Helping Kids Learn Safe Competition Skills
By Steve Thomas
Teaching kids safe gun handling skills should be a no-brainer for anyone with guns at home. If their kids show an interest in learning more, especially about competition, getting them into a controlled, vetted program with professionals just makes perfect sense. Hey, we do it with baseball, football and soccer! Many kids take to shooting because they like the challenge, skills, competition and regimen. Funny … that’s the same reasons they like the other sports too.
The U.S. Practical Shooting Association’s Area 8 club offers two day Area 8 shooting camps specifically for juniors. The Area 8 Juniors Camp focuses on marksmanship, stage breakdown and planning, match day performance and more.
Instruction for Area 8 Juniors Camps is provided by a cadre of top USPSA competitors who have donated their time to help the young shooters develop their skills.
What follows is an informal overview of a camp held in July of 2016. It should give you an idea of what goes on, the fun the kids have and the value they get from participating! I was there, so we’ll just go on from there!
July 9th, 2016
We are back at the beautiful Lower Providence Rod and Gun Club. We have been very fortunate to make friends with these fine folks. My first year here I helped with a camp that Mr. Harry Foltz, former Area 8 Director (AD), set up and I was super impressed then. Now, as the current AD, we have followed that up with three camps of our own. It truly has been special as the club staff and members go all out to make us feel so welcome.
We kick off the camp recognizing the true heros behind the scene. Mr. Ted Murphy and his wonderful wife Melissa, Jayson Younes, Mike Gottlieb and Club President William Cassidy. Without these fine folks we simply couldn’t have the success we are known for. Later in the day we presented them with a gift as a token of our appreciation — a framed Techwear camp shirt with an engraved plate listing the years they have hosted us. Before we left the trophy was already displayed in their new clubhouse!
Todd Jarrett (TJ) — world champion competition shooter and trainer — is back, one last time! He brings the enthusiasm of a new shooter, the experience of a seasoned multi-time champion and the class of a true ambassador. We are very lucky to have him back especially with the schedule he keeps. I simply don’t know how he does it. For three years now he has said “yes” without hesitation. Our Area 8 Juniors are so very fortunate.
Carrie Carlson is back too! Who could miss that smile and spirit? This year Carrie is multi tasked — filming, helping coach and of course providing oversight with safety. Each year Carrie has burned up her leave to help with the camps, always cheerful and ready to go. Her contributions have been priceless. She has a gift with teaching the young shooters.
It’s always interesting seeing the returning juniors. Having Travis “Monkey” Thomas alongside, I am familiar with the change that takes place within a year. But now, seeing the other juniors, it really hits home. It is pretty remarkable, bitter-sweet, and also provides proud moments of pause. Little Max, Cameron, Libby, Andrew and Tyler — well they’re not so little anymore. In years past they were the “little ones” that Zach Matish, Tyler Coke and Jake Degenshein watched over and mentored. Now they are the ones showing the new shooters the ropes and setting the example
New Juniors Too!
They are excited and a little apprehensive. The look on their faces is always interesting — they are not sure what to expect. It’s always great to see our future, great to see the parents take the time to get their young ones involved and trained. It’s an honor to be trusted by them.
It’s go time! TJ assembles the campers together and begins to talk with the juniors about safety, practice and match preparation, hydration, mindset, proper practice and a host of other topics. He shares some interesting stories from throughout his life. Most importantly he shares some of the highs and lows he has experienced in his 30-year shooting career. He gives his thoughts on what it takes to not only be successful, but perhaps a national champion. As always Todd’s passion comes through, especially with the juniors.
Before long the overcast weather turns into a sprinkle and we move everyone inside. Luckily the club has room for all of us to gather around while Todd continues with his instruction. He continues training our campers and establishing the safety theme for the rest of the camp. Everything we do is preceded with a performance brief/detail and possible safety concerns.
The lecture is finished, the rain has stopped and the juniors are fired up. It’s now time to send some bullets downrange! We start off firing 10 shot groups at 15 yards. This re-establishes fundamental marksmanship and gives Todd a chance to ensure all guns are sighted in and also in good working order. Trigger control and sight alignment are the keys. The campers are getting back into the groove.
As the day continues we work on drawing from the holster, footwork/movement and shooting on the move. Detailed discussion is provided with each and every topic. Todd’s years of experience and championship mindset not only benefit the campers but also have parents paying close attention. Even at 50-something, the man can still move!
Sunday morning started off with a bang. TJ had the juniors lined up in groups as we coached them during reload training. The campers went through many mags, reload after reload, developing the proper technique. Most of the juniors were doing very well, making we adults a little nervous for the next competition. After all, there’s nothing quite as special as being beat by your kid!
After reloads and a little more shooting on the move we came to the big finale. The Stage!
We had set up the stage Saturday evening after the first day was over and most of the families had left. TJ designs the course of fire (COF) with an attempt to showcase the disciplines we have covered during the camp. The stage captures distance shots, movement, reloads, steel, paper, shooting on the move and of course strategy!
As in years past, the campers discover the stage first thing Sunday morning and we see the “gaming” taking place immediately. This year was no exception. It’s fun to watch, especially when we then add a no shoot or add/remove another target at the last minute and watch the juniors squirm. Hey — gotta keep it interesting! Todd runs the course first. He sets the standard with accuracy and speed. Several of the shooters are taking a special interest as I read the timer aloud. Game on!
One by one the campers get a chance at the stage. For us this is the highlight. Watching it all come together, seeing the juniors cheer each other on and compete against each other is very rewarding. The friendships and camaraderie are apparent, even during the heat of competition. Of course the parents are enjoying all of this too
Midafternoon and the last junior has run the course. That’s it! The camp is over. Now it’s time for goodbyes, autographs and pictures. Another successful camp makes us all feel proud. The juniors once again have shown us nothing but promise. They were attentive, respectful, understanding, patient, eager and most importantly — safe! They simply showed their maturity and class.
Our sponsors for this year were Jim Macort of EGW, Alexis Lasser and Joe Procopio from Techwear, Strikeforce, Chuck Bradley of Shooter’s Connection, Scott Warren with Warren Tactical, George Fennell Weapon Shield, King Shooters Supply and Flatbroke Shooters. Other major contributors were Joseph Roberts and his son Sean who generated $900 during the Mid- Atlantic Sectional going toward gifts for the juniors. Thank you very much to all!
We simply could not have held these camps without great people and sponsors over the years. Todd, Carrie, Dan Burwell, Rod Satterwhite, Bill, Mike, Ted and Melissa, Jayson and of course my patient wife Cindi! Thank you all from the bottom of all of our hearts.
Our juniors are the future of our sport. Enjoy them, mentor them and set the example. Simply pay it forward — you will not be disappointed.
For more info about this program: www.uspsa8.org, Ph: (360) 855-2245, email: firstname.lastname@example.org