EAST LANSING, Mich. – Archery has a unique place in the sporting world, as its essence is held in high regard - yet the athletes are sometimes belittled. For most average sports fans, the closest they get to archery is on the Hollywood big screen.
For Maria Steibel, a 17-year-old senior at Holt High School, archery has given her years of influence and tools that go well beyond the sport.
“I’m not that big of an athlete,” Steibel admitted. “Sure, if you tell me to go run, I’ll go run. Do I want to? Not really.”
While running might not be her forte, archery certainly is. According Glen Bennett, her longtime coach and certified Olympic development trainer, she is one of the top 20 archers in the nation at her age.
Contrary to popular belief, hitting a target with a bow involves much more than just good hand-eye coordination. The tenuous and repetitive nature of consistently hitting it demands mental focus and upper-body strength that takes years of practice.
Steibel began visiting the MSU Demmer Shooting, Training, and Education Center when she was 11. Her father, Juan Steibel, moved to the Lansing area to work as a professor in Michigan State’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.
Steibel credits her father for guiding her towards archery, although it was not all that intentional.
“My dad shot a lot with rifles and he asked me one day if I wanted to go and shoot at this new facility,” Steibel said. “We happened to start with archery when we got there, and he was never able to get me to leave after that.”
Bennett, who is also the MSU archery coach and program director at Demmer Center, has been training Steibel ever since that first impromptu visit.
“Maria has been here the longest out of anybody,” Bennett said. “She started coming here when she was 11 years old, now she’s going to be 18 in the summer and hopefully coming here to Michigan State. We’re real happy to help her with that and get her on the team.”
Steibel spends approximately three hours at the Demmer Center every day after school. She also comes in on the weekends to help with the Junior Olympic Archery Development (J.O.A.D.) classes – a program that played a vital role in her growth as an archer and young adult.
Further could mean many things, but the Olympics are certainly not out of question for Steibel.
“Archery and coach Bennett have helped me the most with self image…I’ve grown a lot on that since I first came here.
“Right now, I’m just focused on my last year of high school and preparing for college. I’d like to carry [archery] into college, and maybe further.”