The National Archery in the Schools Program took root in North Dakota in 2005, not long after its successful launch in Kentucky a couple of years earlier.
Since then, the program has grown consistently. In North Dakota in 2017, more than 100 schools and thousands of students participated, culminating in a state tournament that has broken attendance records several years in a row.
Most schools in North Dakota that offer NASP include it as part of their physical education curriculum, so all students in certain grade levels are exposed to archery target shooting, just as they are with many other types of PE disciplines.
In North Dakota and nationally, schools involved in the program have documented an increase in attendance, heightened self-esteem and improved academic performance by participants.
The state Game and Fish Department administers the program in North Dakota and has a grant program set up to help schools with costs for bows, arrows, targets and safety equipment. There also is a national NASP grant program. Together, the two grant programs can help schools defray about half of the initial startup costs for equipment.
Jeff Long, the Game and Fish Department's coordinator for NASP, said in a recent Game and Fish weekly webcast that since NASP started in North Dakota, about 175 schools have implemented the curriculum, and roughly 10,000 kids participated in 2017 alone.
All schools that offer NASP instruction in-school through PE or other classroom integration are eligible to send teams to the state tournament. This year, the state event is March 23-24 at the State Fair Center in Minot.
The tournament will feature team and individual categories in elementary, middle school and high school, including awards and prizes, and up to $20,000 in college scholarships available to the top 10 boys and girls in each grade division.
Additionally, the top 10 boys and girls qualify for NASP nationals in Louisville, Ky.
Long says the program is so popular with school administrators and PE teachers because it is an all-inclusive sport. "Boys and girls line up on the same line and participate at the same," Long said. "And of course, top of our list is safety, and NASP still boasts, with 2.3 million kids a year nationally doing this, they still have a 100 percent safety record."
The Game and Fish Department is an advocate for NASP partly because it introduces kids, many of whom have never held a bow before taking the class, to a shooting sport. Just as important is the benefit to the kids, whether they pick up a bow again after the class or not.
"People think of it (archery) as active because they are drawing, they are shooting, they are retrieving arrows, but really what it comes down to is it is a mental sport," Long said. "You have to train yourself mentally, and there are very few sports that you can train yourself, and you can actually do that with archery."
For more information, contact Long at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (701) 328-6322.