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Recent Pop Culture Franchise Influences Archery Popularity

Those witnessing an increased interest in archery over the last several years don’t have to look far for a reason why.

The rising success of the film franchise "The Hunger Games" has helped influence an increased number of young people’s interest in archery, particularly in women. This is likely due to the most famous fictional archer in pop culture being Katniss Everdeen from "The Hunger Games."

"Women see Katniss participating in archery and they realize bow hunting isn’t just for their husbands when they disappear on the weekends," said Brittany Salonen, marketing and trade show manager for the National Field Archery Association (NFFA). "They see archery as more accessible."

Other bow-wielding icons include Merida from "Brave," Hawkeye from the "Avengers" franchise and the television show "Arrow."

The increase of youth participation has been very noticeable, according to Salonen.

"At one of our yearly tournaments in Las Vegas, we usually had 200-300 kids," she said. "Last year, we had 650."

Josahan Jaime-SantaCruz, archery program director for the Easton Yankton Archery Complex, attributes the current popularity of fictional post-apocalyptic worlds to be the reason for the recent rise in archery participation.

"There’s a general trend in media lately to move towards what used to more traditional forms of combat," she said. "Archery is very basic. You don’t need gunpowder or machinery. You just pick up a bow and shoot."

In her 20-plus years of archery involvement, Jaime-SantaCruz has seen the most interest in the sport just in the last eight to 10 years.

"When I was growing up, the only reference we had in shooting bows was Robin Hood," she said. "Now we have all these other characters."

In addition to those listed above, fictional media archers include Lara Croft from the newest "Tomb Raider" and "Assassin’s Creed" video games.

"At one of our Halloween shoots, one of the kids was dressed as a character from ‘Assassin’s Creed,’" Jaime-SantaCruz added.

The media exposure that these games and movies created has prompted more action from archery organizations, she said.

"I’ve seen a lot better organization from archery organizations to promote it and feed off that growth," she said.

It isn’t only pop culture that has prompted renewed archery interest.

"The London Olympic games definitely contributed," said Jaime-SantaCruz. "They moved archery into one of the first sports showcased, which meant it didn’t have to compete for people’s attention versus swimming and gymnastics. It got a little more spotlight."

There are several different types of archery, including 3D shooting, field shooting, bow hunting and traditional shooting. Jaime-SantaCruz has seen increased participation specifically in competitive recurve and competitive compound shooting. Recurve shooting has the type of bows seen in the Olympics and compound shooting is a similar style to bow-hunting.

"In media, there’s a lot more prevalence in archery as a cool new thing to do," she added.

The Yankton archery complex helps furnish this interest by having classes for kids, teenagers and adults, as well as holding some archery-themed birthday parties where young guests can learn the basics of archery, such as how to shoot and the different types of shooting and competitions.

"We can get some of them hooked because of how well they do and how competitive they are," said Salonen.

For older kids, scholarships are offered through the NFFA to reward them for staying in archery. In addition, a website called Archery 360 is exclusively geared towards capturing teens who are interested in the pop culture aspect of the sport.

"Our marketing is getting savvier," Jaime-SantaCruz stated, referring to the NFAA. "They’ve contributed a lot of resources to promoting the sport and have certainly made a dent in the interest."

The World Archery Youth Championship that took place in Yankton this summer drew people’s attention to the realization that an archery center was close by.

"A lot of people weren’t aware this place existed before the tournament," Jaime-SantaCruz said. "That’s definitely changed since then, but I don’t think people realize how large and diverse this place is."

Despite the increased interest in the sport aspect of archery, it will always remain popular for hunting.

"There’s a lot of young men that pick up the sport but don’t come to places like the complex to really learn it," Jaime-SantaCruz said. "Most of our classes are predominantly girls."

However, archery is still an activity for anyone interested in practicing an individualized sport and improving their hand-eye coordination and ability to focus.

"If anyone’s interested in learning about archery, they can come to the Yankton Archery Center at any time of the year," said Jaime-SantaCruz. "There’s always an opportunity to learn."

-  Reilly Biel, Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan Twitter: @ReillyBiel

Read the original article here.