r Cold, wind, rain and snow could not stop the furry of gunshots from youth shooters competing for titles in Spanish Fork on Saturday, February 2. Spanish Fork Gun Club was host to 127 youth shooters from around the state, making it Utah’s largest youth shooting competition in recent history.
Most of the student-athletes competing are on teams that are apart of the Utah Youth Education in Shooting Sports (UTYESS) program or are college athletes that compete for the thrill of shooting. UTYESS is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating youth in Utah about wildlife conservation and firearm safety and promoting youth shooting sports on a competitive and scholastic level throughout the State of Utah. Their purpose is to provide training and guidance to the youth shooting programs of Utah, with the goal of developing self-confidence, self-esteem, self-reliance, respect, personal discipline, responsibility, citizenship, teamwork and sportsmanship through regular practice and competition at local, state and national events. Utah currently has eight high school teams that are a part of the UTYESS program. That comprises of just over two hundred youth shooters currently registered in the program. The UTYESS program is the state’s fastest growing youth shotgun shooting program, and the states only All-Inclusive program.
The February 2 event was put together by the Skyline X youth shotgun shooting team who call Spanish Fork Gun Club their home club. Skyline X currently boasts fifty-three active team members, making it the largest team in Utah.
“People ask me why I spend so much time on a program that my baby won’t even be in for about 8 years,” said Jenny McGowan, Head Coach, Skyline X. “My answer always is, look around…look at the smiles, at the goals being reached, friendships being made, the kids are the reason, these kids are worth it. They have found their dream sport and I get to be a small part in making it become their reality.”
In conjunction with USA Youth Education in Shooting Sports (USAYESS), UTYESS has developed an Independent Provider Extra-Curricular Lettering & Participation Recognition Program for clay target sports. The requirements set forth in this policy are meant to be an equivalent to other varsity lettering requirements for high school sports. The event at Spanish Fork Gun Club was the first of seven required events for Utah high school students to earn a high school varsity letter in Trapshooting. Other requirements include maintaining a required GPA in school, team practice attendance, service projects, and earning the Distinguished Expert award in the NRA’s Marksmanship Qualification program. Utah high school students can also earn letters in Skeet shooting and Sporting Clays. Additionally, the athletes are competing for top awards this season where scores from each of the required shoots are combined to name the top athletes are the end of the season in June.
“I get asked a lot, how do we like Casey being part of a shooting team? My answer is simple,” says Brandi Fitzgerald, the mother of a student-athlete on Skyline X, “It is so much more than a shooting team. It is a shooting family. Casey has shot trap for a long time, but with Skyline X he has made lifelong friends. He has learned the importance of following rules. He has set goals and achieved them. He knows it is only by lots of practice, some frustration, but determination, that he can shoot well.”
UTYESS is lead by President, Brian Beard. “Brandi’s comments are a representation of what we hear from parents all over the state. Many parents are grateful for a program like ours. We’ve found there are a lot of kids that have an interest in shooting and team sports. Traditional team sports are great, but they aren’t for everyone. Shooting teams give those students that maybe aren’t into traditional sports a team atmosphere where they can meet friends, set goals, and grow in a sport that they love. I am constantly impressed with the athletes we have in our program and the great relationships they are making and their accomplishments.”
Casey took home several trophies from the shoot. “I am so proud of my team and my home club. We hosted the largest youth shoot in Utah. It was a great day with friends and family. That’s what shooting is all about!”
“As for our coaches, we could not ask for better people!” Brandi continues, “They do truly love these kids and what this team means to all the kids. They put so much work in so that our kids will benefit. Skyline X has become such a huge part of our lives and we are so grateful for all that it is.”
For more information on UTYESS teams near you visit www.utyess.org.