CLAIRON-LEDGER.COM October 16, 2020 – The Mississippi Scholastic Shooting Sports Program is relatively new on the scene, but participation is growing rapidly amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Michelle Carter, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks director of Outreach Programs, said the ability to be outside and practice social distancing is appealing. The uncertainty of the fate of traditional sports programs also brought more schools onboard, she said.
“We’re able to meet the requirements that the CDC and the state put forth,” Carter said. “They don’t share equipment and it’s outside.”
The program is a team-based, youth development program that uses the shotgun sports of 5-stand, skeet and sporting clays to instill life skills such as discipline, safety, teamwork and self-confidence, according to MDWFP.
“We’re in our sixth year,” said Carter. “The first year was 2015 as a pilot program with four schools and approximately 30 students. “The parents and kids loved it. The next year we went to seven schools and 110 students.” And the program continued to grow.
“This past year it was 29 schools and 498 students,” Carter said. “As of last week we have 54 schools and 888 students.”
Carter said safety surrounding students and firearms has also been a concern of some educational administrators, but pointed out safety is priority. Students must pass MDWFP’s Hunter Safety Course and are trained in shooting range safety. Highly trained officers also provide oversight.
“Nothing takes place on school campuses,” Carter said. “It all takes place on our ranges. It’s our officers that are at the competitions.”
Kenneth Lancaster, MSSP coach at Central Hinds Academy, echoed the safeness of the program.
“As far as sports in schools, the safest we have is shooting sports,” Lancaster said. “It’s that safe because No. 1, the coaches have to go through a rigorous course on safety.”
Lancaster said ammunition and guns remain separate and no guns are loaded until the competitor is actually shooting. Also, any action deemed unsafe results in the student being removed from the range.
“It’s safety-conscious 100% of the time,” Lancaster said.
The program is offered to students in grades seven through 12 and is one that appeals to both males and females. Ivy Vaughn, a senior at Jackson Prep, is among them.
“I’ve been on the team three years,” said Vaughn, 17. “I was playing softball and my dad always said if I quit one sport I had to pick up another sport. I got burned out on it because I’d been playing since I was 3.”
Vaughn said a friend suggested she try shooting sports.
“I went to Turcotte (Shooting Range) and fell in love with it,” Vaughn said. “I like the competitiveness because being a girl it makes it so much more competitive and I’m a competitive person. It just feels so good to be a girl and outshoot boys in a male-dominated sport.”
Vaughn said she plans to continue competing when she attends college.
“I love it,” Vaughn said. “It’s really enjoyable.” [full article]