Ohio University’s archery club is fighting for its existence.
Katelyn Emter, current president of the archery club, says the program nearly ceased to exist after a number of problems left it in bad standing with the university.
“We have a lot of work to do, a lot of battles to fight,” Emter says. “After this year, if we do not comply perfectly with club sport regulations, we will not exist anymore. This is our final chance.”
Previous leadership inconsistently submitted forms, and the team wasn’t able to obtain necessary equipment, travel to competitions or gain access to adequate practice spaces. It also led to a tier demotion and an administrative noncompliance penalty from OU Club Sports.
OU’s club sports are organized by a range of tiers: instructional, green, white and red. Teams are classified based on criteria such as community service hours, number of competitions and the maintenance of a governing body. Tier placement determines which benefits a club can receive, such as facility space, scheduling and funding opportunities.
New clubs begin in the red tier and have the opportunity to advance to a higher tier each spring. The archery club started as a student organization in February 2013 and began the 2014-15 academic year as a club sport in the red tier. It moved up to the white tier during the 2015-16 academic year but was placed on probation due to administrative noncompliance in November 2015. The penalty was then extended through the 2016-17 school year for an additional issue the following month.
According to the 2017-18 OU Club Sports Manual, if a team is in the red tier for two consecutive years and doesn’t make sufficient progress to advance, the club will be expelled from the club sports program and no longer be recognized as a sport. So it’s do or die for archery at OU.
“As long as we can get out of red, we stay alive,” Emter says.
For Emter, and others, seeing the club disappear was not an option.
“I started archery and just fell in love with it. It was instantly addicting to just see your arrow hit the right mark and know that everything aligned to get that shot where it needed to go,” Emter says. “I loved it, and to see that go away so soon? I just couldn’t. That motivated me to step up and save what we had left.”
Brian “Hunter” Berthold, the team’s treasurer, says losing the club would not only mean losing a pastime but also a passion tied to his family history.
“To lose [the archery club] would be to lose not only an opportunity for me to share what I love with other people, but it would be heartbreaking to know my sport is falling off the map,” Berthold says.
Berthold’s mother, Theresa Berthold, says archery has been in her son’s life since before his birth. It has been a family sport passed from her father, to her, to her son.
“When I finally made the world team, we were in Istanbul, Turkey, and won the gold. I was five months pregnant with Hunter,” Theresa says. “I guess that’s where he got it from.”
If the club does not move from the red tier to the white tier, Berthold and the team will no longer be able to compete.
To get the club back in the white tier, Emter’s main concerns are maintaining proper paperwork and recruiting. She and the team were also led on what Emter called a “treasure hunt” to track down their old equipment.
“We had some equipment that was shoved into a storage bin two years ago and never heard from again,” she says. “[We were] contacting five different people who sent us to five more different people to find the one person that had a key and knew it was there.”
With nowhere else to store the equipment, the former president volunteered to keep it at his home.
“It was kind of comical because he just had giant targets sitting on his front porch,” Emter says.
After they secured the equipment, the team had to find a suitable place to practice. The archery club had previously practiced at Ping Recreation Center but lost that space. The team was sent to the Intramural Fields next to Stimson Avenue, which proved to be problematic during the winter season when archery is meant to be indoors.
“We were sent to a field, which it seemed nobody really understood that was bad for our equipment, bad for our schedules and bad for team morale, knowing we weren’t wanted anymore,” Emter says.
Although there is an outdoor shooting season in the summer, practicing outdoors in seasons with high chances of humidity, rain and cold can cause strings to snap, metal and wood to warp, and bolts to come loose. Archery equipment can cost hundreds of dollars to replace, so Emter chose not to host practices during the time spent searching for a better practice space. For her, ruining the equipment was not worth the risk.
In January, the team began to use their current practice space: the community center in Shade, Ohio, a small town about 9 miles south of OU’s Athens campus. They practice on a baseball field during the outdoor season and in a gym during the indoor season.
The more experienced members find time to provide guidance for less experienced archers. Emter and Berthold have taken breaks and put down their bows to help others during practice.
“There’s enough support, friendships, to say, ‘Hey, man it’s OK, he’s not trying to criticize you. Just put your arm a little lower,’ ” Emter says.
Emter is eager to instill her passion into incoming archers.
“Instead of focusing on all of the things that make it feel impossible, I focus on all of the things I think we can use to better ourselves,” she says. “… That’s what I try to grab onto and express to other people because I know if they can pick up the same kind of passion, the club will have a future.”