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​Pennsylvania NASP Hits the Mark with 100,000 Student Archers

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 Did you know archery is one of the safest sports, second only to table tennis?  

It’s also one of the most adaptable activities for students with physical challenges such as hearing, vision, or mobility issues.  

The Pennsylvania Game Commission helps bring this versatile sport to kids across the Keystone State through the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). 

Currently, 315 Pennsylvania schools offer the archery curriculum, and more than 100,000 students in grades 4-12 participated last year. 

Pennsylvania NASP keeps these students actively engaged in school and even provides opportunities for scholarships.  

The program also sets the foundation for a lifelong love of shooting sports — which often translates to bowhunting 

It’s been so successful at getting kids hooked on archery that the Pennsylvania NASP Bullseye State Tournament outgrew its old venue and moved to Spooky Nook Sports Complex to accommodate the nearly 1,000 student archers competing in 2023.  

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Then the Keystone State sent 180 students to the national tournament last year, where Ava Castrogiovanni of Montrose beat 6,692 other archers to become Pennsylvania’s first national champion.  

Several teams set new state records and checked off personal goals in 2023, including one of Pennsylvania’s standout programs — Upper Dauphin Area Archery Club.  

Reigning State Champs 

Upper Dauphin formed its first archery team in 2014, and Club Advisor Terry Kohler took the helm when his oldest daughter started shooting in 2018.  

In the decade since its inception, the Trojans’ high school team has won the state championship an impressive five times, including in 2023. Upper Dauphin’s middle school team won states last year too.  

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Then at nationals, senior Grace Tomlinson shot a 297 to finish in second place, while freshman Austin Heim claimed tenth with a 295.  

Kohler says these impressive accomplishments are a credit to the dedication of his teams. Some students nearly doubled their scores from early practices to the state tournament just a few months later.  

“To look at where we grew and to see a kid do that and know they have that capability — it’s pretty neat.” 

But NASP doesn’t just give these students a new skill; the archery program often benefits them socially and academically too.  

​“You see kids at the beginning of the year at practice, and they’re a little shy and quiet. As the year goes on and they’re part of a team, you see them come out of that shell and be outgoing,” Kohler said. “You don’t see that with NASP where someone thinks, ‘I’m better than you.’ Everyone is humble and appreciates what the other kids can do.” 

The NASP kids also have added motivation to prioritize their schoolwork to stay eligible for the program. And Kohlers says all hardworking students are welcome.  

“What’s great about archery and the NASP program is you don’t have to be a jock. You can be a kid that maybe has a learning disability or a physical challenge and be very good at archery. It gets those kids included,” he said. “You don’t have to be a star athlete to excel at it. It’s out there for everybody, and it’s a matter of how hard you want it.” 

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Kohler, who’s been an archer for decades, has sacrificed some of his own competitive shooting to focus on his students and their success.  

“In the winter, I’m all in for the kids and the NASP program,” he said. “The biggest thing for me is when I see those kids coming back off the line and they just shot a really good score or they’re having fun and they’re smiling and enjoying what they’re doing — to me that’s what it’s all about as a coach. I want to see my kids succeed, and I want to see kids win. But at the end of the day, it gives them some joy and happiness. That’s what I really enjoy.”  

Kohler strives to keep his students engaged with the sport, even after they wrap up a season or their high school career.  

​“As I coach, I keep looking at these kids thinking how we can retain them somehow in archery once they graduate and they’re through the NASP program,” he said.   

For some kids, that’s bowhunting.  

Kohler recently headed to Lancaster Archery Supply with a ninth grader and his mom to get him suited up with a hunting bow. The student now has his own fletching jig, comes to his coach with questions about hunting, and aims to take his bow into the woods for the first time this fall. 

“He’s all in,” Kohler said. 
​​This year, Kohler and his high school team have their sights set on achieving a team score of 3,400 in a state-qualifying or state tournament — and, of course, a repeat of the state title.   

“I think it’s a very attainable goal for the program. We have a very good program with very dedicated kids and shooters,” he said. “Our goal every year going into everything is to win the state tournament.”  


Emily Kantner

Emily Kantner is the Communications Manager for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. She’s a lifelong Pennsylvania hunter, and her best days are spent with a bow in hand.   ​