Morgan Floyd stepped up to the shooting line, confident in her love for archery but unsure of the outcome. She needed to score 48 points to ensure a spot on the winners’ podium, a goal she had dreamed of for four years. She reminded herself to relax and be satisfied regardless of the outcome, but she struggled with the nervousness typical of a competitive 14-year-old as she drew back her custom-painted pink Genesis bow to aim her first arrow. She knew she had the ability, but had to be calm to shoot her best. Morgan released the arrow and watched it pierce the red ring on the target, scoring 9 points. She followed up with a disappointing 8 and was immediately aware that with only 3 arrows remaining, there was no way she could achieve her 48. Moving beyond her initial feeling of disappointment, she relaxed with relief that the pressure was off, then proceeded to shoot 3 10’s to end the round.
As she approached the target to record her score and retrieve her arrows, she noticed that her first arrow was extremely close to the ten ring. Then, as she and her partner knelt down to score the round, they observed the arrow was touching the line. Her 9 was, in fact, a 10. Incredulous, Morgan realized she had her 48!”
Like thousands of other Kentucky middle school students, Morgan’s participation in archery began in 6th grade with the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) during her PE class. She found she enjoyed archery and wanted to continue in archery outside her PE class. She joined the after-school archery club to have more opportunities to shoot and develop her abilities. The following June, she competed with her school in the first-ever NASP state tournament at the Kentucky Horse Park. At that tournament, Morgan watched the awards ceremony and her dream to stand on the podium one day was born. “I started pushing myself to improve so I could live that dream. Archery was something I enjoyed doing and I really wanted to be good at it. Every year, I could see myself getting better. I knew it wasn’t by much, but I was still better than the year before.”
Then, in 2005, during Morgan’s eight-grade year, her mom, Cecelia, was diagnosed with breast cancer. “It changed my perspective on a lot of things. Archery took the backseat in my life for awhile. Twenty chemo treatments and hundreds of prayers later, Mom finally beat cancer. It was actually a blessing from God that made me look at my goals differently and evaluate what I really wanted to do. Out of everything I was involved in, I decided that archery was one of the things that mattered most to me and kept me focused during difficult times. I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy, but I wanted to be on that podium more than ever.”
As Morgan continued to strive toward her goal, she began practicing with Coach Curtis Beverly. Mr. Beverly helped her develop good form and emphasized the importance of consistency. “Curtis always reminded me to keep my form, and because of that I became more consistent that I ever had been.” He identified her strengths and helped her overcome her weaknesses. He also worked with improving the mental aspect of her game. She credits his advice for developing her archery skills as they are today. “There are not many people out there who are as positive and reinforcing as he is. I’m lucky to have him as my coach.”
As a freshman, in her first competition following her mom’s breast cancer battle and after taking on Beverly as a coach, Morgan scored a very respectable 7th at state. Still, she was not satisfied, and vowed to practice even harder for sophomore year. Unfortunately, Morgan had one more obstacle to face before achieving her dream.
One month before the beginning of her sophomore year, Morgan’s dad accepted a new position, which required the family to move from Somerset, Kentucky to Richmond, Kentucky. Morgan would have to leave all her friends and enter a new school district that was about 3 times as large as the one she was leaving. “Moving was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I ended up going to Madison Central High School, which has around 1,700 students whereas Somerset High School had around 500. However, there were some positive things about moving to Madison County. The volleyball program was excellent, and there were more classes to choose from.” She was especially disappointed to leave the archery program in Somerset since she had been there since its beginning and to add one more blow to the story, no one at her new school had ever heard of the NASP program. Morgan was certain that “for me, archery was over.”
Fortunately, Morgan’s archery story didn’t end there. The following January, Madison Central adopted the NASP program, so once again Morgan was able to join her school’s archery team. She was amazed at how quickly the archery program grew there, and at neighboring school, Madison Southern High School. “It was cool to see a new archery program start from the beginning. It reminded me of when Somerset started. The students from both schools worked hard, and both teams improved faster than I ever had.” Morgan practiced with both teams, taking advantage of many hours of practice to hone her game. That spring, when Southern hosted the regional NASP tournament, Morgan placed 1st overall. She appeared to be on the road to her dream. Her next challenge would be the Kentucky state tournament.
Regrettably, the state tournament was a different story. “I did the same thing I did my freshman year. I put too much pressure on myself and didn’t shoot well. I shot the same score I had the year before and ended up 9th, which was not good enough to qualify me as an individual to go to nationals.” Fortunately both Central and Southern qualified as teams. Morgan would go on to nationals as part of Madison Central’s team. “Without Central’s archery team qualifying, I would never have had the chance to compete further. It was such a blessing. I was so proud of both teams. I was grateful to have a second chance, and I promised myself that I would take advantage of it.”
Morgan practiced long and frequently in preparation for nationals, and continued to receive coaching advice from Curtis Beverly. One night, about a month before the national tournament he said something that changed Morgan’s point of view about archery once again. “He said that no matter how I shot in nationals that he, my dad, my mom, my little brother Jon, and Jennie would still love me.” This common sense advice struck a chord with Morgan. Even though she already knew this in her heart, “it opened my eyes. When I talked to Jennie the next day, she said the same thing.” Then Morgan talked to her dad about what Curtis and Jennie had said. “He just smiled and told me, ‘Archery is something you do, not who you are.’”
