By Jon Kalish
The Pro Line Archery Lanes are located above a commercial strip in a neighborhood near Kennedy Airport in Queens. On a warm spring weeknight, mostly male archers were shooting with recurve or compound bows at targets 20 yards away. A stuffed caribou and a stuffed pheasant looked down on the action.
A dozen archers, ranging in age from 16 to 60, crowded the shooting line. One-third of them were African-American. The range has been in business for 25 years, and for most of that time, it’s been owned by Joe McGlynn, who is both a coach and a competitor.
"We try to promote it as a great hobby, a great sport, something that really has no age limit to it and as much as you try to advertise and try to get people to come in, when they see it just from commercials, from the movies, from trailers, from YouTube, it’s just a boost and then they start looking for a way they can do archery," McGlynn said.
Archery clubs are reporting as much as a 75 percent increase in attendance, according to one archery blog, particularly after the release in April of the trailer for The Hunger Games. Eleven-year-old Raymond Lee saw the film. The dedicated fifth grader was shooting at an archery range in Florham Park, N.J. on a recent weekend. He said it was The Hunger Games movie and books that ignited his interest in archery.
"A lot of kids in my grade are obsessed with the book," Lee said. "They, like, have read it about 10 times. They’re really interested in archery and it’s getting a lot more popular. My friend got into a high school and he's starting an archery club...A lot more people I didn’t know are joining archery. Every time at my lesson more and more people start coming...I’m like, 'Wow, this is gaining popularity.'"
Lee is coached by Mike Usherenko, who helps coach the U.S. Olympic archery team. One of Usherenko’s former New Jersey archers made the U.S. Olympic squad earlier this month. Khatuna Lorig, who began her career in Soviet Georgia, will be shooting at the Final Olympic Qualification Tournament in Ogden, Ut. next week.
If the U.S. finishes in the top three there, a full women’s team will go to the games in London. If it doesn’t, only the top ranked American, Miranda Leek, will go. Lorig served as the archery advisor on The Hunger Games and coached actress Jennifer Lawrence, who played the film’s heroine Katniss Everdeen.
Lawrence’s archery form was praised by Jim MacQuarrie, an archery coach with the Pasadena Roving Archers. He blogs about the sport for the web site Geek Dad.
"Every day on the set, when she wasn’t needed for filming, she was practicing archery," MacQuarrie said. "She shot a hundred arrows a day, even on days when they weren’t filming any archery scenes. She really, really took to it."
MacQuarrie’s assessment of actor Jeremy Renner, who played Hawkeye in The Avengers, was not as kind. MacQuarrie spoke to someone who was on the set of The Avengers who reported that Renner didn’t shoot one arrow during filming. And MacQuarrie said it shows. He wrote in a blog post that the actor shoots like a rank amateur. MacQuarrie also berated the producers of the forthcoming TV series based on the DC Comics character The Green Arrow.
The protagonist of this fall’s adventure series from the CW Network is a vigilante who shoots with a bow fit for an eight-year old, according to MacQuarrie. Pop culture observers said that there appears to be a perfect storm for archery promotion this year. Marjorie Ingall writes about parenting for Tablet Magazine.
"Archery is crazy trendy," Ingall said. "For whatever reason, bows and arrows are everywhere in fashion. You know, earrings, hair accessories. There’s a bunch of things on Etsy where you basically stick an arrow through your hair. Louis Vuitton, all the windows were archery themed a couple of months ago."
In an essay about the archery craze, Ingall wrote that she was pleased that her two daughters have what she termed "a kickass heroine who excels with a bow and arrow."
"In The Hunger Games, archery is tied to issues of self-sufficiency and identity and feminism," she said. "You don’t have to be an amazing athlete across the board to be good at archery. It’s not a sport of brute strength, which I think is a very appealing thing for girls. And this notion of focus, consistency, brain power, I think that’s all really appealing."
Expect the archery fever that’s sweeping the country to kick into overdrive next week when Pixar’s new film Brave opens at theaters. An animated Scottish princess named Merida is at the center of this tale, and the first half-hour of the film has been described as a commercial for archery.
The red-haired Scottish lass enters an archery contest against prospective suitors so she can marry whom she chooses. MacQuarrie met the team behind Brave, including director Mark Andrews, and was convinced the director did his homework.
"Andrews was able to get hours and hours and hours of high speed, slow motion photography of archery that they had shot for the Robin Hood movie," MacQuarrie said. "So, they literally went frame by frame through this movie and meticulously matched proper archery form as shot by an expert. And that’s what showed up on Brave, and you can see it on the screen."
Back at Pro Line Archery in Queens, 16 year old Carlisle Bracken said during a break in the shooting that he hopes some day to make it to the Olympics. It’s unlikely that the six-foot-tall African-American has no qualms about seeing an animated feature at a local movie theater. And he will definitely be going to see Brave on the silver screen.
"When archery’s in a movie, man, I have to go see it," Bracken said. "It’s my sport, it’s my life, you know, and I have to go see it."
In addition to the potential recruits to the sport the movie Brave will generate in the coming weeks, this summer’s Olympics in London are expected to draw even more newcomers to the archery range.
This segment aired on June 16, 2012.