The law of unintended consequences (presumably at least those of the Republican Senators), however, prevailed and now many sportsmen and women view the administration’s move [to cut off funding to schools with hunting and archery programs] as a backdoor attack on the nation’s hunting and recreational shooting traditions and heritage.
Worse, many psychological health experts are warning that removing such programs that encourage outdoor activities will add to the nation’s mental health epidemic. In a recent Pew study, 70 percent of teens say anxiety and depression are major problems. A 2021 CDC report concluded that nearly one in three high school aged students reported having seriously considered suicide.
A recent medical report credits extracurricular activities for helping instill a sense of belonging, improved social development, opportunities to develop leadership skills, cooperation, and peer interaction—key antidotes to widespread feelings of anxiety and depression among our youth. The report went on to add, “Extracurricular activities focused on kids during the time of transition from middle childhood to early adolescence created higher levels of peer belonging, a sense then carried into adolescence.” …
Defunding efforts—like hunter education and the National Archery in the Schools Program—that promote getting kids outdoors where lasting friendships and bonds form and where confidence and self-esteem is bolstered is antithetical to the administration’s own stated goals of addressing America’s psychological woes. In a White House statement issued last May, the Administration proclaimed, “President Biden has made tackling the mental health crisis a top priority.”
Surveys of students who partake in the National Archery in the Schools Program reveal that 40 percent of them report being more engaged in the classroom because of the program and 91 percent said they would pursue other outdoor activities. Nearly 15,000 students participate in the program with some 1,300 tournaments held annually.
In addition, high school competitive shooting programs have grown dramatically in popularity over the last several years. According to a recent Time feature, “In 2015, 9,245 students, in 317 schools across three states, participated in the USA High School Clay Target League. Since then, participation has spiked 137 percent: in 2018, 21,917 students, from 804 teams in 20 states competed.”