Mathews Donates $100,000 To Changing Lives
By Royce Armstrong from 3-D Times Online Magazine

 
Matt McPherson explains his support of the NASP in the interview that begins on this page.

 The National Archery In Schools Program (NASP) recently raked in a much-needed bonanza. The National Wild Turkey Federation announced a $100,000 donation to the program teaching archery in school physical education classes all across the country after hours at the Archery Trade Show, held in Indianapolis, Indiana in January. Following the NWTF announcement, Matt McPherson, founder and CEO of Mathews, Inc. stepped forward to match the NWTF. Later, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation made a similar pledge.

The NASP, barely two years old, is already having a tremendous impact both in schools and across the archery industry. Initiated in Kentucky it teaches kids archery in a new and interesting way with modern equipment. This is not the "it hurts so good" archery many of us experienced when we were in school. The program has spread to 15 states and is being considered by school programs in several foreign countries.

A number of other archery manufacturers, distributors, dealers and interested individuals have also contributed or pledged money to the support of this groundbreaking program.

These include arrow makers, target companies and many others, including the International Bowhunting Organization and the National Field Archery Association. But, the largest donor, to date, is Matt McPherson and his Mathews, Inc., which is one of the world's largest makers of bows. McPherson and his company have donated several hundred thousand dollars to the NASP effort.

3-D & Bowhunting Times caught up with McPherson recently and he answered a few of our questions about these donations.

3-D & Bowhunting Times: You recently donated $100,000 to the National Archery In Schools program. This is on top of donations that you have made in the past. Why are you such a supporter of this program?

McPherson: "The reasons are multi-faceted. The first and most important thing is that I have seen what it does to the lives of kids. Archery, presented through this program, has wide appeal for most all kids, regardless whether they are boys or girls, if they are gifted athletes or not. Most sports, especially the team sports, are exclusive. They include only the tallest, or the fastest or the strongest players. A select few get to play and everyone else watches.

Archery is a sport with a tremendously broad appeal and it is inclusive. Virtually everyone can shoot archery. Even physically challenged youngsters can shoot archery. You can shoot from a wheelchair and compete on an equal basis with the star quarterback.

I find it tremendously exciting to bring this to kids . . . let's face it, kids nowadays are under extreme pressures to perform, to be somebody, to have something that they can feel is their deal, you know. Archery is something that allows these kids to do something well and receive the accolades of their peers. With the NASP you go into schools and see something of a flip-flop. It is commonplace to see the school jocks cheering on guys and girls that weren't seen as cool before. Certainly there are a lot of good athletes that shoot well. That is because they are very coordinated people. But, there are also a lot of coordinated people that are not fast enough or strong enough to play the conventional ball sports. You don't have to be strong or fast to be coordinated. It takes coordination and focus to be a good archer."

3-D & Bowhunting Times: How do you respond to criticism that this program is just another way to sell Genesis or Mathews bows?

McPherson: "The Genesis bows are available to the entire industry. Other bow makers may license the design for a very nominal fee and make these bows without paying any royalties. We charge a nominal fee so we can control the integrity of the design and the quality of the product. That's all.

"For years everyone has been saying that we need to figure out some way to make archery grow. We all agree that kids are the future of this sport."

"I knew that we had to take a different approach to bring kids into archery, something that had not been tried before. For one thing, the equipment had to be more appealing. Kids needed a bow that was modern, one that was easy to shoot with very little recoil. They needed a bow that developed enough energy to make the arrow actually stick in the bale. Some of the bows schools used in the past were pitiful in this regard.

"There were several key things I knew we needed. First, the bow had to have enough energy to stick the arrow in the bale. The bows had to be universal. People buy bows to fit them as individuals. We needed the opposite of this. We needed one bow that would fit virtually every kid. The bows had to be attractive. They had to look like they would be fun to shoot. They had to be easy to shoot and kids had to be able to learn to shoot them very quickly.

"The Genesis bows develop more energy, pound for pound, than any other bow in the world. For example, a 20-pound Genesis is approximately like shooting a 35-pound recurve. So, here is a bow that is not hard to pull, that delivers the energy of a bow with much higher draw weight and that has hardly any recoil. It is very quiet and very smooth shooting. Another key element about this bow is that it is not draw length specific. Anyone can shoot it.

"We have proven you can teach kids to shoot these bows instinctively and shoot them well. They don't need sights or release aids. Now, all of the kids can shoot the same bow and the same arrows. It doesn't matter which particular bow they shoot. They are all the same. Now, for the first time the kids can be compared one another on the basis of individual skill and development.

