Pop culture helps local archery enthusiasts get to the point

Bows line the walls of Adventures Archery in Brandon.
Bows line the walls of Adventures Archery in Brandon.
Published Nov. 20, 2015


Bryce Smith first picked up archery when his daughter saw Princess Merida shoot a bow in Disney's Brave.

Smith was a martial arts instructor — aikido — before a car accident had his doctor telling him "no more punches to the face."

Around the same time, his then-5-year-old daughter, Violet, begged him to teach her to shoot like Merida.

"So, I started going to the range, bought myself a bow and got to the point where I was like, 'Okay, now I can teach you how to shoot,' " Smith said.

Four years later, Violet has her own pink bow, and Smith stands as part of a growing interest in archery as the founder and owner of Tampa Archery School. From kids to parents, the sport appears to be enjoying an uptick with at least two archery businesses and a rise among student competitors.

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Tampa Archery School offers classes and special events ranging from beginner to competition level.

Some events have students defending castles from goblins and Orks. Others have zombies, aliens, dragons or dinosaurs in a blacked-out room with lasers and lights swirling around the targets.

"(The students) just think archery is really cool. They've seen it in movies and video games and want to do what they saw," Smith said.

On Saturday, Smith and his class of archers celebrated the release of the final installment of The Hunger Games franchise with a movie marathon, team competitions and even archery-style dodgeball with foam-tipped arrows. All while lasers lit up the floor and walls in a fiery glow.

The winning team received passes for an early screening of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2.

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Archery has become a popular sport for middle and high school students in Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough County has 71 schools involved with the National Archery in Schools Program, which provides curriculum, instructor training and proper equipment in public schools.

"At this point, Hillsborough County has the most schools participating in the National Archery in Schools Program," said Steven Robbins, Florida coordinator for NASP.

"You don't have to be 6-foot-5 or have a good jump shot," Robbins said. "If you have decent hand-eye coordination, you can become an extremely good archer."

Unlike other sports, archery is co-ed.

"Better than 40 percent of participants are female," Robbins said. "It's something you don't see in any other type of school sports."

It's a sport that can turn into a lifelong hobby, something students can grow with and progress.

Families choose the sport, as well as retirees and married couples, because it's something fun all ages can do together.

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Adventures Archery in Brandon, half retail shop and half range, is another option for those looking to learn.

Danielle Edelmann, who has been working at Adventures Archery for eight years, teaches classes and helps beginners pick out the best equipment.

"My husband actually got me involved in archery," Edelmann said. "We had just started dating. Little did I know that there would be a love story with not only my now-husband, but the sport of archery, as well."

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The business carries an array of gear and has an indoor range for classes and open shooting. Edelmann and her team are currently finishing up an outdoor range.

Every Wednesday, a local group of homeschooled children use the range as part of their physical education requirement.

Celsey Miller, 13, picked up archery two months ago after being inspired by the video game The Legend of Zelda. Another homeschooled student, Kai Clark, 12, wanted to take after American folk hero Daniel Boone.

"The first Hunger Games film gained the most popularity for archery, and it became less male-dominated since the films," Edelmann said. "The film Brave also inspired many young girls to begin archery."

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Smith's archery school also has students who got hooked on archery through pop culture. The Hunger Games, the CW's Arrow and The Lord of the Rings are frequently mentioned as inspirations.

"It's not at all how it looks," said Ava Miller, 9, who wanted to shoot like Katniss Everdeen. "(The films) make it look so easy."

Not all local archers were influenced by pop culture, though.

Dena Bridge, 33, picked up practicing at Adventures Archery because "it's cheaper than bullets."

Jenny Noboa, 34, who Smith calls one of his most dedicated students, learned to shoot when she was tempted by a glass pineapple prize awarded at a competition in Lanai, Hawaii.

"I practiced the whole time before our trip (to Hawaii) because I wanted to win the pineapple," Noboa said. "Then, I didn't want to stop."

Now, she practices every day at Tampa Archery School.

Contact Chelsea Tatham at Contact Arielle Waldman at