America’s New Favorite High School Sport

Clay target shooting is experiencing a resurgence as one of the fastest-growing high school sports in Skagit County, Washington. The Future Farmers of America district trap shooting championship in late October featured 55 high school students, showcasing the sport’s popularity. The growth of clay target shooting comes in the wake of declining participation and aging memberships in local sportsmen’s clubs, prompting initiatives to attract younger generations.

In Newport, Washington, a town with a population of about 2,000, the local sportsmen’s club faced challenges with a diminishing and aging membership. Approximately five years ago, the club decided to follow the lead of another Eastern Washington town and formed a high school trap team. The initial year saw fewer than 10 students participating, but last year’s numbers surged to 35, reflecting the success of the grassroots effort to engage younger families and prevent the decline of shooting sports.

The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League played a crucial role in inspiring the expansion of clay target shooting to various states. Despite the initial challenges of introducing a sport involving firearms, the league has grown to include tens of thousands of students across 34 states. Clay target shooting offers an inclusive alternative for students who may not participate in traditional sports, with around one-third of participants not involved in any other school-sponsored sport.

Eric Thompson, a parent of three competitive trap shooters, emphasized the absence of benchwarmers in target shooting, highlighting the equal opportunities for all participants. The dedication and focus required in the sport contribute to valuable life skills, shaping work ethic and determination among the youth involved.

While the popularity of clay target shooting is on the rise, enthusiasts often find themselves facing opposition, particularly in regions where attitudes toward firearms are subject to political differences. Despite these challenges, the sport’s safety-oriented approach and commitment to discipline have successfully attracted a diverse group of participants, contributing to the preservation and growth of shooting clubs across the country.


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