You either love gym class or you hate it. But thanks to West Virginia’s Archery in Schools program, more and more kids every year are coming around to enjoying physical education in school.

That’s because the archery program is safe and inclusive for students, regardless of ability, gender or skill level. It also provides a welcoming environment where kids, who may not be interested in traditional sports, can socialize and learn how to how to work in a team environment.

“More than 100,000 students have gone through our Archery in Schools program since it started in 2004,” said Kayla Donathan, a public information specialist for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. “It started in eight pilot schools around the state and we now we have more than 300 schools participating. That includes 4th through 12th graders from public, private, Christian and home schools.”

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A fun and inclusive alternative to school-offered sports

Competition archery is quite different from hunting. The Archery in the Schools program was written by education and archery experts to meet state and national education standards for physical education.

To participate, a school must have a trained instructor and approved equipment that meets rigorous safety standards. The program and equipment also are standardized, which means all schools and students participate on a level playing field.

“It is just a really great program,” said Eddie Gray, coach of Elkview Middle School’s archery team. “It’s a good thing to see these kids, who aren’t basketball or baseball players and cheerleaders, have a program at their school that they can get involved in.”

Preparing for the Archery in the Schools tournament

Archery students around West Virginia are currently working on qualifying for the state tournament in March. While there is a competitive element to the archery program, many students say they enjoy the opportunity to represent their schools.

“It’s just relaxing and really enjoyable,” said Chloe Sovine, an Elkvew Middle School student. “And it’s such a good feeling when you hit your highest score ever. When you do really well at a tournament, it’s just really enjoyable.”

The 2020 West Virginia Archery in the Schools state tournament is March 28 at Marshall University’s Chris Cline Athletic Complex in Huntington. Schools teams that qualify will be invited. The event if open to the public. For more information about the tournament, how to purchase tickets and who will participate, visit wvdnr.gov/archery/Tournament.shtm.