By Darren Lum
Published Sept. 4 2018
Toni Cooper may not have completely fulfilled her goal to be a full-time archery instructor yet but is well on her way to empowering women in the Highlands through knowledge of the bow.
Her first ladies archery event which attracted close to 100 participants over three days was nearly one year ago.
This year’s sold-out Lady Archers of Ontario ladies session is coming up on Sept. 16 and was restricted to 40 participants at the Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association fish hatchery. It not only includes guest instructor Bernie Nicholls former NHLer and avid hunter but also two other women: Cassandra Holtby and Shelby Prescott. They will tell their inspirational stories and stand as an example to session participants.
“Anybody can get into this … I want women to feel ‘Yes we can do anything.’ I have this amazing woman come in to show her [skills] and tell her story. This day is going to be amazing” Cooper said. “It’s going to be great. It’s going to be good.”
Cooper a basic certified National Archery in Schools Program instructor never envisioned this kind of popularity when she planned the first session mainly at the behest of friends. She only thought her friends would come but 100 signed up.
Empowering and educating women and their children about getting outdoors and into archery was always the driving force behind starting the Lady Archers and from the personal responses she’s received it’s clear she’s doing that.
It’s been a rewarding journey for her this past year from her own sessions and getting invited to teach at events organized by others.
Back in April she held an archery seminar with a focus on turkey hunting; a duck and goose seminar; and this coming weekend she’s been asked by Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to be a guest instructor for their ladies weekend. She will be providing a private session for Girl Guides in the Highlands later this year.
None of this would be possible without the support of the ladies the guest instructors local merchants or outfitters who have provided experiential prizes at her sessions.
“Without that support that I get from different places I wouldn’t be able to do a lot of stuff to get ladies into it now” she said.
She has recently received three bows from Bell Outdoors a distributor of hunting and fishing equipment. This equipment enables her to provide private lessons to women who don’t have a bow.
Despite the crazy schedule from juggling sessions and private lessons along with her full time work at a factory south of Haliburton she feels fulfilled and knows it’s heading toward her ultimate goal of teaching full time.
“I don’t mind working hard for this because it’s rewarding looking at all these women that have come out … now they email me and go ‘I just bought a brand new bow!’ It’s amazing. That’s awesome” she said.
She alludes to plans this winter which will move her closer to her dream but admits it will be a slow process to transition to teaching as a full-time job.
A lot has changed in a year but there is great optimism for the future.
“Before I thought: oh my God can I get people to do this? Now it’s like how am I going to get to do all these things that people want” she said. “It’s good but on some days it’s: oh my goodness.”
See www.ladyarchersofontario.ca for more information.