Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Taking aim: AJ Archery introduces Toledoans to target shooting

If you’ve ever dreamed of shooting arrows like Hawkeye in The Avengers or Katniss in The Hunger Games, taking a class at AJ Archery will show you what it’s really like. Yes, it’s harder than it looks in the movies, but it’s also a sport that rewards in unexpected ways. 

For owner Coach AJ Berning-Matell, archery is a passion so owning her own range and teaching was an obvious step for her. “I’d like everybody to have the opportunity to experience archery. Archery is a sport of mind and body, you learn to focus, pay attention, and follow the rules in archery, and that’s how I teach it. Archery is more about form, and when you train your body you will begin to hit the target.” 

What’s in a lesson?

All students start with a Basic Intro to Archery class that’s an hour to an hour and a half long. 

The intro class gives students a chance to ask more questions and to become comfortable with the equipment. AJ explained, “We go through all the equipment, stretching, hand and eye dominance, safety, shot process, and then they can just join a class at any time depending on availability.”  

Some students want to shoot recreationally, but AJ teaches all her students as if they are going to compete because they’ll get the most out of the sport with good training that includes learning to stretch properly before shooting and building core and back strength — all key components of a good archer.  

Adaptive archery

There are lessons for those who have challenges. Coach AJ can help find ways to solve challenges for both able-bodied or those that are physically or neurologically challenged. 

“We not only make the equipment fit, but also make the archer be a part of, and feel inclusive in, the process. That might mean adjusting a wheelchair to allow for greater movement or stability. Archery can help improve focus and concentration issues. Because focus is such an intrinsic part of archery, I’ve seen kids who have trouble focusing in school take archery and bring that focus to their classwork,” AJ said. 

Lessons are open to kids as young as three years old. Little ones start with 5 to 7-pound bows. Once they get form, they can use a higher poundage bow — working in higher weight for a few rounds and then going back to a lower weight, until they have proven to be proficient. One student, Arya, who is 6 years old, currently shoots 204 arrows with a 16 lb. bow. A dedicated student, she has built up stamina to shoot from 40 feet with accuracy.

Date Nights
Date nights were inspired by the love of archery AJ and her husband shared, often going to expos, meets and events together. It’s a fun way to learn with a partner, and, as with all classes, there’s music!  The next date night is March 19, from 3-5pm.  

Coach AJ‘s love and enthusiasm for the sport is inspiring. She prides herself with staying informed on every aspect of archery so she can pass that knowledge on to her students. She explained, “For example, if students find they want to compete, it’s important that I’ve been attending those competitions so that I can prepare my students because each competition is a little different. My students often say, ‘You’re a full-service coach,’ and my reply is, ‘Is there any other way to do this?’”

Find out more about classes at

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