MEDFORD, Ore. — The sport of archery can trace its roots all the way back to Roman times. It’s one of the oldest sports in the world, but it’s barely alive in the Rogue Valley and Oregon.
According to the National Archery in the Schools program, there are only eleven archery programs that compete statewide in Oregon. There’s just one in Jackson county.
“There are some well-established programs in the northern area of the state,” St. Mary’s Archery head coach, Didi Cushing said.
St. Mary’s team has only been around for three years, but they’re already placing in regional tournaments. The middle school division ranks first in the state, and the high school division sits at a close second.
“Archery brings focus concentration, responsibility,” assistant coach, Steve Eadie said. “These kids desire that in a big way.”
This niche sport wouldn’t have been possible at St. Mary’s without Didi Cushing.
“I get the non-traditional students doing the non-traditional sports,” Cushing said.
Cushing teaches middle school math at St. Mary’s and first pushed the sport as a class. After more interest from students, it became an extracurricular sport. She never had the option to participate in archery growing up. So when there was an opportunity to pass it along to her students, she jumped on it.
“Being able to teach something outside of my core class and get to know the students in a different way is very appealing,” Cushing said. “So I brought up archery several times until I got the yes and the go-ahead.”
As a certified archery instructor, Cushing is now encouraging other schools in the rogue valley to bring programs to their schools because she says the interest is there.
“There is a huge interest, a lot of the students’ friends are always asking can we join your program because our school doesn’t do it,” Cushing said. “It’s a fun way to get to know your students but it also teaches them so much about themselves and qualities they can bring to everything in life.”
If you’re interested in training to become a certified instructor for the sport, Didi Cushing is the only trainer in the Rogue Valley. The state does offer free kits for anyone who wants to bring archery to schools through NASP through July. After that, the State will only offer a grant for funding an archery program at a school. For more information, you can go to https://www.naspschools.org/.
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