Whether it’s childhood memories of Robin Hood or a more recent appreciation for “Hunger Games” heroine Katniss Everdeen and Hawkeye from “The Avengers,” the bow and arrow has a rich place in our pop culture and in the imagination of anyone who loves adventure. So when The Voice-Tribune asked me to go check out Urban Archers, a business nestled in the heart of the Highlands, I jumped at the chance to explore.
It’s a business that might be easy to miss. It’s located behind B CHIC Consignment right next to the Derby City Chop Shop. You have to head down a long side walk between the two in order to find Urban Archers. It’s a rainy Friday night when my wife and I visit. I don’t mind telling you that she doesn’t join me on a lot of assignments, but this one she couldn’t resist. The words “Urban Archers” have a kind of automatic magic. In your mind, you imagine a bright and shiny range, hidden underground, where future superheroes are honing their skills, and that mental image isn’t too far off the mark.
The space is bright and clean, all white paint and shining aluminum. When we visited, a handful of archers were drawing and loosing arrows to their hearts’ content.
Later on, owner John Beasley mentioned that it’s a great place for a couple on a date, a statement backed up by the fact that I bumped into a couple I know. They told me they come to shoot every Friday, and from the looks of their targets – bristling with arrows – they are picking up the skills quick.
Beasley, who’s been a middle school teacher for 20 years, says that’s part of why he loves archery: Anyone can be good at it. “I like kids to be successful. I like people to be successful. I find that success breeds success,” said Beasley, as he helped me pick out a bow and set me up with some arrows. “When I can get middle school kids to be good at one thing, it builds their confidence to be good at other things. I really thought about this in doing the business for kids, but I’ve really seen with adults it’s the exact same thing.”
As I adjust my stance according to Beasley’s instructions (shoulder-width apart, don’t lock your knees) I hear a couple of feet away my wife yelling with excitement as she sinks her first arrow into a target. I draw back my bow, the finger of the bow string brushing against my face, and I let the first arrow fly.
I’m in the blue, the outermost ring of the target, but it feels like a victory.
I spoke with Paul Coffee, a lifelong martial arts practitioner and teacher, who started shooting at the range just after it opened. He takes his 9-year-old son there frequently.
His perspective on the benefits of archery is a little more rooted in the philosophical. “I’m in my life at a point where I’m working on letting go and I’m working on refocusing. I can find those meditative states within the movement of archery. You get … your shot, and then when you are ready, with one breath, you let go. Each shot I’m putting something else in it and letting go, even if it’s just fractionally.”
When we spoke, Beasley had just finished running his first camp for kids at Urban Archers. He’s worked in summer camps and winter break camps his whole life, and the expertise is serving him well in his new venture. You can expect spring break camps and summer camps at Urban Archers this year as Beasley grows his business and figures out the market.
After we finished talking, I shot for another few minutes.
I took some breaths, pulled the bow string to my face again and carefully sighted down the length of the arrow.
That time, my arrow thunked into the yellow in the middle of the target. Not quite a bull’s-eye, but I did feel a surge of confidence sweep through me.
If Beasley is correct and “success breeds success,” surely others will respond to that surge of confidence and Beasley will find plenty of success of his own. VT
For more info about Urban Archers times and prices, including single and family memberships, check them out online at urbanarchers.com.
Story By Eli Keel