The Bullshooter

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Where Do All the Juniors Go?

Apart from sounding like a new verse to an old Bob Dillon song, I'm sure this rings true for many of the shooting disciplines.

There are thousands of junior rifle programs all over the US, which lead to numerous National Championships for both precision and sporter rifle shooting, leading to NCAA rifle shooting in college, from which a lot of America's best shooters of today have emerged.

Pistol has less framework, but USA Shooting and NRA both are fostering the growth of junior programs. The Junior Olympics are gaining momentum (as is the pistol section of the NRA Airgun Nationals), and of course pistol is a collegiate sport sponsored by the NRA.

Out of all the thousands of kids who participate in these programs, how many of them stay with the sport? Should we not be knee deep in twentysomethings at our clubs? Why does it seem every year that our active shooters are getting older? Is all the time and money poured into junior programs a complete waste of time?

A long time ago I was one of those juniors. Actually, that's not entirely true. In New Zealand at that time I was pretty much a lonely junior. From age 11 to 15 I was active at club level, then until age 20 I was active in any major competition within 500 miles, as well as a few Internationals. In junior ranks I was a big fish, and amongst adult shooters I could pretty much hold my own, but was no threat to the big players. On turning 21 I fell victim to the myriad of life changes that come with coming of age. Having to pay my own way in the big world. Trying to find direction and stability in the workplace. Discovering that there are not so many hours in the day when you don't have a live-in cook and laundry service. Trying to fathom the greatest of all mysteries, the female psyche. On top of that, after years of winning matches, becoming an also-ran.

Luckily for me I stayed licensed, and shot for fun occasionally at my local range. I also stayed close to the sport after I started working in the gun trade. But it was to be ten years later that I regained my competitive edge and started competing again in earnest.

Maybe it's true that attrition due to coming of age is a natural thing. When lifestyle and circumstances change, many of them may come back to our sport. But even if they don't, all is not lost.

Even if not one of them ever fire another shot down range, they will have been educated about the true nature of target shooting. They will be well-versed in firearm safety, and will be a positive influence on everybody they come into contact with in this regard. One day they too will be parents. Every one of them is a walking and talking advocate for the positive side of gun ownership, and their cumulative value in neutralizing media hysteria on this issue is priceless.


  • At 14/7/06 7:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I agree and probably true of most sports.

  • At 22/8/06 3:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Another problem is the cost of tools and equipment while starting out as working person. Many have sold their eqipment and guns to pay off student loans. Its a tough world out there and many can't afford to get back into shooting until they are once again comfortable money wise.


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