I’ll spare you the typical jargon that most articles spew at you about catch phrases like “the future of our sport” and “gun safety at an early age“. The babble that invites people to post pictures of their grandkids taking their first shot with a .22 and grinning ear to ear after that first bang. While these catch phrases are debatably true and as much as I like to see your kids haphazardly holding that gun and kinda pointing it downrange, there are other reasons for consideration as to why your range needs a junior shooting program.
I have been the head coach of the National Champions New Jersey Junior Pistol Team for the past four years (as of this writing) and was the assistant coach for two or three years before that. I am also the NJ State Director for the CMP and this means that aside from my responsibilities as a pistol coach, It is my duty to explore, expand, invigorate and stimulate highpower rifle, smallbore rifle and air rifle junior programs throughout the state. What all this means is that I deal with a LOT of kids handling firearms. It has been my experience that in most cases, I trust these kids with guns more than I trust many adults that I have met. That is the absolute truth. From the little local 4-H program to the Nationals at Camp Perry, the “children” I have had the pleasure to meet and work with are dedicated, enthusiastic, sticklers for the rules, accepting of coaching, begrudgingly humble when they lose and fanatically excited when they win. Precision shooting sports are not for every kid. There are more than a few who join with the expectations of a “Call Of Duty” video game experience, but those usually and quickly find other paths into action shooting or back to the couch. But for those kids who catch the bug and realize the rewards of precision, the results are amazing.
So what? I’m not a kid
Junior programs can save your range.
Not that your rage is necessarily in trouble or anything. But a kids program can save it nonetheless. Your range thrives on membership. Gone are the days when the Good Ol’ Boys Club off in the woods somewhere existed off the grid where you could shoot and compete quietly. Ranges must “exist” in the world and generate membership to survive the onslaught of anti-gun rhetoric and action by the unenlightened. How can a junior program bring in membership and aid to legitimize the events held at your place of shooting worship? Because kids can’t transport themselves or their firearms. Consider the following six simple steps:
- Step 1 – Kid comes to “try” the junior program.
- Step 2 – Fanatic obsession sets in.
- Step 3 – Kid’s sister wants to see what the fuss is all about and tries as well.
- Step 4 – Sister shoots better than sibling.
- Step 5 – Parent visits financial planner to cost-compare firearms purchases vs. mortgage payments.
- Step 6 – Parent bored and sick of watching, becomes member and joins adult shooting league.
Our local range has gained some of its finest and most dedicated members through our junior pistol and rifle programs. Even after the juniors “age out” of the program (always a sad day), the parents almost always stay on as members.
Woah, woah… it costs how much?
Now of course, like anything worth doing in life, a junior program will cost money. Depending on how you structure your program will decide what kind of initial, monthly and yearly outlay you will be looking at. The Junior program director at my home range works donations like a master plate spinner at a traveling circus. One of my favorite times of year is around late August or early September when we parade ALL the kids up in front of the general membership meeting like a cattle sale. They stand there in front of hundreds of members, nervously squeaking out their names in introduction as we read off accomplishments, personal bests and team scores from the nationals.
Of course we then ask for money, and let me tell you, it’s really easy for a member to pass a collection jar on his way into a meeting. It’s another thing entirely to not yank out his wallet when twenty-two kids are standing before them, their first-world problems of ammo shortages and gun and equipment replacement setting their lips to trembling. Fundraising, fundraising, fundraising.
The Pharos have returned
Not that it’s all about forking over moolah while the kids run off and win championships. Of course, there’s always the benefits of slave labor. Need some landscaping done around the range? The juniors will do it. Target stands need painting? Juniors will do it. Cowboy action state championships coming up and they need brass monkeys so competitors don’t have to bend over? You guessed it…juniors. Need your truck and dog washed? Welllll…. There’s always give and take.
I want to, but need help…
Luckily, there are programs in place that are specifically designed to help clubs and ranges with junior program initiatives. The NRA has several that you can view at this link:NRA Youth Programs.
The CMP also has opportunities for youth shooters. Feel free to contact your state director at the CMP for help in getting started as well as advice and materials.
You may also feel free to post questions and comments below about any junior shooting programs and I would be happy to help where possible.
Now go find some juniors and go have a match.