You could say it’s the fastest sport in the world. As fast as a speeding bullet. And it’s starting to grow. There are only a handful of school sponsored shooting teams in the state…Lowell was the first in West Michigan…getting locked and loaded five years ago.
“It had a big response that first year, we had 30 kids sign up that first year and it’s down, it’s grown, it’s gone back and forth,” says Lowell head coach Aaron Roth, “We hope that they learn some life skills, that they learn to be competitive in a healthy manner, that they learn something they can do for the rest of their life.”
It’s an equal opportunity sport. Where most sports need you to be big, fast and strong, this sport is all about the mind and its ability to read and react.
“It’s more mental than it is physical so if you miss a target you might get angry throw your shells and whiff on the next target and it just gets in your head,” says Lowell sophomore Cameron Egan.
“Probably the biggest thing is focus,” adds junior Ethan Ettinger, “because all 100% of your focus has to be right on that target. Some of the best shooters in the world can see the dimples on the orange target that’s how focused they are.”
Girls can compete right alongside the boys.
“It’s nice because I get to shoot around the other gender when they are nice and relaxed,” says sophomore Abigail Wester, “but there’s not many girls and I’d just like to see a lot more girls do it.”
Throughout the season, teams from all over the state, either school or sportsman club sponsored, come together in meets, each taking turns shooting clay pigeons launched from different angles, sightlines and directions.
“Just like baseball or tennis there’s follow through,” says Roth, “There’s stance, all the things that are important to the movement of the firearm.”
“I assumed like a lot of people, you point the gun and you pull the trigger,” says Kevin Freeman, “but to score consistently, a lot like in golf, there’s a lot that goes in the mechanics, the mental preparation and the match preparation.”
Freeman is the head coach of the Rockford team, they just started this year. Already a handful of other West Michigan teams have looked into starting their own soon.
“It’s just cool to see that it’s growing and there’s more people doing it,” says senior Bretton Kooistra, “It gives us more people to compete with too so that makes the competitions bigger, you get more people to shoot against.”
Roth’s son, Noah, was a founding member of the Red Arrow team. He parlayed what used to be a hobby into a college scholarship.
“My freshman year I started finding out that a lot of colleges had shooting teams and some gave pretty good scholarships,” says Noah, “My freshman year there may have been 40 or 50 and now there’s more than 100.”
Despite being surrounded by shotguns, this sport is one of the safest available. Gun safety is paramount above all and if followed, how else would anybody get hurt in this sport?
“These kids don’t think they are toys, they understand how to use these weapons and it’s amazing to watch how well and responsible they are with them and that’s one major benefit of the program,” says Freeman.
“I don’t have to worry about concussions, or knees or shoulders or anything like that,” says Roth.