Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Coach Rochelle Rombalski, left, works with first year archer and sophomore Anne Meadows on squeezing her shoulder blades together when releasing the arrow.


Holy Spirit Students Take Aim With Bows, Arrows

By MICHAEL ALEXANDER, Staff Photographer | Published April 23, 2009

Holy Spirit Preparatory School archery is an up-and-coming program due in part to the hard work and dedication of its 26-year-old coach Rochelle Rombalski, who also serves as the Visual Arts Chair at Holy Spirit Prep’s Upper School. Rombalski, a native of Mableton, attends Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Atlanta.

Since each arrow is worth 10 points in Olympic International Archery Federation (FITA) style archery, Coach Rombalski answered 10 questions during a recent Georgia Bulletin interview about the school’s archery team. Holy Spirit’s final competition of the season takes place during the 3D Jamboree in Cumming, May 16.

GB: Have you been the archery coach since the team was formed back in 2005?

Rombalski: Yes, I started the club when I was hired, with only a few students. We’ve gotten bigger and more competitive every year.

GB: How young or what grade do you start accepting team participants?

Rombalski: Students can start shooting with us as soon as they enter the upper school in the seventh grade. However, we have had special days where we’ve invited the elementary kids out to give it a try in the past.

GB: The team has been competing since 2007. You’ve competed in four different events in 2009 so far. Who do you compete against, and how has the team fared in competition this year?

Rombalski: Archery is really an individual sport. When you go to competition, you are often competing against members of your own team as well as members from other community archery clubs that are in your age division.

Georgia has a thriving Junior Olympic archery development program and 4H program, so there are numerous clubs in the state that field competitive individuals for shoots. Depending on the type of shoot we go to, there can be anywhere from 30 to 200 people participating from ages 6 to 66. Age divisions normally go 10 and up, 12 and up, 14 and up, 18 and up (adult). We tend to do very well in the 14 and up and 16 and up divisions, normally taking at least one, and in many cases all, of the top three spots for both boys and girls. The 18 and up division is very competitive.

Georgia currently has two of the four junior U.S. archery team members living here and competing in the 18 and up class. These are kids who travel the world to represent the U.S., so they tend to dominate that division.

GB: The Georgia Archery Association (GAA) sponsored two of the competitions. What is their role in archery along with the Georgia Bowhunters and Archery Association (GBAA) and Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD), who also sponsor events?

Rombalski: The GAA is part of the NAA (National Archery Association), which governs all of the archery Olympic trials and competitions for the United States. JOAD is the NAA’s youth program developed to introduce archery to younger people in order to groom them for the Olympics. The GBAA is part of the National Field Archery Association. They are more geared to compound shooting than Olympic style.

The other big organizations are ASA (Archery Shooters Association), which was founded in Atlanta, and the IBO (International Bowhunting Organization). Both of these are 3D organizations in which competitors shoot three-dimensional foam targets shaped like animals that are set up in various hunting scenarios.

Holy Spirit Preparatory is lucky to have a very close relationship with the Sweetwater Archery Club out of Douglasville. Their president, R.E. Smith, has really helped us in setting up our equipment and learning a lot about 3D. Eventually, the Holy Spirit shooters will try to qualify for the ASA national circuit by competing with the Sweetwater Archery Club.

GB: Do each of the above organizations stress something different in competition?

Rombalski: GAA is more geared to Olympic-style shooting. In order to make an Olympic or world team, you have to go through their program and competitions. GBAA is more for bowhunters and field archers, but most shooters do both organizations.

GB: In every sport certain skill sets are required. What makes a good archer?

Rombalski: Patience and focus. Archery is 90 percent mental. It’s about recreating the same exact movements over and over again without tiring. You have to be able to form muscle memory and dedicate yourself, practicing until every movement is just second nature. It’s also really helpful to have lots of upper body strength and long arms.

GB: In other sports the athlete will run, stretch or loosen up prior to competition or the game. What do archers do in practice and before competition to ready themselves?

Rombalski: The only time you work the muscles you use for archery is when you are shooting. So when you’re not competing, it’s all about practice. This isn’t always shooting an arrow. It’s also pulling back and practicing aiming. Stretching with stretch bands and “blind bailing,” which is shooting with your eyes closed to focus on form.

As in any sport, you need to be in shape for shooting hours at a time, so running, biking and walking are all good. The biggest thing is getting your mind ready for the intense focus you’ll have to keep. So many archers will meditate or mentally shoot, imagining each and every arrow of a competition.

GB: What have been some of the team’s biggest accomplishments over the past two years?

Rombalski: It’s a toss-up. … Two years ago in our first year of competition, we had one student, Kyle Hatch, make it all the way to the regional indoor for the GAA. And this year our team swept the GBAA indoor, winning first place in all six divisions we entered. It was awesome!

GB: Do you know if any students have gone on to further pursue archery after their time at Holy Spirit?

Rombalski: Not that I know of.

GB: What are your expectations and hopes for Holy Spirit archery next season and beyond?

Rombalski: I’d like to see us get more involved on the national level and hopefully field a team to go to the indoor nationals in Las Vegas or Louisville. We have the talent—it’s just about making the commitment to those types of events.

My expectation is that we will, as we are already becoming a recognizable force in the Georgia archery circuit. I envision a team that will be synonymous with winning.