From the Catbird Seat: Bull's-eye
It's a sport that isn't commonly thought of as a high school activity. However, if George Pappas has his way, opinions about the sport of trapshooting might soon change.
Pappas, who lives in Island Lake and is a member of the Proctor Gun Club, is working on putting together a team of young local trapshooters, to help grow a sport that is increasing in popularity.
Full disclosure here: my son took part in his first competitive shooting event this week in Alexandria, home to the largest shooting facility in Minnesota. He's been shooting for about a month, and Pappas, who is only one letter away from having a really cool last name, is his coach.
The occasion was Youth Day, the first day of the week-long Minnesota State Shoot, and the pride a dad feels when his son bags 22 out of 25 targets on his final set of shots is certainly mine this week. There, I'm done bragging - but for Pappas, the feeling of pride he gets as a coach is multiplied by the satisfaction he would get by seeing young people grow the sport he loves.
"There are schools in the Twin Cities who have put together teams," he said. "I'd like to spread the word in Proctor, Hermantown and Cloquet about the chance to take part."
Indeed, teams of young shooters festooned in all manner of bright colors including blaze orange decorated the shooting field in Alexandria.
"We were worried about the economy hurting the turnout this year, but we had double the number of youth shooters this year," one organizer said.
The beauty of that sort of turnout is that shooting is a lifelong sport. Those who get "the bug" tend to keep it. Unlike many physical or contact sports that are only playable by the young, shooters can and do take part for many years.
"We're looking at the future of the sport at events like these," Pappas said.
In competition, shooters are divided into "squads" of five and shoot in a fan pattern, changing positions every five shots. A round is completed when 25 shots are expended. Junior shooters take aim from a range of 16 yards, with senior shooters handicapped all the way out to 27 yards away from the targets.
"The hard part is getting in shape to shoot," Pappas explained. "The loads we use are pretty gentle in terms of recoil but some beginning shooters get a little sore."
Such was the case with my son, who had never fired at more than 50 targets in a day before but now faced a morning of 125 shots including his practice round.
His strong finish changed a lot of things, including the relative level of soreness in his shoulder.
"I wanted to go out and shoot 100 more," he said, a smile on his 14-year-old face.
Proper coaching and patience are important for young shooters.
"The right technique is important because everyone wants to hit the target," Pappas said. "The only way to get better is to practice and when you do, your scores do nothing but get better."
Shooters who didn't look old enough to be in junior high were blazing away at targets with a degree of accuracy that would make me think twice about telling them to clean their rooms. But they did it with smiles on their faces and great sportsmanship.
"The best thing about shooting is the people you meet," Pappas said. "They are just great people. They volunteer their time to help the sport grow and you can't ask for more than that."
For more information on youth trapshooting, call George Pappas at 218-393-8927.