"It is not about selling more Genesis bows. What my critics will find out is that this bow and this program will grow the sport. As manufacturers, the percentages that we own in the industry are about the same percentages we will continue to have, if nothing else changes. For example, if a competitor has 15 percent of the market, they will probably have about 15 percent of the new, larger market created by the NASP program."

3-D & Bowhunting Times: With donations from groups like the Wild Turkey Federation and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, it looks like this program is really starting to get a lot of support from the industry. Why should the hunting industry want to give this program this kind of support?

McPherson: "That is easy. Success. The industry has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past and not had this kind of success. In Kentucky, alone, 150,000 to 200,000 kids are being taught archery this year. Fifteen states are implementing pilot programs or are in their first or second years of the program. Within the next three to five years, there will be over a million kids being taught archery through the NASP program each year. There has never been anything as successful as this, ever! This is something that the whole industry should be proud of, and should work together at making sure it continues."

3-D & Bowhunting Times: We have all seen ideas that were touted as great vehicles to grow the industry come and go. What makes this program different from all of those others?

McPherson: "There are several reasons. One is the equipment we are using. In the past schools used old antiquated, fiberglass bows that are difficult for even seasoned archers to use well. If kids don't find success quickly, they get frustrated quickly and you lose them.
Secondly is the top-down cooperative approach between the departments of natural resources and the departments of education. This is the first time, of which I am aware, that a DNR and a state Dept. of Education have teamed up to become this heavily involved to recruit schools in a state. When the heads of the state agencies get behind the program, this makes it much easier for local school districts to consider it.

"Another reason is the curriculum. The NASP curriculum is designed to teach archery and actually make kids successful shooting bows and arrows. In the past archery curriculums seemed more concerned with the exercise and filling in a time slot than in helping the kids become successful archers.
The people involved are making this program successful. They have really stepped forward and worked hard to make this program work. They have tremendous vision and energy.

"Finally, I think it is a miracle. I think it is miraculous the way that this has all come together. I believe it is part of a divine plan, orchestrated by God. You see this in the letters we are getting from parents about their kids involved in this program. They are so excited because their kids finally feel like they can plug into something. One mother told us that her son had a heart condition and could not play regular sports, but that he loved archery.

"If you want to know what it is about, for me, that is it! I would do it just for that one kid and we are doing it for thousands of kids. We are hearing from people, how kid after kid would not be in school today if it wasn't for this program. This program has changed their lives that much. Their grades are up and they are feeling good about themselves. They are talking about going on and setting goals for themselves and accomplishing other things with their lives. You would have to be dead inside not to get excited about this program after seeing these kids faces and reading these letters."

3-D & Bowhunting Times: The NASP is still in its early development stages. Is it close to having the funding it will need to reach its goals?

McPherson: "The funding is directly related to how fast we can make this happen across the country. Part of my concern is that there is always a window of opportunity in marketing. If you are going to go after something, you have to go after it hard. Because, if it takes 20 years to reach all of the states, by the time it gets to those last few states then other states have had it for 15 to 18 years and it is ho-hum. If you can break something like this out quickly, there is an excitement about it and there are positive things that will happen that will never happen if you go too slow. You can't go faster than you can make it happen but you have got to keep up with the tiger. You have got to grab hold and not let go. You have got to be able to control that tiger.

"This has huge potential. If we don't fund it as hard as we can, then at some point in the future it will be old hat. It will be 15 years old and have lost its initial excitement. We need to grab it before that point and get all 50 states. We have foreign countries contacting us about this already. There is potential here to make this huge, with competition between the schools just like you see in baseball, football and basketball."

3-D & Bowhunting Times: What do you see this program accomplishing for both the archery industry and for the kids involved within the next five years?

McPherson: "Five years from now, with the direction that it is going, it will be well over a million kids being taught archery in schools each year. Nothing ever in the history of archery has been this exciting. That is new kids being brought into this program every year. There will be competition within the states and the best from each state will compete on a national level. This will open the floodgates for everyone involved in archery.

"I prefer all of the companies in the industry to do well. The primary goal is the lives that are changed. When you see the faces of these kids, firsthand, over and over again, there is something that happens within you. I once read a statement that said: What will it matter 100 years from now what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in or how much money I had in the bank. What will matter is that I made a difference in one child's life.

"When you experience the effects of changing someone's life, there is nothing else like that."

For more information on the National Archery In Schools Program, go to our website at http://www.3-dtimes.com and click on the NASP logo on the home page.

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