Aberdeen-based archery club gearing up for annual youth league

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By Andrew Johnson

Aspiring archers in the Aberdeen, S.D., area will have the chance to hone their skills again this winter during the Whitetail Bowmen Archery Club’s youth league.

Registration for the league, which is designed for boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 18, starts 8 a.m. Jan. 6 at the club’s indoor range, 321 N Main St, Aberdeen.

“About 120 youth participated last year, which is right at what we’ve been running the last few years, give or take 10 shooters,” said Lisa Kopecky, who volunteers as a coach. “It’s very popular, but we’ve never had to turn anybody away.”

Kopecky said the registration process will be broken into two portions.

“Experienced shooters can register from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.,” she said. “From 10 a.m. to noon is for those who have never shot before. Once they’re registered they can get fitted for a bow if they need one, and we’ll also give them an opportunity to do some practicing before the first league night.”

A junior membership for youth 17 years old and younger to the Whitetail Bowmen Archery Club is required before kids can sign up for the league, Kopecky said. Junior memberships are $25 for the year, then it’s $40 to sign up for the youth league.

“When they register they’ll get their club membership card and then fill out the registration form and waiver,” she said. “They’ll also get a league T-shirt as part of that.”

Many returning archers have their own archery equipment, but Kopecky said owning a bow is not necessary to join the youth league. In fact, she said the club welcomes young shooters with no equipment or prior experience.

“We’re able to have equipment such as bows and arrows available for no additional charge due to grant money we receive through the Great Plains Outdoorsmen. They help make that possible,” she said. “Memberships and league costs typically go toward targets and maintaining both our indoor and outdoor facilities.”

How it works

To help accommodate busy schedules, Kopecky said participants can choose to shoot on Tuesday or Thursday evenings, and the league kicks off Jan. 9.

“We have roughly 60 to 75 kids shoot each night, whether it’s a Tuesday or Thursday,” she said. “The beginners or younger kids who shoot at 5- and 10-yard targets start at 6 p.m., and then the 20-yard league for older or more experienced shooters starts at 7:30.”

Safety is a league priority, Kopecky said, and eight to 10 volunteer coaches from the club are always on hand to supervise young shooters.

“Safety is first, and if a child is not able to follow the safety rules, they will not be allowed to shoot,” she said. “A coach is always running the line, which means they’re calling out the safety cues — shooters to the line, shooters make ready and fire when ready. After everyone is done shooting, the kids are then allowed to score their targets and retrieve their arrows before they line up to shoot again.”

In addition to ensuring the league runs safely and smoothly, coaches also help young archers learn proper fundamentals, such as the right stance and how to grip a bow.

After the 10-week-long season concludes, there will be a banquet to hand out individual awards. Kopecky said all the scoring is handicapped to level the playing field, which means every young shooter has an opportunity to win an award regardless of skill level.

“This league gives kids who choose not to participate in other sports or activities something to strive for and achieve,” she said. “It’s really great to see kids find their niche.”

A majority of youth activities are restrictive in that it’s hard for a parent or guardian to become directly involved, but Kopecky said archery is a great way to connect as a family.

“The nice thing about it is if a mom or dad hadn’t been involved before we often see them start to participate once their kids are involved,” she said. “For me, I was a mom of three boys, and they all wanted to do this. I thought, ‘Hey, this is something I can do with them.’ It’s a family activity, and great friendships are made. We have lots of families that go camping together each year, and archery is part of that. It’s been fun to watch.”

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Adult leagues at the Whitetail Bowmen’s indoor range

In addition to the youth league, the Whitetail Bowmen Archery Club also hosts two adult leagues at its indoor range during the winter.

The co-ed winter league will be 7:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays from Jan. 10 to March 28. Club membership is required, and the cost for the 12-week league is $20.

The women’s winter league will be 1-2 p.m. Sundays from Jan. 7 to March 4. Club membership is required, and the cost for the eight-week league is $15.

Cost for a family membership, which covers adults and dependents under 18 years old, is $130. The cost for an adult individual membership is $105.

For more information or to register, visit

Garret Beving of Aberdeen stands next to his “Robin Hood,” which is when an archer shoots an arrow into the shaft of another arrow, during last year’s winter youth archery league. Courtesy photo
Young archers toe the 20-yard target line as coach Jim Zirbel of Aberdeen looks on during the 2016 Whitetail Bowmen Archery Club’s youth league. Club officials are expecting nearly 120 kids to sign up for the winter league, which starts Jan. 9. Courtesy photo