By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
By the time Phil Graves, a USA Archery Level 4, Coach, trainer and judge, wrapped up a 10 day visit to the territory last week, Virgin Islands Archery Association officials had been granted more assistance than they had hoped for.
While officials only expected Graves assess the program following the passage of Hurricane Irma and to guide the athletes as they prepare for the upcoming Central Americana and Caribbean Games qualifier in the Dominican Republic and help get the administrative aspects going, by the time he departed, his visit according to VI Archery Association President Patrick Smith, was ‘awesome.’
“The holistic approach this time, is comparable, not monetary wise but structural wise, to elite programs throughout the world,” Smith noted. “That’s what we eventually wanted. But out of the destruction we had to restructure and I’m happy with all the progress we’ve made in the 9-10 days that coach was here.”
Graves said that he was assisting the association with their recovery and lending some of his background and experience in areas including the reconstruction of the support components and the available assets in the territory.
“I really didn’t know what to expect,” said Graves who conducted a training program here before and help get the Archery in Schools Program off the ground. “The first two days I was shocked to see what happened here because it it wasn’t all over the news in the US. It was just, the island got hit. There was a lot of damage but there weren’t a lot of visuals as with Puerto Rico.”
While he was shocked, Graves said he was pleased to see how people have recovered which has been heartwarming and gratifying to see people going on with their lives, recovering and getting a back to normalcy.
“When I saw the kids that was everything,” he said. “The kids really are a great indicator of what the stresses are in a country when there has been a disaster. The kids are playing around the destruction. If you cleared an area, there’s a soccer game going on. If you cleared an area on the softball park, we have archery. We’ve had some challenges with that because people are walking back and forth across the archery range which is not a good thing.”
Graves said when the archers have been shooting and draw attention to people walking in front targets, there has been no confrontation as people go around or have stood and watched what’s going on.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve had a lot of people come on the range, they see the equipment and ask about archery and the more advanced equipment that’s being used and they have taken a natural interest,” he said. “They might come along and join the program so it has been almost like a bit of marketing effort that’s being done because you’re in the center of the neighborhood.”
Following Hurricane Irma, Graves said there has been damage to archery equipment and he has been working with the association, and has been restored to pre storm levels.
“They do need more because they did lose equipment,” he pointed out. “But the program interest has grown so much. I met with the Youth Empowerment Project and spoke to 30 kids there. We want to ensure we have equipment, safe targets, arrows and all the things you need to sustain a program, so there’s still room for recovery in that area. But, we have enough equipment to get the program running. It’s on its knees, but not back on its feet as yet. It’s looks good that things are turning around.”
Graves met with BVI Olympic Committee officials who asked about the association’s needs. He said a pressing need is having a facility where the archers can practice safely, be able to set up an archery range even if its shared facility. He said they need to be able to shoot up to 70 meters.
“In reconstructing this program on this visit, we met with several different organizations to establish a training program to held the athletes,” he explained. “Archery is more than just shooting a bow and arrow. There needs to be conditioning, you got to have nutritional support and psychological support. We’ve met with all these people and I provided some templates as a base. We also met with the school system, coaches and the college.”
He said a collegiate program will also be constructed. Graves added that a sustainable program has been put in place from middle school, high school through the collegiate level. If one starts shooting at a young age, they can continue through their college years.
“It’s just exciting when you can see the pathway, when you can plug a kid in, wherever they plug in, and they can stay with it,” he said. “The nice thing about this whole thing is, there’s an international structure for competition at each level.”