Imagine for a moment, you’re at the National Archery in the School’s Program (NASP®) after-school archery practice, and you’re handed a blindfold. You put the blindfold on where you experience total darkness. You listen for two whistle signals to “get bow” and your partner tells you how many paces to take to arrive at the shooting line. Then you hear one whistle signal and your partner provides verbal cues to perform the 11 Steps to Archery Success. These initial steps include stance, nock, pre-draw, draw, and anchor. Finally comes the final steps to aim, release, follow-through & reflect. This was reality a few years back for several 10th graders who attended Gus Wetter School in Alberta, Canada. It was an exercise called, “Through Jocelyn’s Eyes,” named after an extraordinary student whose everyday reality involves 100% blindness. Now if you’re archer in NASP®, you know that learning the “11 Steps to Archery Success” is a task that takes dedication and constant practice to achieve. So, imagine trying to learn the steps all while not having your eyesight; challenging is an understatement, but Jocelyn Wilson, a third year student at Red Deer College in Alberta, Canada didn’t shrink to the challenge. “We started archery in gym class, and I realized I enjoyed it, so I decided to stick with it.” Jocelyn continued by saying that, “I remember the rush I felt when releasing the arrow and it hit the target.”
Nancy Tamblyn, NASP® coach and educator, had many inspiring words to say about Jocelyn and the experiences that followed. Tamblyn said, “I could write a book…Reader’s Digest version would be that Jocelyn was more than willing to try archery as her lack of vision had shrunk her whole world down to a small fraction of what it had been when she still had her sight.” Tamblyn further explains, “When she attended her first practice, it was clear that nobody knew the work, experimentation, and tweaking, along with the trust and commitment it would take to get Jocelyn to the point where she was confident enough to enter her first NASP® tournament.” Jocelyn said, “One challenge I had to overcome was learning how to keep my elbow steady when preparing to release the bowstring and learning not to move my arm just before releasing.” After trying out different positioning aids for the “draw” and “anchor” steps, Tamblyn and the other coaches realized all she really needed to shoot safely and successfully were verbal cues as she was learning her positioning with each step. Finally, muscle memory would take over, and from that point on, all Jocelyn needed was someone directing her to the proper stance on the shooting line and verbally guiding her to the “aim” step.
What followed after was pretty amazing. Jocelyn’s teammates watched and observed Jocelyn’s archery challenges and they thought it was “cool” to see her shoot completely blind. Tamblyn said, “They never considered how frustrating or difficult it actually was for Jocelyn to shoot so we decided to have them all try a few practices of blind shooting.” This exercise became known as “Through Jocelyn’s Eyes.” The practice involved pairing students up with other kids who didn’t normally “hang” out with one another, giving them blindfolds, and having them clearly verbalizing each step so the shooter would know what to do. On top of the students gaining respect and empathy for the struggles that Jocelyn endured at every practice and tournament, the coaches noticed many other benefits to this unique exercise.
• Archers learned the value of clear, concise communication.
• Trust was formed which developed a solid teamwork base in an otherwise individual sport.
• Students became acquainted with others who they never knew or hung out with before.
• Student empathy increased by leaps and bounds by making archers aware of others
handicaps and struggles. Students reacted more caringly and thoughtfully.
• Muscle memory was developed by all archers, so this exercise became a regular event at practices.
• By having students’ “coach” other blindfolded shooters to achieve correct positioning at
every step, coaches and teachers spent less time correcting improper positioning in subsequent practices or classroom sessions.
• Shooters learned how to focus for longer periods of time.
• Everyone learned how to control their frustration and nerves while “on the line”.
• Jocelyn developed a ton of self-confidence and self-respect while gaining many new friends and fans!
Since NASP®’s inception, back in 2002, the program’s main focus is to connect youth to archery through the school system. What NASP® hears from students every year is the archery program has enhanced focus among students, has helped them make new friends, has aided them in their academics, has increased comradery due to working as a team, and much more. We can see this exact outcome from the “Through Jocelyn’s Eyes” activity above.
When Jocelyn was asked what it was like to observe (by listening) all of her fellow archers participate in this one of a kind activity she said, “The fact that all of my classmates were blindfolded at one point was nice.” She humorously added, “Pardon my language, but I think it was really “eye-opening” for them. They got to experience how I shoot and maybe feel the rush in a different way than normal.”
Jocelyn Wilson, no longer a 10th grader, but a third year student at Red Deer College, is currently not involved in any archery programs, but she said if the opportunity ever presented itself, she would definitely jump on board!
NASP® has always been an all-inclusive sport for almost anyone who loves to shoot archery. It’s well known for giving students another sport option to participate in, enhancing self confidence, and improving academics among students 4th-12th grades. Of course, if you are ever in doubt what archery can do for your youth, just take a look at the 1.5 million kids who participate in NASP® every year; Some with physical challenges like Jocelyn and others without, but neither any less inspiring than the other.
For more information on NASP®, please visit www.naspschools.org
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