Powell to form clay target team

Posted 6/11/24

About a dozen Powell students who attended the first meeting for the USA Clay Target League will soon be joining nearly 50,000 student athletes involved in more than 1,600 teams across the country. …

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Powell to form clay target team


About a dozen Powell students who attended the first meeting for the USA Clay Target League will soon be joining nearly 50,000 student athletes involved in more than 1,600 teams across the country. They’ll be competing as Panthers, thanks to an endorsement by Powell schools.

Powell coach Larry Akin held the league’s inaugural meeting Thursday in front of a dozen students at the Heart Mountain Rod and Gun Club. Prospective team members on the range prior to the meeting impressed Akin, with some capable of out shooting him, he said.

“I've watched some of you over the last hour shoot, and you're much better than I am,” he told prospective team members. “I only started shooting clay targets 10 months ago, I know very little about it,” he confessed.

But Akin has the time and the passion for the sport to get the league off the ground in Powell and the Heart Mountain Rod and Gun Club is willing to accommodate shooters in practice and competitions, said Peter Kirst, who is on the board of directors for the club and competed for a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.

“It may seem difficult when you first start, however, everybody has to start somewhere,” he told the students and parents in attendance. “It's a fun game — depends on how involved you want to get in it.”

The USA Clay Target League is a nonprofit corporation and the nation’s leading independent provider of clay target shooting sports to secondary and postsecondary schools. The Wyoming State High School Clay Target League is an extracurricular coed and adaptive activity for safety-certified student athletes in grades six through 12 on school-approved teams.

The goal is to increase the number of young shooters in the sport that has seen its participants aging. The age of participants is now at an average of 57 years nationally, according to literature cited by Akin. By adding a substantial number of new participants annually, the league is creating the next generation of shooting sports enthusiasts; “the future of our outdoor recreation clubs, conservation efforts and so much more,” according to the state’s website.

The league was founded in 2000, when it became apparent a number of shooting ranges had dropped significantly in the previous decade. Many are worried about closing their doors as ranges had seen a large decrease in the number of members, leagues and rounds that were shot. That’s when Minnesota coach Jim Sable started the first team. Since then, the league has grown quickly.

Starting with just 30 participants on three teams in 2007, the league now is looking to hit 50,000 participants in their annual record-breaking pace (without counting 2020  participation).

However, participating in clay target sports isn’t cheap. Besides owning a 12- or 20-gauge shotgun, students will need a lot of ammo, clay targets and range time for the two yearly seasons in spring and fall.

“The price of ammunition and the price of trap and skeet ranges is killing the game,” Kirst said. “I’ve been involved with this for years and years and years. And I keep watching the number of shooters dwindle. And especially you don't see very many young people anymore because the price is just so horribly expensive.”

But Akin said the team will be looking for grants and donations from national entities and community partners as soon as they are approved for nonprofit status. The funds will be used to help defray the expenses to students.

Students will also need to attend to their studies to be on the team. Receiving passing grades and staying drug- and alcohol-free are required to compete.

The league is looking for adult volunteers to help coach the team. The league requires teams to have a minimum of one coach per 10 participants. Coaches are required to be certified through the league’s Coach Leadership And Safety Support (CLASS) certification program. The program has been designed specifically for coaches participating in USA Clay Target League-affiliated programs and provides a comprehensive and interactive online education and training program designed specifically for coaches. The CLASS Certification is available to all coaches and takes five to six hours of online training to complete.

The meeting was just an introduction to the league and players and adults in the audience only signed a list designating their interest in the league.

“What we need to do now is to get the word out,” Akin said.

For more information: wy.usaclaytarget.com