True aim: Bonner Springs couple founds archery club
During an eight-year stint in Phoenix, Kansas natives Kerry and Joanna Heidebrecht, along with their son, Kolton, fell in love with archery.
“Our son really pulled us in, and we’ve done everything now from shooting competitively ourselves to coaching to judging,” Joanna Heidebrecht said.
So when they knew they would be returning to the Kansas City area, they immediately began planning on how to bring their favorite sport with them. They planned ahead, laying the foundation to create a nonprofit club, building a website and starting social media accounts to begin Prairie Fire Archers, Junior Olympic Archery Development program, the moment they moved to Bonner Springs.
“We got here and just started running with it,” Joanna Heidebrecht said.
“We just assume it’s going to take a couple of years to get things going, but we’ve been trying to meet with anyone we can, network with anyone we can,” Kerry Heidebrecht added.
With a handful of club members, already they are planning their first archery tournament on Aug. 8 and next month also will begin offering beginner and intermediate archery classes.
The challenge has been that archery isn’t as popular in Kansas as it was back in Arizona.
The Heidebrechts said in Phoenix, archery is a more prominent sport, with the city hosting the only international ranking tournament in the United States. The No. 1 Olympic archer in the United States also lives in the Phoenix area.
In Kansas and the Kansas City area, there are a few archery clubs, the largest located in Topeka, but there is not as many shooting ranges and not as much awareness of the sport.
“It can be difficult, because so many kids are involved in football and baseball and basketball, all the traditional sports,” Kerry Heidebrecht said. “So getting time to either add archery, replace one of those with archery or even just try it can be challenging because of the practices and games they already have.”
The Heidebrechts credit their passion for archery to the sport’s inclusive nature. They note the sport works for those who have limited physical abilities.
“There’s really no limit to who can participate,” Kerry Heidebrecht said. “… The great thing about archery is nobody sits on the bench, nobody is second team, and everybody can earn rewards for their effort.”
“There are guys who are blind that shoot archery, who have no arms who shoot archery,” Joanna Heidebrecht added. “It’s something for everybody, really, and it’s a neat sport for families to do together.”
Learning the intense focus required while shooting also has been shown to help in children’s test scores as well as help some medical or psychological problems. The Heidebrects said a young friend of theirs particularly benefited from archery.
“He has Asperger’s (a mild form of autism), and it has significantly helped his behaviors,” Joanna Heidebrecht said.
The couple found a western Lenexa practice location for the club in Powder Creek Shooting Park, 8601 Monticello Road.
“They’ve pretty much been a shotgun facility, but they’re wanting to expand into archery, so we just happened along at the right time,” Kerry Heidebrecht said.
They are still looking for an indoor space to shoot in the colder months.
The small club already has competed with more than 900 others in the 2015 Easton JOAD Nationals July 1-5 in Alabama. The event included two days of qualifications, a day of head-to-head eliminations and a day of team competition.
In the team matches of three randomly paired shooters, Prairie Fire’s Kolton Heidebrecht led his team to the quarter finals, while Nick Younger of Kansas City, Mo., led his team to the bronze medal match.
The next shoot for the club team is their own KC Summer Sizzle, a USA Archery-sanctioned tournament held Aug. 8 at Powder Creek. Registration is $30 per shooter, and there will be two sessions, one beginning at 9 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m.
Also, Prairie Fire is beginning to offer beginner and intermediate classes from 6 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays at Powder Creek. Equipment is provided in the cost of the six-week class. Registration for both the tournament and the classes can be completed online at prairiefirearchers.com.