PARKERSBURG, W.Va. — The extreme popularity of archery among West Virginia youngsters has attracted the attention of the West Virginia Secondary Schools Activities Commission. Executive Director Bernie Dolan tells MetroNews the SSAC is ready to sanction archery as a school sport in West Virginia.
“We’re going to be working on it to roll it out in the next year or two,” said Dolan. “We want to see how quickly it can become a fully sanctioned sport.”
The framework for the sport is already in place through the Archery in Schools program run by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources. The A-I-S has teams in almost all West Virginia schools, including elementary and middle schools and the popularity is what drew the attention of Dolan and the SSAC.
“All of our sports come about because of interest in schools,” he said. “We don’t drive the interest. If there’s enough schools doing a particular activity, often they will submit a letter to us to be recognized as a sport and that’s the case here with archery.”
Dolan said Elkview Middle School Coach Eddie Gray has been instrumental in coaxing the Activities Commission to consider archery. Gray’s program is one of the original Archery in the Schools teams and hosts the biggest school archery tournament each year. This year’s event, due to problems after the 2016 flood, was moved to the Cline Center at Marshall University.
Archery as an SSAC sport, according to Dolan, would start out as a co-ed offering. Dolan likes the even playing field regardless of a participant’s physical stature or their means. Since all participants use identical equipment, the challenge lies in a shooter’s ability. Shooters who have a lot of money cannot simply buy better equipment to improve their accuracy. Size and strength also have almost no impact on success.
“The one thing I like about this is the girls shoot as well or better than the boys,” said Dolan. “It will be exciting to see the girls competing on the same level.”
Dolan thinks it may also attract a whole new group of students who presently do not compete in any extra curricular activities.
“That’s one of the draws, the number of different kids who are going to be able to participate and win some awards in our championships,” he explained. “You’re really not going to be stealing a lot of kids from other sports.”
Dolan said the SSAC will monitor the sport in the next year or so to see how it develops. He believes it will grow and as that happens it will be revisited as numbers and participation warrant changes and upgrades.