North American Indigenous Games

Alberta archer shoots to win at North American Indigenous Games

Warren Collins, a Nakoda archer from Cochrane, Alta., has his sights set on a gold medal at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto next month. The 15-year-old also hopes to be an inspiration for youth with fetal alcohol syndrome and other disabilities.

Born with FAS, 15-year-old Warren Collins doesn't let disability get in the way of his passion for archery

Warren Collins of Cochrane, Alta., is only 15 years old, but he is already making a name for himself in competitive archery. (Provided by Jayena Collins)

Warren Collins originally took up archery because he thought it would be a good skill for hunting. He picked up the sport quickly, and at 15 years old is already making a name for himself in the world of competitive archery.

The Nakoda archer from Cochrane, Alta., will compete at his first North American Indigenous Games in Toronto in July.

Collins first got into the sport at the age of 12, when his mother, Jayena Collins, bought him his first bow for his birthday.

His mom says he's a natural at the sport, but Collins is a bit hesitant to call himself that.

"I knew with time, practice and commitment, it would put me where I am today," said Collins, who practises three or four times a week.

"After the first three days of shooting … I knew I was addicted to the sport, because there'd be nights where my mom would have to take the bow away from me and pull me in to go eat dinner."

All that practice is paying off.

In Collins's first major competition, the 2016 Alberta Winter Games, he took home the gold medal in the 12- to 14-year-old category.

Just this past February, he attended the Vegas Shoot, one of the largest indoor archery competitions in the world. He placed 28th out of 116 competitors in his division.

Challenging misconceptions

Born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Collins has had to overcome a lot of adversity, but he is quick to say the syndrome in no way impacts his archery.
Collins will compete in 3D archery at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto in July. (Provided by Jayena Collins)

He also wants to be an inspiration for other youth with disabilities.

"I want to tell them that no matter what disability you have, you can always accomplish your dreams … keep striving forward no matter the ups and downs you have," said Collins.

"Most [people] say that we can't do anything, but I've conquered that. I've played lacrosse, football, volleyball, and I can control my anger."

Some people with FAS struggle with anger and hyperactivity.

According to the Canadian FASD Research Network, people on the FAS spectrum can struggle with their brain's executive functioning, which includes difficulty with judging, planning, consequences, and impulsivity.

Archery pointers

Over the last decade, the sport of archery has taken off thanks to movie franchises such as Lord of the Rings and The Hunger Games.

Collins says he thinks it's cool to see his sport represented in film, but he has a few pointers for Hunger Games actress Jennifer Lawrence when it comes to her archery stance.

"Her anchor point is whack," said Collins, who explained that an anchor point is the place where an archer's bow hand is aligned with the face.

"Sometimes people have their middle finger in the corner of their mouth or under their jaw, and [Jennifer Lawrence], I don't even know where she's going with it."

Collins jokes that with an anchor point like Lawrence's, an archer likely wouldn't hit their target.

Bring home the gold

Collins is excited to head to NAIG next month and says it will be his first time in Toronto. He hopes to have as much fun at the games as he did at the Las Vegas competition.

He's competing in 3D archery, a sport that tries to recreate a hunting environment in competition by having athletes shoot at life-size models of animals.

"At every shoot I go to, I always learn something new and meet new people — make new friends," said Collins.

Most importantly, Collins hopes to bring home a gold medal. His inspiration to strive for gold are his parents.

"My parents don't travel [long distances] for me to go to a shoot to lose," he said.

"I shoot to win, no matter the size of the shoot."