It's mission: To promote, protect and preserve hunting and the shooting sports.
The Scholastic Clay Target Program
Students, even in college, can enter the world of competitive shooting while building friendships and character
By Tony Mandile
Photos courtesy of Arizona Game & Fish Department
Competitive shooting at the youth level had been somewhat rare in North America, but that changed more than a decade ago when the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and Amateur Trapshooting Association (ATA) saw a need and teamed up to begin the Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP).
Although the program originally involved only trap shooting, today's version also includes skeet and sporting clays. Many shooting organizations, including the National Sporting Clays Association and the National Skeet Shooting Association and private firearms industry companies, provide support.
Since its inception, the SCTP, which is now administered by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF) headquartered in Shelby Township, Mich., has become the largest youth shooting program in the country. In 2010, nearly 8,000 young shooters in grades 12 and under enrolled in the program in 44 states. This represented a 48 percent increase in the number of shooters and a 25 percent increase in the number of states participating from the previous year. The SCTP is the official youth shooting program of USA Shooting and feeder program to the Olympic shooting sports.
What it's about?
The prime goal of the SCTP is teaching youths safe firearm handling, teamwork and leadership by taking part in a sport that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. Along the way every participant also has an opportunity to compete on a team for state and national championships in trap, skeet and sporting clays.
The program, run by certified adult coaches, often involves support from the state's game or natural resource department. The actual shooting normally takes place at a private club or public range.
The SCTP is a team-based program. Any gun club or similar entity that has a shooting venue available can take part. The program is ideal for youth organizations such as Boy Scouts, 4-H, F.F.A., P.A.L., Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs.
Teams are allowed any number of members, but it takes at least five members in the same age group to make up a competitive shooting squad for trap and three for the other clay sports that include American and International skeet, sporting clays, and the Olympic discipline of trap, also known as bunker trap.
For competition shooting, teams are broken down by the following divisions:
Rookie Division -- 5th graders and below (state law permitting)
Intermediate Division -- Grades 6-8
Senior Division -- Grades 9-12
To participate in the program, all youths, whether male or female, must be enrolled in primary/elementary, middle, junior or senior high school or an equivalent home-school program to be eligible. All athletes must be academically eligible to participate in their school's extra-curricular sports programs.
The individual registration fee is $15, which covers insurance and awards.
There is also a collegiate division for accredited institutions. Over the last five years, the participation in the annual Association of College Unions International (ACUI) Intercollegiate Clay Target Championships has increased more than 50 percent -- a likely off-shot from high school graduate that took part in programs like the SCTP.
As a side benefit to joining an SCTP program, high-school seniors have an opportunity to apply for a college scholarship.
Several SCTP participants have gone on to compete at the international level and are members of the USA Shooting Team, including 2008 Olympic gold medalist Vincent Hancock and ISSF World Cup gold medalist Jon Michael McGrath.
Four-time Olympic medalist Kim Rhode began her shooting career years before the SCTP came into existence by taking part in the NRA's local junior shooting program. She was 16 when she won the gold metal in double trap at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Today, she is gung-ho over the SCTP.
"It's a great program," she said. "Shooting teaches a lot of life lessons like responsibility and teamwork."
How to get started
A complete list of participating clubs within each state in available online.
For more information, contact your state game or natural resource department or one of the following regional directors for the SSSF:
West Coast Region (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, MT, NV, NM, OR, UT, WA) -- Mike Borg, phone 831-229-4872, email westcoastdd@shootSCTP.org
North Central Region ( IA, IL, IN, KS, MI, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, OK, SD, WI) -- Tom Wondrash, phone 262-939-6664, northcentraldd@shootSCTP.org
South/East Coast Region (AL, AR, CT, DE, FL, GA, KY, LA, MA, MD, ME, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, PA, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA, VT, WV) -- Craig Hancock, phone 478-288- 3559, email eastcoastdd@shootSCTP.org
To contact the SSSF directly, call 586-737-0805 or email info@shootSCTP.org.
The 2012 SCTP National Team Championships for trap, skeet and sporting clays will be held at The World Shooting and Recreational Complex in Sparta, Ill. from July 13-16. The International SCTP Team Championships will be held in Colorado Springs, Colo. from July 17-21.