Aspiring archers drawn to Amherst academy’s classes, camps

  • SerahRose Bissell, business manager of the Amherst Archery Academy, back left, and Stephen Butler, the coordinator, discuss game rules with participants, from left, Laura Gomez, Paola Gallego and Kate Gerrity. Below, a bucket of unused arrows. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR PHOTOS

  • A bowl of unused arrows. Amherst College's Human Resources coordinated with Amherst Archery Academy (AAA), Bramble Hill Farm, in Amherst, MA, to get their employees involved in a "wellness course," frequently put on by the AAA. Tuesday, July 25, 2017 marks the third year in-a-row that Amherst College's HR coordinated a program with AAA. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Paola Gallego nocks an arrow and prepares to shoot at her target. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Paola Gallego, center, gets in the proper position to shoot off an arrow, as part of a “wellness course” led by the Amherst Archery Academy last week. The course, coordinated by Amherst College’s human resources office, was held at Bramble Hill Farm in Amherst The academy, based in Florence, trains some 600 archers a year. This was the third straight year that Amherst College employees took the academy’s wellness course. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • All of the participants practice their aiming and shooting skills before getting in teams and playing a fun, competitive archery game. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O’CONNOR

  • Chris Campbell, purple sweatshirt, and Ashley Maitland, pink hair, high-five each other after their team reached their target goal during the archery game all of the participants played. Amherst College's Human Resources coordinated with Amherst Archery Academy (AAA), Bramble Hill Farm, in Amherst, MA, to get their employees involved in a "wellness course," frequently put on by the AAA. Tuesday, July 25, 2017 marks the third year in-a-row that Amherst College's HR coordinated a program with AAA. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

  • Roseilyn Guzman, left, and Kyle Bissell, pull out arrows from a target. Amherst College's Human Resources coordinated with Amherst Archery Academy (AAA), Bramble Hill Farm, in Amherst, MA, to get their employees involved in a "wellness course," frequently put on by the AAA. Tuesday, July 25, 2017 marks the third year in-a-row that Amherst College's HR coordinated a program with AAA. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROLINE O'CONNOR

@NyssaKruse
Published: 7/30/2017 5:54:21 PM

FLORENCE — When Kyle Bissell tells new acquaintances that he coaches archery for a living, many people launch into stories about their experiences using bows and arrows for hunting.

Bissell said he listens to these people to be polite, but in truth, he doesn’t know the first thing about hunting.

“The only thing that’s similar is we’re using bows and arrows,” he said. “The form of archery I teach is more akin to yoga than hunting.”

Bissell, owner of Amherst Archery Academy, is certified as a level four archery instructor with USA Archery, the body that oversees the Olympic archery team. AAA was originally located in Amherst when Bissell founded it seven years ago, but it now operates from an indoor range in Florence at the Arts & Industry Building, 221 Pine St. Some classes are held outdoors elsewhere in the summer.

Bissell uses a mind-body coaching technique, and through his business, he works with more than 600 archers each year. Some travel as many as 100 miles to train with him.

“We are attendant to both the emotional and mental side of the archer athlete and the physical side,” Bissell said. “We demonstrate empathy, while at the same time challenging archer athletes.”

USA Archery’s levels of certification for coaches range from one, the lowest and most basic of proficiency, to five. Only a handful of coaches in the country have a higher certification than Bissell, and he estimates about 250 other coaches nationally are certified at level four.

Amherst Archery Academy doesn’t focus solely on elite training, but Bissell has a handful of students who travel to tournaments around the country. A few have placed in the top 10 at national competitions.

However, he said he doesn’t force students to go this route because it can be high-stress. Instead, he waits for his students to tell him they’re ready for competitions, and he uses the process to teach his students about coping with challenges and failure.

“I’m super proud of the athletes who have gone to tournaments because they’ve all shown development in resiliency,” Bissell said.

AAA’s other ventures include children’s archery camps and professional development trainings that use archery as a metaphor for different workplace concepts like communication and relationships. AAA also teaches archery classes for children and adults of all skill levels.

Those interested in taking archery classes can enroll in the Adult Archery Achievement Program, the Junior Olympic Archery Development program or in general lessons.

The AAAP and JOAD are programs that meet weekly, and students can pass tests to level up in a way similar to the belt system in karate. These programs cost $270 for ten classes this fall.

General lessons are for people of all abilities and meet just once or for a set number of lessons. This summer, lessons cost $170 for four classes.

The nature of archery allows Bissell to train people of all ages and abilities together at once because the same basic thing is happening for all of them: shooting a bow and arrow.

Bissell said parents of young archers sometimes get interested after watching their kids and ask to participate.

“They’ll get inspired by shooting, and they’ll join, too,” Bissell said.

Archery was a family affair for Bissell too — his mom taught him how to shoot as a child.

Bissell went on to teach archery at a summer camp, before he knew much about the sport. Then, after careers as a ski instructor and a physical education teacher, he became a high-level coach. He now often trains summer camp archery instructors, like the kind he once was.

Cerji Colvin, 42, first met Bissell when she was getting certified to teach archery at a camp. Now she has grown to enjoy archery so much, she takes lessons with Bissell a few times a week and competes in local and national competitions.

She placed second at indoor nationals two years ago and sixth last year.

“It’s lucky I fell into it,” she said.

Bissell said success in archery isn’t about aiming, and he encourages his archers to instead focus on the process of a shot, which has 11 separate steps. Only one step is to aim.

Bissell also encourages his archers to focus not on the outcome of their shot — its distance from the bull’s-eye — and instead to really focus on the process and form of their shot. He said thinking too much about the outcome can negatively affect it.

“When our mind has something to focus on, to focus on the process, we achieve great results,” Bissell said.

He takes this training method so far as to even take the bow out of his students’ hands, and instead give them a stretch band simulating a bow string. Students practice the release of the band, with no arrow, and Bissell videos the “shot” to help them analyze their form.

Bissell also uses songs, mirrors and the physics behind archery as different ways to help people understand and improve their form. “If you can get the form properly, the bull’s-eye will come,” he said.




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