Lexington‘s American Leadership Academy archery looks to set foundation for future

Posted 4/4/24

For months, American Leadership Academy history teacher, Will Harmon, advocated for an archery team to the school’s athletic director. 

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Lexington‘s American Leadership Academy archery looks to set foundation for future


For months, American Leadership Academy history teacher, Will Harmon, advocated for an archery team to the school’s athletic director. 

For months, his request was shut down and looked over. American Leadership had just opened its doors in August and still needed to establish more traditional sports programs. 

But about midway through the first semester of the school year, things started to change. Parents’ and students’ interests led to them joining Harmon in consistently advocating to school officials. 

“ALA wasn’t crazy about having archery at school,” Harmon said. “Without the parents, none of it would be possible.”

Once they got the official approval, the team began recruiting athletes and held an interest meeting with over 80 kids in attendance. The team supplied itself with the necessary gear, thanks to donations from parents and the state’s Department of Natural Resources, and then got the ball rolling.

“It all kicked off that very first meeting,” Harmon said. “Then about three meetings later, we were actually out here shooting.”

The team officially got started in January and began practicing the fundamentals of shooting. Most of the group consists of first-time middle school archers. 

There is some experience on the team. The two captains, Abigail Ramirez and Zoe Kozlowski are veteran archers, who have been doing their best to teach the rest of the team while trying to improve their own individual skills. 

“We had like 74 students right when we started, and I was worried that we were going to have a really disorganized group,” Kozlowski said. “I was shocked, but I was also really excited because I knew that it could actually succeed. And it wasn’t just gonna be like a group of kids doing it for fun. It could actually become something that is important to the school.”

Kozlowski and Ramirez help Harmon and the other coaches prepare the other archers. Ramirez said she prides herself in helping them improve with providing positive feedback. 

“I tried to help them out and give them constructive criticism when it came to their shooting,” she said. “I know that I needed that when I first started, and just being that person that kindly tells them and not just harshly criticize them.”

The pair are two of the older students on the team, which consists of mostly middle schoolers. There is one person older than them. She is the team’s only senior and her journey to joining the team was very different from the rest. 

Liv Wright was just sitting in the crowd at a tournament waiting to watch her brother. But soon she found herself amongst the competition, shooting as a member of the team. 

“They were missing a player at a tournament, and I was the only person in the audience that went to ALA, so I kind of got dragged into it,” Wright said. “But I found enjoyment in it.”

Wright came to practices after that and started to discover that she was actually pretty talented.

“I feel like I kind of found something I was good at out of nowhere,” she said. “I never would have done archery. It’s kind of like my last hurrah year. I was doing things for fun, and it just kind of worked out in my favor.”

Being the only senior is not the easiest, and Wright acknowledges the age gap between her and her peers sometimes stands out. But generally, the high schoolers and middle schoolers are split into two groups, creating a more tight-knit environment. 

“There’s like a lot of love poured into it,” Wright said. 

The team has already competed in a few events. Most recently, they were at the South Carolina state championships. Results for these events may not have been glorious, but the team has shown increased promise with each outing, which is what Harmon asks for. 

The coach is less focused on the first place finishes and more focused on teaching his group important skills that will make them not just successful archers but successful people, too. 

Harmon is a historian, outdoor enthusiast and former newspaper reporter around Lexington County. He talked about the prevalence of archery throughout human history, and how that, combined with his passion for outdoor activity, led to his desire to see a team established. 

He hopes through this experience his kids will learn focus, dedication, commitment, respect and integrity. His teaching has already paid off with Ramirez, Kozlowski and Wright all saying they have gained something by participating. 

“For me, patience and being a lot more calm because I have a really short temper,” Kozlowski said. “It’s helped with just understanding everyone’s different and making sure that everyone feels safe and welcome in a community is really important.”

Ramirez agreed patience was one of the biggest lessons learned. 

“It’s a mental sport,” she said. “A lot of the time, it’s easy to get worked up from the last arrow that you shot that was bad. And the only thing you can do is just move on and take your time.”

With their first semester of contests coming to a close, Harmon hopes next year will see the team grow to new heights and achieve new success. 

“I’m so proud of these kids. I’m so thankful for our assistant coaches and parents,” Harmon said. “I hope that we’ll be able to get some support and people come out and see us in action. [I’m] hoping next year we’ll be able to get into the school gym and practice in there. And expand this program, put it out there for the next generation of kids.”

American Leadership Academy, archery, S.C Department of Natural Resources


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