Utah Youth Education in Shooting Sports ends record-breaking season and awards outstanding student-athletes

shooting sport
Members of the Wasatch Wing & Clay Youth Shooting Team participate in the Sporting Clays Tournament as part of the UTYESS Youth State Championships, June 3, 2019.

The Utah Youth Education in Shooting Sports program (UTYESS), also known as the Utah Scholastic Clay Target Program (Utah SCTP) ended its record-breaking season June 3rd, with the Utah State Youth Championships, where the program’s youth competed in a 100-target Skeet tournament, a 200-target Trap tournament, and a 100-target Sporting Clays tournament. This year’s event saw 139 participants; a sharp 96% increase in participants over last year’s State Youth Championships, making it the largest State Youth Championships the program has hosted since it began in 2002. Twenty of the participants were from Nevada, excited to compete alongside Utah’s student-athletes. Today, UTYESS has 229 youth in the program statewide.

“Youth shooting sports today is the nation’s fastest-growing high school sport,” said Brian Beard, President of UTYESS. “The same is true for here in Utah as well. In 2017, the year I was nominated and elected to be President of the program, we had 51 Utah athletes compete in the State Shoot. Today, that is about the size of one team. The number of youth interested in shooting sports is outstanding and is going to continue to increase.”

Following the Sporting Clays competition on Sunday, the youth and their families gathered for lunch provided by UTYESS, and then a finale awards and recognition ceremony where over 100 State Youth Championships trophies were awarded.

Last year, 26 High School Letters representing 16 Utah High Schools were awarded as part of the USAYESS independent lettering program. This weekend, 63 high school letters were awarded. To earn a letter, athletes need to maintain a pre-determined GPA in high school, maintain attendance at practices and competitions, achieve the required scores in shooting, complete four service projects and earn the NRA Distinguished Expert award.

New this year was the Utah Rookies of the Year award. The Rookie of the Year is awarded to a first-year competitor in each category: Novice, Junior, Junior Varsity, Varsity, Collegiate, and Ladies. In addition to attending the required number of UTYESS events, student-athletes must apply for the Rookie of the Year award and provide an athlete resume. The applying athletes are asked to submit information such as trophies and awards earned both in UTYESS events and other shooting avenues, a brief description of what they enjoyed most during their first year of competition, and a brief description of who inspires them to shoot and why.

Also new this year was the introduction of the Utah State Teams. After attending the required number of UTYESS events, the athletes’ scores are compiled and the top five athletes in each category, a total 25 student-athletes, are named members of that year’s Utah State Team. The highest scoring athlete in each category is named Team Captain. The athletes had their photos taken and will be featured on posters in many of the gun clubs throughout the state of Utah, along with their name and shooting average within the next few weeks. The winners of the Utah State Team and Rookies of the Year are posted on the organization’s website. Images of the Utah State Team poster will also be available online when the poster is finalized.

“Congratulations to everyone that made the state team,” said Grayson S., age 14, member of Riverton Shooting Club and the UTYESS Youth Committee and a recipient of the Utah State Team award. “I’m proud to be on a list with you guys. Let’s do it again next year!!!”

Two scholarships were also awarded by UTYESS at the Utah State Youth Championships. The first $500 scholarship was awarded to Josh D., a Collegiate athlete from Wasatch Wing & Clay. The second $500 scholarship was awarded to Robert M, age 17, member of Cache Valley Crushers.

UTYESS is funded in large by fundraising efforts conducted by the teams throughout the year. Perpetual funding is also available through the MidwayUSA Foundation’s Team Endowment Program. The MidwayUSA Foundation Team Endowment Program gives a community the ability to financially support a competitive youth shooting sports program. Teams grow their Team Endowment through fundraisers and donations. Thanks to generous donations from Larry and Brenda Potterfield, 100% of each donation goes to team endowment of a donor’s choice. Each team can then request a grant of 5% of their endowment balance once each year. At the close of 2018, UTYESS had $1,100,928.80 in endowment accounts held at MidwayUSA Foundation, providing an annual grant of $55,000.00 for Utah’s youth shooters in the UTYESS program.

Support directly from Larry and Brenda Potterfield has also been outstanding. Between 2012 and 2018 Larry and Brenda Potterfield have given Utah just over $600,000.00. Additionally, Larry and Brenda Potterfield have provided $80,483.20 in endowment matching and awards. More has come from non-cash grants that are issued via the MidwayUSA Foundation. In 2019, Larry and Brenda Potterfield have announced a donation of $75,000.00 to UTYESS for the construction of Utah’s first Bunker Trap, and another $35,000 for operating costs and team endowment matching.

“Without these donations, a lot of kids would be unable to participate in the sport they are passionate about. The MidwayUSA Foundation and the Potterfield’s support helps make our sport possible,” said Kyson M., age 18, member of South Valley Shooters and the UTYESS Youth Committee.

Support for Utah’s youth shooting teams also comes from numerous other sponsors and supporters. Some of these include the NRA Foundation, ACUI Clay Target Program, Vista Outdoors, Federal Premium, Browning/Winchester, Scheels, Sportsmans Warehouse, the ATA and AIM programs, and countless others that are supporting individual teams and, in some cases, individual athletes.

“We are very proud to be a part of the success of your program and to help fund the needs for these youth shooting teams,” said Jim Reardon, Friends of NRA Field Representative. “I cannot stress enough how important these kids are to the future of this country and freedom!”

Trophy plaques were also handed out to each of the Utah team’s head coaches. “All of us in this organization are volunteers,” said Beard. “None of us are paid. We do this for the love of the sport and especially for the love of the youth in our program. Our coaches are sometimes putting in forty hours per week to ensure the future of Utah’s youth. I am sincerely grateful for each one of our coaches. Our organization would not be successful without the tremendous and untiring dedication of our coaches.”

UTYESS is also governed by an Executive Committee. The success and progression of the program have relied heavily on, and will continue to rely on, the Executive Committee and their oversight. Their combined experience in shooting sports and business management have proven beneficial in the growth of UTYESS.

Beard concludes with, “What’s most important in our program is the youth and their parents, family and friends that support them, drive them to practice every week, and to the competitions. Youth shooting sports is one of the most expensive and sometimes time demanding sports today’s youth can choose to compete in. It would not be possible for them without the support of their family and friends.”

Members of Skyline X stand with coach Jenny McGowan after being presented their High School Letter and NRA Marksman Qualification Awards at the UTYESS Youth State Championships, June 3, 2019.
Members of the Wasatch Wing & Clay Youth Shooting Team gather with family and friends at the year-end awards ceremony for UTYESS Youth State Championships, June 3, 2019.