Club Spotlight on John Muir Magnet School by Keaton Chia
The Olympic Archery in Schools (OAS) and Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) programs go hand in hand. This week, we're featuring a story on the Juhn Muir Magnet School in San Diego, part of both the OAS and JOAD programs. Level 4-NTS Coach Keaton Chia is also the OAS Program Supervisor.
A Culture of Heroes
Every school has its own,
unique identity that is shaped by the many parts that compose it, from the look
of the classrooms to the personalities of the teachers and the students they
teach. For a school in central San
Diego, their identity and culture is being re-shaped by the introduction of a
new sport on their campus…Olympic-style archery. In fact, archery is the only sport that the
school offers, which is having impacts beyond the target.
John Muir Magnet School is relatively
new to the OAS Program (Olympic Archery in Schools) and Junior Olympic Archery Development Program (JOAD). It was just over a year ago that their coach,
Vincent Stevens, first got trained by me during one of our OAS coach
courses. By joining OAS, John Muir
became part of a growing movement to give youth more opportunities to
participate and excel in Olympic-style archery and to establish it as a mainstream
sport. Operated by the Easton
Foundations, OAS organizes leagues and inter-school competitions as well as
provides the needed archery equipment, training, insurance, and support to have
safe, fun, and quality archery programs.
After getting certified, Coach Stevens
started up John Muir’s archery program in late February of 2012. Three months later, their small team would
journey up to Los Angeles for the California OAS State Championships held at
Glendale High School and return with medals in hand: four medals were earned
from the ranking round, gold from the team round, and four medals from the
Olympic Round. Though a majority of
their archers graduated in June, this year’s team is off to a strong start,
finishing at the top of their divisions in the OAS Mail-in Tournament. The club has continued to grow and meets
every Monday after school. Students
wanting to get in more practice, come to school early each day to work with
Coach Vince on the range. Archery was
also added to the PE program when Caryn Maroni, the school's PE teacher, got certified
to teach the sport.
Not only are these achievements cause
for celebration, but this success has had a much deeper impact back home, both
on the individual archers and the school itself. “The culture of our school has changed
now…archery has become something that identifies our school,” says Vince. "In our school's 40 some odd years
history there's never been a sport at our school, just been too small and not
enough money for it. Now there is and
the best part about it is kids who weren't necessarily great at academics, who
didn't necessarily think they were good at anything, have found out they are
good at something . Not only are they
good at sports, kids who weren't focusing well, are learning how to focus,
learning how to become more precise not just on the target but also in a
classroom. They're learning some
character traits that they didn't necessarily have before, or at least weren't
These archers are also having
an impact on their peers. Earlier during
their club practice we had the opportunity to present medals to several of
their archers for their performance in the OAS Mail-in Tournament. "These awards, the ribbons and medals...I've
given lots of them for lots of different topics and subjects and things. You know we can go to any trophy store and we
can buy stuff and buy them online...but it's special...it's special to the kid
who is getting it. It means something
because it's symbolic of the work and the effort and the pain and the joy that
they've put into that accomplishment," says Vince. "And when these kids walk around
tomorrow wearing those medals, and they will!
I mean after our State competition, our archers wore those for two weeks
they did! Everybody else in this school
sees those medals and that gives them something to aspire to....that creates a
culture of heroes, where we didn't have any before."
What started as curiosity
from a small group of students has now created a legacy for future generations
at the school. It was inspiring to be
able to talk with Vince about his first hand experiences with their team and
impacts the sport has on his school. We
are excited to share this small glimpse into their archery story and we hope
that you enjoy our interview with Coach Vincent Stevens.
you for taking the time to talk with us Coach Vince! Tell us about what you do here at John Muir.
Coach Stevens: I teach science from 7th through
12th...everything from 7th grade life science to 10th grade biology, chemistry
in 11th grade to physical science and earth science in 9th grade. I've also even taught American literature for
a year and currently I'm the ASB advisor and also, thanks to this program, I'm
the OAS coach on our site.
did you get involved with archery?
