By Danielle Farris and Louis Rupp
Shooting sports are without question among the fastest growing activities for young people and Missouri is stepping up and offering a full smorgasbord of shooting opportunities. Whether competing in trap, skeet, sporting clays, archery, rifle, or handgun, the interest in “shooting sports” is at an all-time high. It’s a sport of precision and dedication that many youth learn from family, friends, or coaches. Shooting sports are all inclusive. Athletes of all ages are competing, males, females, and those that may have physical disabilities have the opportunity to participate.
The interest was somewhat self-igniting. In 1975, a group of high school students gathered at the Missouri Trapshooters Association’s range in Linn Creek, Missouri, and held the first organized trapshooting competition. Today, there are two major high school shoots annually, both attracting hundreds of competitors from across the state. In addition, there will be seventeen other shooting competitions at various ranges throughout the year.
Recognizing the need for organized communication, coordination, and relationships between the rapidly growing numbers of youth shooting organizations within the state, a grass roots effort was initiated to facilitate that effort. The result was the formation of the Missouri Youth Sport Shooting Alliance (MYSSA) in 2006. As a registered not-for-profit in the state, MYSSA operates with an all-volunteer 10 member board of directors. Currently MYSSA over 130 affiliated schools and clubs representing hundreds of youth shooters.
MYSSA has teamed up with the MidwayUSA Foundation located in Columbia, Missouri, which is a not-for-profit charity to fund shooting teams at the high school and college level. Teams create an endowment account; grow the account through fundraising, donations and earnings then draw a grant each year. That grant money can be used for team expenses, such as ammunition, uniforms, entry fees, and more. In the past 3 years, MYSSA alone, has deposited nearly $2 million into these accounts.
In 2012, MYSSA was successful in having the Missouri State Legislature pass House Concurrent Resolution No. 43 that encourages Missouri’s public and private schools to offer and promote competitive trapshooting as a high school sport. The hope is that shooting opportunities for our youth continue to increase, much like the recent success of archery under the administration of the Missouri Department of Conservation. In 2013, nearly 85,000 youth participated in the Missouri National Archery in the Schools (MoNASP) program. That year, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHAA) queried all Missouri school districts as to their interest in adding “target” sports and a majority answered in the affirmative. In January of 2014, MYSSA introduced a pilot
Student Air Rifle Program (SAP) modeled after the highly successful NASP archery program.
Organizations that support Missouri youth shooting sports have also grown rapidly in the past 10 years. Along with MYSSA, 4-H, Future Farmers of America (FFA), Amateur Trapshooting Association’s A.I.M. program, the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF), a governing body for the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP) and the Scholastic Pistol Program (SSP), each offer youth shooting curriculums. Every year these programs see large increases in participation. The SCTP program is the only youth shotgun program recognized by USA Shooting, giving these athletes the chance to pursue Olympic dreams.
Growth of shooting sports also means big bucks for Missouri’s economy. A 2014 report by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) stated that “Missouri’s target-shooting related spending contributed over $416 million to the state’s economy and supported 4,174 jobs.” The state is fortunate to have 5 staffed public shooting ranges operated by the Department of Conservation in addition to approximately 70 unstaffed ranges throughout the state. Many private clubs offer public shooting opportunities.
While the effort to increase funding and support for youth sport shooting is there, the demand for more growth is just as strong. Most competitive events require the presence of a certified coach with each team. In Missouri, there are currently over 1,000 certified shotgun coaches trained in a curriculum developed by USA Shooting and administered by the National Rifle Association (NRA). 4-H Shooting Sports also offers their own instructor certification programs. By providing qualified and certified coaches, acceptance of additional youth shooting programs can be added statewide.
In addition to competitive events, Missouri’s youth are learning teamwork, sportsmanship, responsibility and most importantly, firearm safety. In fact, the safety record of youth shooting sports in unmatched by any other high school activity. Many, including the Sportsman’s Insurance Agency, attribute this to appropriate adult supervision of the shooters, as well as their vast knowledge about the firearm and the importance of safety. While the history of shooting sports is rich, it began long before that initial gathering of youth at Linn Creek, Missouri. Perhaps what is more exciting than the history is the future. Now that adequate and sustainable funding is in place, our young shooters have a positive future in shooting sports.