Parents, a demographic of which I am now proudly a part, all want to provide opportunities for our children to grow and flourish into well-rounded human beings. Extracurricular activities are not only fun, but are tools that round off sharp edges and help polish us into individuals that work in teams with developed, essential interpersonal skills that translate into successful work habits. Thankfully, there is no shortage of extracurricular activities both in and out of school. Soccer, basketball, and even chess are all fantastic. I would like to introduce something you may not have considered along with 10 reasons why, in addition to being fun, you may want to involve your child in shooting sports.
1. Builds hand-eye coordination.
Coordination between our hands and eyes is a must if you want to be successful in shooting sports. Through proper technique, kids learn how stance, grip, and sight alignment allow them to launch a very tiny object so that it lands in a very tiny place, sometimes very far away. It provides a sense of mastery and control over your body when everything is aligned and you nail a bullseye from a distance.
2. Instills confidence.
Good coaching and instruction in any sport can instill confidence, but with a little coaching in marksmanship, a child can achieve small moments of success right away. Many new shooters, adults included, can be taught to shoot consistent groupings either on or near the intended target after only one session. Follow up teachings build confidence through repetition and muscle memory, a marked increase in speed, and accuracy.
3. It teaches safety and respect for firearms.
Shooting sports through school or at your local range introduce your child to firearms in a safe, controlled manner. At the beginning and constantly through training, the fundamentals of safe handling are drilled and incorporated into each aspect of handling. Click here for a sampling of the rules most facilities use to govern safe firearm handling.
4. It is an individual sport.
Shooting is much like track in this regard. Though your results are compared overall to determine placing, the true competition is oneself. Successes with timing and accuracy are found if a personal result is beaten, even if it does not result in a higher placing during that specific event. Most importantly, it teaches that through discipline and consistency, anything can be achieved. Kids will learn that persistence and drilling fundamentals lead to success in all areas of life, on and off the range.
5. Scholarship opportunities.
At the time of this piece (Aug '16), there are 23 Division I schools, 4 Division schools, and 6 Division III schools participating in NCAA shooting sports. If your child is a female, there are almost more women's teams than men's teams. Shooting sports offer a chance of athletic success even if you haven't been blessed with traditional athleticism helpful on a field or on a court.
6. Mixed crowds.
Rather than always spending time with the same age and gender, a bullseye knows no difference. Participation in events allow youngsters to compete with those outside their peer group, hearkening back to the days of community involving all ages and walks of life. It is not uncommon to find co-ed teams even at the collegiate level.
7. It is both a mental and physical sport.
Shooting is as much a mental sport as it is physical. As mentioned previously, hand-eye coordination is necessary but their command comes from the brain. For those interested in increasing the physical demands, 3-gun competitions have shooters thinking quickly, sprinting between areas of the stage, and executing rapid movements with fine motor skills. Amongst the physical demands, a breach in focus and concentration will keep a trained marksman from performing well.
8. Teaches focus and concentration.
As soon as the sights are aligned, a brief but very important moment of focus and concentration falls before pressure is applied to the trigger. A calm, intentionally placed breath allows for the body to enter a state of stability. The heart rate momentarily decreases and the finger bends at just the right spot over the trigger as even pressure is applied. It's almost meditative. Without that moment of focus, it is virtually impossible to hit a small target at a distance. This is a wonderful practical application of the "pause". A "pause" teaches kids that intentional movements made in a tranquil state lead to the defined result. This is helpful in any type of decision-making and problem solving, whether interpersonally or in their careers.
9. It's a versatile sport.
Shooting sports can take place indoors, outdoors, in one position, in many positions, require sprinting, keep you stationary, etc. You get the picture. And participation in one style opens doors to other styles of shooting. Whether your child has the personality of an indoor cat or enjoys experiencing the elements, there is a style of shooting sport to match.
10. Your child can participate in shooting sports for all his or her life.
This is one of the coolest aspects of the sport. It is an activity that can be enjoyed from youth through senior years, alone or with friends and family. As time exercises its power over us in the form of painful knees, decreased energy, and weathered skin, shooting sports can accommodate.
As a new mother, I am looking forward to sharing the sport of shooting with my daughter. I have many wonderful memories of shooting with my father and grandfather and look forward to participating as a family. Introducing your child to shooting sports is a gift to not only help your child grow as a person, but you will be diving into an activity that can be shared for the remainder of your lives.