just kids enjoying some extracurricular activities with bows and arrows. There are life lessons that are being taught. One big one is don’t give up. There’s a tremendous amount of self-discipline. Patience, persistence and plenty of practice, too. Clear your mind. Focus on what’s next. These lessons are still developing with the Hoffman brothers, knowledge that will pay back big dividends as they grow up, finish school and become adults.
It also helps to have the support of the family. They are the sons of Dan and Taina (Armstrong) Hoffman, who provide the guidance. We should also mention grandfather Ken Armstrong, who is the No. 1 fan of the boys and travels to all their competitions. Their next test will be at the Kentucky Expo Center in Louisville for the nationals June 7-9.
Other winners worthy of recognition in the NASP state tournament hosted by the DEC at SUNY Polytechnic Institute is Victoria Yuknek of St. Joseph by the Sea School in Richmond County who was the top female archer with an impressive score of 291 out of a possible 300. St. Joseph by the Sea also earned first place team in the high school division.
First place in the Middle School Division went to Hinsdale in Cattaraugus County.
First place team in the elementary division was Schroon Lake Central School in Essex County.
Individuals who place in the Top 10 in their division, as well as teams who place in the top three, all qualify for the nationals and represent New York State.