When Hopkins County sports are mentioned, archery usually doesn’t come to mind. However, the Hopkins 4H archery team has seen explosive growth in 2021 and is set to tackle its next season with enthusiasm.
“It’s a sport like any other sport,” said Brad McCool, parent of team member Bryce McCool. “We’re not just a weird hobby. There are sponsors and tournaments… archery is part of the Olympic Games.
The nine to eighteen-year-olds under coach Stephanie Stewart certainly have as much discipline as the Olympic hopefuls.
Stewart has been coaching the team since 2010, when his son Geoffrey’s nascent archery career began. After Geoffrey traveled to State in San Antonio in his senior year in 2019, his mother made the decision to continue training the next generation of archers in Hopkins County.
However, registrations dropped to three members during the pandemic, and some feared the team would shut down for good. In 2021, the participants have returned and the team has a full roster of fourteen for the coming season. McCool attributes this to Stewart’s policy of letting the kids bring friends to practice so they can try the sport.
“When the kids hit the target at 5, then 10, 15, then 20, [meters] and they see what it takes to win a plaque or a medal,… it builds their self-confidence, ”said Stewart.
The team meets 2-3 evenings per week and utilizes Stewart’s property, equipment and expertise.
“You’ll never hear her brag about herself, but we appreciate her so much,” McCool noted. “We are so happy with everything she has done with the program. ”
The Hopkins Archery Team is the first to admit that they are a little tough.
For example, equipment and supplies for the booming sport are expensive. McCool said he was blown away to see “little, tiny little kids with thousand dollar bows” when the team traveled to the DFW area competitions.
It’s a stark contrast to Team Hopkins, who wear casual outfits for competitions because they can’t afford uniforms. The targets they use for shooting practice were purchased already used from the Archery Association, and to compensate, Stewart makes them “only use one side”.
Once a neighbor’s dog grabbed a target and “made a good-sized hole in it.” Stewart found herself putting her stuffing back inside and sticking it all in. At $ 40 apiece, targets are too expensive to replace.
Yet despite the lack of funds, the Hopkins team has the laser focus of an elite team. The students practiced for hours outside of meetings, and McCool noted that many parents spent so much time on the beach that they decided to play the sport alongside their children.
“It’s a really cool way to be able to compete together and spend time together,” said McCool, although he clarified that only children compete in 4H competitions.
Both Stewart and McCool have been surprised by the team’s demographics this year – most of the new teammates are junior high school girls. It makes sense to Stewart – she thinks local teens of both sexes yearn for ways to have fun properly and cleanly.
“There aren’t a lot of good things for kids to do except church,” she noted. “Our children’s future is going to be 4 hours, and we’re lucky it’s not just about showing animals. 4H involves cooking, making things and photographing sports.
Stewart and the other parents make sure that being on the team isn’t just about aiming a bow and arrows. Children do community service, as well as demonstrate their skills during Indian Summer Days and Heritage Christmas Days.
They are also struggling to buy new equipment and maybe one day organize their own tournament. It’s a lot of discipline, McCool noted. With security and cooperation, Stewart believes the team can accomplish anything.
“It’s an environment of responsibility, it’s a teamwork environment, it’s an environment where there are a lot of moving parts and we all have to work together,” he said.
That’s the favorite part of team member Bryce McCool, he said – traveling the road, seeing new places and hanging out with friends he made in training.
“Sure, they’re trying to win against each other, but they’re trying to help each other,” McCool said.
The archery season begins on December 1 and ends on June 7. For more information visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/1088746648536548