Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Hunger Games Hysteria: The Surging Trend of Archery in Pop Culture Has Spiked Interest and Participation in Bow Sports Nationwide

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Hunger Games Hysteria: The Surging Trend of Archery in Pop Culture Has Spiked Interest and Participation in Bow Sports Nationwide

Article excerpt

For years, archery had been overshadowed in the park and rec world. More popular team sports like basketball, baseball and soccer took the limelight, and at many agencies, bows, arrows and targets collected dust, forgotten in the back corner of an equipment cage, perhaps brought out a few times a year for day-camp activities.

But then came The Hunger Games, a book series so overwhelmingly popular that it outsold Harry Potter on Amazon. In the series, protagonist Katniss Everdeen uses her hunting and archery skills to survive an annual competition in which children are forced to fight to the death in a futuristic dystopian society. The books were followed by a blockbuster movie series starting in 2012, and Hollywood quickly churned out The Avengers, Snow White and the Huntsman, Brave and Arrow over the next few months, all of which featured skilled archers and gave a new "cool" factor to the sport. Park and rec programmers nationwide quickly felt the impact of the books and films as members of their communities began clamoring for archery lessons. Interestingly, a significant proportion of those intrigued by the sport were young women and girls, driven by the take-charge examples set by heroines Katniss of The Hunger Games and Merida of Brave.

"There has clearly been heightened interest, particularly among women and girls," says Judith Kieffer, executive director of the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, regarding archery participation levels at the city's new Easton Rancho Park Archery Range. "Everyone in the volunteer cadre over there says how many more women and girls come to the range as beginners."

USA Archery, the sport's Olympic-sanctioning body, saw youth memberships increase 104 percent between 2011 and 2013 and then another 121 percent from 2013 to 2014. Memberships purchased by females similarly shot up by 105 percent in 2014. According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, 6,180,000 Americans tried their hand at archery in 2008, but by 2013, that number had climbed to 7,647,000 participants. Factoring in a concurrent increase in bowhunting participation, other research bodies reported even higher numbers. Regardless of the information source, it's clear park and recreation agencies have an opportunity on their hands.

"Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation's archery program predates the Hunger Games franchise," shared Michael Kalvort, CPRE, director of Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation, on the NRPA Connect 10 Million Kids Outdoors forum. "However, once the books and movies gained popularity, we started including references in our program write-ups ... We created a nontraditional, fun archery competition called 'The Archery Games,' inspired by The Hunger Games. The popularity and participation numbers for all archery classes has remained consistent since its inception with most classes reaching their maximums. …

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