Brandon Lett has been a member of the Meigs County Middle School archery team for just one season and yet he’s had great success. Success however, doesn’t always come from winning. Yes, Brandon is a winner. Brandon was the state champion in bullseye at the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) competition in McMinnville this past March. Although he’s very proud of his accomplishments, being part of the archery team and holding the state title are expressions of something more personal.
Brandon, as with many people nearing 14 years old, struggles with focus and can be hotheaded. When he steps to the line with his bow and arrows however, he shows wisdom beyond his years. He’s able to calm himself and live in the moment. “I’m not thinking of the future or past. I draw back slowly and relax my breathing. There’s nothing else but the tip of the arrow and the target,” he said. This calm place is something Brandon has depended upon in a way he didn’t anticipate.
He has always felt shy and bit out of place in social settings. “I always want to make friends with people, but it was hard for me to even walk into a grocery store,” he said. NASP, his coaches and teammates have changed this. “I’m part of a great team and they’ve become family to me. I’m close to my teammates and many of their parents. I didn’t expect this from NASP”.
Brandon learned just how much his teammates, coaches and the sport meant to him not by winning the state tournament, but through the loss of his father just three weeks before the state competition. Cassandra Lett, Brandon’s mother said, “To see these kids surround and lift my child up is deeply touching. This team is supportive, close and caring. They win as a team and lose as a team.”
Brandon said, “I wanted to win the state competition for my dad.” However his coach Cheryl Roberts said, “I didn’t want to see that pressure on him. His father, family and friends would be proud regardless of his performance in the competition.” Ms. Roberts has been involved with NASP for 14 years. Not only is she a teacher at the middle school, she’s coached many students through the program and recognizes what NASP means in their lives. She said, “Brandon has been through a lot this year, but he’s overcome and been supported by his friends. This program is about more than just bows and arrows.”
NASP and leaders such as Ms. Roberts that oversee the school program recognize the role these programs can play. The Meigs County Middle School program was one of the first 12 pilot schools in Tennessee in 2004. The 14-year old program continues to grow and touch students and Brandon Lett won’t forget his time at the middle school.
Brandon is now practicing for the world competition to be held in Louisville this coming Thursday. His team will be shooting in the 3-D competition. Lett has been practicing with a new custom bow, gifted to him by a teammate’s family, the Skinner family, after his state win. The only time Lett practiced prior to the state tournament was with school equipment on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during school practice. The gift was presented to him after a practice. “I couldn’t talk; I was so surprised. I have the best friends ever,” Brandon said.
The National Archery in the Schools Program is an in-school program aimed at improving educational performance among students in grades four through twelve. Students learn focus, self-control, discipline, patience and the life lessons required to be successful in the classroom and in life. Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is proud to be a NASP partner. Officials said, "We wish Brandon, his coaches and his team success at the world competition and in life."
Learn more about NASP at tnwilfe.org.