May 19, 2015

After Years with UT Archery, Volunteer Coach Takes New Aim

James Corral has spent much of the last 30 years — first as an archer, later as a volunteer head coach -- in the basement range used by the University of Texas at Austin club archery team. The team’s practice range is in the basement of Anna Hiss Gymnasium. Photo by Rocio Tueme

James Corral has spent much of the last 30 years — first as an archer, later as a volunteer head coach — in the basement range used by the UT archery club. Photos by Rocio Tueme/Reporting Texas

By Nick Castillo
For Reporting Texas

James Corral is finally coming up from the basement.

After spending the past 15 years coaching the University of Texas Archery Club in its downstairs shooting range in Anna Hiss Gym on the UT-Austin campus, Corral plans to step down as head coach after the spring semester ends.

Corral earned a promotion at the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation where he’ll become director of software development and received a pay raise. The new job means less time for the volunteer position with the archery club, which he joined as first-year student in 1984.

“My new job involves supervising people and more stress,” Corral said. “It occurred to me that I’m now in a leadership role in both my real job and in — what should be — my fun job. I decided it was little bit too much. I just need a moment in my life that doesn’t involve management.”

During his tenure as head coach, which started in 2003, the team has had two college All-American archers — Kristine Ehrich in 2003 and Lindsey Carmichael in 2005 and 2006. It’s had a third place finish in 2005 by the men’s recurve bow team at the U.S. Collegiate Archery Association outdoor championships.

Corral contributes his own money to help the archery club, which spends at least $8,000 a year maintaining the range, buying equipment and paying for trips to events. The members pay $50 in dues and help pay their way to events in order to offset the club’s costs

The club survives in the shadow of the university’s varsity sports. Texas made $161.3 million in operating revenue last year, according to its athletics annual report, but none of that trickles into club sports like archery. Those teams hobble along on minimal funding — and maximum goodwill, from people such as Corral.

Why does the club spend its time in a basement, especially when walking into the range, along hallways old and worn, feels like descending into a dungeon? It’s in part because the indoor season runs from August through February. The team gets out to its outdoor range at Whitaker Fields, the university intramural facility, in the spring, but it spends most of its time at Anna Hiss Gym.

But the range is actually a hidden gem located inside a gym that opened in 1931. This place, where Corral has slung arrows and coached archers, is clean and well-kept. It’s long and narrow with a concrete floor broken into four lanes with targets on plastic foam. Fluorescent lights hang from the ceiling lined with ventilation pipes. Natural light seeps in from small windows atop the north wall.

The club’s members meet there every Tuesday through Thursday during the university’s long semesters. They socialize, learn archery and practice it with Corral.

Corral, 48, came to his first archery meeting as a UT freshman. He met the club’s 10 members, and one of them put a bow in his hands.

James Corral. Photo by Rocio Tueme

A new job means Corral cannot spend
enough time on his volunteer position
with the archery club.

“I just fell in love with the sport,” Corral said. “I kept wanting to get better, and I never left. I graduated from UT, and I’m still here.”

He was a team member for his four years at UT. He returned to the club as a volunteer after he graduated with a degree in computer science and, after a few years away, became a coach in 2000 and the head coach in 2003.

Corral will remain on the coaching staff until the spring of 2016 as the club searches for a new indoor facility. RecSports told the club that their archery range in Anna Hiss Gym will undergo renovations and will be repurposed as class room space.

As he prepares to exit, Corral is teaching the incoming leaders how to run the club.

Two members expected to step up for the team are Tiffany Kuan and Alexander Geringer. Kuan, 20, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Plano, serves as secretary and is in line to become president next semester. Geringer, 20, a senior radio-television-film major from Frisco, is president and is in line to take over as head coach after he graduates this summer.

“I’m already starting to spend less time down here,” Corral said. “I’m forcing myself to spend a little less time (in the basement) because I want them to transition while I’m still around.”

The handover Corral wants includes teaching the leaders how to schedule tournaments, raise funds and travel to national competitions. The club hosts three tournaments each year – two inside the gym and one at Whitaker Fields. They also attend several competitions in other cities.

Corral said most of the club’s new members make the trek to the archery range hoping to shoot like Legolas from “The Lord of the Rings” or like Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games.”

But at the end of the day, Corral said, “We’re competitive archers.”

Geringer said he is looking forward to his new role as head coach and the challenges that accompany it. But he also knows the club is losing a legend.

“James has essentially been UT archery,” Geringer said. “He’s the one who’s kept it alive for this long. James treated the club and everyone in it like his children. For the new members next year they won’t know a club with James. But it won’t be the same archery club.”