Archery is an old skill, memorialized in epic poetry from Homer’s “Iliad” to the medieval tale of “Rabunhod,” or Robin Hood. It was an arrow, after all, by which the mighty Achilles fell to Paris during the Trojan War.
The power and respect of the bow, though, is not confined to mythology or folklore. In “Toxophilus,” a defense of the English longbow, Robert Ascham writes, “(H)ow fit shooting a bow is for all kinds of men; how honest a pastime for the mind; how wholesome an exercise for the body; not vile for great men to use, not costly for poor men to sustain, not lurking in holes and corners for ill men at their pleasure to misuse it, but abiding in open sight and face of the world.”
This was written in 1545; a few decades later, in 1583, the first recorded archery competition was held in Finsbury, England, with more than 3,000 participants.
This tradition is continued still today in a time when archery is considered either a means of hunting or a sport. It requires skill, precision and the utmost concentration. One aims and lets go, trusting that one’s aim, body positioning, stillness is just right, and the arrow once released from its bow will hit its intended target, whether a sheet of paper tacked on a wall or a deer in oak brush.
Here in Pagosa Springs, youngsters are getting a chance to not only learn the skill of archery, but will be given the opportunity to compete as well, with the Pagosa Springs Youth Archery program.
Colton Castro, in the youth division, has been involved in archery for less than a year, yet his short involvement does not affect his great enthusiasm for the sport. When asked by SUN staff why he liked archery, Castro responded, “This is my relaxing place, and it feels good to come here and have this place.” A response with which Robert Ascham would most assuredly concur.
“Archery does a few things,” said organizer and coach of the group, local pro-archer Jeff Dysinger. First, Dysinger said it mentally challenges the individual to repeat the same footing, sighting, hand position over and over. A hard thing for any person to do, Dysinger admitted, but especially hard for children.
Second, Dysinger said it teaches the kids responsibility, through keeping score and having to do it honestly. As the kid shoots arrows down the range at the Ski and Bow Rack, Dysinger is not there supervising every score card filled out. He entrusts that responsibility to the kids, and the kids, Dysinger said, rise to the occassion.
Lastly, archery, in the competitive realm, teaches the kids how to deal with space. According to Dysinger, during national and world competitions in Las Vegas, archers are lined closely together, almost shoulder to shoulder. With noises from audience, from bows being released and arrows flying, “It’s like being in a popcorn machine,” Dysinger said. This requires concentration, and concentration requires discipline.
Dysinger started the Pagosa Springs Youth Archery Program two years ago. The club now has grown to around 15 members and, according to Dysinger, the girls on the team are some of the hardest to beat.
“There’s a good in-team rivalry going between some of the girls,” Dysinger said.
The kids have always competed in tournaments, but this year, Dysinger hopes to raise the funds to take a handful of young archers to compete in the National Field Archers Association tournament in Las Vegas early in February.
“That’s why I’m doing this. If I had this chance at their age, you couldn’t touch me right now,” Dysigner said, adding, “hopefully it will show them what competition is all about.”
In preparation for the Las Vegas tournament, Pagosa Springs will host the Southwest Regional Tournament Jan. 14. This will be the first time Pagosa has hosted a youth tournament.
If you are interested in signing your child up for the Youth Archery Program or you would like to help the young archers pay for their trip to the national tourn ament, contact Dysinger by phone at 946-9958 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. The youth and cub division meets every Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Ski and Bow Rack.