Aiming to Succeed

“Leaving your mark” – it’s an expression often used to inspire students to achieve great things in all they do. The expression is literal when it comes to the exceptional archery team at Hickory Flat Charter Elementary.

The group is making many across the region take notice with their strong performances in just their second year of competition. Coach Stuart Phillips, physical education instructor for the conversion charter school on Brannan Road in McDonough, said he has a select group of students who are taking aim at high achievement levels – and achieving them.

“We started this back in 2013,” said Phillips, referring to the archery competitions, “but we didn’t start being competitive until 2015.”

And yet the short time coaching kids in archery has produced amazing results. Phillips notes that while two of his team members made it beyond their regional competition last year, this year his entire team advanced to the state competition – a remarkable feat for such a novice team. Not only did they advance to state, they placed first in their region, and their scores were good enough to best many of the middle and high school teams competing. Should the team fare well at state, a trip to the national competition would be up next.

Hickory Flat converted to a charter school in 2013, implementing innovation stations to give students opportunities to explore their many different styles of learning. Their curriculum is based off of Howard Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences, encouraging students to learn in a variety of ways instead of being held to one learning style. The identified abilities by which students are able to learn are musical, visual-spatial, linguistic, logical-mathematical, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal.

Students are given the chance to sign up for their preferred innovation stations, and archery has been a spot that has not experienced a lack of interest . Only 4th and 5th grade students are currently eligible to be a part of the team, but Coach Phillips is working to expand it to the younger groups.

The discipline of the archers is key. These are not toy bows and suction cup arrows from the toy store; students are working with real archery equipment. The training is intense, too. Hands must be steady, eyes must be sharp, and above all else, safety must be practiced.

Lessons learned on the range are definitely carrying over to school and beyond. The focus on their craft also helps students focus on their schoolwork. Good grades and behavior are musts to continue on the team. Team members are expected to be good role models for each other and for those throughout the school.

While discussing what the team means to them, three students – fourth grader Camren Watson and fifth graders Nate McDonald and Kendall Matthew  – shared that no matter how tough the training or competition might be, they still have a blast and want to carry their skills over to honing their craft outside of school. All three have asked their parents for their own personal archery set to practice with at home.

When asked for the first word that comes to mind in describing the time spent on the archery team, not surprisingly, all three boys said “fun” with the biggest of smiles. Fun in school? Yes, it happens.

Coach Phillips can attest to the description, and also shares his excitement for the team like a proud father. He has taught at Hickory Flat Elementary and Hickory Flat Charter Elementary since 2002, enjoying the opportunities to teach students a variety of skills pertaining to physical fitness and athletics. Rarely, though, has he had the chance to bring one of his loves, the outdoors, indoors for his students.

.  .  .  .  . Coach Phillips would love to see the program expand beyond Hickory Flat to other elementary, middle and high schools in the county. If his students and their parents are any indication as to how others might receive the program at their schools, you can chalk up this opportunity to a can’t-miss bull’s eye.



The fourth- and fifth-graders’ scores were good enough to best many of the middle and high school teams in the state competition.