Spring has arrived, and with it the beginning of Spring school sports such as softball, track, and clay target shooting.
Yes, you read that right, clay target shooting.
Beginning this year, the Elmira City School District has joined school districts in twenty states across the country in forming a clay target shooting league. Formation of the team began when Coach Shannon McCormick first learned about an existing league in Pennsylvania while at a sportsmen’s club meeting.
“I started to research to see if an organization existed in NYS because I thought it would be a great opportunity for students in the Elmira School District,” she told ElmiraTelegram.com. “In finding the New York State Clay Target League, I then met with my building principal,Mr. Krantz, to inquire on how to start the process to create the league.”
The idea quickly gained support and after a year and a half from that initial meeting with Krantz, the Elmira City School District school board approved the idea unanimously.
The districts inaugural team consists of 23 students who will compete in trap and skeet shooting. In trap shooting, competitors shoot at small clay discs also known as “pigeons” which are launched from a single “trap house” away from the shooter. In skeet shooting, the clay pigeons are launched from two separate trap houses sideways intersecting in front of the shooter.
The USA High School Target League was founded in 2001 in Minnesota. Since then, it’s become wildly popular. The number of students participating across the country has taken off, with twenty states, including New York and California, participating. According to TIME magazine, participation has spiked 137% since 2015, growing from 9,245 students to 21,917 in 2018. It’s also one of the safest sports, with not a single injury reported nationally since 2008, and none reported since it began in New York State.
In terms of a team budget, participants provide their own shotguns and ammunition. Additionally, several organizations and local businesses have stepped forward to help offset costs.
The team will meet twice a week for practice and competition at Sullivan Trail Rod And Gun Club in the Town of Elmira, but additional practice is encouraged when the team is able. Unlike many high school sports, no travel is involved. Scoring is submitted to the state league via the internet. With gun safety being the highest priority, students are supervised not only by their coaches while shooting, but NRA certified range safety officers as well. Additionally, Sullivan Trail members with decades of experience in trap and skeet shooting are on hand to offer advice.
Elmira City School District Superintendent Hilary Austin says that extracurricular activities such as this offers unique opportunities for students to find strengths from things outside the classroom. “Perhaps most important, extracurricular activities allow students to widen their social connections by spending time with other peers with similar interests,” she said. “The addition of this activity gives one more opportunity for our students to get involved in something that aligns to their interests and provides opportunity for positive engagement.”
McCormick is excited about the response and formation of the team.
“The staff I have working with us this year are amazing and I just feel that these kids are going to learn so much from them and grow as individuals,” she said.
“There has been an outpouring of support from local businesses, sportsman’s clubs, and organizations and we feel fortunate to be part of a community that is willing to be part of this endeavor.”
For more information about the New York State High School Clay Target League, go to http://nyclaytarget.com