The Power Of Repetition: Archery can change lives – as a group of young autistic Japanese archers discovered
At this year’s Vegas Shoot, there was one group of junior archers who had made the 9,000 kilometre trip from their hometowns in Japan. Yuki Awada, Kirari Funakoshi, Aito and Towah Nakazawa all competed in Las Vegas, representatives of a program that teaches archery to autistic children.
Based at the Saiki Archery Land range near Hiroshima in southwestern Japan, the program has apparently become so popular, it’s having to turn away prospective archers. Emiko Nakazawa, the mother of one of the archers, has been part of the program from the beginning. “We wanted to show the world what people could do, so we had them come and shoot here, where we thought they might be more accepted than in Japan. “We started to teach special needs kids archery, and this [Vegas] is the ultimate goal for them”.
Archery, with its focus on processes and systematic repetition, has frequently been recommended as both sport and therapy for children and adults with autism spectrum disorder, and there have been a handful of programmes throughout the world, usually driven by a single coach.
“We think that archery is the best for them, because they can repeat the same thing over again, and they are good at it. I believe that archery has changed their lives a lot.” said Emiko.
The NFAA accommodated the group in Vegas, with all the benefits of the world’s largest archery festival. “They have more opportunity to meet people from the world, to change their vision and their dreams.” said Emiko.
“What I like about archery is that with a clean and accurate shot, you feel pure happiness,” said Towah, Emiko’s son. “I came to the Vegas Shoot and thought to myself: “We don’t have large tournaments such as this in Japan.”
Their coach, Shinji Tomo, said: “When it comes to children of special needs, there is a scientific discipline called ABA, which stands for applied behaviour analysis. This focuses on each child individually, and each child having their unique set of challenges.”
“Within the process, of course there are multiple challenges and difficulties, but sports creates an equal opportunity for all of those involved, regardless of special needs or not.”
“In terms of special needs children, our objective is to tell the world that through archery, these children can perform at a high level, and it can inspires those special needs children and their families to have goals and dreams in their lives. It can be a springboard for others to benefit from archery.”
“I came to this tournament, and although I was very nervous in many ways, I ended up having a lot of fun and I truly enjoyed it.” said Yuki Awada, one of the archers. “The best part has been making new friends and building my confidence while I’m having fun.”
Emiko was ebullient about what the group could achieve. “Hopefully more people [will] become aware of this, and more special needs people become aware that they can do archery, they can do sport, they have more future.”
You can find video of these archers on the World Archery website.