Coach Stevens: I've been involved with archery kind of off
and on since I was a kid. I grew up in
South East Missouri, kind of in the woods, so it was really a love of the
outdoors that drew me towards archery.
I've never done any real hunting, but it was traditional archery that
interested me. Traditional styles
probably because I grew up with you know, old movies from the 30's, 40's, 50's
about Robin Hood and Errol Flynn and I was interested in the traditional side at
So years pass, and my
daughter and I were thinking of something to do for the summer and we were in
Balboa Park and happened across the archery range there. I had known it was there, but had forgotten
about it for years. She was fascinated
with it and it sort of brought back a lot of my interest in archery. We got her a bow from one of the local shops
as well as a cheap bow for myself and we went to the range and started playing
around with it. She still shoots
occasionally, but really I'm the one that got really drawn into it, the whole
culture really of archery, because it really is a culture.
starting out with traditional archery, what are your thoughts on the Olympic
Coach Stevens: Well in Olympic archery, and I'm sure it's
true with a lot of Olympic sports, there's a terrific amount of very poignant
research that goes into the biomechanics of that particular sport. For a lot of the biomechanics, traditional
archers kind of fall into it sometimes, and sort of stumble upon, not really
knowing what it is, not knowing how to characterize or qualify it in a way. So it's difficult to turn and teach someone
else how to be a good archer.
The National Training System is delineated in a way that shows you each step of the way. Even though it has certain steps, it doesn't
necessarily force you into any kind of box either so you can tweak things a
little bit to each body type, because not everyone is built the same way, not
everybody's musculature is exactly the same.
Some people have longer or shorter arms and so on. I found that taking some of the Olympic
technique, the NTS system, and applying it to the traditional style I have
learned from other people, I'm able to improve upon what I'm doing with
it. Certainly I've known lots of
traditional archers that were phenomenal archers up to a point in the
range. I'm not one of them , however the
NTS system has taught me to be the best archer that I can be.
apparent that you love archery, what other aspects of the sport interest you?
Coach Stevens: It's not just the bow that fascinates me,
it's really the arrow, and you look at these new space age material arrows and
they're phenomenal, but they're really not that much different from the master
craftsmen arrows of yesterday...of wood.
I'm not a woodworker, but I am building my own arrows. I've paid
somebody else to actually take the dowels and taper them the way I want to make
a barreled, wooden arrow, for my bare bow.
I've learned all this stuff through reading, and I am also fascinated
with the history and culture of archery, and the kind of character it sort of
develops in people. I've yet to meet
anyone in the traditional or Olympic world that wasn't a fantastic human being.
other coaching are you involved with?
Coach Stevens: The only other thing as far as coaching goes,
is coaching every other Saturday down at the Olympic Training Center for the
Roadrunner Archery Club. That has been a
terrific experience. I've learned an
awful lot by watching expert master coaches that are half my age. I'm just amazed every time I go there because
it really is all put on by, and all run by primarily people in their 20s and
30s. And I'm the kid. I'm the new guy, even though I'm old enough
to be their father. I learn just like
all those other little kids down there every time I go. So it's a terrific coaching experience, learning
more really about the fine tuning of the form and the equipment itself. The Olympic bow has a lot of moving parts and
I still don't have them all straight. One
thing I really like about the traditional bow is...it's a bow. There's no shelf. There's a handle and there's two pieces of
wood sticking out of it. The other nice
thing about that is, if I take my bow down there and I shoot it, if I do lousy
I've got an excuse.
did archery get started at John Muir?
Coach Stevens: Some of my students in my class asked what I
liked to do in my spare time and I said, "well archery is one of the
things I like to do" and they said oh man we'd love to do that! This was last year. This was Maureen, Julia, Matthew and Stefan as well as a few other kids [Maureen, Julia, Matthew and Stefan were
part of the team last year that competed at State Champs]. They said, why don't you teach us, why don't
you show us. And I was thinking nahhh
that's gotta be hard to do, to bring a sharp pointy object onto school, but I
thought, maybe there was a program out there.
