Page 10 - Rockford Living Magazine 2017-18
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with a loss or having trouble at school – or just need to get away from everybody – this makes everything else just stop. You only worry about you, the bow, and where the arrow is going.”
Anna’s father nods his approval, not- ing that “I think the biggest thing is that I wanted her to get involved in a sport where she’s in an environment with all these different age groups, and that it develop into a passion for later in life.
“Who knows where this path is going to lead her? I personally think the sky’s the limit, and we’re so blessed to ( gura- tively) have this in our back yard.”
Jeff DeRegnaucourt concurs. As
a founding member of WMAC and
a long-time practitioner and advocate for
archery throughout Michigan, he’s
a veteran coach who describes archery as “a sport for what psychologists will tell you is the chance to achieve one’s own island of con dence.”
He’s seen students transformed by the sport, including two boys of 9 whose mothers were shedding tears of joy because neither youngster’s Attention De cit Disorder played the spoiler in their sons’ efforts to achieve at a high level.
“You have no idea what this sport has done for our sons,” DeRegnaucourt remembers hearing. “Both our sons have
severe ADD,” he quotes one of the moms as saying, “and my response was ‘Once they got on the shooting line, they settled right down.’”
In some traditional sports, observes DeRegnaucourt, kids with mental or developmental challenges don’t do well because they don’t want to disappoint the team, “but in archery, it’s just you and the arrow and the only one you have to beat up on is yourself. And that’s where you can achieve that island of con dence ... and then your self-esteem comes up
as well.”
As if on cue, Brianna Laux, age 13, and
Liam Smith, 14, stride into the Center for a few practice rounds. Brianna has been shooting since she was 4, and Liam for about  ve years.
Both have excelled at the state and national levels, and Liam holds two world records. Additionally, both excel in other sports. “I do a lot of basketball, tennis and shooting sports,” says Brianna, who hails from Lowell.
Liam, meanwhile – due to a congenital condition known as hypochondroplasia, a form of Dwar sm – competed in the World Dwarf Games held at Michigan State University in 2013, excelling
in archery as well as swimming and track &  eld. He’s also in the hunt to become an Eagle Scout.
Brianna and Liam have consistently bested opponents several years their senior. “I picked up a bow and something just hit me,” says Liam. “I’ve been at it ever since.” The fact he’s shorter than his contemporaries is a non-issue. “My legs are bowed,” and he shrugs and smiles
as though to say “So what?!”
Brianna says she plans to shoot her
entire life, bar an injury. As for a career, she’s mulling a life as either book editor or computer coder. Liam’s got it narrowed down to one choice: “CEO of Nike.”
Liam’s father, Aric Smith, says his family has been “sucked into the vortex” of archery, beginning with the innocent pursuit of “taking our kid to an activity they might be interested in.” Aric has morphed into a coach, judge and volun- teer, extolling the Center as a place were “we’ve met incredible people.”
Brianna’s mother, Jennifer Laux, loves the family atmosphere, and how “it doesn’t matter how old you are; you just put a bow in your hand and have fun.” She loves that you’re free to pursue indoor or outdoor shooting with either
a recurve or compound bow, and to com- pete at as high a level as is your choosing.
For Charlotte Best, archery is a lifelong passion that germinated when she was
a tot obsessed with Greek mythology and yearned to be Artemis the huntress, who was often depicted carrying bow and arrow.
“She used to run around the backyard, gathering sticks and twigs and tying them into bows with hair ties,” remembers her mom, Cathy. At age 10, Charlotte received a gift certi cate to the Center, and that was  ve years ago.
Since then, the freshman at Rockford has become a  ve-time national cham- pion and holds a dozen state records, among other honors, including scholar- ships. The talented teen also plays string bass with the Rockford High School Orchestra, St. Cecilia Music Center and the Grand Rapids Youth Symphony. This summer, she is headed to Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp at Interlochen.
Like many other children who shoot at WMAC, Charlotte’s grade point aver- age meets or exceeds the 4.0 mark.
“I think these kids are just motivated,” says her mom. “Archery is a funny sport. It doesn’t appeal to everyone. Charlotte never played a sport with a ball. But with archery, she fell into it instantly.
It is precise, and if you can perfect your shot process, you can effect a predictable outcome. I think that appeals to kids who excel in math and science...who have analytical minds.”
Not that you need to be a smarty. Fact is, the Center caters to all without aca- demic prejudice, offering myriad settings in a year-round environment where you can sign on as a member or pay by the visit, with rental equipment available.
Novices are just as welcome as veteran shooters, and the all-volunteer staff is eager to assist all levels.
In DeRegnaucourt’s words, the Center zeroes in on two things: “A, it’s got
to be fun,” he says, “and B, we focus on the process, not the outcome.”
Spoken like a straight arrow.
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