Dreamers & Doers
Austin nonprofit hits bull's-eye with new outdoor archery facility
Archery is one of those activities that seems relegated to summer camp and tales of early frontier history. In truth, there’s a thriving community around the sport, both as a way to hunt and as an athletic pastime.
Central Texas Archery, a nonprofit program founded by Jessica Schmer, Kat Davis, and Eric Davis, is on a mission to introduce new people to archery and build expertise through education, instruction, and competition.
The trio originally met while traveling to archery tournaments with their children, all of whom are competitive archers. During those trips, they realized other cities offered impressive facilities and wide-ranging archery educational programs that Austin lacked.
“It started as a conversation about how we’d grown to love archery and how we wished Austin had more robust facilities and programming,” says Kat Davis. “As we spent more time talking about it, we started dreaming ... to make that a reality.”
First, they needed a home base. They purchased property on East Howard Lane, about five miles east of I-35, and broke ground in July 2018. In addition to the demands of their real life, they spent months “leveling the land during the day and working on marketing, social, and business planning at night,” says Davis. That work paid off in September 2018 when they were able to open an outdoor range and move forward with programming, including a league, competitions, and individual coaching.
The image of our Native American ancestors deftly wielding a bow and arrow makes archery seem almost mythical — not exactly something that can be casually incorporated into a work-kids-sleep-work routine.
Central Texas Archery, however, hopes to dispel that assumption. “Archery is so versatile. It can be enjoyed as a solo effort or in a group, it’s a fun family activity, outdoor enthusiasts love it for the sport, and there’s definitely a place for it in cosplay and historical reenactments,” Davis explains. “It’s just as great for corporate team building events as it is for birthday parties.”
There’s another reason the owners are such outspoken evangelists for archery: It’s inclusive.
"Archery transcends the boundaries of many traditional physical activities," explains Davis. "It’s possible for people who are deaf, blind, physically challenged, who have autism, ADHD, and other learning challenges. It’s do-able for all ages, genders, and fitness levels.”
She says this long road has been worth it. "In a single year, we’ve introduced over 2,700 new people to the sport and have 200-plus members," she says, adding it’s been moving to “see people enjoy a sport who assumed they weren’t athletic [and] witness the positive impact shooting is having on peoples’ lives.”
Phase two for the business is an indoor facility. Though Central Texas Archery is navigating the permitting process, Davis says the owners “are all anxious to have it completed so we can offer more programs and accommodate more people. Assuming permitting comes through, we hope to have it open in 2020.”
Like many young businesses, the biggest challenge the company faces is the desire to grow while dealing with the constraints of being a new business. And even after the indoor facility is permitted and built, there’s still “keeping up with technology and of course, continuing to understand how we can contribute to the community.”
For anyone out there holding on tight to a dream, Davis’ advice is to persevere with positivity.
“Mistakes will happen; lessons will be learned,” she says. “Continue to be positive about your dream and others will be drawn to it. There is very little we can accomplish alone, but as a team we can create anything.”
Test your aim at an archery class by booking one through the Central Texas Archery website. You can also become a member, join the spring league, or book a private event.