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Hollywood Heroines Propel Archery Revival

  • Faiza Elmasry

Twelve-year-old Bethanie Borst started archery lessons seven weeks ago, after reading "The Hunger Games," a book featuring a young heroine who wields a bow.

“It’s not easy, it’s hard," Bethanie says. "You have to keep trying and getting it right, but it’s fun.”

Her mother, Amy Borst, believes archery is the right sport for her daughter.

“It’s a very independent sport. It’s not a team sport, so she can go on her own pace," Amy says. "She can concentrate and focus a little bit better because she has to learn to really focus instead of just shooting the arrow immediately. She has to really focus and take her time. I think that applies to school work as well.”

That inner focus also appeals to sixth-grader Russell Sperks. “If I make a goal and I achieve it, it gives me just a sense of accomplishment.”

Bethanie and Russell are taking part in an activity that has been around for centuries. Until guns began to replace archery in the 1600s, the bow and arrow was the weapon of choice for hunters and warriors around for world. However, archery never completely disappeared and has made a comeback, as a sport, in recent years.

Bethanie and Russell's instructor is Ruth Rowe, a member of the 1984 U.S. Olympic archery team. As she helps young archers work on their form and technique, she notes that unlike most other sports, archery doesn’t involve speed or agility, quite the opposite.

“You want to be calm, centered within yourself," Rowe says. "It’s very, very quiet. It’s very, very still.”

Interest in the sport surged after the U.S. men’s archery team won the silver medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

But Hollywood has been even more important to the sport’s resurgence, according to Rowe.

“Considering that The Hunger Games movies are not going away. Brave is not going away," she says. "There are now TV shows that have people doing archery in the shows. I think there is so much video and ways to see it now that didn’t exist a little bit ago.”

Archery can be an ideal sport to begin later in life.

“It’s parallel to golf in that it’s a precision sport," Rowe says. "It is a life-long sport. We have people starting in their 50s and 60s and they can enjoy it.”

Charles Rendleman is one of those older archers. He was introduced to the sport when his teenage sons started taking lessons four years ago and is now an archery coach.

“One of the things I really like about archery is that it offers personal development," Rendleman says. "As an archer, I can pay attention to what’s going on within my concentration, coordination and work on that.”

That's just part of the sport’s philosophy.

“Every arrow is a discrete entity," Rowe adds. "Every time you have a chance to start anew. If you make a mistake, the hard part is emotionally letting go with the mistake and get the next arrow to do it the way you need to do it.”

It's a life lesson that’s right on target.