It is hard enough to hit the center of a target about the size of a nickel with an arrow from 20 yards away, but having one of the top archers in the world standing behind you cracking jokes makes it nearly impossible.

But undaunted and unwavering, 15-year-old Adam Gallant of Poland takes aim and releases his arrow, hitting yet another bull’s-eye.

Almost every day after school, the sophomore at Poland Regional High School practices at Central Maine Archery in Auburn. This was his last before he goes to Hillsboro, Texas, for highly competitive tryouts for three spots in his age division on the National Indoor Archery Team. That group will compete in the world championships in Turkey this spring.

Also heading to Texas is Adam’s mentor, Dave Cousins of Standish, who has broken three world records in the past few years and is the 2006 National Field Archers Association male shooter of the year, considered to be the best archer in the world.

Both have invested thousands of dollars in compound bows and aluminum arrows because competition at this level demands the best. The sport has grown to where hundreds of Mainers compete each Sunday during the winter at five ranges throughout the state.

But archery is not just for the highly competitive. On any given day the lanes are filled with people of all abilities and ages and the variety and level of equipment is as diverse as the participants.

The sport is “highly addictive,” said CMA co-owner Tom Hartford. In addition to being fun, it develops discipline and concentration while not being physically demanding, he said.

And it is a sport in which even the most skilled archers go out of their way to help those learning, often making a big difference in their accuracy.