By Nick Simonson
With the funding and conservation club support in place to start a Clay Target League (See Part 1 of this Series) team for youth in your area, the next task in our series can often seem to be the most challenging. Whether it’s concerns with public presentation, or not being able to answer the questions that may be asked, addressing the powers that be in the school system required to start a CTL team – be it a Superintendent, Activities Director, or a School Board – comes with its own set of challenges. Overcoming these hurdles, however, can also provide greater opportunities to increase awareness of the program, recruit more supporters, participants and even coaches and build a lasting bond with the host school and those in charge, and according to North Dakota State High School Clay Target League (ND CTL) officials, is often completed in a friendly forum.
Just like having funding in line assures the sponsoring school that costs to the system will be minimal and the CTL team will be self-sustaining, having the answers ready for not only questions about money, but safety, gun-free zone issues, and timing of the program’s shooting hours, is key in moving forward. The ND CTL website has a number of great preparation materials that set out the questions many school boards ask when approached about sponsoring a shooting sports team.
“The first thing interested coaches should do is make connections with the ND CTL and visit our frequently-asked questions page, which answers many questions the school’s athletic director or principal might have,” related ND CTL State Director Joe Courneya, advising that in the last 15 years of the program throughout Minnesota and other states, the leagues have compiled responses to many of the most common issues schools consider.
With the materials on the site, coaches can prepare responses and link to many of the stories and developments in the league to help put education professionals’ minds at ease when presenting the case for a CTL team.
A Positive Environment
“We like to have coaches be prepared for a less-than welcome reception,” said Courneya, “but about 90 percent of the schools we’ve approached in North Dakota have welcomed CTL without issue,” he concluded, adding that no school has said ‘no’ to the program outright in the last four years, but a few have requested a waiting period to observe the development of the state league.
Courneya advises that would-be coaches do their homework, and find out the proper route to school sponsorship, by working through the Activities Director or Principal to find a path to a school board, and assessing each member’s stance on CTL or similar programs to get an idea as to what to expect during the presentation. If there is a person that serves as the gatekeeper, it’s important to find that out and address concerns at that point to avoid any hold-ups.
Additional tips for presenting the program are: the use or assembly of a brief ten- to 15-minute presentation via PowerPoint or physical handouts which provide the history of CTL, touting its flawless safety record, and the plan for the team and its ties to the school, such as what the lettering, yearbook, logo usage and other tie-ins are being requested. The presenting coach should review, tailor and compare the proposed CTL program in the presentation to similar varsity sports programs and activities at the school, which according to Courneya, creates normalization of the idea.
“We see the students as athletes, just like football, basketball or volleyball players, and we look at it as a sport,” he declared firmly, “[the ND CTL is] working to get the same state-wide recognition from the North Dakota High School Activities Association,” he concluded, suggesting that under the umbrella of the NDHSAA, the program would be picked up faster by most schools in the state.
Courneya sees less resistance from schools in smaller communities, where a larger firearm-owning and hunting population lives, works and volunteers their time, including firearms safety instructors and members of local conservation clubs. The biggest challenge that founding coaches in these smaller communities face is not so much support, but locating a nearby shooting sports facility capable of handling the demand. In the larger communities, like Fargo and Grand Forks, Courneya has found fast buy-in to the establishment of CTL teams and that has in turn helped influence these smaller communities.
Coaches should address the size of their communities and the status of nearby trap shooting facilities when planning to start a CTL team and identify those resources in terms of both people and places, when preparing a presentation to a school’s decision-makers. By putting this final element in place, and practicing the pitch, coaches can address all concerns that school leaders may have. Combining the fact that funding is in place, knowing the answers to questions on gun free zones, safety issues, insurance and other concerns which have been addressed hundreds of times and become part of the Frequently Asked Questions in the CTL archives and having the presentation drafted in a direct and targeted manner to the audience will help overcome the hurdles of approaching a school for its sponsorship, and generate bigger buy-in of the new program.
After that, the real fun begins in attracting participants, recruiting coaches, and setting up a team, which will be covered in our third installment of this series.
Nick Simonson is a freelance outdoors journalist, a founding coach of the Marshall (MN) High School Clay Target League Team and a current coach for the Bismarck, Legacy and Century High School Clay Target League Teams in Bismarck, ND.
(Featured Photo: Teams take aim in a fall CTL competition. Getting school support and sponsorship of a CTL team strengthens the community tie-ins of the program. Knowing the answers before the questions are asked, and having the funding in place are two key elements when presenting the idea to school administrators. Simonson Photo)