Beyond the Clays - The 2017 SSSF Championships
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“We are looking at the future,” Chris Hodgdon said as his hand swept like a conductor’s baton in an arc toward the line of trap fields. Hundreds of young shooters were pulverizing clay targets, laughing and speaking words of support to their teammates. We were at the 2017 Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and Scholastic Action Shooting Program (SASP) National Championships sponsored by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation. The Cardinal Trap Shooting Facility in Marengo, Ohio, developed through the magnanimity of the Fishburn family, hosted the event.
Competitive shooters, ages 8 to 23 from 32 states, competed for national titles in the shotgun disciplines of American Trap, Handicap Trap, Bunker Trap, Trap Doubles, Skeet, Skeet Doubles and Sporting Clays. Pistol and rifle competitors competed for steel shooting titles in Rimfire Pistol, Centerfire Pistol, Iron Sight Rifle and Optics Rifle divisions. About 2,700 athletes on 255 teams boasted 6,400 event entries. Thirty-three states were represented and an estimated 1.26 million shots were fired in the competition events! One hundred and five SCTP student athletes will receive scholarships totaling $83,000.
Prior to SSSF, many students never or had only rarely shot a gun. Feeder organizations such as 4H and the Boy Scouts gave them opportunities to try. Many parents asked SSSF to help their children get involved in shooting. The children loved the sports, become members and gained deeper knowledge about shooting.
I learned many teams were created by the desire of a parent to enable their child to shoot responsibly and routinely. Young shooters told me the attractions of these sports: they love to shoot, they value opportunities to improve, they welcome challenges, they can be competitive or just have fun, and, unlike most sports, they can participate throughout their lives.
The vast property was lush and green with stands of hardwoods and cornfields, the earth’s fragrance more alluring than the finest perfumes. The range was a beehive of activity. Electric carts darted about like bugs on a pond and hundreds of shooters carried shotguns as nonchalantly as if holding bags of popcorn. Anna Van Nostrand, instructor and CZ representative, crafted a beautiful insightful phrase: “This is an environment of positivity.”
I arrived on Wednesday, the CZ-USA recognition day. Dave Miller, CZ’s shotgun manager and exhibition shooter, was my host. Dave shot his way into the Guinness Book of Records by breaking 3,653 clays in 60 minutes! CZ has been a Platinum sponsor of this event for five years. Dave tutored me on the sporting clays, make-or-break and crazy-quail disciplines. He even taught me to break targets shooting from my hip!
These programs require great effort. Ben Berka, President/Executive Director of SSSF, and Louise Terry, Chairman of the SSSF Board, told of the thousands of hours of organizing the event and the engagement of hundreds of volunteers. But it’s all worth it, they said. The youngsters are learning skills, get outside away from iPhones and, most significantly, develop a dedication to the American heritage and an appreciation for individual liberty. “The SSSF is about more than just breaking pieces of clay,” Louise told me.
Support for SSSF signifies a commitment to shooting’s future. Companies such as CZ-USA, Hodgdon Powder and Fiocchi USA routinely make substantial financial commitments. Observing this championship, I am comforted that the future of shooting looks bright indeed.
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Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer and writer in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. Now in an eBook, available at Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu