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From Survival to Sport: The Evolution of Archery

By Nathan Maltz

Canton, MA--In the summer of 2015, 17 year-old Thomas Belisle grabs his bow string and steadily pulls it back to the anchor point adjacent to his jaw. Eyeing his target, Belisle inhales slowly and releases his grip on the string, propelling his arrow through the inner yellow ring of the target, a perfect bull's-eye.


Every summer, the most talented junior archers in the nation meet in Decatur, Alabama for the U.S. Outdoor National Archery Championships, a tournament at which Canton’s Belisle placed 30th out of over 70 talented competitors from across the country.


The origins of archery can be traced back as far as 10000 B.C., when bows and arrows were initially produced separately across Europe. Arrows were invented first and were primarily propelled by spear-throwing which was later replaced by the bow due to its added speed and accuracy. At first, the uses of archery were exclusively concerned with survival, specifically by way of hunting and combat. However, as the production of firearms increased, archery equipment became relatively obsolete in terms of necessity.


With the decline of archery’s use for necessity several centuries ago, it has enjoyed augmented levels of interest as a competitive sport. Whether enthusiasm for archery is sparked by early exposure, interest in the history of combat, or as Thomas Belisle described it, an “urge to try it because it looked like fun”, the national interest in archery is growing steadily.


It appears that once an individual has been captivated by the enticing sport of archery, it is not something they want to stop indulging in. Belisle, who has been an avid archery enthusiast since the age of about seven, has no intentions of stopping. Despite being occupied with his job, schoolwork, and college application, Belisle still finds time to practice shooting in his yard, aiming to shoot over 100 arrows every day. When asked about whether or not he plans on continuing to pursue archery competitively, Belisle responds simply by saying “I’ve been doing it for so long, I might as well keep going. To see how far I can go”.

Over the next few generations, it will be interesting to examine how archery’s prevalence in the United States continues to evolve and differ from the years in the past.

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