“We read the books last fall,” the River Ridge Elementary pupil said of the popular Suzanne Collins trilogy. “I wanted to do archery; I wanted to be like Katniss Everdeen.”
The 11-year-old, inspired by the discipline and bravery of the storyfilm’s heroine, is part of a Hollywood-generated movement that is luring more young people – especially girls – to archery.
“Ever since the movie came out, there’s been a huge buzz about Hunger Games,” said Grace’s volunteer coach, Howard Solki, who manages Columbia County’s 4-H Junior Olympic Archery Development program. “This session, we have 32 kids total.”
Beyond the patience and competitive marksmanship associated with a shooting sport, archery also helps kids make new friends, said Samantha Basso, a Lakeside Middle School pupil and member of the 4-H team. “One of the best things is getting to spend time outside with people who like the same things we do.”
Hunger Games has also broadened interest in a program to offer archery instruction in public schools, said John Mitchell, the northern region shooting sports coordinator for Georgia’s Wildlife Resources Division.
“I have sent many, many people information in the last couple months about our programs and how to get involved,” he said. “The typical caller says something like, ‘My daughter wants to shoot a bow because she read the book, or saw the movie.’”
Georgia is among 48 states that participate in the National Archery in the Schools program, which has spread to 9,000 schools since it was created in 2002.
“We’ve certified about 270 schools here in Georgia,” Mitchell said. “It started as a pilot project in 2004 with about 20 schools and we’ve been adding about 50 more every year since then.”
Mitchell and his southern region counterpart, Matt Stewart, help train teachers who serve as instructors in the program, for which schools can get grants that pay $1,500 of the $2,800 startup cost.
“It can be taught during PE, or sometimes a club is formed after school,” Stewart said. “Anyone wanting to start a program can just call us.”
Although Archery in the Schools programs are not offered in Richmond or Columbia counties, the movie was a hot topic at a recent teacher training session in Savannah, Ga.
“An Olympian archer trained Jennifer Lawrence, and now a lot of kids are reading those books and seeing the movie,” Stewart said. “We certified about 13 schools yesterday and the teachers were all telling me the kids were asking about archery. That movie really generated a lot of new interest.”
Until more archery programs are established in local schools, other opportunities include programs held at Fort Gordon.
“We host, probably, at least five or six archery tournaments throughout the year,” said Fred Perry, the post’s recreation manager.
“We don’t have actual archery instruction, but we do have archery ranges that are open to the public.”
Some local retailers who sell bows and archery gear can also provide instruction.
“In 10 minutes, at 10 yards, I can have you hitting the bullseye, even if you’ve never shot a bow,” said Jack Woods, an archery pro at Waldens sporting goods store in Martinez, which has an indoor archery range. “It’s easy and it’s fun.”
Across the Savannah River in Clearwater, another public indoor range is available at Hooties Outdoors.
“We have four or five guys in our archery department and we all kind of help out, especially with young kids who are getting started,” said Dylan McCreery, one of the archery technicians. The 10-lane range is also available for practice for $5 per hour. “When people buy a bow, though, they get a couple hours free,” he said.