Every Tuesday afternoon, Destiny Wooley sticks her head through her racoon-fur-covered quiver strap and slings it across her shoulder, grabs her purple bow and heads to archery practice with 33 of her peers.
The 9-year-old joins the rest of the archery team at Sardis Enrichment School along a yellow rope line, 10 yards away from the 3D models of animals like a hyena, cheetah, bear and deer they will be shooting at for practice that day.
Coach Frank Barroqueiro gives them a pep talk before they notch, dock and loose their arrows.
“Don’t let one bad arrow affect your next four of five arrows,” he tells the team.
The team is split between boys and girl almost evenly, a trait that most teams don’t have, Barroqueiro said.
Archery has only been offered at the elementary school this year, but parents have voiced their hope that their kids going on to sixth grade will be able to continue participating, and the coaches would like to continue offering it to upcoming students, too.
While there was no sign-up fee, parents were required to provide their own bows, which can range from $200 to $400, but they last for years.
Practices started in October. Amber Wooley, mom of Destiny, said the first few practices were funny to watch.
“Most of the practice time was spent with the kids looking in the fields for their arrows,” Amber said.
Now that they’ve had more time to practice, most kids hit the targets with every arrow.
“For a good portion of them, it’s also their first time shooting,” said Barroqueiro, who is one of three coaches for the U.S. Army team.
Destiny is one of the first-time shooters in the bunch.
“(Destiny) is phenomenal. She shoots amazing,” Barroqueiro said.
Amber usually likes to watch from a safe distance at practices.
It all started when Destiny brought home a flier with information about the team. Destiny’s father is a hunter, and Destiny said she wanted to be able to go with him.
Since they’ve started training, the rest of the Gainesville family has picked up the sport. Amber said she got her bow recently and one for her other daughter, 8-year-old Leah Wooley.
“It started with Destiny, but now it can be a family thing,” Amber said.
This past weekend, the Wooleys and other families participated in the team’s second tournament. At an archery tournament, kids practice on targets and then head into the woods. The targets, which can be anything from giraffes to bears, are placed in strategic locations and kids hit the targets one by one.
Each animal has an engraved target with three circles. The innermost circle is worth 12 points, the second largest worth 10, and the outside worth eight points.
Ellie Willis has a bit of extra help to get her arrows where she wants them to go.
Willis wears an eyepatch to practice, since she isn’t able to close one of her eyes so she can focus when she goes to shoot.
The third-grader said she loves going to archery practice every week and originally chose it because she isn’t very good at other sports.