Just don’t flinch

Archers big hit with Maryville Middle students

You could almost see it coming.

After archer Terry Gardner pierced the target with two arrows fired from his bow at the same time, an inquisitive Maryville Middle School student quickly had hand in the air with a question:

“Ever shot three arrows?” he asked.

Gardner and fellow archer Brad Keasler could only lower their heads in laughter.

Guests of Maryville Middle physical education teacher Jay Malone, Keasler and Gardner were on hand to introduce students to the sport they’ve followed for most of their adult lives.

“We want to promote the sport of archery,” Gardner said. “It’s a sport for everybody.”

The idea, said Malone, head football coach at the school, is to expose students to more than the traditional, school-sponsored sports. Not every kid wants to play football, he said. Not every student will express an interest in track and field, soccer, basketball or any of the other sports the school offers.

“I wanted to do something other than team sports,” Malone said. “Kids aren’t going to play team sports their whole life.

“I wanted to come up with some things that aren’t about keeping score. I want to expose them to all of it, so when they leave here in two years, they have something to take with them for the rest of their life.”

Gardner and Keasler wowed a captive audience in the school’s auditorium with a variety of trick shots, ranging from the two-arrow strike by Gardner to a blindfolded, bulls-eye shot from Keasler. The pair brought the house down when they convinced Malone to take a seat in front of the target, place a balloon in his mouth, then strap on a blindfold as Keasler drew back.

Once the blindfold was in place, Keasler let fly at a target to Malone’s right, close enough for the Bulldogs coach to feel the rush of wind as the arrow zipped past.

Keasler and Gardner, who’ve both competed in state and national tournaments, said they’ve tried a variety of shots through the years. There have been flaming arrows and mirrors. Gardner even fired true Friday while lying down, stretching the bow taught with his feet.

Once, Keasler said, he even pulled the bowstring taught with his teeth.

“I’ve tried shooting with my arm and my teeth,” he said, “but it hurts.”

Following the demonstration, Keasler and Gardner let as many students as time allowed come down and have a try.

“I really enjoy seeing the look on the kid’s faces when we can pull off some trick shots like that,” Gardner said. “My primary goal is to promote the sport of archery. It’s given me so much over the years.”

The life lessons gleaned from archery are no different from other sports, Keasler said. It takes discipline and hard work to be successful. You have to believe in what you do.

“Follow your passions; follow your dreams,” Keasler told the crowd. “You don’t let anything give you limitations.”

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