It wasn't hard for Jonathan Alfaro to transfer the skills he'd learned from archery to other sports.
The precision it took to properly aim his bow and send an arrow straight to the bull's eye was easy to apply to a baseball bat. The calm and focus that's a mandatory factor of every shot helped his mindset during football practice. Above all, shooting a set of arrows into the vividly painted target gave Alfaro a sense of what's it's like to be a champion – the 8th-grader from Laredo Middle School took first place in the state archery competition earlier this year.
"I was surprised that I got first place," said Alfaro, whose first exposure to the sport came during his 6th-grade physical education class at Laredo. "I could have gone to nationals," he explained, adding that commitments in baseball and football kept him away.
Even so, Alfaro gleaned important lessons regarding focus and sportsmanship thanks to a bow and a set of arrows, and that's exactly what physical education teacher Cheryl Duey was aiming for when she worked to expand the archery program at the school. Thanks in part to grants from the Colorado Department of Wildlife, Duey has been able to offer students a robust archery program.
That's important, Duey says, because of the basic accessibility of the sport. She's seen students of all backgrounds take to the sport and benefit from its basic tenets. Whether it's responding to the basic focus and discipline of shooting an arrow at a target or picking up on the math skills that come with tabulating final scores, students have picked up valuable skills from archery.
"When students find success in archery, their self-confidence carries over to other aspects of their lives," Duey said. "What I like most about archery is that students of all sizes, genders, cultural backgrounds and abilities can enjoy it."
What's more, these students are getting support from some pretty impressive levels. Duey points to the $300 annual grant the school has received from the Colorado Department of Wildlife, money that's gone toward the purchase of new targets, compound bows and other necessary equipment. According to Duey, who earned her teaching certification from the National Archery in the Schools Foundation in 2007, those resources have played a key role in teaching dozens of students the focus and discipline that are integral parts of the sport.
Those skills have certainly played in important role for Morgan Dusek, a Laredo 7th-grader who took the second-place title in the state competition. Dusek, whose stated goal is to keep competing, says the demands of the sport are its biggest appeal.
"I have to continually practice," she said. "I love it."
That's a big reason she's set up targets at home and has tested out several bows to find the perfect fit. Archery, like any good sport, demands consistent focus and a keen attention to detail.
Such skills will come in handy in arenas far beyond the archery range.