The National Field Archery Association introduced a Junior Essay Contest open to all archers aged 12 to 17 who competed at the 54th edition of The Vegas Shoot in February 2020.
The prize was a scholarship towards higher education and over 100 archers took part. The topic of the essays was simply archery.
Alli Dixson and Matthew Ebner, both from Oregon, were selected as winners by an independent panel.
“I think [the scholarship] really encourages other archers to enter [the sport] and try to see that there are these opportunities through archery,” said Matthew. “I am really excited and I know a lot of people that are very proud of me, which makes me feel really good.”
The addition of the Junior Essay Contest was part of an expansion of the large scholarship program offered at The Vegas Shoot. In 2020, the scholarship fund totaled $40,000.
Here is Matthew Ebner’s winning essay in full:
Paulo Coelho has been quoted as saying “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So, when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it's going to launch you into something great. So just focus, and keep aiming.”
I believe the strength you build during times of struggle help launch you towards something greater in the future. You just have to keep your focus… and your aim. From the time I was nine years old, when I released my first arrow from a bow and fell in love with archery, my life has been a lot like this quote.
When I was in mid-third grade, my family and I moved from the town I was born and had lived for 9 years, to a new town in Oregon. It was difficult starting at a new school and trying to make new friends.
For as long as I can remember, I watched my dad practice shooting his bow for hunting, but I had never shot a bow myself. I still remember going to an event at a park where they had Genesis bows set up for kids to shoot. It didn’t take any convincing for me to give it a try and after a few shots I knew archery was for me!
My dad took a picture of me shooting that Genesis bow for the very first time and I’m so glad to have that photograph, as it captures my first shot with a bow… the very moment that launched me into the great sport of archery.
We did some research and found a local bow shop with an archery club. I joined the club and made many new friends. All of a sudden living in a new town was fun and exciting! I practiced hard and in addition to the archery club, I joined 4-H, the NFAA, and several other national, local and state clubs. I practiced for tournaments and even built my archery skills enough to begin bowhunting with my dad.
After two years of finding my place in our local archery community and really enjoying living there, I found out we would be moving again, back to the town where I was born. I was nervous and bummed about another move and it felt like a step backwards, again. I was at a 3D shoot, hiking to the next target with a great group of archers, and realized how many awesome people I had met through archery all across our state of Oregon. Sure enough, some of the people I had met that day had an archery club in the town we were moving to, and they invited me to join.
While I was still sad to leave the town where archery started for me, I was really glad I could continue my sport with people I knew. It made the move so much easier.
I believe archers are some of the most friendly, caring, and helpful people you will ever meet. This would prove to be very true over the next several years of my life. Five months after we moved again, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Being thirteen years old, this was scary and overwhelming for me. I remember my mom telling our “archery family'' about her diagnosis and the support was amazing. I had
offers from archers willing to help me with my equipment, take me to shoots, and support us however they could. Their support made such a hard time a lot easier. As we traveled for her treatments and even relocated to Seattle, Washington for three months, I was still able to keep moving forward with archery. A great thing about this sport is you can take your bow with you almost anywhere you go.
Now being sixteen years old, I’m so happy that my life and archery keeps moving forward, through focus and aim. My mom is doing really well and we’ve started our own S3DA club, I’ve made so many great friends, I love where we live, and archery continues to be my passion.
There will again be times when life seems to be pulling me back, but I know that these setbacks are opportunities to build strength and keep
aiming forward. I can’t wait to see what the future holds!