Dryah Artis’ posture is still as she draws back her bow.
The 15-year-old’s eyes rest on a three-foot-tall circular target standing 49 feet away, while dead center is 18 inches above the ground. She lets the arrows fly with speed and precision, and repeats the process again and again until her arrow supply is exhausted.
“It’s always just been a fun thing to go out and do,” Artis said. “It’s relaxing, just being outside and focusing on that one spot.”
The South Whidbey Parks and Recreation District youth and adults archery class, one of several led by professional archery coach Bill Stinson, wrapped up on Friday after five days of shooting on the range near the entrance of Community Park. Participants learned safety procedures and the fundamentals of shooting, while they also competed against one another with some light competition after learning the ropes. The class was a mix of beginners and experienced archers, though other classes Stinson led included kids who had participated in his camps for the past several years.
Stinson, a National Archery in the Schools trainer and National Field Archery Association elite coach, keeps the atmosphere of the camp lighthearted.
“My whole goal is that the kids have to have fun,” Stinson said. “There’s no reason to do it otherwise.”
On the first day, the class learned how to draw the bow back and “nock” their arrows, which involves drawing the bow and placing the arrow on the bowstring. One of the early learning lessons for most beginning archers is figuring out which eye to aim with, Stinson said.
“It’s amazing how many people try drawing and aiming with the wrong eye,” Stinson said. “It’s very important to shoot with your dominant eye.”
Strength issues are also an obstacle for the archers to overcome. Stinson said most people don’t realize that back strength is far more important than arm strength. Stinson said that once the archers learn the basics, the fun shifts to competing with one another. The competitions are based on high scores; whoever racks up the most points over three rounds wins.
Artis was among the experienced archers in the group, but a first-time participant in the class. Her mother, Kyleah Artis of Clinton, got her into archery at a young age. She’s liked it ever since.
Because Artis is self-taught, she considered Stinson’s advice as invaluable to her progression in archery. Artis said Stinson helped correct her posture from being too heavy footed.
“Getting input from someone who has had experience in competing like he has, it’s really helpful,” Artis said.
She doesn’t have any aspirations of competing, but she puts her practice to good use when she travels to Oregon to hunt with her bow.
Artis’ aunt, Tria Housego, 32, also participated in the class for the first time.
“It’s fun,” Housego said. “I think it’s a little bit different for everybody, but it’s not too hard.”
Stinson said he would “love” to see the South Whidbey School District invest time and resources into archery, which he feels can help improve concentration and coordination. He also added that it’s a sport where archers can thrive without having to be good at and not have to “run, pass, kick or throw.