Young Shotgunners, Coaches Take Aim at Olympics
U.S. OLYMPIC TRAINING CENTER, Colorado Springs, Colo.—Fifteen young shotgunners from around the nation took aim at fulfilling their Olympic dreams this past week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Selected out of nearly 6,000 youths in the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), the athletes spent last week fine-tuning their shooting skills with U.S. Olympic shotgun coach Lloyd Woodhouse and his staff at this year's U.S. Junior Olympic Development Camp. The camp, which also educated 13 SCTP coaches on Olympic-style training techniques, concluded Sept. 18.
Attending the camp were trap shooters Jake Wallace, 15, of Castaic, Calif; Michelle Cole, 17, of Bancroft, Mich.; Ethan Heiden, 15, of Clinton, Mich.; Rachel Heiden, 14, of Clinton, Mich.; Evan Eyster, 15, of Centerburg, Ohio; Jared Fodor, 17, of Centerburg, Ohio; Kathleen Fowler, 17, of Oak Harbor, Ohio; Jamie Wharton, 17, of Chugiak, Alaska; Stephanie Walters, 16, of Lee's Summit, Mo.; Ashley VanNuffelen, 14, of South Chicago Heights, Ill.; and Kayle Browning, 13, of Wooster, Ark.
Skeet shooters included Chris Haver, 15, of Clinton, Mich.; Brad Johnson, 18, of Sterling Heights, Mich.; Eben Wildman, 15, of South Charleston, Ohio; and Samantha Doster, 16, of McKenzie, Tenn.
All were selected through an application and interview process by NSSF, which co-sponsored a portion of the costs. USA Shooting was a major partner.
With more than three decades of top-flight coaching experience, Woodhouse knows how to spot emerging talent and bring out the very best in his athletes at the big matches. Six of the last nine U.S. medals in Olympic shooting have come from his shotgun teams.
“This is a marvelous program,” Woodhouse said of SCTP. “You’re getting to expose a lot of young people to the national and Olympic versions of shotgun shooting. We have some marvelous young people—bright students—that are involved. This year there were almost 6,000 young people and I know a high percentage of those were young women, which I think is just wonderful.”
“The next step is continuing what they’re doing and not getting disappointed if they get a rejection. Sometimes when a young person gets rejected, they say ‘I’ll have nothing else to do with that.’ But if you’re really persistent and you really want it bad, it will happen. But you’ve got to work at it. This year there were 6,000. You can’t select them all, but I hope those 6,000 participate next year and every year after that,” Woodhouse said.
SCTP, which has skyrocketed in popularity nationwide, has been introducing thousands of youths into competitive shooting for five years. The program has grown by more than 40 percent in 2005 to include nearly 6,000 youths nationwide. Last year, the program comprised about 3,800 young shooters.
Daily activities at the Olympic camp start at sunup, with the 15 young shooters and 13 coaches assembling in the athletes’ cafeteria for a hearty meal at 7:30 a.m., seated shoulder-to-shoulder with scores of other Olympic hopefuls and a handful of seasoned Olympic veterans from many different sports. The group then heads for the equipment locker room where they pick up their shotguns and begin the 15-minute drive to the U.S. Olympic Shooting Park at Fort Carson.
The young shotgunners spend their entire day at the range firing many hundreds of shells to help perfect their technique with assistance from local and national team coaches. As the sun goes down, the athletes return to the Olympic training center for a hot shower and a warm meal, followed by several hours of classroom work on nutrition, different event rules, maintaining physical training programs, and the nuances of mentally preparing for high-level competition. Then it’s off to the visiting athlete dorms for a good night’s sleep.
The last day of the camp featured a competition among all of the participants. Wildman, who showed remarkable ability all week, won the skeet competition. Wallace placed first in the trap competition.
“All of these young shooters are not only exceptional competitors, but they are exceptional people,” said Zach Snow of NSSF. “We’re very glad to be able to provide this type of opportunity for all of these competitors and coaches. And who knows, maybe down the road we’ll see them representing the U.S. in the Olympics.”
Coaches attending the camp included Lance Rider of McKenzie, Tenn.; John Wells of Dyersburg, Tenn.; Charlie Carroll of Solvang, Calif.; Fred Sherman of Kenton, Ohio; Dennis Early of Lone Jack, Mo.; Dennis Groce of Woodruff, S.C.; Cindy Wehrer of Fort Morgan, Colo.; Blaine Bickford of Springerville, Ariz.; Russ Arnold of Mansfield, Texas; Frank Foster of Deerfield, Ill.; Jon McGrath of Tulsa, Okla.; David King of Tulsa, Okla.; Leon Robinson of Ogden, Utah; and Richard Lynch of Amador City, Calif.
“To have the chance to learn from Olympic level coaches—world class trainers—it can’t get any better,” said coach Sherman. “And consequently, I’ll be able to spread that knowledge when I get back home with the kids. I’ll also be able to give it to more people that will be able to benefit from it.”
NSSF, formed in 1961, is the non-profit trade association for the firearms industry. NSSF directs a variety of outreach programs to promote greater participation and a better understanding of shooting sports, emphasizing safe and responsible ownership of firearms. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.