Seward County Sharp Shooters member Jacob Ricks lines up a clay target last Sunday during trap shooting practice of the Seward County 4-H Shooting Sports Spin Club. L&T photo/Larry Philips
Local youth learn self-confidence, self-esteem in 4-H Shooting Sports Club
By ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times
Youth all across the nation have a chance to participate in shooting sports through organizations such as Boy Scouts, and recently, a new opportunity was created for some young people to take part in aiming at targets through the Seward County K-State Research and Extension’s 4-H Shooting Sports program.
A special interest, or SPIN, club was created for younger gun enthusiasts, and volunteer Larry Phillips, who recently became a certified shooting sports coordinator, said the club is for kids who do not necessarily want to take part in other 4-H activities.
“Shooting sports is kind of separated on its own,” he said. “Of course, they can always get into other 4-H activities if they wish.”
Phillips said Extension officials asked him to volunteer to train to become a coordinator in March, a chance he gladly accepted.
“I spent a couple of days over in Rock Springs,” he said. “It was pretty intense training. I came back and got started with our two instructors, Tracy Gutierrez and Greg Standard. They’re 4-H certified instructors.”
Phillips said program rules state a shooting sports club must have a county coordinator to keep it going, and he gets to help out with lining up shoots and schedules working with Standard and Gutierrez.
Phillips said when he returned from his training, the club had six children shooting BB guns. Since then, Standard has started up a trap shooting program, and through a little advertising, the club grew to 14 shooters presently, with ages ranging from 9 to 15.
“There’s three girls involved,” Phillips said. “Several of them started off who haven’t had really shot shotguns or shot trap. A few of them have experience.”
Phillips recalled the path of one of the young ladies who initially felt a little nervous about hitting a flying target.
“I remember one of the girls her first time out there,” he said. “She had a .410 single shot, and she missed all 25 shells. She was pretty dejected, but I told her ‘Your form’s getting better. You’re starting to swing the barrel better.’ She said, ‘I don’t think I can ever do this. It’s too hard.’ I said, ‘No it’s not. You wait and see.’ The next time, she busted two or three of them. Her eyes lit up. Things like that are pretty exciting.”
The 4-H motto is “Learn By Doing,” and Phillips said he, Standard and Gutierrez help children do just that by teaching the rules of trap shooting, gun safety and the ethics of the sport.
“It is really a team sport even though they strive for individual scores,” Phillips said. “I’ve told them from day one, don’t compare yourself to other people on the team. There’s always someone who can outshoot you somewhere no matter how good you are. The thing is to challenge yourself to get better, to improve, to focus and learn by doing. They all are. They’re all remarkably improved since we first started. It really makes you proud of them that they take the time to listen to instruction and encouragement.”
Phillips said one mother boasted of the self-esteem and self-confidence shown by her son after participating in the shooting sports club.
“That is what this is all about – building self-esteem and self-confidence in the framework of a team,” he said. “I’ve encouraged all of them to support their other teammates.”
The club is getting ready for its first state qualifying shoot, and Phillips said this involves shooting at 50 clay targets through two rounds of 25 each at a distance of 16 yards.
“Several of them are interested in doing it,” he said. “I hope a lot more will do it just for the experience of doing it.”
On July 21, just prior to the Seward County Five State Fair, the club will host the first ever shooting sports 4-H benefit shoot in the county. Phillips said the event is for all ages, youth and adults alike.
“It’s going to be $30 a head,” he said. “They’ll get to shoot at 75 targets, 25 trap at 16 yards, 25 targets at skeet and back to the trap range for 25 at handicap 27 yards.”
There will be food at the benefit shoot, and people are encouraged to bring lawn chairs with limited seating at the event.
“It ought to be very interesting,” Phillips said. “It’s a way for us to raise money. We need to get additional air rifles. We could use another couple of youth model 20-gauge shotguns.”
Billy’s Blue Duck BBQ donated money to purchase two shotguns, and Phillips said anyone who donates enough money will have their logo put on the stock of the guns. He added the club is also in need of pellet rifles.
On July 15, archery will kick off, giving young people another avenue to pursue shooting sports. Phillips said as many as 22 kids have already signed up with some on the waiting list.
“We can only do 20,” he said.
Phillips said later in the year, the club will move back into BB guns, and if enough money is raised, children will have a chance to shoot air rifles. The SPIN club will then focus its attention back to trap shooting.
Phillips said it is remarkable to see the improvement children make as they practice shooting.
“It’s what makes it all worth it to see them build some confidence, know that they can do this,” he said. “When they focus, they can do it.”
Phillips said the club doesn’t have any archery equipment at this point, but Liberal’s Parks and Rec department has loaned equipment for that sport.
“We’re hoping to get that all squared away for this year,” he said. “That’s why we’re having the trap shoot. Later in the year, we’ll have another fundraiser maybe involved with the archery team.”
A name has even been chosen for the SPIN club after Phillips gave the youth a list of names to choose from.
“The name for 4-H shooting sports in this county is Seward County Sharp Shooters,” he said. “That’s whether it’s BB gun, shotgun or archery. They’re all on the same team.”
The Sharp Shooters even have hats to show off their new team name.
“Steve Chaloupek, the owner of Poor Boy’s Instrument, was good enough to donate the funds for us to get team hats,” Phillips said. “They’re white with the green Kansas 4-H shooting sports insignia on the front.”
Phillips said the hats help the instructors accomplish one of their goals – letting the youth on the team take ownership of the club.
“They seem to take it to heart,” he said. “I think they’re really enjoying it. I haven’t heard any complaints. Everyone keeps showing up for practice every Sunday. The archery’s going to be every Monday evening at 5:30 once we get that squared away.”