By Destiny Rose Garcia
When we think of sports in El Paso, what comes to mind?
Naturally, one might consider football, baseball, basketball and soccer… but does archery come to mind? Archery, as a well-known competitive sport, can be traced back to ancient times, but in modern America, it seems to have taken a back seat in popularity – until recently. With the emergence of The Hunger Games trilogy, archery has once again earned a spot in the forefront of the minds of many Americans. According to the New York Times, since the film, Individual membership in USA Archery has jumped 25 percent. Unbeknownst to many, this hidden gem of a sport has long called El Paso and its surrounding area “home.”
For one El Pasoan in particular, archery earned a permanent spot in his heart nearly 25 years ago. Richard Urias says it began casually, as family activity. “My older brother had been shooting for many years, and he recommended for me to bring my kid,” said Urias. His son, who was seven at the time, was enthralled from the beginning. “He wanted to come every week, so I started to just go there to see my kid shoot,” said Urias. But with three-hour long practices, Urias wasn’t satisfied just watching the fun. “Well, I’m getting bored here!” he chuckled as he reminisced. And so one day, he decided to pick up a bow and arrow, and just like that – he never set it down. The two continued to practice regularly, and within only a couple years, both found themselves ranking high in local competitions. Later on, his other sons also joined in.
After eighteen years of experience in archery, Urias thought he was ready to share his knowledge of the sport with others and began guiding students. He purchased a number of bows, targets and other equipment which would be used by his students. This investment has enabled people throughout the years to try and practice archery without first having to buy their own bows immediately.
Evidently, he was good. But as he later learned, experience can only take you so far without knowledge of the proper techniques. It wasn’t until after he began to teach his own classes at Archers of El Paso that he discovered that there was a lot more to archery than just eyeing the target. Around this time, he began researching the different archery techniques and fine tuning the art. He learned anatomy, mechanical movements of the body and the equipment, and more. With a new perspective, he could instantly identify exactly what his students were doing wrong and correct it. “You could probably start shooting kind of average in about six months by yourself. But if you take my two-hour class, you’re going to save those six months, and, you’re going to start shooting as you would in six months, after only two hours,” said Urias.
Among the many students he has seen is one young adult, Libby Gonzalez. Libby, now 19, began archery lessons at the age of 16. Like Urias, her interest was also sparked through a family member. “My mom would always tell me how when she was little, her and her friends would make bows and shoot around,” said Libby. A quick Google search one day led to her discovery of Archers of El Paso where she met Ricardo Urias. Archery classes were once a week, but she was so fascinated with the sport that she found herself going to the shooting range nearly every other day to practice and improve her skills. The first big competitions in which she ever participated was with the Indoor Archery League at High Desert Archery in Las Cruces, New Mexico. After this eight-week long course with about thirty other competitors aiming at targets from twenty yards away, she was “very surprised and excited” to see her hard work had paid off with a 2nd place win. Since joining, Libby learned more than just about archery; she learned a little about herself. “It taught me how to have discipline and patience and trust in your own abilities and you’ll get what you need to do and you’ll get it right,” said Libby.
One might be surprised to learn that despite the fact that archery isn’t a cardio exercise, it is certainly physically demanding. For starters, the equipment requires that shooters use upper body strength. To pull the bow and arrow is like lifting weights, even frequent gym-goers do not commonly build the muscles used in archery. A bow’s draw weight can range from 10 pounds (for very small children) to as much as 75 pounds (for larger adults), and when you consider that shooters are using these muscles for competitions which last several hours at a time, you may see exactly why Urias strongly recommends specific strength training exercises to many of his students. When choosing equipment, Urias also encourages students to choose very carefully. Bows that weigh too little can decrease the speed at which the arrow will travel, thus making it more difficult to shoot the targets from further distances; while bows that weigh too much can, of course, be very challenging for students to pull the bow.
With exception of the last couple of months, Archers of El Paso holds weekly Saturday classes where beginner-to-intermediate students improve their skills. Archers can choose from various different ranges such as the indoor shooting range where they aim at targets from 20 yards away, the American 900 where archers shoot a total of 90 arrows, gradually increasing the distance from 40 yards, 50 and later 60 yards away, and possibly the most fun, is the 3D shoot, which meets up at the first Sunday of every month. In the 3D shoot archers travel to the desert area and take aim at life-size plastic animals near creeks, on top of mountains and hidden behind bushes.
Unfortunately, in June of last year, vandals set the club’s entire shed full of equipment on fire. Bows, arrows, 3D targets and other supplies were lost as a result. As you can imagine, this was a significant loss which affected the entire club as a whole. Thanks to the group’s continuous dedication, they have managed to pull together, rebuild and continue holding classes.
Libby, who took a short break from archery to adjust to her college schedule, plans to return to Archers of El Paso as the new year begins. As for Ricardo Urias, after 5 years of being president of the club, he has chosen to step down from his position and allow another to take over, but he’ll still be leading classes and 3D shoots. January classes will resume on the 10th and the first 3D shoot will be February 7th, fellowed by the first Sunday of every month after that. It’s a new year and what better way to start than with a new hobby? For more information on how to join and reach your fullest potential in archery, you can reach Richard Urias at (915) 5397872. “It’s great! It’s the reason we do this… to help them discover something new and they can enjoy it for the rest of their life.”