Snellville’s archery pro
By Eric Bruce
In the corner of the Fountain Square Shopping Center off McGee Road is a place where champions are born and trained. A group of young archer’s have been winning state, regional, and national titles in the small but growing sport of archery.
Fueled by several recent archery-related movies such as ‘Hunger Games’, youths are taking an interest in the bow and arrow and the Archery Learning Center (ALC) is here in Snellville to meet that need and develop new archers.
The ALC was begun in 2010 by George Ryals IV and his father. George, better known as ‘GRIV’ after his initials, grew up in Georgia and started shooting bows in his early teens. He worked in several archery shops in the area and moved the Washington State to work for bow manufacturer Martin. He later moved to Auburn, New York to develop bow sights and accessories for the bow sights company Copper John. Somewhat frustrated by making money for other people, he desired to do something different that would make money for himself.
While he was pondering his next move, his wife said to him, “Promise me you’ll never make someone else money again”. With help from his father, GRIV opened the Archery Learning Center and began teaching young and old people how to shoot a bow. “We were ready for it” George said.
Pictured Right: Carmen Colston, shooter in "Donut Oven" room
“From 2010 to 2012 there was a dramatic increase in participation because of archery movies,” said George. “It has now stabilized, but there is still a steady flow and archery as a whole is still growing steadily. Some people fell in love with it because of the movies, kind of a romantic view, and they discover that it really is a sport and some really get into it. Some are surprised that bowhunting exists”.
Though the shop employs some part-time workers and volunteer aches, GRIV handles most of everything at the shop which includes teaching seminars, coaching kids, setting up bows, and selling equipment and gear. They feature Mathews and Hoyt bows plus an assortment of the many accessories that can go on a bow. You can get started for as little as $300 or spend into the thousands for top notch equipment.
GRIV and the ALC’s most noteworthy creation are the Hornets, the youth archery team that has been winning tournaments with regularity. The Hornets team has 35 members in the 8-19 year old range that has won numerous state and regional tournaments and 23 national championships and a world championship. They compete in tournaments all over and recently shot in Nimes, France.
On a rainy evening in January, I visited the ALC and it was busy with archers of all ages shooting their bows in the indoor range. Among them were Hornet members Kevin Paproski and Jacob Rodrique who will be trying out for the Olympics. Much of the reason for the success of the shooters and others who enter the shop is GRIV. At 43 years old, GRIV is a congenial patient teacher who coaches each student with gentle precision. This month he was named ‘Coach of the Year’ by USA Archery along with the US Olympic Committee.
Also shooting was 14-year old Carmen Colston, a three-year Hornet member who was perfecting her form in the new ‘Donut Oven’ room, so-named for targets they’re trying to hit. There is a wrap-around video machine that records the participant’s shooting form from all sides.
The ALC caters to the beginner as well as the seasoned veteran. Each Saturday they host a one hour class for new archers called JOAD, for the Junior Olympic Archery Development program. “It’s for people who have never shot a bow”, George states. Adult classes are held in the afternoons.
Bowhunters as well as target shooters come into the shop although there is more emphasis on target shooting. GRIV just returned from the Archery Trade Association show where he taught classes to other professionals about how to grow kid’s programs. And he should know, his classes and teams have made great strides and have brought many new archers into the sport.
Whether you’ve never shot a bow before or are an experienced bowhunter, the Archery Learning Center is where you can learn to shoot or perfect your form. Many people who have come in with only some intrigue about archery have become fanatical about bows and arrows. Developing the right form and using the correct fitted equipment are critical in archery and you will obtain both at the ALC.
“I enjoy it, I’m lucky to be able to do what I love”, GRIV admits. “When I get up in the morning I’m excited about what I do.” If you’ve wondered about what it would be like to shoot a bow, consider visiting GRIV at the ALC in Snellville and you too may become hooked on the bow and maybe even become a champion tournament archer.
Pictured in front are: Kevin Paproski and Jacob Rodrique