By Nick Simonson
The USA High School Clay Target League (USA Clay Target), parent organization of the North Dakota State High School Clay Target League and affiliated leagues in 24 states, is looking to expand internationally in the coming seasons, and it’s not just to nearby Canadian provinces either.
“We may become international in scope before all of the states are included,” said USA Clay Target President Jim Sable in an interview with Dakota Edge Outdoors, “we have two provinces in Canada that have expressed an interest in joining the league, and Norway has called and said they are interested,” Sable concluded.
The league began in 2001 with Sable starting a youth program out of his local Plymouth, MN Gun Club which would serve as the framework for the Minnesota State High School Clay Target League, which officially formed in 2008 with three teams of 30 students. From that point, thanks to social media and word of mouth, the state league grew exponentially across the land of 10,000 lakes. From 3 teams of 30 participants in 2008, to 6 teams of 60 in 2009 to 3,637 on 114 teams in 2013, the league spread rapidly and made the jump to other states in the 2014 season. Numbers for 2016 across 12 states totaled more than 15,000 shooters on 445 teams, and with a presence now in 24 states, the league continues to grow at a rapid pace, and it’s not the crowd you would expect at a gun range, as Sable relates that approximately 70 percent of participants have never picked up a gun before joining a team.
“I really give the kids credit for [the growth], because the kids got on social media and were saying, ‘you won’t believe the neat thing I’m doing,’” Sable said of how the league began to expand in the mid-2000s and continues today, thanks to the digital word-of-mouth on sites like Facebook and Twitter.
The league is virtual, with participants logging their rounds over the eight-week spring season at a local gun club, which are then entered by their coaches into an online system and participants are ranked and scored against competitors from other similarly-sized teams from schools from around the state. This eliminates the need for travel, except for the open-style State Championship events and keeps costs low for participants, schools and clubs, and makes the possibility of international competition all the more feasible. But the desire to expand beyond in-state competition is becoming too tough for Sable and USA Clay Target to ignore, as demand for a national tournament in the United States has put that event on the horizon for the league as well.
“We’ve had so many kids say, ‘we’ve won everything in Kentucky, I wonder how we stack up against other states,’ so we’re working on that,” Sable remarked, “we’re trying to put a national tournament together for 2018.”
More information on that potential event will be released in the fall of 2017, along with possible locations capable of supporting what will certainly be one of the largest and most competitive youth shooting sports competitions in the nation.
The North Dakota State High School Clay Target League Tournament is set for Sat., June 17 at the Shooting Park in Horace, ND where over 400 students and 20 teams will compete to be the best in the state league, now in its third year. The Minnesota State High School Clay Target League Championship runs June 12 – June 20 at the Alexandria Shooting Park in Alexandria, Minn.
Hear more from Jim Sable on the evolution of USA Clay Target and the growing excitement for the annual seasons and events on the June 14 edition of the Dakota Edge Outdoors Show.
(Featured Image Courtesy USA Clay Target)