“This is the third year to host a regional tournament in Pell City,” said Stuart Goldsby, regional hunter education coordinator for the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildlife & Freshwater Fisheries Division.
Goldsby said the archery tournament was the Pell City regional tournament for the Alabama Division of the Archery in the Schools program. The Pell City regional tournament is one of five in Alabama.
“The winners here move on to the state competition April 5 in Birmingham,” he said. “And those winners are invited to the national competition in Louisville, Kentucky in May.”
Goldsby said the Archery in the Schools program began in Kentucky.
“Alabama was the second state to offer it 11 years ago,” he said. “All the states offer it now.”
Goldsby said schools from the surrounding area were invited to compete in Pell City. The nine schools competing Friday included Pell City High School, Lincoln Elementary School, R.L. Young Elementary School, Salter Elementary School, Reeltown Middle School, Ashville Middle School, Ashville High School, Moody Junior High School and Moody High School.
He said about 250 schools participate across Alabama.
“We had about 250 students shooting Friday,” he said. “And one-million-plus kids shoot archery in the schools in this program nationally.”
Goldsby said the program fits in a number of curricula.
“It creates so much discipline and gives the students a life skill,” he said. “And children of all abilities can participate.”
Goldsby said the teacher makes the difference and credited Sgt. Major James Bryant, who heads up the archery program at Pell City High School, for hosting and running Friday’s tournament.
“I enjoy watching the students learn to shoot,” said Bryant, who has taught the archery program for four years.
Bryant said without a doubt, the archery program has had a positive impact overall for the students.
“For my class, I’ve seen an increase in discipline, they have worked harder on grades and have better school attendance,” he said.
Bryant said archery teaches the students attention to detail and makes them focus.
“And it’s very safe,” he said. “It’s one of the safest sports where you shoot a weapon. There have never been any accidents and no fatalities.”
Bryant said every student can participate in archery, unlike other sports.
“Even children in wheelchairs can compete in archery,” he said.
Pell City High School principal Helene Bettinger said if it wasn’t for Bryant, the archery program wouldn’t be the program it is.
“He is so passionate about incorporating it into the curriculum,” she said.
Bettinger said the program was added to the Fish and Wildlife class a couple years ago, which offers six weeks of book and hands-on activity in the classroom and six weeks of archery.
Pell City Schools assistant superintendent Michael Barber said the school system is proud to host the archery tournament.
“I’m just blown away by it,” he said. “We love hosting events so people can come through and experience this facility.”
Barber said the Pell City Center is very important, not only to Pell City, but to the surrounding community because everyone can use it during events like the archery tournament.
“I look forward to possibly expanding this program in our schools to the elementary and middle schools so we can compete at all levels,” he said.
Bryant said he also hopes to see the Pell City archery program expanded.
“Archery has to be something you love—not like—to be great at it,” he said. “You have to develop a passion for it.”
Contact Elsie Hodnett at email@example.com.