FENTON, MO – The dictionary will tell you that archery is nothing more than a sport or skill whereby a bow is used to propel arrows at a target, a competition that measures accuracy and precision.
But archery, like many sports, is more than just one, simple action. It is a complex structure of precise decisions, requiring a high level of concentration, passion, and practice.
Even the minutest of details are important, and those who execute those details with the highest rate of consistency are those who excel at their craft.
In archery, you don’t have to be the strongest athlete or the fastest runner. But you do have to have the right presence of mind.
Without question, the Guffey Elementary School Griffins, located in Fenton, MO, have the right presence of mind, one that earned them the 2017 National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) State Championship in late March.
Originally dedicated to forming a bridge between education and conservation, the NASP has served the purpose of providing hundreds of students anywhere from K-12 the opportunity to learn life skills and further develop their education in schools while enjoying a new activity. This yields better student health, outlook, and educational progress. On top of that, they’ve developed on ongoing, good-natured competition at the state, national, and now global level.
The Griffins took home this year’s Missouri Title for the 9th consecutive year, a feat that makes Guffey Elementary the only K-6 school in the state to win a championship in archery since the NASP tournament was created in 2009.
Like so many other successful school sports programs, the Griffins understand the work and dedication necessary to compete at an elite level. Guffey’s 9 championships certainly speak for themselves.
Not only are the Griffins excelling, but they are getting noticed, and that means growing the program in their district, and in the community around them.
“It’s pretty cool,” Coach John Ponzar said. “Especially when the superintendent (of the Fox C-6 School District) comes up and says that our school district is known for archery at this point because of the things we do. People talk about things in our community and big in our school district, archery is in the top three. In our community it’s grown big and I think a lot of it stems from our success here.”
“We’ve had great support over the years,” Coach Matt Schumacher explained. “Mr. Ponzar and myself have been really good at learning from our mistakes. The kids keep getting better, but also I feel that we’re able to get better as well learning from the kids and the stuff they do.”
Plenty of support from inside and outside the program has allowed the Griffins to succeed in a tremendous way. Not only has it lead to their success from a championship standpoint, but it’s allowed the coaches, who are also educators, to fully harness the potential that the NASP had sought out to accomplish when it started in 2002, namely, being a program focused on education and student development first, and competition second.
The Griffins have built that program, one that values character, leadership, and discipline. The mentality on and off the range for students in the program is based in ethics, and in furthering the educational and developmental process.
“The program instills a lot of character traits and morals,” Coach Matt Schumacher said. “We love winning state titles, but the biggest thing is how to have them learn to act and be appropriate.”
As teachers at Guffey by degree and coaches for their program by choice, both John Ponzar and Matt Schumacher have made it their obligation to teach first and compete second. They did the former so well that it has allowed them to grow and succeed greatly in the later.
It is this mindset and objective that has set the Griffins apart as elite, and continues to showcase Guffey Elementary as a model program for other schools that are looking to build the same success.
At the core, the Griffins are champions of heart. Head Coaches John Ponzar and Matt Schumacher understand the impact that the NASP has made on not only themselves and their team, but to the hundreds of students that participate nationally, and now globally. Their mission is to continue to grow the NASP and to continue to serve their community, their school district, and their students.
Guffey is building champions, both on the range and in education, and you could say with confidence that their ride for 9 years up to this point has been a pretty good one.
Perhaps this year’s ride will put them where they’ve never been before…National Champions.
The way I see it, with or without another trophy, the Griffins have already won.