WHEELING – A program for students at Wheeling Park High School aims to see a resurgence in participation.

Students looking for a challenging activity to participate in at the school have the chance to learn a new lifetime skill with the archery program.

In 2007, WPHS football coach Mark Nardone revived the school’s archery program.

An archery program had already been in place at the high school under Coach Hank Jesky when the school opened in 1976 but discontinued when he retired in the 1990s, according to Nardone.

The new program is part of the National Archery in the Schools Program, he said, which trains students t in a uniformed manner which has produced no accidents to date.

Nardone taught the archery program until 2011, with teacher Tim Ickes teaching it ever since.

“We both had to go away to be trained,” Nardone said. “We have to be certified to teach the class. It’s all based on safety.”

But to Nardone, the program is especially important because it offers an unconventional chance for students to get involved. Students in the archery program also join the New Beginnings Outdoor Club, Nardone said, which was founded in 2012 and is sponsored by Wheeling resident Lloyd Klages.

Since its foundation, the club has grown to about 45 student members.

“Students need to be connected to their school,” Nardone said. “If students feel connected there is a better chance they will not only stay in school but make strong improvements in academic success and increase their rate of attendance in school. Sometimes kids are outdoorsmen but they don’t play sports or join clubs. We felt there was a niche for a program (like this).”

Ickes said the archery program offers students far more than physical activity.

“The archery in schools program teaches students the importance of patience, concentration, following directions and healthy competition,” Ickes said.

“The fine motor skills that are taught in the archery class are just the foundation of a long list of skills taught. The kids are taught to be ‘honest archers’ and compete with a high level of respect toward others.”

According to Ickes, the program involves cross curricular teaching of mathematics which are utilized while playing games and scoring during competition. Ideas for the future of the one year-old outdoor club include fishing tours in Pennsylvania, a state archery tour, survival camping, outdoor survival skills training, teaching of hunting skills with a bow and community events with similar organizations.

Nardone and Ickes said the program would not enjoy such success if not for the efforts of Cabela’s who donated gift cards to buy gear and provides ongoing sponsorship with archery in schools.

Nardone added the school buys all their equipment from Cabela’s, especially the compound bows that all students learn to shoot. He said the Wildlife League of Ohio County also donates generously to the outdoor club and archery program.

While practicing last week, students followed a series of whistle commands in a regimented setting to ensure quick, disciplined and safe motions.

“Three whistles means ‘gather arrows,'” Nardone said. “Two means ‘approach the targets,’ one means ‘load, aim, shoot’. Everybody knows it.”

“You don’t have to be a hunter,” Klages said. “A lot of our kids don’t hunt. They just enjoy the outdoors.”