The only previous experience Alisa Borders had in archery was a gym class she had to take in college. She never thought she’d be coaching fourth- and fifth-graders in the sport.

When the National Wild Turkey Federation’s “Archery in the Schools” program began at Summit Elementary School in September, Borders, a special education teacher, planned to simply supervise the 30 children in the class.

“Who knew what you’d use from college,” she said laughingly. “I’m not standing back watching like I thought I would, I’m right there telling the kids to stand up straight and where to aim.”

Borders is coaching 30 students — who have qualified with good grades, attendance and behavior — with the help of NWTF member Robby Turner.

The organization provided $600 to get the program started at the school.

“We had to get an indoor net to catch the arrows, which was quite expensive,” said Borders, who has since gone through training since be an archery coach.

“We also bought five targets, 12 bows, a bow rack and, of course, the arrows.”

Borders said the students weren’t very good at the sport at first, but they caught on quickly.

“I’m so proud of them,” she said. “And our girls, with their quiet determination, are just as good as our boys.”

The archery team and its coaches are confident enough to take part in a scrimmage against Isonville Elementary School in Elliott County, which also participates in the archery program, and a regional tournament in March. The team has even added a practice day to the schedule.

All the arrow shooting has benefited the students in more ways than just being something fun to do, Borders said.

“It has taught them a lot of patience. Because we only have five targets, they have to wait on each other. And they have to wait on becoming good at this. You can’t just pull a string. You have to get the sight, aim and release. These things take precision.”

Pride is something else the team is gaining from its archery experience.

“The pride they feel in the end has helped so many students,” Borders said. “They’ll remember that one good shot they made and they’ll take that with them for the rest of the day. They stick with the positive stuff.”

NWTF regional director Joe Broughton said the program endeavors not only to get young peopleinterested in hunting, but to keep them from becoming couch potatoes.

“We’re also hearing it helps with discipline and, of course, it’s providing them with a form of exercise,” Broughton said. “I think it’s great that the program has been successful and I’ve recently heard from other schools that are interested in getting involved.”

The students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the program, Borders said.

“Even though I never, never thought I’d use archery again, I am so happy that I did,” she said. “I can’t really explain the feeling you get from the sport. It’s relaxing to me as an adult. To understand you’d have to get back behind that bow, feel the energy release of that arrow and the sound it makes when it hits the target.”

SARAH LYNCH can be reached at slynch@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2650.

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