Sponsored by science teachers Jeremy Armstrong and Vijay Purugulla, the club not only is the first one of its kind in the county, but it the first archery program in the state of Georgia to be sponsored by the Olympic Archery in Schools program.
Founded by Purugulla, the club consists of 13 boys and seven girls. They practice Mondays at the Big Woods Goods sporting goods store in Canton.
With films such as “The Hunger Games” and “The Avengers,” not to mention the Summer Olympics in London, bringing archery to light, Purugulla felt he would have enough students show up to fill out a club at Etowah.
“I expected about 30, maybe 40 students to be interested,” Purugulla said.
Instead, on the day of signups, Purugulla found his classroom was filled with 70 prospective archers.
“We actually had to turn students away,” said Purugulla, who admitted students to the club using a first-come, first-serve basis. “The turnout was much bigger than I expected.”
Purugulla, who said he first became involved with archery in 1983, decided to start the club after retiring from coaching high school sports.
“I decided that archery would be a great activity for the school that would benefit anyone regardless of background or ability,” said Purugulla, a former cross country coach at Creekview. “You don’t have to be what is considered an athlete in high school to try it.”
For Purugulla, the draw of learning to use a bow is simple.
“When you shoot, there is nothing between you and the bow,” he said. “There is nothing fancy about it. It is just you, your bow, and your target.”
Senior Haley Cary was one of the first students to join.
“I was very excited when I heard about the club, but I had no idea that so many people would show up,” Cary said. “It’s nice to know that I was able beat out 50 other people to get in the club.”
Besides allowing students to feel like their favorite movie characters, Purugulla said he also felt archery was a great way to instill discipline in the shooter.
“Just like in the classroom, the more you pay attention, the more you focus, the more you listen — automatically, the more disciplined you are,” he said. “The goal is not just to be able to hit the target, but to focus on their body discipline and to understand the mechanics of how they shoot. They have to focus on themselves.”
Junior Sam Schuvart echoed similar thoughts as his coach.
“It teaches me patience,” Schuvart said. “You can’t just expect to go out and hit the target. You actually have to try. You have to think about what you are doing.”
Though the club has only been practicing for four weeks, the coaches have already scheduled the club for its first competition in November.
Purugulla hopes that, as the students continue to progress, they will begin to enter tournaments on their own, and eventually move onto a higher level of competition.
“I want them to see that they can keep growing in their level of skill — that they can go from our program to the Olympic Junior Archery program, and even beyond,” Purugulla said.
But more important for Purugulla is that the students find archery to be something they can enjoy doing for the rest of their lives.
“I want them to realize that archery is fun,” he said. “Whether they decide they want to hunt when they get older, or they just want to do it for a hobby, this is something fun that they can do forever.”