It started with an episode of Survivorman, an eleven year old kid who was bored as hell, and a dead frog.
“I saw him make a bow in the woods and he shot a frog,” said Kolby Hanley, second-year MSE and professional archer sanctioned by the National Field Archery Association (NFAA). “And then he ate the frog. I thought that was the coolest thing ever and being bored as hell, I went out into the backwoods and started making bows out of little saplings based on the episode. But I’ve never killed an animal with a bow.”
The Survivorman episode made quite an impact, sparking a passion that led to months and months of making bows, until Hanley went to the local archery range to start training with a standard hunting bow.
Before coming to Tech as a second-year transfer student, Hanley began his archery career through the Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) program. “It was the first sport I was pretty good at and I could stand out among other people,” he says.
Over the past three summers, however, Hanley found a new home at the Archery Learning Center in Snellville, GA, forty minutes east of Tech. He has been using the Center as a hub for participating in national and international competitions and has found tremendous support through the program.
“My main role model is George Ryals IV — the head coach and owner of the Archery Learning Center,” said Hanley. “He’s played such an influential role in that he’s not only helped me to be a phenomenal shooter, but he’s also helped me in my life too—to get to tournaments, to give me exposure. He’s always pushing me too. I meet people who tell me I’m driven, people who don’t push me as much, but he’s really the only person who keeps poking me to keep doing a little bit more.”
Despite the proximity of the Archery Learning Center to Tech’s campus, Hanley was often discouraged from applying as a transfer because it was “impossible” to get in.
But defying seemingly formidable odds, Hanley applied and received admission. “The transition was seamless; it felt like it was meant to be,” he said.
Hanley often practices with Tech’s archery team, which meets three times a week. “I’m shooting a lot more than I used to at my old school, just because it’s easier with the Learning Center and practice at Tech,” said Hanley. “I’m actually seeing an incline on my skill since I’ve gotten here.”
On top of shooting at a professional level, Hanley is balancing a rigorous curriculum, is currently pursuing a position in undergraduate research, and puts in thirty hours a week, working nights at his part-time job downtown.
An accomplished shooter in many respects, Hanley won the National Outdoor Championship for two consecutive years, and the National Indoor Championship in 2014, for which he made a perfect score on the last day of the competition, a personal accomplishment in which he takes great pride.
But what Hanley believes was the most significant moment at the National Indoor Championship and in his archery career was when he was approached by the head coach of the Archery Learning Center.
“Right after I had received my big bowl on the podium, that’s when I met the head coach … and honestly, if I hadn’t won National Championship that year, I probably wouldn’t be here,” Hanley said.
Hanley hopes to continue archery as long as he can. “I’ve pretty much already decided it’s one of those things that I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life … there’s something about it that I just enjoy too much and it makes me too happy to not do it for the rest of my life.”
Hanley describes archery as a martial art, as a meditative type of sport. “It’s almost like yoga in a sense. It calms you down and mellows you out…It’s made me more self-aware, both mentally and physically, just because it takes so much body control in the form of being still under high pressure. It’s made me perform better under a high level in everything else that I’m doing,” he added regarding the advantages of his craft.
Hanley is currently experimenting with something different than the stereotypical thirteen-hundred-people-shoot-at-five-hundred-targets-at-the-same-time type of archery, with a new form known as 3D Archery.
3D Archery includes shooting at foam targets of animals in the woods, with four or five other people on the course.
He is currently training to compete in World Trials this upcoming June in hopes to make the team that will travel to South America for the World Cup.