by Madison Evans
The Sartell Sabres Archery team kicked off its second season Dec. 5 with an expanded team from 50 archers last year to 90 this year.
Excited students and parents were quick to snatch up the additional 40 spots. Registration for the team’s second season filled up within 10 minutes and there is now a waiting list. Could archery be the new pickleball? They do have some similarities. Almost anyone can play, new players can learn the basics quickly and participation is fun.
The Sartell Archery team is for students in grades 4-12 and is geared toward bullseye archery. To play bullseye archery, archers stand 10 or 15 meters away from a target which has a large circle with 10 rings colored white, black, blue, red and yellow. They shoot five arrows per end (round) and the goal is to hit the center of the target. Depending on where their arrows land, they score anywhere from 0 to 10 points per arrow. During a tournament, they shoot a total of 30 arrows. After the archers finish shooting, they walk up to the target and document their score. The top score one can earn in a tournament is 300.
The archery season runs December through the end of March, longer if archers win a spot in the national competition. The Sartell team practices for 50 minutes two times per week to prepare for six tournaments. Practices are held at Riverview Intermediate School.
The vibe at archery is different than other sports. There is no rowdy, cheering audience at tournaments and practices tend to be on the quieter side. Event attendees will likely only hear a “thump” when arrows hit the targets. Also, unlike more physical sports, participants don’t have to be the strongest or fastest kids; in fact, they don’t even need to break a sweat in practice. Rather, it takes focus to perfect one’s archery form. Perhaps archery’s uniqueness is why kids enjoy the sport. Returning archer Landon Harbaugh, 12, of Sartell is looking forward to this season.
“I wanted to return to archery again this year so I can keep improving and get ready for bow-hunting season,” he said. “What I like best about archery is shooting my bow and trying to beat my score every time. I love improving during practice and getting to shoot with my friends. The coaches are great too.”
The Sartell Archery program is run through Sartell-St. Stephen Community Education and led by volunteer parent and head coach Bob Brezinka of Sartell. He attributes the program’s success to positive word of mouth. Sophia Bohn-Gettler, 11, of Sartell can attest to that sentiment. She joined this year after hearing neighbor friends rave about how much fun they had at practices and tournaments last season.
“It sounded like a fun experience,” she said. “Once you understand the basics, it is easy to work on improving.”
Jen Traver, director of Community Education and Associate Activities director, said the district is lucky to have people who are willing to commit themselves to youth programs like Sabres Archery. Community Ed provides the framework, but the success of the program stems from Brezinka’s organizational skills and parent volunteers who have a passion for the sport.
The archery program began because of Brezinka’s passion not only for archery but also for his family. Brezinka is a loving father of three daughters – Brynn, 10; Aubri, 7; and Rylee, 5. He and his wife, Jessica, who is a fellow Sabres Archery coach, share a love of hunting and outdoor activities with their children. Brynn had expressed interest in competitive archery. The family learned that while neighboring cities have programs available, Sartell lacked opportunities.
Brezinka seized the moment. He worked with the National Archery in Schools Program that provides the foundation for organizing a team. After more than a year of preparation, he was able to meet the requirements and find the needed teachers, space, equipment and funds to kick off the inaugural season in late 2022. It was hard work to get the archery program up and running, but in the end it was worth it when Brezinka saw his daughter, Brynn, score her first 50, a perfect score in one archery end.
Brezinka hopes to continue to grow the program in a sustainable way while providing the best experience possible for the children. Currently, the program allows for a maximum of 90 archers. However, he hopes to grow it to 120 students in the coming years. He is also thankful for local sponsors who help fund the team’s costly equipment and tournament fees, allowing students to participate by only paying a $200 fee.
For more information on the program, visit the team’s Facebook page “Sartell-St-Stephen Sabres Archery.”