So I started digging around and through the website I think that I found
out about you. You guys were
terrifically generous and helpful. You
trained me as a coach and I learned an Olympic style and found out I didn't
know anything about archery, but I'm certainly willing to learn as much as I
can and I started teaching these kids thanks to the Easton Foundations Program.
kind of impact has archery had on the students and school?
Coach Stevens: It's had a terrific impact on our school in
particular. Certainly in general it's had a great impact because it's a sport,
something for kids to do that who wouldn't like to do other sports. But our school doesn't have any other sports.
We're small, we have a very small
budget, so we can't do a lot of things. Archery
kind of fits into this little niche. It fits
our school and you know, we kind of have niche kids at our particular school. Now this program would work in any school, big
or small. Since we have kindergarten all
the way to 12th grade, I have kids, little tiny kids, little babies that can't
wait to be old enough so they can try
this, so they can get into the archery club.
There's a culture developing
at our school, that's unique in our school's history. In our school's 40 some odd years history
there's never been a sport at our school, just been too small and not enough
money for it, and now there is and the best part about it is kids who weren't
necessarily great at academics, who didn't necessarily think they were good at
anything, have found out they are good at something. Not only are they good at sports, kids who
weren't focusing well, are learning how to focus, learning how to become more
precise not just on the target but also in a classroom. They're learning some character traits that
they didn't necessarily have before, or at least weren't evident.
[One of my students is a
perfect example]. Great guy, love the
guy, really smart, but always kind of an average academic student. Not that he
doesn't have the potential to be straight A.
He does, he just wasn't quite interested, wasn't sure if there was
anything he loved enough to work hard enough for. Then he tried this thing out, this archery
thing just March of this year. He was
walking out on to the field and watching me and Maurine and Julia and Matthew
and a few other people, practicing and
he said you know I wouldn't mind trying that.
So I went to look at his citizenship grades, they were okay, his
academic grades were alright. I said
okay, sure, give it a try and within probably three weeks, he was out shooting
everybody our little group. And he found
out, like a lot of kids I'm sure do, that he's really good at this. He's got a great eye for it, got a natural
talent for it and he's found out that he is as good as anybody, and better than
a lot, in this particular sport. It's
made him feel really good about himself.
Just this year I gave recommendations to probably half a dozen colleges
for him and it was because of this program.
you offer archery as a part of school, do you see students in class as well as
during archery practice and how has that affected your rapport with students?
Coach Stevens: Oh you bet. Everyone from 7th grade on up, I
see them every day and then I do see them twice a day when we have archery club
on Mondays. I see many of them, not all
of them, in the morning, the ones who can get here at 8:00am and whose parents
can drop them off early. They're here,
and I'm here to make sure that they have that opportunity to get out there and
practice. It has created a closer
affiliation with the students, from student to teacher. I mean this school itself is kind of unique
because it is small, and we know all of the kids so we're already pretty close,
it's a family.
But this creates a culture
because the kids who are in archery are also in all the classes. So it has an effect on everybody, has an
effect on the other students in their class as well as the entire staff. It's
becoming something that we're starting to define our school by. It's become something that we want to
advertise, to say look, this is what we are, this is what we do. We're a little different from football or basketball,
and you can do that in other places, and we may not be big enough to do all
that but we can do this, and we can do it well.
And if this is the niche for you, then we can offer it. So it's become an advertising point and it's
beginning to identify the school culture.
