RISING STAR — Olympic archer Jake Kaminski and New York State Olympic champion and Coach Heather Pfeil presented youth archery awards at West Falls Conservation Junior Olympic Archery Development Program on Dec. 18. Photos by Forest Fisher.
WEST FALLS — One fun activity, for kids and parents, is archery. It is simple, fun and exciting, as skill develops.
For silver medal Olympic archer, Jake Kaminski, who returned home to Western New York for the holidays, this year, after six years of training at the USA Olympic training camp in California, this is a special year. Originally from Elma, the 24-year-old and his wife, Amanda, are in WNY, this week, to spend some quality time with family and to share the exciting, competitive, Olympic experience they have enjoyed in 2012.
On Dec. 18, 42 archers, ages 5 – 17, met at their weekly Junior Olympic Archery Development session, held at the West Falls Conservation Society, located at 55 Bridge St. in West Falls. Kaminski visited to see all the developing WNY JOAD archery kids, Master Instructor Bob Pfeil, equipment coach and youth mentors Paul Calleri, Brian Zeller, Rich Fabiszewski and Chief Administrator Eileen Pfeil.
Kaminski talked with the kids who were there for their weekly archery skill development lessons and shared advice and help for improvements.
“If you are young or old, a competitive archer or a hunter, it takes practice to stay at the top of your capability to shoot well,” he said. “Be sure to practice often; it is really about muscle development and control.”
Kaminski’s mom, Suzanne Linde, was also part of the West Falls visit and shared another part of the Kaminski success story. “Jake identified his love for competitive archery in this very JOAD program, when he was 9 years old. He so loved this program. That was back when the late Harry and Mary Staebell, of Leo’s Archery in East Aurora, started the program several decades ago,” she said.
SHOOT FOR THE MOON — Kaminski brought his silver Olympic medal to show the JOAD archers. Pictured, the archer lets Sue Barus hold his prize.
“He came home, one day, after the program and said, ‘Mom, I need a new bow! I want to be the best archer I can be and I wanna to be a competitor, so I need a new bow, mom.’ We saved up and bought him that new bow. It was a recurve bow and it was the best thing for Jake, though he freely admits that he has had to work his way through some tough times of developing his skill, too.”
Linde added, “At times, there seems a lot of walls in the way and it is nearly overwhelming. He tells me, he thought about dropping out a few times, but he stuck with it. He is tough, mentally. He has great friends and lots of support from his family, to help him. The USA and all of us that know him, can be very proud of him, now.”
Bob and Eileen Pfeil volunteered to run the JOAD program at West Falls, with Paul Calleri and the late Barry McCasky, after the Staebells passed on. To support the program, President Jack Bouquin and the West Falls membership of 350 adult conservationists, added new range lighting, padded archery backstops and targets as well as devoting one night per week to the JOAD program, under the leadership of Bob Pfeil and his family and coaches.
“I haven’t seen my family very much in the last five years and it is so good to be back home, right now,” Kaminski said. “My mom is so busy, at this time of year; she owns the Pumpernick ‘N Pastry bakery in Kaisertown, so Amanda and I are there, every day, right now, helping her and having some all-day fun, making and baking M&M® sugar cookies, old fashioned rum-balls and many other bakery items.”
After the Olympics, where team USA missed the gold by one point and an arrow that was less than 1/2 inch from the bullseye, Kaminski headed for a tournament in France. They went home, for one week, to where they used to live in San Diego, before traveling to another tournament, the next week, and one more tournament, the week after. Each of those final tournament shots is taken from 70 meters; that’s about 77 yards away.
Kaminski said that his proudest moment was in the Olympics, this past summer.
“It has to be winning a medal for USA, this year. In archery, team USA had not won a medal in many, many years. I am so happy for all of the team members and for our country. Before that, it was winning against Korea in the preliminary round, who is rarely defeated in archery. All the reports had us losing to Korea, way before the match was conducted.”
PLAN OF ATTACK — Amanda Kaminski and JOAD Head Coach Bob Pfeil are shown planning training strategies for archery kids at West Falls Conservation clubhouse.
Amanda Kaminski said, of the stress of competition, “We are both archers; that’s how we met, at archery competition, many years ago, and you know there is pressure. Both of us seem to be able to take our mind off the pressure and we both love the competition. During competitions, we really don’t have time to think about getting nervous; it’s just the target and the environment, not so much the other team.”
Linde noted, “After the medal round, where USA won the silver medal, both Amanda and I just wanted to get down to the field to hug Jake and they wouldn’t let us in. Luckily, we ran into Jerry Sullivan from the Buffalo News, who was covering the event, and he took us in under his wing and I’m not telling a soul how important it was for us to see Jake, at that moment, and just hug him. We were so proud of him. After that, he was with the media and Olympic business, for the next day and a half, and we didn’t see him at all. We were dying to see him!”
“When you focus on the target only, it really doesn’t matter who the opposition is, you just simply shoot your best, maintain your sharpest focus and try to place your arrows where they score,” Kaminski said, of the competition.
After the holidays, the Kaminskis will head south to live in Gainesville, Fla., where Kaminski accepted a job as a competition coach with Hoyt® Archery.
“I’m really excited about being a coach for such a great archery company as Hoyt, spending one-on-one time with kids that want to become better archers,” she said.
“My first question to each young archer will be, what would you like to gain from this experience? It helps the kids to determine where they want to go. After that, they develop pure focus.”
Jake Kaminski is also a hunter, but he did not discuss his field success, during this event.
For JOAD class openings, call Bob or Eileen Pfeil at 941-9393. Classes take place for one hour on Tuesdays, each week, starting at 6 p.m. There are three age groups.