Bloch: SCTP aims to involve youth in shooting sports

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First, let me thank the powers that be at the Union-Bulletin for kindly allowing shooters in the Walla Walla Valley to have a print voice within these pages, starting with this article.

About once a month, it will be my privilege to talk about the various happenings in the world of rifle, pistol, and shotgun shooting in our valley, and to make sure the word gets out about the many activities that old hands and new shooters alike may participate in.

To start off, one of the most gratifying things to happen recently in the shooting sports is the near-explosive growth in the numbers of women, children, and families who have discovered the fun of target shooting. For example, our sister gun club across the Oregon frontier, the East End Rod and Gun Club in Milton-Freewater, has so many women signing up for their various offerings that they can barely keep up.

At the Walla Walla Gun Club, we are looking forward to starting our Scholastic Clay Target Trap and Skeet Team this coming fall. There will be two divisions, a middle school group for kids in grades 6-8, and a high school group for grades 9-12. We hope to get under way with the start of the coming school year.

The Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) was the brainchild of the National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Conn. The NSSF is a foundation that is dedicated to the preservation of hunting and target shooting in the USA. It became clear that unless young shooters could be trained and afforded the opportunity to shoot, that a sport that had always been a huge part of the American experience would one day disappear.

Thus, NSSF spawned the SSSF, or Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, with the mission to form as many teams of shotgun shooters from among the nation’s school-age population as possible, and to sponsor local, regional, and national championship competitions each and every year after the school year is over. While SSSF sanctions teams from elementary school all the way through college, at Walla Walla Gun Club our emphasis will be on middle and high school aged youth.

To say that the program has been a “hit” nationwide would be to make the understatement of the year. Honestly, though, the program was slow to get started in the Pacific Northwest. It’s caught on now, and WWGC is proud to be among the early groups to get up and running. Its success is due in no small measure to the generosity of Larry and Brenda Potterfield’s MidwayUSA Foundation. Many shooters will recognize MidwayUSA as the “go to” online source for all their shooting gear, but they should also know that the Potterfields have plowed Midway’s profits right back into their foundation, and these days give away millions of dollars each year to fund worthy shooting enterprises, including the SCTP.

The Scholastic Clay Target Program is successful precisely because it is different from some of other athletic programs that our kids might take part in. Most importantly, the emphasis in SCTP is about trying one’s hardest, teaching and learning the fundamentals of safe and effective clay target shooting, continual improvement, honoring the game, and honoring one’s team and teammates. In short, it’s about learning the rules of the game of life that will have consequences far beyond the trap and skeet layout at Walla Walla Gun Club. The coaches must be thoroughly vetted and trained, and each participant is covered by SSSF’s $3 million liability policy. Additionally, each participant must sign a Sportsmanship Contract, and all athletes’ parents or guardians must be willing to participate and support their athlete’s activities, including various fundraising events which are necessary to buy ammunition and shooting supplies. If you seek a sport for your children that the whole family can participate in, and you would like to avoid a “winning is everything” mentality, then SCTP is definitely a program you will be proud to participate in as a family. Incidentally, girls and boys compete on equal footing in SCTP — we don’t have girls teams and boys teams. Not many sports can say that.

You may also be wondering about the coaches and staff that will be working with your children, and I am very proud to say that we have a great group of adults and older students who will be helping out. Aside from yours truly, who is the head coach, retired Wa-Hi JROTC instructor Sgt. Gerry Taylor has graciously volunteered to be an assistant coach. Gerry has been the Wa-Hi rifle team coach for many years, and still works with that team when he isn’t busy being retired. Many of Gerry’s former students are now grown and have families and kids of the age that we hope will participate in SCTP.

Additionally, Gene Gossett and Michael “Malachi” Matthews are also assistant coaches. Many people familiar with the JROTC program will recognize Gene as a great supporter of that program, and also of the Civil Air Patrol unit here in the valley. Malachi is a recent Wa-Hi graduate who is back home here, and has developed into a very good hand at trap shooting. We are pleased to have his expertise as well as his youthful outlook, to help us old guys translate our coaching techniques into the modern vernacular. We still need a few more volunteer adult leaders, so if you have some interest in helping youth, and some time to donate, please let us know.

Anyone interested in learning more about SCTP itself should go online to sssfonline.com and navigate to the “forms and handbook” section. There you will be able to download and read the SCTP Handbook, which will tell you all about the philosophy and rules governing the Scholastic Clay Target Program.

In addition, if you would like to be put on our SCTP mailing list to receive updates and advisory notifications of our startup meetings, please email to info@wallawallagunclub.com.

As the school year is fast approaching, we will be gearing up for a September startup for our SCTP program. We will have fliers out at all the schools and youth organizations by mid-August, and sign-up sheets and more info up on WWGC’s website (wallawallagunclub.com) by then as well.

Good luck, and good shooting!

Bob Bloch is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Walla Walla Gun Club and a member of the East End Rod and Gun Club in Milton-Freewater. He can be reached at info@wallawallagunclub.com.

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