By Sue Moore
What kind of interscholastic sport is this? No travel to other schools to compete. Scores kept digitally across the state. All scoring available on each athlete’s smart phone. It purports to be the safest youth sport in America, yet it involves shotguns in order to compete.
It is the Vicksburg Bulldog Clay Target Team, newly sanctioned as a club sport for Vicksburg students in grades 6 through 12. Members of the team will learn to shoot trap, learn safe gun handling and compete with other students across Michigan in what is reported to be the fastest growing youth sport in America by the USA High School Clay Target League.
Coaches are the key to formation of the team and Vicksburg’s Kip Young has volunteered to get Vicksburg’s team up and running as its head coach. He will be assisted by Mike Trepanier and Bill Zeman as shooting coaches along with Kevin Borden, Matt Luegge, Kyle Emmerich, Jeff Beach, Cindy Callahan and several other adults who have volunteered.
The Bulldog High School Clay Target Team has been authorized by Vicksburg Community Schools’ athletic department as a club sport for spring of 2017. Official on-line registration for students will begin January 15 and end March 10. Practices and competitive shooting will take place at the St. Joseph County Conservation Club located between Centreville and Sturgis at 6:30 p.m. starting April 6. The end of the nine-week season culminates in June at a state-wide tournament in Mason, where everyone is eligible to compete.
Scores for student athlete are entered online by the coaches each week. The Bulldog team competes against the other 20-plus Michigan State High School Clay Target teams in our league and across the state.
The USA Clay Target League was first organized in Minnesota in 2008 with three teams and 30 kids signed up. Today, there are over 10,000 student athletes in Minnesota competing on 330 teams statewide. Since its inception in 2008, over 20 million clay targets have been thrown with zero reported injuries. The sport is offered in 26 states with over 20,000 kids competing nationwide.
Superintendent Charlie Glaes said, “We are delighted to have a group of committed parents and community members come together to offer a healthy competitive recreational opportunity to our students. The middle and high school years are an important time for kids to explore activities and discover their strengths and abilities. It’s great that many will have a chance to get outdoors and enjoy what could become a lifetime sport and activity.”
The response has been overwhelming from boys and girls who want to participate, Coach Young said. “All levels of ability are invited to join. It’s a spring club sport that doesn’t have to compete with baseball, track, tennis or lacrosse. We will teach firearm safety in a structured and competitive manner. It’s a team sport and it’s fun too.”
Once this clay shooting sport has proven its viability, is successful and has a year under its belt, the goal is for it to be a varsity sport.
The cost per student will be around $200 including registration, ammunition, range fees and team shirt, Young said. Also required but not included in the $200 are safety glasses, ear protection, a 12 or 20 gauge shotgun, a shell pouch, hull bag for holding spent cartridges and a shooting vest.
The league’s priorities for the student athletes are safety, fun and marksmanship. There are no benchwarmers as everyone shoots the same amount of rounds every week. “The potential is there for clay shooting to become a lifetime sport for all these kids,” Young said. “We expect parents to come, watch, and turn each week into a big tailgate event.”