“Juniors are the future of our sport.” Yes, indeed. How many times have we heard that? Hundreds? From competitive shooters to weekend plinkers, just about everyone with a gun has heard; “Without junior shooters, the shooting sports will surely die off.” Are they all wrong? No, these statements and ones like them are true…technically. As the head coach of a Junior Shooting Team, I can say that we all must do whatever we can to involve juniors in the shooting sports and encourage them to compete. Granted. Yes.
Here comes a “But”
But, I’ll take the liberty of rephrasing and say; “Juniors CAN be the future of our sport“. CAN be…So where did the definite go? In my experience, it went out with the same reasons we lose juniors all the time–circumstance. Shooting sports lose juniors due to the following circumstances:
And the number one reason we lose junior competitors from the shooting sports?
It’s all about the mighty dollar, just like everything else. And don’t we have just the most expensive hobby/passion/profession in the world? I think only golf and youth Ice Hockey are more expensive (have you seen the price of skates?). Between the guns, the ammo, the accessories, the “gotta have” equipment, the “would be nice to have” equipment and the “I can’t afford that equipment“, but we buy it ALL anyway… how the hell do we pay for food?
Anyhoo, the point here is that money is that evil necessity that turns a starry-eyed junior with championship aspirations into a pauper with a boot print on their rear-ends. If you’re in any way involved with a junior program, you know exactly what I am talking about. As a matter of fact, this just happened to a young lady in our program. As soon as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve, 2019, she went from a fully funded, fully equipped precision pistol competitor AND precision rifle competitor with enormous talent, to a recipient of a figurative door slammed in her face as she aged out of the program.
Based on what I have seen, we are lucky if we keep one percent of junior shooters that transition into adult shooters and stick with it. ONE PERCENT, and THAT, my friends, cannot represent the future of our sport. We must keep these kids shooting (and they ARE still kids) because unless mommy and daddy are willing to continue ponying up money, most of the time it aint gonna happen.
So what do we do?
Introducing the Precision Shooting Matches Youth Transition Program! Woo hoo! This program helps offer opportunities for former junior program shooters to continue shooting competitively in both matches and leagues. How it works is simple, on each match set-up form here on PSM, there will be a small section for Match Directors to check a box, signaling his/her commitment to the following:
- Participating in the PSM Youth Transition Program and stating so in bold letters, within the body of their match information.
- Making a few shooting positions/ports available to former junior program participants. How many you are offering should be listed within the match information section (even ONE would be great!).
- Having a few firearms available to borrow for the event if they cannot supply their own. They don’t have to be Pardini’s, but something that will shoot.
- Ammo for them to use, if they cannot supply their own.
- Reduced match fees. By how much is up to you but we HIGHLY recommend at least a 50% discount. They should pay something. It has little value if everything is free.
These five items can make all the difference in the world to keeping some of our transitioning juniors on the firing line. You won’t win them all, but it takes such little commitment (you’ve got that backup gun sitting around anyway) and so little cost (Don’t give them your .45ACP Jacketed Hollow Points), that how could you NOT be a part of this? If everyone committed ONE shooting position/port once a month at a match or league, that’s thousands of transitioning youth shooters per year who got to shoot again because of you.
Make ’em earn it
Now you yoots don’t get off that easy–it’s not about just showing up with your hand out and making a face when you get handed a Ruger Mark IV and a box of floor-sweep .22 ammo. At least you’re getting to shoot, right? Here’s what you have to commit to officially take part in this program:
- Have recently been part of an official and recognised youth shooting program (any) and prove it to the match director with a letter from your former coach/director stating so. It should have your current age and the date you aged out of the program.
- Provide as much as you can for yourself (most of you will have shooting boxes and general shooting equipment).
- Be humble, appreciative and willing to help out in any way you are asked. Setting up, packing up, sweeping up, going on coffee runs, etc…
- Be a registered member of Precision Shooting Matches and hit the check box on your account page indicating it so we can help track your progress through the program.
- You can be a part of the program for up to two years after aging out of your junior program.
And that’s all there is to it. We CAN make the difference and help make sure that young adults who have recently been forced through the sticky, pulsating membrane of adulthood can help keep our sports alive. Give them a chance, a little help along the way and just enough of a nudge until they can start figuring out the money thing for a few years. Offering this can do just as much as the junior program that they came from. Well… maybe close.
Go have a match…and make room for a former junior, willya?