10th Annual School Archery Championship Draws Record 1,600 Kids, 63 Schools to Belton March 4-5

Hunger Games movies still a factor, but broader reasons behind archery’s soaring growth

AUSTIN – From 63 schools across Texas, 1,664 students in grades 4-12 will gather March 4-5 at the Bell County Expo Center for the 10th annual Texas-National Archery in the Schools Tournament and Scholarship Championship. That’s up 23 percent from last year’s 51 schools, and college scholarships have doubled to $20,000. What’s driving the growth

Clearly, the pop cultural allure of movie star Jennifer Lawrence taking aim in two Hunger Games films has fueled youth interest in archery. Of kids going to the March 4-5 tournament, 704 are girls. But the movie alone can’t explain the program’s mushrooming popularity, say those involved.

“It’s an opportunity for kids who are not necessarily athletes to participate in a sport that is in the Olympics,” says Burnie Kessner, the Pied Piper of Texas youth archery, for the past 8 years Texas Parks and Wildlife Department archery coordinator.

From little schools like Maud ISD near Texarkana, to big ones like Pearland High School outside Houston, to remote places like San Vicente ISD at Big Bend National Park, kids and parents are coming to Belton. But it’s a LOT of big schools from big suburbs around Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth and other cities.

“Yeah, most kids saw the Hunger Games, and now they can go to school and do the same thing. But it spreads in lots of other ways. Sometimes kids who did archery in junior high will go to a high school where they don’t have it, and those kids and their parents ask for it. It also spreads through PE (physical education) teachers. In the past 10 years, we’ve had PE teachers who taught archery get promoted to a principal or health and PE coordinator position, and they’ll spread it to an entire school district.”

And there’s money on the table. This year, total college scholarship awards will be double the amount for each of the past 4 years. Since 2011 the total has been $10,000; this year it will be $20,000.

For those competing March 4-5, college scholarships will go to the top five male and top five female high school archers, along with trophies, ribbons, and t-shirts in all categories. First place male and female archers in each division receive Genesis bows, and the high scoring male and female archer will receive a limited edition Genesis bow. Door prize drawings will take place throughout the day.

Only schools that teach TX-NASP archery as part of the in-school curriculum and shoot a qualifying score in the State Qualifying Tournament are qualified to compete in annual March tournament. The qualifying tournament was held last Dec. 2-19, when more than 2150 students from 80 Texas schools participated.

First place teams in each division are automatically qualified to attend the national tournament in Louisville, Kentucky. Additional teams may attend with qualifying team scores, and First-10th place male and female individual winners in each division qualify to attend.

NASP® is a non-profit foundation able to operate only by support from a variety of generous donors including medal-level sponsors; Mathews Archery, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Morrell Targets, The Block, and Rinehart Targets.

Toyota is the primary sponsor of TX-NASP and the program is part of the state’s hunter and bowhunter education efforts, programs that are supported from the sales of archery equipment through “Federal Assistance in Wildlife Restoration” efforts.

For information about the Texas-National Archery In The Schools program, contact Burnie Kessner with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department at burnie.kessner@tpwd.texas.gov or (979) 862-7341.