Community Voices:

Not since the TV series “The Adventures of Robin Hood” nearly 60 years ago has there been anything on the small or large screen to push interest in the sport of archery like the 2012 big-screen double whammy of “The Hunger Games,” and the blockbuster animated hit, “Brave.”

Teens and pre-teens (a majority of them girls) are flocking to archery ranges and instructors in numbers not seen in decades, maybe ever.

For Bill Millican of Marietta, who teaches the sport of target archery at his range in Forsyth County, it’s a phenomenon without equal in his 30-plus years of teaching and competing. He should know. He’s a nationally rated instructor and an accomplished competitive archer with an impressive list of trophies and awards.

Millican does private lessons several times a week. Of the 36 students currently learning the fundamentals of archery from Bill, only five are boys. His two newest students are 11-year-old twins Anastasia Kefalas and her brother Spiro of Alpharetta.

It’s their first day at Bill’s range and they are tickled pink to be there learning the fine art of properly holding, drawing and shooting a bow and arrow. Anastasia wanted to learn archery even before those movies came out. Spiro said the movies and books fueled his interest in the sport.

Little Anastasia beams a smile as she begins the process of learning archery. Her mom, Laura, says her two-year effort to get the kids enrolled in one of the local parks department archery programs has been met with the same response – “Sorry, full up.”

The archery boom is not just a suburban Atlanta trend.

Bruce Cull, president of the National Field Archery Association (the governing body for competition nationwide), told me the popularity of the archers on the silver screen have “absolutely” translated into renewed fervor for the sport.

“It’s brought a different demographic to the whole sport, especially in the number of teenage girls it has attracted.,” he says. And adds the growth has increased the sports credibility and is making archery mainstream.

Following Bill’s instruction on the basics, the Kefalas twins demonstrated a lot of natural ability and are firing tight groups of arrows that Millican says some students don’t master even after multiple lessons.

Millican knows Jennifer Lawrence’s character Katniss Everdeen sends a powerful message to today’s teens and pre-teens.

“It inspires a lot of kids to say I can do this.”

He’s getting ready for the next rush for lessons following the release this coming week of “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.”

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