Tiger Archery Club members line up and take aim during practice.

District Staff, Families Collaborate to Build Champion Tiger Archery Club

Many West Des Moines Community Schools athletic teams are known for their skills and successes, but few have seen such rapid growth as the Tiger Archery Club. With more than 300 members less than 10 years after its creation, the club has experienced both popularity and competitive success.

The elementary, middle school, and high school Tiger Archery Club teams each earned state championships this year. The elementary and middle school teams both went on to be the highest-scoring Iowa teams in their divisions at the national tournament. Last year, two individual archers and the high school team qualified to compete at the international level. Club co-director Cheryl McConnell, a Stilwell Junior High P.E. teacher, said the club’s success is due in part to the unique structure of archery. Most student archers start as complete beginners, and everyone gets an equal chance to participate.

“It doesn’t matter how good you are, you get to shoot the same amount of time,” she said. “In other sports, you practice the same amount of time, but you may only get to play for a few minutes.”

Tiger Archery Club instructor and Jordan Creek P.E. teacher Luis Suarez repairs a bow for a student archer.

Tiger Archery Club instructor and Jordan Creek P.E. teacher Luis Suarez repairs a bow for a student archer.

Jordan Creek Elementary P.E. teacher Lu Suarez started the club in 2009. McConnell joined as co-director in 2010. As the club grew, the student archers’ families emerged as supporters who were willing to go above and beyond. Several dedicated parents joined district staff members as coaches, earning Basic Archery Instructor (BAI) certifications from the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP). Parents even work with instructors to rebuild the bull’s-eye targets for the club when needed.  

“The more positive parent involvement, the stronger the club becomes,” Suarez said. His goal is for the club to have an official booster club in the next few years.

Tiger Archery Club practices their Olympic-style archery techniques after school several days a week. The student archers line up and take aim repeatedly, learning to follow the official whistle commands and maintain focus with fellow archers nearby. The collaborative atmosphere has a clear influence on the students, who often joke with and encourage each other moments after firing arrows into the targets at 150 feet per second.

Archery is often seen as an individual event. Success is considered the product of internal focus, not the camaraderie that is the hallmark of winning teams. In Tiger Archery Club, archers learn that teamwork and focus can be equally important. Together, students, families, and staff have struck the perfect balance between cooperation and individuality—and they have three state championship trophies to prove it.

“Even though it is an individual sport, it requires many individuals to comprise that team,” Suarez said. “We’ve been very balanced that way, emphasizing that we’re a team, and we’re going to support each other.”