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Dear Suzanne Collins,
We hear you're not particularly fond of interviews, media inquiries, or celebrity appearances. But we wanted to thank you for doing something that nobody else has ever done: You've made archery hot. For pretty much the first time ever, in modern-day America.
Since archery was re-introduced at the Olympic Games in 1972, our sport has struggled -- and largely failed -- to find its cool factor. We completely ruled out the hope of ever having any mass appeal, too...if Geena Davis can be a semifinalist for the Olympics in 2000 (you know, when she's not catching fly balls while landing in the splits) and still no one takes notice, then you know it's unlikely archery will ever be more than a fleeting thought to most Americans. Movies like Robin Hood: Men in Tights didn't do us any big favors either, and the sport itself has suffered from a general lack of scintillating marketing for many years. About a decade ago, we once saw an athlete wear a T-shirt with the credo "Archery: It's Still Cool." We think he made it using those DIY iron-on letters. Aww.
Our teams began to see success internationally over the past couple years, though, and USA Archery has cultivated a loyal Facebook and Twitter fan base. But nothing prepared us for the sheer craziness that ensued when we shared the story of how Olympic archer Khatuna Lorig coached J-Law for her role in The Hunger Games. When Katniss Everdeen started brandishing her bow and arrows on movie screens across America, our phones began (literally, began) ringing nonstop. You'd think our phones were tracker jackers, they frightened us so much those first couple rings.
Reporters who previously had to be begged to cover our events (and usually didn't) are now calling to inform us, "Archers are the new vampires." (We're sorry, don't hate us for writing that; hate them.) And as the New York Post headline read last month, it's "Arch Madness!" (Yay!) The influence of The Hunger Games is very real, though: Junior Olympic Archery Development clubs across the country are reporting that participation is up as much as 75 percent, and website traffic at usarchery.org was up 59 percent last month, versus March 2011. Searches on Yahoo! for "archery" have spiked 32 percent in the past 30 days, with 64 percent of those users being under the age of 35.
As Team USA archers prepare for the Olympic Games -- shooting hundreds of arrows every day, doing their cardio, strengthening their cores, and training to beat their competition -- the world is finally paying attention. Across the country, young women with a new heroine are picking up bows and arrows for the first time, preparing to unleash their inner Katniss -- and perhaps beginning an Olympic or Paralympic journey of their own.
It's all thanks to you, Suzanne Collins. Thank you so much for taking archery from summer camp and "men in tights" to the blazing-hot spotlight that may recruit one heck of a spirited new generation of archers. We couldn't be more grateful.
For more information on USA Archery or to find a program near you, visit usarchery.org.
Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, April 2012.Related Links