Archery has been around since at least the Paleolithic era, but The Hunger Games books and movies have made this age-old sport brand-new for a lot of kids. Luckily for families in NJ with a hankering for bow-and-arrow action, there are lots of local options.
The NJ School of Archery offers year-round instruction at its outdoor range in the South Mountain Reservation and its indoor facility in Florham Park.
Lauren Saccone, one of the coaches at the NJSA, says The Hunger Games has been great for the sport. “There has been an enormous upswing in archery interest since The Hunger Games! Tons of children (and a lot of adults, too) are heading to the range after seeing Katniss Everdeen on the big screen,” she says. “It’s brought archery into the public eye in a way we’ve never seen before. The sheer number of people who are inspired to pick up a bow after seeing the movies is amazing!”
And on top of that, Katniss has a Jersey connection: NJSA’s own Mike Usherenko is the coach of Olympic medalist Khatuna Lorig, who personally trained Jennifer Lawrence for her role as Katniss. “You can see that Lawrence really knows how to use a bow,” says Saccone.
If Katniss’ archery skills have made your family want to pick up a bow, Saccone says all you need to do is find a local club and a good coach (which NJSA can help with). There are options throughout the region for private lessons, group lessons or classes, and typically beginners won’t need to buy any equipment.
“Once you’re hooked on archery, practice is key! You’ll eventually need to think about buying your own equipment, but first you’ll need to practice,” says Saccone. “Make sure to regularly take lessons (about once a week is ideal for beginners) and not skip out over holidays or breaks. Some ranges will allow you practice time on your own with the proper supervision; ask what the rules and requirements are so you can make the most of your practice time.”
For families that already have some arrow know-how, Wo-Pe-Na Archers in Clifton offers indoor archery for members (non-members can shoot on Sundays at 11am for $10—BYO equipment). A yearly membership gives archers access to the Wo-Pe-Na range, and the club also hosts tournaments through the New Jersey Field Archery Association.
There’s more outdoor archery to be had in Brookdale Park, at a range run by The Bloomfield Archers. The club offers classes and lessons, archery camps for kids, and from April to October families can pay $10 for a “Sunday Shoot” at the range.
The president of Bloomfield Archers (and a board member at Wo-Pe-Na) is Ralph Eckel, better known in local archery circles as “Dutch.” Martha Giancola from Wo-Pe-Na says Dutch is “a part of the history of archery in New Jersey” and offers lessons. “After some basics with Dutch and some practice, they would likely be able to shoot a Sunday shoot at Wo-Pe-Na—once they learn the rules of shooting,” she says.
So if you’ve got a budding Katniss in your district, archery doesn’t have to be a movie fantasy: Essex County has plenty of opportunities to learn, practice and enjoy a sport that can become a lifelong pursuit.