The University of Delaware Trap and Skeet team was founded in 2008 by a dedicated group of friends and shooters who convinced the University against all odds to sponsor a collegiate clay target program. The team had success early on, taking first place in American Trap and International Trap at the ACUI Collegiate National Championships in 2011. However, over the last eight years as the founding group of members graduated and moved on, the team has grown in number but slid somewhat in competitive ability, primarily due to lack of funding.
The University of Delaware (UD) does not support the team financially, so members are responsible for paying all costs of this expensive sport out-of-pocket. When I joined the team in 2014, it had morphed into a sizable group of about 20 shooters. Most had joined largely for the recreational aspects, but all wished they could have the funding to compete with the top schools in the sport.
Having been involved with Friends of NRA since a young age, I knew how to help. Throughout middle and high school I volunteered at events put on by the Chesapeake Friends of NRA committee chaired by my father, and I had become familiar with The NRA Foundation grant program. I approached the board of the UD Trap and Skeet Team and told them about the opportunity to apply for funding to purchase shells and cover the cost of attending competitions.
While the team’s founders had received NRA Foundation grants in the early years of the UD Trap and Skeet program, no applications for funding had been made recently. With the reminder of the grant program, the board quickly decided to apply once again. And that renewed awareness paid off. In 2015 the team received a grant of $12,000, which included 150 cases of shells and $3,000 to cover practice expenses. That money allowed about 10 of our most serious shooters to literally double, or even triple, the amount of practice they shot.
"The ammo has given us the opportunity to shoot a case a week at much reduced cost,” says sophomore team member and Treasurer Andrew Biddle, “Which helps us practice like the top schools in the nation.”
The grant funding also reduced the cost of attending competitions, since the ammunition needed was now on hand. Additionally, it has allowed the team to introduce many new shooters to the shotgun sports with a “try it for free” policy for new members who attend the first practice of the season—nearly 30 people came the first year and were able to shoot for free.
"I have the unique perspective of someone who was part of the team both before and after the NRA Foundation grant funding, and I have seen all the help it has provided us,” emphasizes class of 2016 team member and former Vice President Ryan Baughman. “Not only has the grant made being a collegiate shooter easier, but it has also drastically widened the door to welcome in new shooters to the sport."
That first year of renewed availability of grant funding was a year of building for our team. We went from shooting solely for fun to competing on a level with the top schools in the sport. A second grant of nearly $8,900 in 2016—for 135 cases of ammunition—will allow us to continue this progress moving forward into nationals. We have already achieved a number of wins in the 2016-2017 season, including third place team in sporting clays in the George Mason University Eastern Regional this fall, and third place overall team at the Virginia Tech Hokie Invitational.
"Receiving support from Friends of NRA was a pivotal moment in our team’s history,” a recent graduate remarks. “Since our founding, we have struggled to make the shooting sports accessible and affordable for our members, which challenged our growth due to the cost barrier. However, with The NRA Foundation’s generous support we have been able to significantly reduce the cost passed down to shooters which has led to unprecedented growth in the team as well as improved performance at competitions. It has been our mission to promote the shooting sports in a positive manner and introduce the sport to the next generation of shooters, and Friends of NRA has been tremendously helpful in accomplishing that mission."
We look forward to carrying the momentum we have built with the help of Friends of NRA and The NRA Foundation into the future. The team continually gains more recognition and generates more awareness as we are shooting more and maintaining a constant presence at clubs and shoots up and down the east coast. The growth is creating tremendous enthusiasm on the part of our advisers and members as we transition into a team to be reckoned with on the national level.
That journey will not be without some more growing pains, but looking at the before and after of the grant impact makes it clear to anyone that there has already been a total transformation.
Want to apply for a grant for your shooting program? Visit The NRA Foundation website for more information.