In Her Element

When clay target coaches begin with a new athlete, they often begin with fundamentals of eye dominance. During the first day of St. Mary’s Trap Team practice for Emily Ferguson, she promptly told her coach she was left-eye dominant. When questioned her confidence in that answer before the drill had even begun, she playfully replied, “I only have one eye, trust me on this one.”

Fast forward to present day, Emily Ferguson’s many accomplishments include High Overall Grand Champion of the SCTP Tennessee Trap State Championship, shooting a 199/200 at Nationals 2019, and winning the Rudy Cup, an award only given to the top shooter from Tennessee at Nationals, becoming the first female in history to claim the title. These incredible accomplishments demonstrate the truly level playing field that shooting sports offers young athletes.

As a young adult trying to make sense of her interests and future career choices, she is turning to her own incredibly difficult, yet inspiring experiences. Emily has triumphantly beat cancer three times. Retinoblastoma at just eighteen-months old required removing the right eye to help prevent chance of metastasis. Later at the age of eleven, Ewing sarcoma occurred in Emily’s ribs and part of her lung, with a recurrence requiring treatment five years later. Emily is thankfully in remission and after spending an immeasurable amount of time at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, she has found inspiration in prosthetic design. “Traditional prosthetic limbs are not typically aesthetically pleasing. I found resources online that inspired me to look into unique prosthetic design. I think what I want to do is create unique designs where people want to show them off rather than wearing long sleeves and pants year-round.”

Known on the St. Mary’s Trap Team as “Ace” and team captain, Emily Ferguson embraces her role as a leader for the sport and the SCTP. “I am an introvert by nature, but with my team out on the field, I’m in my element. This is definitely what I love to do and I’m even a certified coach now. It doesn’t feel like work to me and coaching is really something I hope I can continue to do in the future.”

A younger Emily Ferguson couldn’t have known that stumbling upon shooting sports would be changing the trajectory of her life in such a meaningful way.

Derby Day, as it’s called at St. Mary’s in Memphis, Tennessee, is typical of activity fairs seen throughout the country. At a booth promoting clay target sports is where this soon-to-be champion began her path to development as an athlete and young adult.

“I came out of an all-girls middle school, as a shy, awkward thing. I couldn’t hold a conversation to save my life and wouldn’t look people in the eye. My dad hunts a lot and I saw shooting sports as something to do with dad. My dad has been my one and only financial sponsor in this game since day one. I joined the trap team and in my first year after the SCTP Tennessee State Championship, the team promoted me to varsity. Now I am the Team Captain. I feel a lot more confident in myself. Getting involved in shooting sports and the SCTP, more specifically, has definitely changed my life for the better.”

Away from the line, Emily can be seen laughing and having a good time with the St, Mary’s Trap Team, but in the moments before a shoot, she peels away to compose her mental focus. Those who observe the all-ladies trap team in a competition notice Emily’s leadership and the young athletes shooting together like a well-oiled machine. Quiet fist bumps are exchanged between each station and it’s back to laser-focused performance. Now having graduated from high school, Emily’s time on the St. Mary’s Trap Team has come to an end but she will always be known as “Ace”.

When asked what is next for the champion from Tennessee, she laughed and replied, “I’ll be taking a gap year, but when I go to college something that’s non-negotiable for me is finding college with a shooting team. I want to switch gears to bunker trap. It’s really exciting that bunker is getting more popular. The rest of the world shoots bunker, but no one else in the world shoots American trap!”

For those interested in trying out shooting sports, Emily has very simple advice. “Just try it out. Most people at gun clubs are so helpful and encouraging. You may not even have to buy a gun on the spot. Everyone I’ve met in this sport is so incredibly supportive. Although you do compete against each other, we want each other to be the best out there. I never thought that this would turn into such a big thing for me and here I am doing an interview at the National Championship with the SCTP.”

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