The December issue of Shooting Sports USA, NRA's Competitive Shooting Journal, features a special competition clinic held at the Scarborough Fish & Game Association in Scarborough, Maine deisgned specifically for women. Aimed at bringing more women into the world of competitive shooting, this successful event shows that recruiting new shooters can be as simple as making the classroom fit the student.
Just For Women Competition Clinic
Written by David Petzal with photo by Bruce Fleming
As any firearms instructor or coach can tell you, women shoot as well as men and are often easier to teach. So why aren’t there more of them in the shooting sports? Because getting women and guns to mix in this day and age takes some special effort. [Editor’s note: In our 2010 review of NRA Classification data, 9.12% of competitive shooters were women.]
A prime example of how recruiting more women shooters can be done successfully was provided on May 14, 2011 at Scarborough Fish & Game Association (SF&GA) in Scarborough, ME. Incorporated in 1958, this NRA-affiliated club has grown to 177 acres with ranges for ATA trap, sporting clays, 5-stand/ wobble trap, high power rifle, IDPA action pistol, bullseye pistol and archery. There are also 25-, 50-, and 100-yard utility ranges, all run and maintained by the 750-plus club members.
But back to recruiting women shooters: As anyone who shoots competitively knows, it’s hard to break into a specialized sport without someone to coach you through the early stages. It’s tough for men. For many women, it’s even tougher.
SF&GA has an excellent 52-point pistol range and no shortage of female and male members who know how to shoot bullseye pistol. But, the first challenge was how to attract 30 women for a competition pistol clinic. The club followed the golden rule of successful sales: Don’t wait for them to buy, go out and sell it. This involved a concerted effort by two club members: Karen Lesniak, herself a new bullseye shooter, and Suzanne Hamilton who launched a public relations promotion that included:
- Publishing an illustrated tri-fold brochure of the 2011 pistol program
- Personally handing out flyers at a local sporting goods store
- Running a booth at Ladies’ Day at Cabela’s and similar events
- Announcements during regularly scheduled classes and on the club’s website.
- Recruiting by the club’s bullseye shooters. This was particularly successful, proving once again that there’s no substitute for personal contact.
The women who showed up were from all walks of life, including health and business professionals, educators, housewives, students, and rescue squad volunteers. They came for all sorts of reasons, ranging from trying to figure out what their husbands & boyfriends were up to on the weekends, to overcoming a fear of guns, to looking for a shooting sport that was a little less punishing than trap or high power rifle.
The second rule we learned was: If you’re going to give a clinic for women shooters, women should figure prominently as instructors. Lynn Heroux, the recording secretary of the club and an experienced instructor, gave basic instruction in pistol safety. Mary Goss, a nationally known competitive shooter from Connecticut, gave a talk on what it’s like to be a woman in competitive pistol shooting.
Larry Carter is the go-to guy in New England for competition handgun gear, holder of national records, and a well-known face at Camp Perry. Larry supplied students and instructors with competition handguns to put everyone on the same level. The morning was spent in the classroom and the afternoon on the range. Each shooter was paired with an instructor for the range exercise. After a 4-hour session on the range, those women who were attracted by the challenge were encouraged to join SF&GA’s Thursday evening league. Since then, one student has already entered into serious competition.
All of them left with the knowledge that a target handgun is a competitive tool, like a tennis racquet or a golf club, albeit one that has to be handled with a lot more respect. Hopefully the group will help others understand that target shooting has nothing to do with crime and violence and everything to do with concentration and hand-eye coordination. And that is a pretty good day’s work for a gun club in southern Maine.
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