NORWOOD, Mo. Joella Bates is a 12-time world champion archer from Tennessee who's spending this week in Norwood holding camp with youngsters from Mountain Grove, Skyline, and the host school.
Norwood is developing quite a reputation in the sport having taking part in three national championships. Now they're preparing for their first trip to the world championships at Nashville in July.
Senior Savannah Sadler is a former state champion who's endured the many hours of sacrifice to reach the elite ranks of the sport.
"It's not like baseball or basketball," Sadler explained. "Only a little bit of it is actually talent. People look at archery and think it's easy. It's one of the hardest sports I've ever done."
"A good archer makes it look so easy," Bates added. "But there have been many thousands of shots that they've executed in the process of learning the technique that makes it look easy."
"Such as your stance, your balance, the way you breathe," said Norwood sophomore archer Christopher Edwards. "You begin with your feet shoulder-length apart with one foot angled about 15-degrees and the other angled about 30-degrees. You focus on the middle of the target and then focus on where your aim should be. You bring up your bow, take a deep breath in, and draw back. There you expand into what is called back tension where you hold the weight in your back to help you conserve strength from your arms so you can stay open during your shot. Once you're anchored, you let out about 30 percent of your breath and shift your weight forward about 60 percent to the balls of your feet. Then you move down to your aim-spot, expand, and release."
Not as easy as it looks, right?
And it's actually much more involved than that as the concentration, discipline, repetition, and muscle memory required is intense as is the need to have a steady hand which is why archers are encouraged to eat right and keep their sugar-intake down.
They also learn life lessons.
"Focus is probably the number one thing that I see with these kids and their focused not only with archery but in the classroom," said Aleth Rogers, Norwood's archery coach. "I had one particular student who had some anger issues. Through the sport of archery he's learned to control that and his grades have improved so much."
While these archers have their sights set high, the hope is to grow the sport among an age group that's more associated with computers and video games.
"The kids are glued to computers and video games," Bates said. "But when you put a bow in a kids hand and they start having a positive experience, they want to explore with it."