More often than not, young athletes take a sense of responsibility to enthusiastically introduce their peers to their favorite shooting sport. By sharing the skills, values, and passion instilled by their own coaches, mentors, and teammates, the next generation of shooting ambassadors begin to make their mark on the shooting sports community as a whole.
Guest blog written by SCTP athlete, Amy Cawley. Amy can be found on Her Shooting Journey Youtube channel, Instagram, and Facebook
As ambassadors for our sport, I believe it’s our job to continue to introduce others into the game as much as we can. Many of us remember when we were the ones being taken out for the first time and if that experience was a positive or negative one. My first experience was not the most positive which unfortunately led me away from the game for a few years.
Thankfully, a few years later I decided to try it again, I absolutely fell in love and want to help others bring people into the game the right way. Here are some ways we can make sure that we facilitate a positive first experience:
- TALK THEM THROUGH SAFETY. Explain the top 3 rules to firearms safety: ALWAYS keep your gun pointed in a safe direction. ALWAYS keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot. ALWAYS keep the gun unloaded until ready to use. This is also the time you should explain how the gun works to them. The more they understand and feel comfortable with the gun and safety, the more comfortable they will be out on the line
- FIND A GUN THAT FITS THEM. There are a lot of well-meaning individuals who want to take people out for the first time and automatically put a really light gun in their hands with the thought being that they will be able to handle it better. Anyone who has shot one of those guns knows that they will more often than not kick the snot out of you. I was definitely a “victim” of this when I first started shooting and we want to avoid that. Do some research, bring a variety of guns to the range, check how each of the different guns fits the person and talk them through the experience explaining how things should feel.
- SET THEM UP FOR SUCCESS. No one wants to shoot if they keep missing targets. Take the individual over to a target like low 7 on the skeet field for their first few shots. There is not a lot of gun movement, they don’t have to worry about lead and you can get them to break that target relatively easily and quickly. This will build up their confidence and start off their experience on a really positive note. Another option is to take them halfway to the trap house, lock the machine down to throw straight out and get them breaking targets there. Once they feel confident breaking targets there, you can ask if they want to try something more difficult.
- INCORPORATE BREAKS. Understand that if this person hasn’t shot before, their body is not used to using the muscles we use, and they feel recoil much more than you or I might. Encourage them to take breaks and ask questions so that they don’t hurt themselves and decide they don’t want to shoot again. Something we did while I was getting certified as an NRA Level 1 Shotgun Coach was shoot a round on our non dominant side. This allowed us all to understand again just how awkward things feel when you have never shot before. I highly recommend doing this or something similar before you take someone new out so that you have a better understanding of what they might be feeling.
- COMMUNICATE OPENLY. Understand how they are feeling before they start shooting, while they are shooting and after they finish. Offer constant encouragement and remind them of how awesome they are throughout the entire day.