Column: Not too late to sign up

Published 7:58 pm Thursday, October 27, 2005

By Staff
The ground work has been laid and Dowagiac is now ready to field a team of young shooters in the National Shooting Sports Foundation's Scholastic Clay Target Program. In case you've missed all the recent buzz, this is a nationwide program designed to introduce youngsters to the sport of clay target shooting with a shotgun. The Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) has been sweeping the nation and thousands of young shooters are participating all across the country. As detailed in a previous column, several months ago longtime Dowagiac resident, Dr. Jim Wierman, committed to bring SCTP to Dowagiac. A solid foundation of qualified adult instructors has now been assembled and at this early stage seven student participants have eagerly signed on. The minimum amount of participants required is five so that hurdle has been easily crossed.
Nationwide, the SCTP encompasses a number of clay target sports, including trap, skeet and sporting clays. Trap is by far the most popular and arguably the easiest of the clay target sports for novice shooters. It's also the one the Dowagiac Conservation Club, which is hosting the team, is best able to accommodate so at this time the focus will be on trap. In trap, the shooters stand behind the clay target thrower and the targets fly away from the shooter. In skeet and sporting clays the targets are thrown from a variety of directions, angles and heights.
The great thing about the shooting sports and the SCTP is that the playing field is even. Unlike football, basketball and the other more traditional sports, no one has a physical advantage over another. Girls, which by the way are very welcome, can shoot equally alongside boys. You don't have to be six and a half feet tall or weigh two hundred and twenty pounds or have gifted athletic talent to make the team. Anyone with the desire to learn and practice can excel. Nor do you ride the bench all season or be an innocuous team member in the trenches receiving no glory. Everyone stands at the line and shoots. Every shot is like a personal touchdown, home run or goal, you either make it or you don”t, victory or defeat, but with the chance to do better with the next shot.
Craig Lyons, the head instructor, says it's important that those interested realize they don't have to be an experienced shooter to join the team. The main thrust of the program is to teach kids safe gun handling and basic shooting skills. Anyone with the desire to learn is welcome. He said if you haven't shot before or don't understand trap shooting don't worry about appearing foolish. Some of the participants have shot before but others are just as new and apprehensive as you. We'll lead everyone through everything step by step. Craig also said he'd like to see more girls on the team. So far one girl has signed up to represent the better half with several more considering participating.
The Dowagiac Scholastic Clay Target Program is open to all students in grades 9 through 12 living within the Dowagiac School District, including those privately or home schooled. Of course, you must have parent or guardian consent. You must provide your own gun. If you don't have a proper gun you will be guided in purchasing a suitable one within your budget. Many manufacturers give substantial discounts to SCTP members. There will also be a modest weekly shooting fee (as yet undetermined) to cover the cost of ammunition and targets. Efforts are underway arranging financial backing to keep this expense at a minimum. According to Craig this is going well and the cost will be significantly less than standard club shoot prices.
Regular practices will be held with the goal of competing against other SCTP teams within the region. It's anticipated the team will also compete in the State Shoot and perhaps even the Nationals. Practices are scheduled on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. starting Nov. 29. For more information call Craig Lyons, 783-0713.