GONZALES — Last year, the After School Archery Program had just enough students to use all their 28 sets of equipment.
This year 46 kids showed up for the first 5 p.m. class a little more than a month ago, organizer Teeny LeBlanc said.
“We split them into two time slots, one at 5 and one at 6:15,” LeBlanc said. Rain forced a 2-week hiatus, and on July 19, the second official week of the After School Archery Program, there were around 70 students between the ages of 8 and 18.
“It’s been chaos,” LeBlanc said, “but we’re getting a handle on it. All of this is mostly word-of-mouth.”
The program is sponsored by the Ascension Parish Recreation Department.
LeBlanc travels with a special trailer made to carry the program’s equipment anywhere, and that has proved useful this year.
The Ascension Parish School Board took over the property where they’d historically run archery practices, the Ascension Civic Center in Sorrento.
These days, they’re making their home on the grounds of Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales, down the road from the facility’s entrance in a grass-covered field.
The sport has been a lifelong passion for Teeny and his wife, Johnnie. The LeBlancs were regulars on the competitive archery circuit in the late 1960s, in the days when Bayou Pierre Archery Club was in full swing. The couple took time off from serious competition to raise their five children, but it’s something all five eventually competed in when they were old enough, he said.
These days, they still compete in tournaments when they can.
The LeBlancs have a team of skilled tournament archers certified to teach children and adults who sign up for the program, and have been doing all they can to get more adults — mostly parents of the children in the program — certified to teach the sport.
“We certified a group last week,” LeBlanc said July 19. Dawn Lamb, who began practicing archery in March, was one of those who passed the last certification course.
It’s a hobby she picked up from her husband, Scott, who also picked up the certification with Dawn.
“I was hooked,” Dawn Lamb said. “It’s one of those hobbies that you either don’t like at all or you love from the start. I love it.”
The Scotts went to a Denham Springs sporting goods store to shop for a bow, when they saw the flyer LeBlanc had placed there for the archery club. “I said, ‘Well, we should go check this sucker out,’ ” she said.
It’s a sport that makes including the whole family fairly easy, Dawn Lamb said, because children can start at just about any age.
Dawn and Scott had their whole family at practice, everyone enthusiastically shooting at their respective targets, including daughters Victoria, 14, and Alicia, 13, and her sons Christian, 9, and Nicholas, 7.
“But this one has just taken off,” Dawn Lamb said, pulling Christian aside. “He’s tried baseball, soccer, and didn’t really take to them. But he loves this.”
“It’s fun,” Christian said. “I love the competition.”
It’s a great hobby for anyone at any level, LeBlanc added. “You can limit this to playing around in your backyard with the family with a $150 investment, or you can shoot tournaments competitively. It’s up to you and how much time and money you want to put into it.”
For anyone who would like to sign up, LeBlanc said, “just show up on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. or 6:15 p.m.”
For more information, call the Ascension Parish Recreation Department at (225) 621-1165.