My recent trip to the USA highlighted the difference in approach there, compared to the UK, when it comes to nurturing the younger participants in our sport, ensuring that they receive the support, advice and infrastructure required to develop their potential.

Two examples of how Maria and Fred Fanizzi at Quail Creek Plantation, the host club for the Seminole Cup 2014, facilitate this support are as follows:

  • At the main event, notices were put up on the counter in their shop welcoming any donations of unused shells towards their “Young Guns” program.
  • Last weekend a “Young Gun Fundraiser” event was held at the club. 400 participants supported the initiative; 270 of them shooters and the remaining 130 consisting of family members of the shooters.

The above are just two examples from a three-week period of the calendar, from just one club in Florida. Imagine the collective support that could be generated if hundreds if not thousands of clubs across the USA got involved with similar schemes?

It is difficult to deny the power of the American sports psyche; 100% focused on winning and developing talent, regardless of whether it is existing or newly discovered. The general mentality here in the UK feels different; if you feel the need to have coaching (technical or mental) you clearly must have a problem, right? Not necessarily; maybe you just want to progress and learn…

I’m in my late thirties now and so far have managed to navigate through  the earlier financial demands of life and am relatively settled with regards to earnings and outgoings. As many of you know, I also own and run Just Choking and look forward to the adventures and experiences that will give me.

_DSC0207

Just Choking sponsored Brody Wollard at the Gamebore White Gold Challenge 2013

Just Choking gives me access to a very broad spectrum of the shooting community and through it I am very proud to sponsor, support and be associated with a very talented group of younger shooters including Taylor Hedgecock, Ronnie Green, Brody Woollard, Natasha Lovell, James Rounsevell, Nathan Skinner, Aaron Harvey, Jack Fairclough and the entire Helena Romanes School Clay Shooting team.

Several of the these young guns are already what I would consider “established”; already receiving support from cartridge manufacturers and/or gun makers, but some are still not supported.  They do however share the fact that as well as being young, they are excellent ambassadors for the sport, themselves and their families.  In short, they are exactly the type of shooter that I want promoting the products that I represent and in return I will support them with products and incentives for as long as they want it.

I realise that Junior shooters get some concessions such as reduced CPSA membership fees and lower entry fees at certain grounds and in certain competitions. I’m also aware that what I do barely scratches the surface in terms of the overall cost of them shooting, but along with companies like Gamebore and individuals like Phil Coley, who both actively seek out young shooters to support, I view this collective effort as an investment in the future of our sport.

The mentality to grow and support the sport from within the sport appears to slowly evolving. GMK Ltd unveiled plans earlier this year for a comprehensive Young Shot Scheme (ed : covered on ShootClay here) that included the reimbursement of £200 of national entry fees, a Beretta uniform and accessory package worth £500, the loan of a new Beretta shotgun for the season coupled with a £1000 allowance towards the optional purchase of the loan gun at the end of the scheme.  Anyone who feels that they may be eligible and would like to apply should do so before the end of April 2014. Application forms are available by emailing Emma Parkin at GMK on: eparkin@gmk.co.uk.  Best of luck to anyone going for it!

More recently, the team behind FITASC GB announced that there would be an additional prize fund supporting the GB FITASC and Compak Selection Shoots this year. This prize fund is generated entirely from donations from individuals and companies and comprises of coaching sessions, cash towards entry fees, vouchers and products. Best of all is that fact that anyone taking part in any of the selection shoots can win one of these prizes by hitting flash clays on a specific layout at each of the first three selection shoots. Further details can be found here , but everyone involved should be commended!

The FITASC GB team also run a Junior Academy – supporting young shooters who aspire to be in Team GB for FITASC or COMPAK with entry fees, equipment and support : details are here.

Despite the above progress, I cannot help but feel that what we do as a shooting community to support and nurture the next generation is sporadic and lack lustre at best. The CPSA are actively developing their Young Shots initiative and consequently encouraging new interest in the sport, but where is the longevity, if an initial heavily subsidised one-off experience, then morphs into a financially unattainable commitment for many parents to subsidise?

In my opinion, we need to accept collective responsibility to assist in bridging this financial gap. It wouldn’t be unimaginable for shooters to speak to their local ground owners and establish a scheme whereby any cartridge or clay donations could be received and collated, to be used to facilitate younger shots getting more trigger time and enjoyment from the sport.

Rather than assume that others are already suggesting this, why not take the proverbial bull by the horns and strike up a conversation about this when you’re next out shooting and see what YOU can make happen!