Despite the importance of the next generation to the future of outdoors, conservation, and the industry as a whole, youth shooting programs are often overlooked. One program that has been quietly doing its part to grow clay target shooting sports is the non-profit USA Clay Target League, which has just announced an ambitious effort to reach 100,000 participating student athletes in 2025.
Initially arising from an after-school mentorship program, the League was formally launched as the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League in 2008, when it started with just 30 students on 3 teams. As word began to spread, the League grew very quickly, and today the League has grown to over 35,000 student athletes participating on over 1,000 school-approved teams in 25 states.
You read that right, the USA Clay Target League is a school-based program.
“What makes the program so special is that every student athlete in the League is representing their school.” John Nelson, President of the USA Clay Target League, explained. “As a school activity, the majority of teams are getting recognition in their yearbooks and most schools are offering lettering opportunities for students that participate. That’s a tremendous opportunity for these students.”
Schools also appreciate the League’s primary focus – safety. Since the League began, with tens of thousands of athletes participating each year and firing millions of rounds of ammunition, there has never been an accident or injury.
In order to keep costs down, the League was designed as a ‘virtual’ competition system. Teams shoot at their local range and upload their scores online to compete against other teams in their conference. Instead of regional competition, conferences are based on team size in order to keep everything fair. The League also developed a special True Team scoring system that ensures that all athlete’s scores are taken into consideration for team rankings.
“The League doesn’t have benchwarmers.” Jason Kelvie, the League’s Coach Education and Safety Manager, said. “It doesn’t matter what challenges or difficulties a student might have. Everyone shoots. Everyone’s score matters.”
“That’s the great thing about clay target shooting sports in general. Everyone can participate – and we’re seeing moms, dads, grandparents – entire families going out to shoot together. You can’t do that with most other sports.”
So how does the League plan to hit their goal of 100,000 students? Continue to grow.
“With the help of our sponsors who believe in our program and the opportunity we provide students, we’ve seen an average of 30% growth over the last five years.” Nelson said. “We expect to grow to over 45,000 participating athletes this year, and that growth is expected to continue as we recruit more schools, expand our program to more states, and as more and more athletes join existing teams.”
You can learn more about the League’s 2025 vision and how to help them develop the next generation of outdoor shooting sports enthusiasts at http://usaclaytarget2025.com