And these awards, the ribbons
and medals...I've given lots of them for lots of different topics and subjects
and things. You know we can go to any
trophy store and we can buy stuff and buy them online...but it's special...it's
special to the kid who's getting it. It
means something because it's symbolic of the work and the effort and the pain
and the joy that they've put into that accomplishment. So it's more than just a little trophy or the
medal or even the pins....kids can't wait to get those pins!...because it
symbolizes an accomplishment, and they'll help to identify that kid. That kid will find an identity in it. And when these kids walk around tomorrow
wearing those medals, and they will!...I mean after our state competition, our
archers wore those for two weeks they did!...and these kids you know today,
just from the mail in tournament that's a great deal. I know there's probably not as many people in
it as you're gonna expect to be in it in a year or two, there's probably going
to be quite a few more.. .but anyway, everybody else in this school sees those medals
and that gives them something to aspire to.
That creates a culture of heroes, where we didn't have any before. This program has done an awful lot for our
school, a lot of things that I won't even think of until years and years and
year have gone by.
the State Championships last year, John Muir was the newcomer on the scene and
yet the team was very successful. What
was the catalysis for that growth and drive?
Coach Stevens: Really
it was the kids who were driving it. It
wasn't me. I had enough to do. I was
happy with the traditional archery thing, and I was happy doing the NTS archery
in OAS. I didn't think that we were
gonna be ready to go to any sort of competition after only a couple of months
doing this. I remember sitting down with
my principal and she's asking me, are you going to take these kids to this
tournament? And I remember telling her,
I said, you know they really want to go, but I don't want them to be disappointed.
So I'm really divided, whether I want to take them or not. And she said, you know, you ought to take them
just for the experience. Think about it, let me know what you think. So I talked to the students who were involved
in it and they just were gung ho. They
said let's go to LA. Let's do this! We're willing to work. They showed up every morning at 8:00am before
school for about a month. The ones who
didn't graduate are still showing up every morning at 8:00am so that they can
That small dedicated group,
who found this love for a sport that they didn't know was in them, they went to
LA and they took it. Just took it. They didn't go up there for any reason except
just to compete. Just to show everyone
else this is what they can do. And if
it's good enough, we'll win...and it was good enough. They also met a whole bunch of really neat
kids who were there for the same reasons.
You know I met a lot of other coaches, and I learned a terrific amount
just by watching these other coaches, in particular the gentleman there at
Glendale, Steve Holmoe. He showed
terrific grace and hospitality while we were there and I will not forget that.
program is aimed at developing pathways to other programs and also raising
awareness of the many opportunities Olympic-style Archery offers students. Does this make an impact with students?
Coach Stevens: In our brief experience, the students
involved in archery who have graduated or are graduating,
they leave the school with
the intent of finding archery programs or establishing them in the colleges
that they go to or the communities they go to.
I've talked to them...they come back, Maurine, and Julia, and Matthew
they've all been back, and a
matter of fact we're planning on meeting in Balboa Park to go shoot some
archery because it has established a love that they're going to have their
entire life. And again, you know,
there's a meditative aspect as well. There's
so much I could say about it. It's a
sport. It's a meditation. It's a skill.
Like... one of the Greek philosopher's talk about furniture, but I'm
going to use archery....the perfect archery form is in heaven, right? And that's where it's going to stay. None of us are going to get there, but we
spend our entire lives trying to replicate, trying to build the perfect form,
trying to find the right mix of bow and the best match of arrows and I think
these kids who leave this program are going to go into life with this lifelong
pursuit of this perfection. We'll never
meet that perfection, but perhaps there'll be moments when we do, and those are
sweet, sweet moments that they would never have experienced had they not
started out right here.
many of our other OAS schools, John Muir’s story inspires us, especially
considering the challenging times we live in for education. In California alone we have seen a reduction
of more than 25% in school funding which equates to a loss of more than $500
million in funding (“District Budget.” San
Diego Unified School District Website.).
This has resulted in programs being cut, limits on teacher’s time, and
much more. Yet schools and coaches like
John Muir and Coach Vince realize the value of extra-curricular activities and
are making them available to their students, more often than not on their own
time. As evident at John Muir, the fruit
of these efforts has far reaching affects into the lives of their students and their
Keaton Chia is the OAS Program Supervisor and
Conference Leader for the San Diego Region.
For more information on OAS you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org