'Hunger Games' has America kids hooked on archery

First, “Harry Potter” made magic cool. Then, “Twilight” made vampires sexy.  Now, “The Hunger Games” has American kids hooked on…archery?

Katniss Everdeen, the 16-year-old girl who hunts with a bow and arrow to dominate in “The Hunger Games,” is just one of many movie and TV characters inspiring American youth to take up archery.

With the March release of the movie, combined with archery events televised during the Olympic Games in London last summer, more young people are taking up target shooting.

USA Archery, the national governing body for the Olympic sport, reports 357 youths competed last June in the Eastern Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) Nationals. Only 171 in competed in 2001.

“The biggest uptick we have seen is in youth in general, specifically the 15-17 year old age category,” said Teresa Iaconi, a rep for USA Archery. “Our JOAD clubs and coaches across the country are telling us that they are seeing more young women than they ever have before, and our tournament attendance is reporting higher participation from girls in the cadet division.”

Besides Katniss, new female archers include Princess Merida in “Brave,”  who relies on her bravery and shooting skills to undo a curse; Tauriel, a woodland elf in “The Hobbit,” and Charlie Matheson, the young heroine of  TV’s ”Revolution.”

Carolina Murphy, 12, a seventh grader from Langhorne, PA., took up archery after seeing “The Hunger Games.” She practices six to 10 hours per week at X-Ring Archers in Lambertville, NJ, and competes on weekends with her bow.

“Katniss is very strong and inspirational,’’ Murphy said. “No matter what obstacles she faces, she keeps going and never turns back.”

Her parents have seen the same determination in their daughter.

“Archery has brought our daughter a strong sense of mastery and self confidence that I believe is difficult to teach,” Colleen Murphy said.

Joseph Murphy has taken up the sport and spends time practicing with his daughter.

“I watch her standing on the shooting line with men and professional archers and it’s really amazing she is shooting with them,” he said.

Role models for boys include “Arrow” on The CW; the crossbow-toting Daryl Dixon from “The Walking Dead”; Hawkeye in “The Avengers,” plus characters in “Game of Thrones” and “The Lord of the Rings” series.

Brady Ellison, 24, who is ranked No. 1 by World Archery, was on the three-man U.S. Men's Olympic Archery Team that took home a silver medal last summer. He came up through the JOAD program.

He said target shooting has always been popular internationally, but in America it was more about hunting. That has changed, he said.

“When ‘The Hunger Games’ came out there was an immediate jump in sales of the recurve bow,’’ he said. “Friends of mine who own archery shops said they were packed with customers.”

He says the show “Arrow” is like “Batman with a bow” and good for the sport. But he’s concerned bows may be seen as violent weapons for killing. And, like guns, there may be calls for more regulation. He worries there could be a call to ban certain kinds of bows, similar to an assault rifle ban.

“I do think (movies and TV) bring a huge amount of exposure to the sport, and everyone says exposure is good, whether it’s positive or negative,” Ellison said. “I would like to see a reality TV show following athletes around rather than guys kicking ass with a bow.”  

For a list of USA Archery clubs, visit http://www.usarchery.org.

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