If watching The Hunger Games made you wish you could take up a bow and arrow, then the Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle has some very good news for you.

Last month, the Sport Circle brought in the top instructor from the British Columbia Archery Association to train a number of Yukon coaches in order to expand their offerings throughout the territory.

Gaël Marchand, the circle’s executive director, was thrilled with the diversity of participants taking part in the program.

“Our youngest participant was 14, while our oldest was 76.”

The 14-year-old will have to wait until she’s 16 to be fully certified, Marchand explains.

“A number were Aboriginal, including several elders—many of whom bow hunt—and we had representation from communities outside of Whitehorse, including Teslin and Old Crow.”

Marchand considers the training a great success.

“Not only did we get to train 12 new coaches, we also had one participant trained to become a learning facilitator [someone who can train new coaches and evaluate their progress here in the territory],” he says.

“The program really pumped up everyone’s spirits. The course was characterized with a very positive dynamic and we built some strong links with the British Columbia Archery Association.”

Marchand, who took part in the course as a participant, describes the material as rich and interesting.

“The program covered technical aspects—sport technique and maintenance—but also coaching, safety and sport ethics in great depth.”

Then he adds, with a laugh, “Occasionally some of the technical aspects, like stringing a bow, felt a bit like fly fishing—lots of knots. I’m not that great at knots.”

There is a wide range of opportunities for Yukoners to benefit from the knowledge acquired by the new coaches.

The Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle will work with any school that would like to have archery as part of their physical education program. Coaches will travel throughout the territory, bringing all the necessary equipment including bows, arrows, quivers, plastic animal targets and netting.

A number of communities are also running after-school programs that are open to any community member.

Currently, programs are taking place in Beaver Creek, Dawson City, Teslin and Whitehorse, with a program in Old Crow anticipated to begin shortly.

In Whitehorse the program is operated by the Whitehorse Archery Club. Practices are Thursday evenings from 7-9 p.m. at Takhini Elementary School (ring the doorbell for entry). Equipment is available for those who drop in with none of their own.

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation is also planning a new program in concert with its Coyote Ski Club programming. The program, which will be titled “bowathalon”, will combine archery and cross-country skiing in much the same way biathlon combines skiing and shooting.

Marchand hopes this investment in coaching will pay off for Yukon athletes in future, especially as the Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle looks forward to the next North American Indigenous Games. Those games will take place in 2014 in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Beyond its work in archery, the Yukon Aboriginal Sport Circle acts as the sport governing body for Dene and Arctic Games and works to increase Aboriginal involvement in all aspects of sport.

You can learn more at www.yasc.ca.

Amber Church is a painter, writer and sports enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected].