Since its inception as league sport for Minnesota students in 2001, the popularity of the sport has skyrocketed from a mere 3 teams, 3 schools, and 30 athletes to an astounding 57 teams, 100 schools, and 1,715 athletes in 2012. The sport has literally doubled in participation each year since 2008 and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
The co-educational sport is open to students in grades 6-12, although R-P plans to only offer it for its high school students, at least for now. The program consists of two seasons, spring and fall. Spring competition is 9 weeks, plus a state tournament while the fall season is just 5 weeks long. Competition is indirect, meaning that the team won’t be traveling to competitions at other districts. Rather, the team will select its day for shooting, at a local range, and compile the data to compare and rank against other schools. Scores are collective and an individual’s performance contributes to the team’s overall performance.
There are very specific guidelines for the sport, notes Activities Director Luke Lutterman. “The number of teams is not limited, so long as there is one adult supervisor per 10 students.” Teams for the sport are 5 members and an adult supervisor. A range safety officer must be present at all times. For this inaugural year, agribusiness teacher and co-FFA advisor Colby Lind will lead the district’s team.
The requirements for participants are high as well. The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League is an independent provider of shooting sports as extra-curricular coed activity. They are quick to point out that “Safe and responsible handling and storage of firearms and ammunition is the first priority” and “Participation is a privilege and not a right.” Participants are expected to maintain sportsmanship, ethical behavior, dignity, respect, be chemically free, and their academics priorities must come before participation.
Lutterman also notes that gun clubs are critical to the success of the league. The local sportsmans’ club will be giving the district reduced rates to offset costs. For safety reasons, ammunition and equipment will be stored at the range and not on school grounds.
It is still unclear what it will cost participants and the district to engage in the sport. For now, the district is looking at the same extracurricular fee as other sports. Students will be responsible for eye protection, belt for shells, and a shirt uniform. Still, the overall cost per participant could easily be in the $100-200 range with fees ranging due to varied ammunition and target costs.
According to Superintendent Chuck Ehler, the district is looking at potential ways to cover the costs. “The cost is of concern. Ammunition costs have gone through the roof, if you can even find it. Fear is a powerful motivator.”
Students eligible to participate in the Clay Target team must possess a Minnesota Firearm Safety Training Certificate. Participation will not affect students wishing to engage in another spring or fall extracurricular activity, as per district rules, because practice for the trapshooting will be done on individual time.
In other district news, the board narrowly passed allowing the proceeding of a demographic study. The study, which comes at a $3,600 cost, will provide an in-depth reflection on K-12 enrollment projections for the next 10 years. The methodology used may provide better insight into the direction the district needs to go with regards to its facilities. The board approved Hazel Reinhardt to complete the study, which should be complete by late May.
However, several on the board felt that the study could reveal little to a seemingly stable community demographic. “It’s not a lot of money, but I’m not sure we’re getting value out of it,” noted board member John Linder. “It’s hard to predict enrollments each year, let alone ten years out.” Linder went on to suggest that perhaps the district should wait on such a study until the thorough review of the facilities is complete.
In a roll call vote, the approval came 4 to 3 with board members John Linder, Valerie Howe, and Taylor Peterson opposed.
The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Monday, April 15, at 5:30pm, in the high school biology room. The public is encouraged to attend.