Elisabeth Meinecke
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Move over, college football. Collegiate shooting sports are on the rise in America. What’s behind the trend?

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From Townhall Magazine's EXCLUSIVE May feature, "A Generation of Young Guns" by Mark Kakkuri:

Texas Christian University senior Sarah Scherer, 21, lifted her competition air rifle and took aim at the target. The “center 10” in the Women’s 10-Meter Air Rifle competition looked like the size of a period at the end of a sentence. She calmly peered through the sights, steadying herself. Having been in this position many times before, Scherer’s shot was not all that different from the thousands of other shots she had taken, except that in this competition a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team was on the line. A national champion shooter in a variety of shooting disciplines, Scherer gently placed her finger on the trigger. Dressed in shooting leathers, a means of stabilizing for an accurate shot, she controlled her breathing and focused on the sights and the target. And fired.

Scherer, who is from Woborn, Mass., was competing in the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Airgun at the Civilian Marksmanship Program’s Camp Perry, Ohio, facility against 36 other shooters from around the nation. At the end of the competition, the scores were tallied and the results posted: Scherer had earned a nomination to the U.S. Olympic team. A tough yet humble competitor, Scherer’s reflection on her accomplishment was admirably understated: “I knew what I needed to do and was very focused. I was happy with my performance and happy with my score.”

Although operating in the shadow of more popular collegiate sports such as football or basketball, collegiate shooting sports are often well-developed programs that encompass a variety of weaponry and skills, including pistol, rifle and shotgun. At some schools, collegiate shooting sports are merely another sports outlet, relegated to the club level. At other schools, however, student athletes enjoy the benefits of a well-funded shooting program with plenty of opportunity to compete at the highest levels. A perennial favorite in the world of collegiate shooting sports, Texas Christian University and shooters such as Sarah Scherer are an example of college athletes who, quite literally, aim to be the best. And they are a growing trend—safe, enthusiastic young guns.

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Helping Students Grow Personally

Not only does interest in the shooting sports span the spectrum of political ideology in institutions of higher learning and come from a variety of unique circumstances in a student’s life, it also tells a lot about what students are made of and what they can become.

“Young shooters are far more responsible than the ‘average’ kid,” says Shepherd. “They know there is no reset button on life, and understand that actions have consequences. They’re not afraid to take chances. In fact … they’re darned near fearless when it comes to competing. But they’re acutely conscious of the need to operate safely and they are aware of the responsibilities associated with a firearm.”

Shooting, he says, is one of those sports that requires discipline: thousands of repetitions of the gun mount if you’re shooting shotguns, thousands of repetitions of the draw stroke from a holster if you’re competing at speed pistol shooting, and tens of thousands of dry-fires to get trigger control just right no matter what type of sport.

“A shooter has a lot in common with gymnasts and other highly-skilled specialized athletes: They practice tiny elements to make difficult things look easy,” he says.

According to McGrath, there is not really a typical SCTP student athlete. They come from all walks of life and backgrounds.

Read more of Mark Kakkuri's piece in the May isssue of Townhall Magazine.
 

Order Townhall Magazine today to read the full report in the May issue.

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Elisabeth Meinecke

Elisabeth Meinecke is TOWNHALL MAGAZINE Managing Editor. Follow her on Twitter @lismeinecke.