Author: Cassie Gasaway
ATA’s new diversity, equity and inclusion committee will identify and develop strategies to make the industry more inclusive and equitable for people of any race, gender, ability and background. The committee includes two ATA staff members and six representatives from the archery and bowhunting community.
The ATA recognizes that the industry’s demographics don’t reflect the country’s – and research provides proof. A 2015 Responsive Management study on U.S. archery participation found 81% of archers 18 and older are white, as are 88% of bowhunters. The sports are also male dominated. According to the National Sporting Goods Association’s 2018 Annual Sports Participation Report, only 21.1% of the nation’s 18 million-plus hunters in 2017 were female, compared to 78.9% male.
To better understand the barriers women and people of color face as they pursue archery and bowhunting, the ATA invited representatives of different races and genders to join the committee.
Johanna Dart (pictured right) discusses her experience in a video. Photo Credit: Corey Tucker
Committee members include:
– Johanna Dart, hunting recruitment, retention and reactivation coordinator for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources
– Kendrick Gray, community archery specialist for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in Houston
– Mike Jasper, head football coach and DEI committee member at Bethel University in Tennessee
– Emily Beach, director of marketing and member experience for USA Archery
– Ron Rice, community builder for the Near Northwest community in Indianapolis, Indiana
– Immanuel Salas, community archery specialist for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department in North Texas
– Samantha Seaton, ATA’s academy and community program manager
– Jennifer Mazur, ATA’s senior director of outreach and education
Each committee member agreed to share their perspective, experience, knowledge and ideas to help make archery and bowhunting more accessible, inviting, inclusive and equitable. The committee meets monthly via video conference. The first meeting was in October 2020.
Seaton, who facilitates each meeting, said the committee’s goal is to grow the industry by creating an environment and atmosphere that’s inclusive to all – and to be intentional about it.
“We’re trying to create an awareness and help people understand how people of different cultures feel in our industry so we can identify ways to improve and change from within,” Seaton said. “Then, we’ll be better positioned to welcome newcomers and make them feel accepted in archery and bowhunting.”
Dart hasn’t always felt welcome in shooting sports and hunting spaces because of her appearance and identifiers. As a result, she’s struggled with cultural and psychological barriers. She joined the committee to help break these barriers for others.
“Being part of a committee tasked with addressing these barriers for others is an honor and a privilege,” Dart said. “As the country’s demographics continue to shift, hunters are (still) predominately white, male and middle-aged. The ATA and other organizations need to expand to reach broader groups of people in ways that are relevant and important to them. Learning ways to engage new customers, remove barriers, and increase participation will be essential to the industry’s future and will require strategic and actionable outreach from the ATA’s DEI Committee and the community.”
Dart is grateful to see an organization in the hunting community make an authentic effort to address needs for diversity, equity and inclusion. She said the committee is an extraordinary collection of people with different experiences, backgrounds and personalities. So far, she said, working with committee members has been extremely powerful and inspiring.
Kendrick Gray promotes archery with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Photo credit: Texas Parks & Wildlife
“Working with everyone has been exactly what I expected and more,” he said. “The committee has a mixture of people from different backgrounds and experience levels. Some people consider themselves experts, others just started archery and one person hasn’t shot a bow. All those perspectives are important because I think the biggest thing that separates people isn’t their color or how much money they have – it’s how experienced they are. We need to give everyone a voice, and the committee truly represents that.”
Gray promotes archery daily for his job. He joined the committee to learn more about diversity and inclusion so he can better serve and meet the needs of his community. He believes it’s important for everyone to figure out what they can do individually to grow the sport in a big way.
The committee members are optimistic about the future and look forward to moving the ATA and other organizations toward a more inclusive and relevant space.
“If something doesn’t resonate with a person, it’s not relevant to them,” Dart said. “The ATA and its members should be relevant to a greater and more diverse audience. I believe this committee will create a multifaceted approach for increasing awareness of DEI efforts and their importance.”
Gray said the committee is a steppingstone for the archery industry that will hopefully create a ripple effect in other industries.
“This topic is important to every industry and aspect of life,” Gray said. “The more people who invest time in this topic, the better off we’ll be. Our sport is unique. Everyone can benefit from it. There aren’t a lot of recreational activities out there where young people, old people, people of all ethnicities, and those who are disabled and able-bodied can participate. I hope we’re able to make everyone feel like they belong in archery and inspire other organizations to start a DEI committee to continue this work. We need more people to commit to this to get to where we need to go. I’m really proud of the ATA for stepping up and embracing this opportunity.”
The committee plans to invite para-athletes, people from the LGBTQ community and other underrepresented individuals to the table to provide additional insights. Committee members also hope to work with DEI groups from other agencies and organizations to identify allies and partners and help broaden their perspectives.
ATA’s DEI committee will work with ATA staff members to create resources, including articles and learning modules, to help ATA members recruit and interact with nontraditional audiences, as well as explore and change any subconscious biases they have. They also want to create tools to help prepare new bowhunters and customers for the bow-buying process, so they feel comfortable and confident in an archery pro shop.
Yes, anyone and everyone can participate in archery, but not everyone feels like they’re welcome. ATA’s DEI committee wants to break barriers, change perspectives, and make archery and bowhunting inviting for everyone who wants to be a part of the sports. That shift will lead to a more inclusive – and therefore stronger – industry, which benefits everyone.
Questions? Please contact Samantha Seaton at firstname.lastname@example.org or (502) 689-4245.