They weren't playing basketball, baseball or volleyball; the sport they were participating in didn't involve a ball at all, but it does include precision and discipline.
Lupton Jr. High held its inaugural archery tournament Tuesday afternoon in the Blue Devils' gymnasium. Physical education teachers and coaches Brad Duncan and Mandi Panter said the plans for an archery program had been in the making for a couple of years, but they are now seeing it finally come to fruition.
"The last couple of years we've been trying to get an archery program in our school and so finally this year, with the help of some people from our school, we were able to come up with the funds to purchase the equipment and start an archery team," Panter said. "We needed some practice before we went to our regional [tournament]. Our regional is next Thursday, the 27th, and we were trying to come up with a way to get a little bit of extra practice in before the regional tournament; so we decided we would just host a tournament."
Students from Carbon Hill Elementary/Jr. High, Cordova Elementary, Lupton Jr. High and Sumiton Elementary/Middle gathered in the gym Tuesday to vie for the grand prize and bragging rights. Targets lined one end of the court, while students took their stance toward the center. Keeping their focus, students zoned in on the bullseye.
Lupton had two teams with a combined total of 28 students -- 14 archers in the fifth grade and 14 archers among sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Panter said it will be left up to the individual schools whether they will compete at the regional tournament held Feb. 27 at Northside Middle School in Tuscaloosa. From there, those who qualify at regionals will continue on to the state level.
Panter and Duncan say the students enjoy the program. Not only do students get to shoot an arrow at a stationary target, but they also learn proper techniques and discipline.
"It introduces a lot of discipline to the students, and it's very popular with our male students as far as bow hunting goes because in seventh and eighth grades they're starting to bow hunt," Duncan said. "It gives them an introduction on how to use a bow and how to be safe with it. We also have a couple of girls who like to bow hunt."
"The No. 1 thing is safety," Panter said. "Then we teach them stance, whistle commands. You don't give any verbal commands at all; it's all whistle commands, and they know by the number of whistles you blow what they're supposed to do."
The three-week program began in November 2013 for students in fifth through eighth grades at Lupton. However, coaches must receive 10 hours of training before operating a program at their school. Other skills taught in archery include a person's stance, anchoring position, holding the bow, drawing the string and aiming at the target.
Lupton seventh-grade students Logan McKeever, 12, and Emily Crump, 13, explained why they enjoy the archery program.
"I just like shooting the bow, and it's just fun," McKeever said. "It teaches you how to aim, how to shoot correctly; it just helps you out while you're shooting."
Crump, who also has her own personal bow and likes to shoot at home, added, "You get to learn different things like how to aim and stuff. It's just something that interests me."
The archery program would not have been made possible without the help from their sponsors, mentioned Lupton Jr. High Principal Corey Shubert. Sponsors include Jeris Crump Construction, Professional Pharmacy, Home Town Auto Sales, Walker County Farmers Federation and Walker Area Community Foundation. He also stated that Pat's Archery and Outdoors helped to sponsor the tournament Tuesday.
"My favorite thing about the program is that it is very disciplined, and it gives students that are not necessarily involved in any other athletics the opportunity to be included in something," Shubert said.
Even if students do not hunt during the fall and winter months, they still enjoy the archery program and feel a part of something.
"It's really good for the kids who don't necessarily like baseball or basketball or volleyball. It's completely inclusive as far as special needs kids," Duncan said. "There was a guy who told us that there was a kid who qualified for the state meet shooting out of a wheelchair."
"It's for everybody. Anybody can do it," Panter added. "The kids are doing great, and they love it."