Saturday, 12 May 2018 10:42

OP ED: Depriving Youth Access to Target Sports is Nonsensical

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A bill was recently put forward by a Manhattan lawmaker that, if passed and signed by the Governor, would do away with marksmanship, archery, and shooting programs in New York state schools. The bill would also ban gun safety classes on school grounds by prohibiting the use of firearms as part of the lesson.

Under this proposal, highly successful programs and teams that positively impact thousands of kids each year would be eliminated. Dedicated and trained professionals who instruct children of all abilities would no longer be able to teach skills that they can use for a lifetime.

The proposal would have a far-reaching effect. According to the New York state Public High School Athletic Association, there are more than 30 air-rifle teams in New York with 300 student participants. One team in Central Square recently earned top rankings in several events at a state-wide competition in West Point. The New York State High School Clay Target League had 59 high school teams participate this year that included 1,149 students.

In addition to rifle sports, archery would also be eliminated. This runs counterintuitive to what state officials and educators are doing to accommodate a growing interest in outdoor recreation. In 2008, New York became the 44th state to offer the National Archery in Schools Program. This program is coordinated by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) which provides curriculum to interested schools. Officials from DEC report that interest in the sport has grown in recent years. Currently, more than 34,000 students participate in archery during the school year in physical education classes and in teams run through the schools. This year, about 700 students from 33 school districts participated in an annual statewide archery tournament. This is a great opportunity for kids of all ages. Altmar-Parish-Williamstown Central Schools has a competitive team and once again, students ranked in this year's competition.

Instructors for each of these programs point to strengths and benefits and the positive impact they have on kids. For example, students of all athletic abilities can participate in target sports which makes them arguably more inclusive than other sports. They help develop hand-eye coordination, grip, and body strength. Educators say they engage the ‘unengaged’ student and as a result, this inspires students to reach higher achievement in other subject areas. Educators also say these programs teach discipline, focus, and teamwork. As with any team sport, kids get to learn the value of hard work and experience the gratification of seeing their work pay off as they improve over time and place in competitions.

If proposing to take these opportunities away was not bad enough, the sponsor also proposes to do away with hunter safety opportunities at schools. These are voluntary courses which teach people the basics of firearm safety. If we want to lower gun injuries and death as the sponsor suggests, we should create more training opportunities that teach people safe handling and other skills. If you have comments regarding these or other state issues, please contact me. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by email at [email protected], or by calling (315) 598-5185. You also can find me, Assemblyman Barclay, on Facebook.

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