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Holy Child sixth-grader John Hunze aimed an arrow at a target during archery team practice Jan. 10 at Holy Child School in Arnold. The archery team at the school was founded three years ago by volunteer coach Amanda Macke through the National Archery in the Schools Program.
Holy Child sixth-grader John Hunze aimed an arrow at a target during archery team practice Jan. 10 at Holy Child School in Arnold. The archery team at the school was founded three years ago by volunteer coach Amanda Macke through the National Archery in the Schools Program.
Photo Credit: Jacob Wiegand

Holy Child students learn to be straight shooters through archery program

Holy Child students learn life lessons through archery

For two minutes, the only sound in the Holy Child School gym was the sharp thwack of arrows piercing targets.

Young archers moved at their own pace, aiming and firing arrows at the bullseye five times apiece. The end of the two minutes was marked by three short whistle blasts, signaling three words: Go get arrows.

Eighth-grader Payton Hubbard studied the target, noting how many points her teammate earned in that round.

“I love competing and encouraging my friends,” she said. The first time she shot a bow and arrow, “I think I missed the target,” she said. “I’ve gotten better. I’ve become more concentrated on what I’m doing.”

The archery team at Holy Child School in Arnold was founded three years ago by volunteer coach Amanda Macke through the National Archery in the Schools Program. After her son received a bow and arrows for Christmas, Macke wanted to bring the opportunity to learn archery to more students, so she underwent the eight-hour training and has been leading the team ever since.

The school received a $3,000 equipment grant from the Missouri Department of Conservation and some additional financial help from the Immaculate Conception Parish Men’s Club.

About 30 students in grades 5-8 are part of the team, which competes in tournaments throughout the state from January through March. The team is open to any student, boys and girls, regardless of previous experience or ability. Archery is also part of the Holy Child School physical education curriculum for all students in grades 4-8, a requirement of the MDC grant.

Principal Bridget Brennell is also a trained archery instructor and assists with the team. “It’s been nothing but positive,” Brennell said. “It’s for every student — it doesn’t matter if they’re athletic or not.”

Holy Child eighth-grader Ray Geiler and seventh-grader Logan Gallagher scored their arrows during archery team practice Jan. 10 at Holy Child School in Arnold. “The whole idea behind it was to start something that was different than some of the other organized sports for students who may not necessarily be those soccer and basketball and baseball stars,” archery coach Amanda Macke said.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
While learning how to accurately shoot arrows may seem like a narrow skill, archery teaches several life lessons, Macke said. “They have to be accurate, and they have to make sure they’re concentrating on what they’re doing and blocking out the rest. That leads them to be able to hopefully transfer that into the classroom.”

“It’s very disciplined, and that helps them carry that discipline into everything they do,” Brennell added.

Brennell also sees students grow in patience, as well as “overall compassion for each other, to want each other to do well,” she said. She recalled a student on last year’s team who hit the target just a handful of times. “But he never gave up, and when he would hit that target, everyone would cheer for him. It was really good to notice those successes.”

Since the sport involves sharp weapons, safety is a big priority for the team, Macke said. Students follow a strict system of whistles to know when to get their bows, line up by the quivers, fire arrows and retrieve them. No one crosses the firing line, even to pick up an arrow dropped just inches over. The bows are 10- to 20-pounds, lighter than adult hunting bows, and the bows and arrows are always stored separately in locked closets.

The first time Ray Geiler shot a bow and arrow was “scary and hard,” said the eighth-grader. “It’s a dangerous weapon, so if you don’t use it properly, it could hurt someone.”

In his three years on the archery team, he’s learned that “patience is key. You just have to try and be calm,” he said. Ray hopes to start an archery team at St. Pius X High School next year.

In a sport where Holy Child School primarily competes against public schools, the team takes time to gather for prayer at each tournament. Their team shirts have “St. Sebastian, pray for us,” emblazoned on the sleeve. Members of the team also gather for a special Mass at Immaculate Conception Parish for the feast of St. Sebastian, the patron of archers and athletes.

Holy Child seventh-graders Mackenzie Stokes and Simon Scher lined up arrows during archery team practice Jan. 10 at Holy Child School in Arnold.
Photo Credits: Jacob Wiegand
Seventh-grader Simon Scher has been part of the team for three years. He enjoys being part of a team that includes boys and girls of several ages, he said, growing in friendships with students in other grades he might not otherwise get to know.

Over the past three years, he’s gained “a lot of arm strength,” he said. He’s also grown in confidence. “I meet new people at every tournament, so I’m always learning how to talk to new people better every time, and I enjoy that.”

Simon was born with four fingers on his left hand and refers to his left arm, shorter than his right, as his “hook.” When he joined the team, his coaches offered modifications for his equipment, but he refused. “I felt like, I’ve lived with this my entire life. I’m just going to figure it out. And I did, and I’m very happy with myself.”

His best archery advice? “You should always try to do better than your last shot. It doesn’t matter if you get a one, because then you can try to get a two, or higher.”

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