In late Oct 2019 Gabe came home and asked to join his elementary school archery team. It seemed like a sudden change of heart, he had asked to play basketball just weeks before. I was so apprehensive; in my mind, a bow was a weapon. It was used to kill or maim, it wasn’t a child’s sport. He had been diagnosed with ADHD in second grade, which gave him a whole other set of challenges. We had so many questions. Was it safe? Would he listen to the coach or get along with his teammates? Could he be still and quiet enough to participate without disturbing others. We decided to encourage him and help to set him up for success as much as possible.
We sat down with Gabe and asked him a lot of questions and eventually we hesitantly agreed. He had already started practice weeks later than a large portion of his team. His very first tournament was at Lincoln County and he shot a 143 out of 300, which ranked him 49 out of 59 elementary school boys. We thought that maybe archery wasn’t the sport for him and he set out to prove us wrong. Gabe started practicing nearly every day and we enlisted the help of Jessica Curtsinger in Danville to work in technique. When COVID-19 stole the end of their 2020 season, he had increased his score to 244 out of 300. Gabe didn’t let COVID and an uncertain 2020-2021 season keep him from practicing. He continued with lessons and shooting nearly every day, including outdoors in the frigid winter.
The past year of archery was anything but normal. There were new rules and many fewer tournaments. Gabe’s coach struggled to find tournament spots for both his elementary and middle school teams. It was mid-Jan before they had a tournament to enter, the typical season started before Thanksgiving. Despite having to miss multiple tournaments due to precautionary COVID quarantined; Gabe would go on to win 1st place elementary school male archery in every regular season tournament that he participated in. During the Kentucky NASP State tournament he won 5th place elementary school male in the bullseye tournament and an impressive 2nd place elementary school male in the IBO 3D State tournament; he had only shot in 2 previous 3D tournaments this season and COVID had seriously restricted their practice time. Gabe also took 1st place elementary school male at the Centershot tournament during state in both bullseye and 3D. He would go on to win elementary male at the TopShot Invitational in Georgetown, KY.
When his NASP season didn’t start as anticipated, we sought an alternative league to allow him to shoot. Several local kids were shooting for a National organization called Scholastic 3D. The local team wasn’t having regular practices, so we found a team in London, KY for him. The team, AimTakers is a very tight knit organization and have been very accepting of Gabe. He struggled at first due to the change in distance, but he also had trouble with the monocolored target. His S3DA season wasn’t always pretty, especially when he had 8pm or later flight times. Gabe’s most impressive accomplishment was winning the S3DA National Indoor Eagle Barebow Champion Male which is 9-11 year old boys shooting a bare Matthew’s Genesis bow like NASP uses.
Gabe has taught us so much this season about perseverance and adapting to change. He no longer had us to support and correct him during practice. His coach often had an entire team of elementary archers with no helped; this resulted in my husband becoming a NASP certified instructor and helping coach the last weeks of the season. The kids had to shoot in masks and they no longer scored each other’s arrows. It would have been easy to get discouraged and accept the season for what it was; but he improved at nearly every tournament.