Several years ago, things were changing in my life. I had a young daughter that was a ball of energy and just loved to do things with her Dad. My wife was in the process of going back to school to change careers. Competitive Pistol Shooting, which I loved, was becoming too expensive and time-consuming. There was simply too much going on and if I wanted a hobby, it would have to be something that I could do with my daughter.
As a kid, I used to love going to Wapiti Archers with my Grandfather. It got me out of the city and into the woods. Archery was very different back then but, for years, I wanted to get back into the sport.
The timing was right, with my wife in school on the weekends, why not get a bow and take my daughter into the woods with me? I bought myself a Mission Craze from Woody’s Sporting Goods and fumbled my way through learning again.
Eventually, I met Troy out at Hamburg Game Association and my daughter and I became regulars at their events. Before long we were going to different clubs and shooting their courses. One of the more memorable clubs was Stowe Archers.
Inside the clubhouse, there were photos of kids at different tournaments. Some of the parents talked about the club’s Youth Team for PSAA States and others spoke highly of the Monday Night Youth Program.
The club seemed like a great place to shoot and I was excited for my daughter. She was still pretty young yet but there were plenty of other kids to learn from. I signed on as a member and I’ve been very active in the club ever since.
While the club has progressed in many ways, one area that seems to have regressed is youth participation. Those photos that hung on the clubhouse walls are still there. Most of the kids in those pictures are still shooting (some of them are shooting extremely well) but there was no younger generation to come up behind them.
With the passing of Curt Peterson and Jim Mease, the dynamic of the club shifted. Participation in our Monday Night Youth Program began to fall off and kids that were serious about the sport splintered off. Those with a passion for 3D went one way to do their thing while those passionate about Spots went another to do their own thing.
Kids in the Monday Night Youth Program that wanted to move on to the next level were directed towards programs at Lancaster Archery and French Creek Outfitters. We simply didn’t have the volunteers to start our own specialized program that went beyond an intro to archery.
As my daughter’s interest in the archery grew, I wanted her to be able to join an archery team – much like she could for any other sport in the area. That meant that I would either need to put in the time traveling to and from other clubs or I would need to put in the work to start a program at Stowe.
I spent the next several months kicking around ideas for various programs. Did we want to go the JOAD route or did we want to build a program that was unique to our club? There were a lot of what if’s and we just couldn’t get any momentum going.
I was about to give up on the idea until I noticed an increase in Youth attendance at our monthly 3D Shoots. After talking to a couple of parents, I learned that Reading Archery Club had launched an S3DA Program.
Intrigued, I attended the LLB S3DA Fundraiser at Reading. I spent a little time talking to Bob Lauffer, one of the coaches there and knew that S3DA was something that I wanted to learn more about. Bob was instrumental and getting me the information I would need to start our own program at Stowe.
Early this year, I presented the idea at one of our monthly membership meetings. Everyone was supportive of the idea and we had a few people interested in coming on board as coaches. Kids and parents seemed excited. It looked like the program was going to get off to a great start.
Unfortunately, the excitement faded as we spent the next several months trying to get answers from the national organization. Communication was abysmal and it looked like our program might be a flop before it ever got started.
Some sort of internal shake up happened at S3DA HQ and there was a public Facebook post explaining that communication would be better going forward. True to their word, we were put in touch with the right people to setup our Basic Coaching Certification course.
As that date grows closer, I find myself lying awake at night thinking about an S3DA Program at Stowe. I think about how we could have a whole new group of kids in the club, passionate about the sport. I think about how we can make team practice fun while teaching. I think about how this could help boost our lean shooter turnout at events. Most of all, I think about all of the quality time I’ll get to spend with my daughter.
As I type this, I’m faced with a mix of excitement and nervousness. Our Coaching Certification Course is tomorrow and our very first S3DA Open Practice is being held the very next day. I don’t know if the program is going to kick off with one person on the team or ten. To be honest, I don’t really care – I’m just excited to finally get started!