Sunday, March 09, 2008

New shooter retention - Class C and D

I'll flesh this post out more over the next few days, but I wanted to throw it out here as it sits. This is my response to a thread on about how to increase participation in trapshooting.

Gentlemen -

I also 'grew up' shooting 3-hole, 50 yard targets, and as someone who is struggling for that last .5 on my singles average to make AA I agree that today's targets are easier and that it is frustrating to know that singles have become a 'miss and out' contest. Having said that, I don't think changing the target presentations will help increase participation.

Those of you who know me will remember that I usually am accompanied by a small contigent of "new" shooters at most shoots. (not blowing my own horn, just stating the facts) Two of these shooters are my own kids who are competitive for the category trophies, two others are kids who will be competitive for category trophies in the next year or two, and two are adults who don't qualify for any special category. What these shooters all have in common is that NONE of them are competitive for class trophies....even in D class. Both of my kids have 90% singles averages (Class C) but have never once won a class D trophy. A review of the Class C and D winning scores from the Spring Grand (found here: reveals the following winning scores:

Event 1 preliminary singles
Class C 98 (4 way tie)
Class D 96 (2 way tie)
Event 3 Beaudry RV singles
Class C 99 (2 way tie)
Class D 98
Event 7 Tucson singles class championship
Class C 99 (3 way tie)
Class D 98
Event 11 Spring Grand American singles championship (150 targets)
Class C 149
Class C RU 147 (2 way tie)
Class D 147
Class D RU 146

As a class A shooter who wants to be AA, I would have been happy to post any of these C and D class scores. Quite frankly, I only broke a 145 in the championship so I wouldn't have even gotten the D runner-up trophy.

Other people has pointed out in earlier posts that it is disheartening for new shooters to see the long list of perfect scores in the top classes. In my experience, new shooters are interested in THEIR class, not the top classes. The top class scores are where they want to be. The disappointment comes from seeing D class won by a 98. This is what chases them away. They feel that they are not competitive in even the bottom class, and unless they are shooting just for the love of turning money into noise they'll walk away.

In my opinion, the handicap committees have become too dependant on the software used to pull a shooters average from the ATA database. This purely numeric average does not give any information as to known ability or the persons current level of shooting. I've seen it happen at every shoot I've been to......the shooter presents his plastic card and average card, the plastic card is swiped through the card reader or the number is typed in, and the class is assigned based on the year-to-date average without the actual average card ever being opened.

At this point in the argument someone is going to tell me to sit in the chair and do the work before I open my mouth. My response is that I will be happy to assist with the handicapping at any event I attend....but I guarantee that the shooters will not be happy with me.

If we are going to start applying the known ability rule tightly, such as once you have shot a score of 95 or better you simply cannot be put in D class again that year, that direction needs to come from the top. It can't just be one uptight, former D class shooter that doesn't like the way the current system works.

There have been suggestions to implement a 'Hunter' class below D class to welcome new shooters. I think that would be a great idea. I also think that the best thing we can do to bring in AND RETAIN new shooters is to "clean up" the C and D classes so that the newbies don't think they have to be perfect to win the lower classes. Leave the targets soft so that the scores are high....just get the high scoring shooters out of the low scoring classes.

Other ways to bring in new shooters would be to partner with local gun stores and give away (yes, give away) one free round of trap/skeet/sporting clays with the purchase of every new shotgun. Yes, it will cost the clubs 25 clays for each of these people. How many people do you know that drive all the way out to a club and then only shoot 25 targets? Get them out there...they'll come back if you have a decent club. We may only get one shooter out of every hundred to ever shoot registered targets, but that would be one more than we have today. Consider it an investment.

On that note, how many clubs advertise outside of shooting related publications? Get your name out....don't preach to the choir.

Start an SCTP program. Donate your old equipment to the kids. If your local state association isn't a 501C.3 non-profit, perhaps the ATA could arrange something using its’ non-profit status to provide a tax deduction for the donated equipment.

Have "tune-up" days before bird season. All of the rifle ranges around here offer sight in services before deer season. Do something similar before bird season but tune up the shooter instead of the guns. Put 10 of your experienced shooters on the line as coaches. Reserve a couple of traps for the tune up group so that they aren't embarassed by the "professional" shooters.

There are hundreds of ways that we can increase participation without opening the target presentation can of worms. This post has become a novel, so I'll shut up now. Anyone who wants to talk further about this is welcome to contact me by email at shotguncoachATyahooDOTcom.

Len in Phoenix
Lead Instructor, Buckeye Sportsman Club SCTP

Getting rid of sandbaggers is always a tough thing to do. Seems there is a way to do so but no one wants to be the bad guy...

Good luck with that one.

Saw that the Shotgun range on Beeline highway is shut down??? What gives???
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