SIYSSA youth trapshooting tourney promises good competition

Jay NehrkornI recently got the opportunity to say hello to a handful of young men from Hamilton County Fox Fire, a scholastic trapshooting team based out of McLeansboro, at their weekly practice session at Rend Lake Shooting Complex. Trace Smith, Levi Steele, Remington Carrell, Tyler Morrison and Garrett Craddock still had their shotguns in their hands after a photo session, and they portrayed the sense of comfortable familiarity and confidence with the firearms that only comes with time and experience.
 
“So how are you guys shooting lately?” I asked. “Everybody in the 20s?”
 
The five seem to be men of few words, with succinct answers to most questions, but that one elicits a guffaw from the group. I’m teasing, of course, because I know that missed targets are rare in this crowd. As their coach had just explained before calling them over, this was one of the highest-scoring squads at the AIM Grand Championships this summer.
 
On this particular night, they were at the range preparing to compete in the first official shoot of the Southern Illinois Youth Sport Shooting Association’s 2013-2014 season. SIYSSA, which went from a grassroots group to an official non-profit organization in early 2012, holds six shoots each year, and the one they are hosting at Rend Lake on September 21 -22 will be their first invitational tournament.
 
The organization currently has 10 teams encompassing 187 shooters, and their hope is that the invitational will jump-start their effort to convince more junior high and high school teams in the southern half of the state to affiliate with them next August. In the mean time, non-SIYSSA teams are welcome to test the waters at the invitational tournament or even at other SIYSSA shoots slated for either Rend Lake or Sparta in October, November, March, April and May.
 
“Other teams can shoot with SIYSSA any time, but they have to pay a daily shoot fee and they can’t do that perpetually. They can shoot with us that way for up to one year to see if they want to join,” said SIYSSA president and Fox Fire head coach Todd Tracy. “If we could get more metro-east teams, we would love to consider Gateway as an option for one or more of our monthly shoots.”
 
Whether non-SIYSSA teams show up for the invitational tournament or not, don’t get the idea that Smith, Steele, Carrell, Morrison and Craddock will grab top varsity honors uncontested. They’ll have to shoot well to earn it, because the two teams that finished right behind them in the high-score list at the AIM Grand are also SIYSSA members. SIYSSA shoots are for fun but they’re also competitive, and that helps prepare these teams for the big ATA and SCTP events in the summer.
 
Fox Fire’s Steele admits that the pressure at the AIM Grand was the most difficult thing he’s had to deal with as a shooter, and agreed that the experience of SIYSSA competitions helped prepare him. Trico Trap Team head coach Steve Reiman feels that this is also true of his FFA shooters, who have stacked up an impressive array of trophies and accolades at the state and national level in SCTP and ATA events.
 
 “Being able to compete with SIYSSA gives them a handle on what’s going on and by the time we shoot at the state and national level the next summer, these kids are ready to go,” Reiman said. “It gives them a lot of exposure and confidence.”

SIYSSA competitions divide shooters by age and skill level among five different divisions, so everyone competes at their own level and a lot of trophies are awarded up and down the brackets at each shoot. As one of the grandfathers at the practice that night pointed out, nobody sits on the bench.
 
As I left the practice session, I paused to watch a group of pre-adolescent boys and girls receive gentle instruction from their shooting coach. They missed far more targets than they hit, but I bet that won’t last for long.
 
Check out the Sept. 20 issue of Illinois Outdoor News and visit SIYSSA’s new website at http://siyssa.webs.com for more about this organization.

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