Column: Program is a bridge between school archery and hunting. And it's growing like crazy.

Photo: Paul A. Smith, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Column: Program is a bridge between school archery and hunting. And it's growing like crazy.

Youth Sports

Column: Program is a bridge between school archery and hunting. And it's growing like crazy.

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FOND DU LAC – The flight of archers was called to the line.

Thirty students, ranging from elementary to high school, picked their bows off stands and walked a few steps to their shooting positions.

If you ever want to know how quiet and attentive school-aged kids can be, visit a scholastic archery competition.

Not a word was said by the youngsters. After the command was given to start shooting, the only sound in the Fond du Lac Expo Center was the “pffp, pffp, pffp” of arrows slicing through air and into targets.

A respectful hush continued until the last shooter had finished his end of five arrows.

Then after another command the group walked downrange to check their shots, tally their scores and retrieve their arrows.

Such decorum is par for the course in archery. So it was no surprise the participants at this event, the Wisconsin Scholastic 3-D Archery (S3DA) 2019 State Indoor Championship, held true to the virtues.

The S3DA program itself, however, is relatively new and different. It’s also on the rise in Wisconsin and across the nation.

Participants score shots at the Wisconsin Indoor Championships of the Scholastic 3-D Archery (S3DA) program. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)

Founded in December 2012 by the Scholastic Archery Association, S3DA was developed to follow introductory programs offered by 4-H or the National Archery in the Schools Program.

It was initiated by Jennie Richardson, a former eighth grade math teacher and softball coach from Kentucky, who worked with NASP from 2002 to 2012.

As opposed to NASP – which is offered as part of a school curriculum and requires all participants to use a Genesis compound bow – the S3DA is run outside of school hours.

Teams are typically formed by conservation clubs, archery shops or other businesses. And the students can shoot the bow of their choice, as well as use sights and releases.

Essentially, S3DA allows the participants to shoot the same equipment they would use to hunt. In that respect, S3DA provides a bridge from scholastic archery to hunting and conservation.

That critical feature was part of the inspiration for S3DA, according to Dan Schroeder, archery education administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“Through (S3DA), these kids are able to use the gear and learn the skills that, if that’s what they’d like to pursue, can transfer directly into bowhunting,” Schroeder said.

Through S3DA, they can use equipment they own and have customized to their needs or preferences.

As its name implies, at outdoor S3DA events the targets include three-dimensional animal forms.

At shoots such as the Wisconsin Indoor State Championships in Fond du Lac, paper targets are used.

Nationally, the S3DA program has grown “exponentially” over the last six years, according to program officials. Now in its third year in Wisconsin, S3DA has 302 participants, Schroeder said.

“We tripled in the last year,” Schroeder said. “And from the clubs and training we are scheduling, I suspect we will triple our numbers by this time next year.”

The S3DA has partnerships with USA Archery (which includes U.S. Olympic archery) and the National Field Archery Association (NFAA).

The partnerships help enhance the life-long, family aspects of archery, Schroeder said.

You know those despicable incidents of parents fighting with each other or hounding officials at a sporting event? Those are not S3DA.

Rules call for immediate disqualification for verbal abuse directed at tournament officials, other shooters or spectators. The competitions also have a dress code and a “no-littering” regulation. Any participant who litters a shooting site is immediately disqualified.

Brenda Schroeder of Hortonville was one of the volunteers helping to run the S3DA Wisconsin Indoor Championships. A mother of four, she has been to an untold number of youth sporting competitions over the last two decades. The archery atmosphere is very different, she said.

“You go to basketball tournaments and the coaches typically don’t share anything, they only want to beat each other,” Schroeder said. “At archery tournaments, everybody is helping each other to get better.”

At the S3DA Wisconsin Indoor Championships, 115 archers competed in boys and girls divisions in elementary, middle school and high school divisions.

The archers were divided into four flights, starting at 9:30 a.m. and ending about 5 p.m.

Elementary students shot targets at 10 yards; the others at 20.

Each archer shot 30 arrows, divided into six ends of five. The highest possible score was 150 points with 30 “x’s.”

The top score at the event was turned in by Cameron Katz, a female elementary school student from Hartland and member of Sherwood Forest. Katz shot a 150 with 27 “x’s.” Katz shot at 10 yards.

Three high school students also shot perfect 150s on their 20-yard targets. Brady Buss of Fond du Lac and Straight FAC had 26 “x’s” in his 150, while Crystal Zessin from Neenah and a member of Blazin Arrows had 21 and Joel Kerkoff of Green Bay and the HEAT team had 17.

Brittany Lewin of Algoma retrieves her arrows during a special “Dragon Shoot” following her session. (Photo: Paul A. Smith)

Dozens of archers posted scores in the high 140s.

And others, like Brittany Lewin, a 4th grader from Algoma, shot their personal best. In her three events this year, Lewin shot 78, 113 and then, at the biggest competition of her young life, she recorded a 124.

“I’m looking forward to doing this outside, too,” Lewin said.

The S3DA schedule will shift to outdoor events, typically beginning in April.  The Wisconsin program will hold its state outdoor championships June 23 at Outagamie Conservation Club in Hortonville.

The S3DA activities extend beyond archery for many clubs, too.

The Blazin Arrows of Hortonville has adopted a state wildlife area, for example, and is planning to get involved in Project Snapshot, a citizen science project involving trail cams, Dan Schroeder said.

Beyond that, the Wisconsin S3DA has created a strong sense of camaraderie.

This weekend the S3DA Indoor National Championships and NFAA National Tournament are being held in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

The Wisconsin participants are traveling together to the events and staying in the same hotel, Schroeder said.

On the same weekend, kids and their parents will travel, make memories and compete in archery events. 

“It’s so neat to see the family atmosphere with this,” Schroeder said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re so optimistic about S3DA and it’s potential for growth.”

To learn more about S3DA in Wisconsin, contact Schroeder at daniel.schroeder@wisconsin.gov.

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