Archery program promoted for schools

Central Manitoulin Public School students try their hand at the bow. photos by Neil Debassige

MANITOULIN—Neil Debassige of Lakeview School and Fuel the Fire TV fame, along with wife and fellow educator Dianne, recently gave two Island elementary schools a treat with an introduction to archery through the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP).

The Debassiges are both registered instructors in the program and hope to see the sport grow in popularity on Manitoulin. It is acknowledged as an option in the Ontario elementary physical education curriculum, one that Lakeview School has embraced. When Lakeview students return in August, physical education teacher Amy Mavec will be teaching all students in Grades 4 through 8 the sport.

NASP is an initiative of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and while its purpose is not necessarily to get children interested in hunting, the OFAH hopes that should an interest arise, it will also mean a keen interest in conservationism as “hunters are the best conservationists,” Mr. Debassige says.

During their last week of school, 120 students at Central Manitoulin Public School and Charles C. McLean Public School were treated to instruction from the Debassiges. Substitute teacher Ken Wright remarked on how much the students learned in just one hour of instruction from no knowledge of archery to being able to hit the target, and well.

Charles C. McLean students learn the sport of archery on their last week of school.

“The teachers really liked it,” Mr. Debassige adds.

The kids loved it too. “It was almost unanimous through the surveys (that followed the instruction) that the kids would love to see it in their schools,” he continues.

Mr. Debassige explains that every school in the NASP program uses the exact same equipment, a genesis bow—a compound bow with a universal draw length with a maximum draw weight of 20 pounds.

“It doesn’t matter how short or tall a student is, they can still shoot accurately,” he adds. “It’s not based on strength; a little girl in Grade 4 can shoot just as well as 6 foot tall boy in Grade 8.”

A school set runs about $5,500 and Mr. Debassige hopes there is some community interest in helping the schools to raise the funds. All NASP school archery equipment is the same, meaning that schools can compete virtually against other schools by uploading their scores.

“It’s also incredibly safe to use. There’s a statistic they (NASP) likes to use that more students are injured playing ping pong than by doing archery.”

The NASP coaching program also teaches that all commands are governed by whistles and by using affirming statements. Coaches will always begin by saying something positive followed by another positive statement on how to improve their shot.

“It’s a great program,” Mr. Debassige reiterates, noting that it helps students with muscle memory, concentration, focus, patience and much more.

Mr. Debassige urges those who might be interested in having the NASP program in their Island school to reach out to the principal or they can contact him directly at neildebassige@hotmail.com.