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'Hunger Games' Credited With Sparking Youths' Interest in Archery

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Thanks to the popular series of The Hunger Games novels, which features a bow-and-arrow-wielding heroine, students' interest in archery has reportedly boomed in recent months, according to a number of recent articles.

Back in late March, Andy Grimm of the Chicago Tribune spoke with Teresa Iaconi, a spokeswoman for the Archery Trade Association, who said that kids were often citing the Hunger Games novels as their inspiration to become involved with archery.

"I think the kids now have heroes in the sport," she told him.

Iaconi said visits to the website of USA Archery jumped 30 percent in January and February as anticipation for "The Hunger Games" movie built up. New York City's two indoor archery ranges reported as much as 75 percent more traffic since word started traveling about "The Hunger Games," according to an article from the New York Daily Post.

Jay McAninch, president and chief executive officer of the Archery Trade Association, told the Dallas Morning-News earlier this month, "We've seen a buzz not only nationwide, but around the world wherever "The Hunger Games" has opened."

According to the most recent participation data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, a total of 914 student-athletes participated in competitive archery at the high school level in the 2010-11 school year. There's no national data available yet for this past school year.

"We're really excited ... because archery has been a sport that we've struggled with, some of the interest in it, but this year it has just exploded," two-time Olympian Jennifer Nichols told the Associated Press this week.

Grimm of the Tribune was quick to note in a companion piece, however, that the young-adult series wasn't the only catalyst to spark the boom in interest.

In speaking with a 12-year-old for his story, Grimm found out her interest spawned from the television show "Top Shot," and Grimm also cited such recent movie blockbusters like "Avatar" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, both of which featured archers. ("The Avengers," this summer's biggest blockbuster so far, also features a bow-and-arrow-wielding hero named Hawkeye.)

Luckily for archery advocates, The Hunger Games is a trilogy, not just a standalone book. Based on the box office success of the first movie, it's safe to expect two more "Hunger Games" blockbusters in the coming years.

Something else that might help boost the newfound archery craze? LeBron James, three-time most valuable player of the National Basketball Association, was spotted reading the first The Hunger Games book before Game 4 of the second-round playoff series between his Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers.

"I've been [reading] since the playoffs started," James said to ESPN.com's Tom Haberstroh. "It just puts me in a different mindset. Honestly, before the game I don't even think about what's going to happen throughout the game. I've just been reading and it's been able to calm me down. It's been great."

Hear that, kids? You can be a three-time NBA MVP and think reading is still cool.

Photo: Garrett Chamberlain participates in the youth archery league at Targeteers Archery in Saddle Brook, N.J. In schools and backyards, for their birthdays and out with their dads, kids are gaga for archery after the release of "The Hunger Games." Archery ranges around the country have enjoyed a steady uptick among kids of both sexes. (Charles Sykes/AP)

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