Archery is Rutherford County Schools’ fastest growing sport.
A little over six years ago, Joesph Bonanno came home and told his father he was interested in joining an archery program at school.
Joseph was a fourth-grader.
The Bonanno family had never hunted or shown an interest in guns, much less compound bows. That was the fall of 2010 and by Christmastime, Eric bought his son Joseph his first bow.
Now a sophomore at Central Magnet School, Joseph is one of dozens of members of the middle and high school archery teams that each have a pair of state championships in the four years since the school added archery. Eric — a science teacher at Central — is also now the head coach of the middle and high school archery program at the school.
The Central high school program recently won back-to-back titles, while the middle school program was a mere 14 points shy of winning its third consecutive title.
“I knew we could produce a great score,” Eric said.
School resource officers responsible for bringing sport to Rutherford
Archery has become the fastest growing sport in Rutherford County.
The elder Bonanno credits the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office’s school resource officers for bringing the National Archery in the Schools Program to area elementary schools 11 years ago.
Sponsored by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, Tennessee began NASP in 2004 with 12 pilot schools participating. Today more than 290 schools in Tennessee, including two-thirds of the schools in Rutherford County, participate.
NASP is a joint venture between the state departments of education and wildlife.
The focus is to provide International Style Target Archery training in physical education classes. The SROs initially introduced the program to fourth- and fifth-graders in Rutherford County.
“Middle schools didn’t have it,” Bonanno said, “and the parents started going to the principals and saying, ‘Hey, we want an archery program.’”
Now all but La Vergne and Rock Springs middle schools have a competitive archery team. Rocky Fork Middle will also field a team when the school opens in August, Principal Jimmy Sullivan confirmed.
Sullivan hired Rachel Jernigan, one of two archery coaches at Christiana Middle, to serve as a part-time coach at Rocky Fork.
Stewarts Creek Middle recently won the Tennessee state title by a narrow 13-point margin over Central’s middle school team. Six of the nine middle school teams from Rutherford County finished in the top 10.
Success leads to scholarships for high school students
Unlike high school sports that traditionally have to work to develop younger athletes to feed the program, the archery programs in Rutherford County “went the other way,” Bonanno said. The younger players were introduced to the…