On Oct. 7, the Eminence Independent Schools’ archery team will board a bus to compete in a world tournament at Disney World.
But participation in the National Archery in the Schools Program’s first world tournament wasn’t a given a few months ago, when Coach Dwayne Douglas suddenly died.
The NASP is a joint venture between state departments of Education and Wildlife to promote archery. It started in 2002 in 21 pilot schools and has grown to more than 5,000 schools. More than one million students now participate in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
At the August meeting of the Eminence Board of Education, new coach Rusty Barrett said it was Coach D’s dream to get them to the nationals by 2010. After his death, Barrett said the team was in a shambles. “We were ready to give up, fold on it,” he said.
In a letter Barrett sent to potential sponsors he explained his own son’s reaction. Curtis is 15 and has been on the archery team three years.
“I could tell that Curtis had been shooting his bow in the garage. He said to me that he was shooting as if he was at the regional tournament. He said ‘we don’t have a coach anymore, and it’s over, so I had my own regional in the garage,’” he wrote.
Frommeyer called Barrett a few days later and asked him to step in as interim coach. He agreed and was certified to instruct within the week.
Barrett said team members told him they wanted to get to the state finals for Coach D one more time.
“I’ll get you there,” he said, “and the rest is up to you.”
After the team not only made it to state, but shot an impressive 2,788 points — anything over 2,550 is considered good — Barrett realized the next goal was achievable. “Coach D had turned this club into a world competition team,” he said.
Barrett took 21 team members from grades five through 12 to the national tournament in Louisville. They had only 11 bows to share.
Because archery is a club and not a school-sponsored team, there is nothing in the school budget to cover expenses. Still, Barrett said the team played through their grief and with an equipment disadvantage to score 2,824 points.
“Coach D left us in a perfect situation with a solid team,” Barrett said. “It has just been incredible.”
The team still was left with an uphill battle financially. “It was going to take $12,000 to $14,000 to get the kids down there,” he said.
That’s when Alcan Packaging in Shelbyville took their shot.
General Manager Ron Jones said the company and its employees take civic contributions seriously.
“We really try to work on our community involvement,” he said, “donating money as well as hours of personal time.”
Jones said the Shelbyville company that manufactures flexible packaging such as pharmaceutical blister packs contributed to more than 40 local non-profit organizations in 2009 including two Habitat for Humanity homes.
“When Rusty made us aware of the (team’s) situation we scraped together some donations,” he said.
Alcan donated all that was necessary for the team’s travel and accommodations, but their generosity did not end there.
Barrett said the company also donated the badly needed 10 bows so that team members would each have their own. “It meant even more than the trip,” he said.
Last Thursday, the archery team and its leadership visited Alcan’s plant to meet their benefactors and personally thank them for their assistance.
“It’s our way of congratulating you on your accomplishments,” Jones said. “I’m sure Coach D is watching over you guys and is proud of you.”
First-year archer Mitchell Metten is excited. The sixth-grader is looking forward to the trip, but also to continuing in the program.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You get to shoot!”
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