When 10-year-old Madison Wev-ers saw The Hunger Games, the main character - Katniss Everdeen - became an instant hero. After all, Katniss is an archer.
Madison was already taking archery lessons, but when she saw Katniss on the screen, she was an immediate fan.
"I liked the movie because she had a bow and arrow, too," said the Grade 5 Keating Elementary student. "And she was good at shooting."
Interest in archery from kids like Madison has exploded in the last year. Registration at Saanich Commonwealth Place, the only indoor facility in Greater Victoria offering lessons - in partnership with local club the Victoria Bowmen - is already oversubscribed, with a waiting list of about 30 names.
The Hunger Games has a lot to do with that sudden popularity.
The movie is the most high-profile cultural event in recent years to feature archery, along with the television show Revolution and animated movie Brave. All three feature teenage girls, or young women, who are archers as principal characters.
Coach Helena Myllyniemi, a 30-year-plus member of the Victoria Bowmen club, said she has never seen such interest.
"Especially the girls - they are all so excited about The Hunger Games movie," said Myl-lyniemi, who admits she hasn't seen the movie, put off by the violence. "We have more girls now than ever before since the movie, which is very nice."
The 73-year-old woman first got involved with archery in 1961 in her native Finland. She put it aside when marriage, immigration to Canada and motherhood took over her life.
But in 1976, she took the sport up again, joining the Victoria Bowmen. Later, she encouraged her children to join. Being a member of a club meant getting enlisted to help with tournaments, judge and even coach.
She said archery is a sport where girls are on an equal footing with boys. Mental concentration is one of the most valued abilities. And it's perfect for people who don't like team games.
"You just compete with your own performance and every time you can better yourself, you are getting closer and closer to perfect," said Myllyniemi.
She insists, however, that young people have to be instructed in proper form. They start with light bows suited to a youngster's height and strength. Proper form is also essential for good muscle and bone development in a growing body, with special attention to muscles in the shoulders and back.
And if anyone, especially a young person, becomes interested enough to want to become a serious archer, Myllyniemi stresses they must develop and take care of those shoulder and back muscles.
"If they want to carry on with archery and move up to heavier bows, then we introduce them to an exercise program," she said.
Kathryn Allan, programmer for school-age activities at Saanich Commonwealth Place, said the boost The Hunger Games gave to archery was stunning.
Saanich Commonwealth Place has partnered up with the Victoria Bowmen as far back as 1999.
But in March, when the movie was released, interest suddenly went through the roof.
Classes filled up and waiting lists were needed for the first time. Come summer time, archery camps had to be expanded from four to five.
While archery is not a cardiovascular exercise like soccer, Allan said, it involves strength and develops concentration. And it establishes fitness habits early on, making it a good fit with a recreation program.
"We want them to be grabbing on to exercise at a really young age, so they will want to stay active for the rest of their lives," said Allan.
To learn more about archery, check out Saanich Recreation at saanich.ca or go directly to victoriabowmen.com.
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