Through their words, Morgan finally found the confidence in herself to shift her focus away from winning or losing or pleasing anybody. She realized that she could shoot archery for herself simply for the love of it. When she was shooting at nationals, she was able to relax and enjoy the game and the experience. “At nationals, that’s all I thought about. I liked being there with all my teams, Central, Southern and Somerset. I got to see friends that I had known from archery since 6th grade at the Horse Park. It was kind of like that 1st year for me all over again.”
“It was on my last round when Coach Riggs informed me that if I shot a 48, I would be tied for first place with a 288.” After achieving that 288, she still didn’t know for sure that she had won, or if there was a tie. She feared the pressure of a shoot-off. “During awards I was afraid I would have to do a shoot-off to break the tie, but then Mom reminded me that the number of 10’s we both shot might break any tie.” Announcements for shoot-offs came and went and Morgan’s name was never called. She knew she either had won overall, or placed second. The announcer declared that the scholarship shoot-off between the top 4 male and female archers was beginning, and Morgan was among the top 4 female shooters. She would have to face that fear after all, but with the potential of winning a $2,500 scholarship. While waiting for the shoot off to start, the competitors talked about their scores. “I was waiting for one of them to say 288, but it never came. That’s when I first realized that I had won overall! I tried to forget about it for awhile and focus on the scholarship shoot-off, but it was difficult to say the least.”
In the scholarship shoot-off, Morgan tied with three other girls in the first round, then ultimately ended up in fourth place and a $1000 college scholarship. But in the overall competition for the day, it soon was officially announced that Morgan had won! Her gracious reaction to winning: “All I originally wanted was a place on the podium, but this was such a blessing! I thanked God for allowing me this recognition.” As she walked up in front of everybody there, Morgan thought back to the first awards ceremony at the Horse Park and realized she had achieved her dream.
Morgan’s story doesn’t end here. Morgan’s mother’s breast cancer had also shown her what strength and perseverance could overcome. It was more than coincidence that Morgan won the NASP National tournament with a custom-painted pink Genesis bow. This was a very symbolic way of remembering her mother’s strength and perseverance during difficult times. The pink bow was a reminder that kept Morgan focused when she might have been tempted to give up.
Breast cancer is a tragic disease that begs to be cured. Part of the answer to the cure is education and awareness. Another part is funding for research. Morgan’s dramatic story and her success with her custom pink bow have spurred the bow manufacturer, Brennan Industries, Inc., to introduce a new pink breast cancer awareness bow. A portion of the sales proceeds for each “Pink Lemonade” Genesis bow sold will be donated to breast cancer research. Each bow sports a hangtag reminding the public that early detection saves lives.
Flash back to 1998 for the origin of how Morgan came to be at that shooting line: middle school principal Rich Pruitt and 8th grade mathematics teacher Jennie Richardson were coaching an after-school archery club at Whitley County Middle School in Kentucky. Pruitt and Richardson believed archery was a sport that almost any kid could play successfully, and wanted to give students an opportunity to experience it. Their small club grew from seven student participants in its first year to 232 in its 5th year. With a student population of 750, that level of participation was newsworthy. The local paper published a feature article on the archery club and teacher Jennie Richardson. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s Commissioners of Education and Fish and Wildlife were brainstorming about how to interest more youth in archery, a passion they shared. They speculated that archery was a wholesome, pleasurable pursuit that could reach a broad spectrum of kids. When they spotted the newspaper article about Richardson, a plan to introduce archery in Kentucky’s middle school PE classes emerged with a goal that archery could eventually become an interscholastic high school sport. The National Archery in the Schools program was born.
The plan was piloted in Kentucky with enthusiastic reception. Since then, the program has grown explosively. It now reaches 46 U.S. states, Canada and Australia. Over 3 million youth have participated in archery during school hours since its inception. It started as a simple idea…teach kids the basics of archery as a part of school curriculum, but has grown into so much more. The National Archery in the Schools Program has the ability to improve school attendance and increase student self esteem. It appeals to almost all students and can become an after school activity.
The National Archery in the Schools Program is making common place something many experts didn’t think was possible – teaching a shooting sport in the local school gymnasium. (The target points on NASP arrows don’t damage gymnasium floors, even according to Kentucky basketball coaches who are very protective of their courts.) Founders think the clock has been turned back to a simpler time when young people saw shooting sports as fun and cool.
The NASP continues to increase in popularity as word-of-mouth among educators and students sings its praises. Some schools are desperately searching for funding to purchase start-up equipment and replacement and maintenance supplies. NASP, Inc., a 501 c (3) non-profit educational organization, endeavors to address expansion of the program to all the states and interested foreign countries and continues to evaluate the program’s ability to improve grades, attendance and student behavior. Individuals or organizations that care about the future of our young people and who believe that early success in school leads to a more motivated student and a better citizen, could do far worse than help the NASP take every child along for the journey.
Checks payable to NASP, Inc. may be sent to 2035 Riley Road, Sparta, WI 54656. To make a credit card donation or for guidance in helping your local school adopt NASP, call 608-269-1779.