Young Archers and Shooters Compete In 4-H Shooting Sports State Meets
Program provides positive role models for youth development.
Imagine more than 2,000 kids all equipped with various target equipment: 500-plus compound and recurve bows, 800-plus shotguns, almost 100 rifles and more than 600 carrying an assortment of air rifles, air pistols and BB guns. Imagine all these youth accompanied by adults, friends, family and coaches cheering them as they march to the line for competition against their fellow 4-Hers and more importantly against themselves.
You really don’t have to use your imagination at all, for this is a scene actually viewed in the spring of each year in Georgia and other states across the nation. Every spring youth from across the state come together for the 4-H Shooting Sports Program state meets, many of which take place at the Rock Eagle 4-H Center in Putnam County. Young shooters and archers compete against each other and themselves as a part of 4-H’s Project S.A.F.E. (Shooting Awareness Fun and Education).
From its beginning more than 100 years ago, 4-H has been an organization focused on youth development. Believing the youth of our nation were the future and innovators of modern technology in the agricultural roots of our society, the 4-H founders sought to encourage, support and train tomorrow’s leaders. From the “tomato clubs” and “corn growing clubs” of 1902 to the programs of today, 4-H has grown to be the nation’s largest youth-development organization.
The organization has long been associated with shooting sports as a developmental tool for increasing confidence and leadership within its membership. The ability to master a discipline and experience both success and failure while striving to achieve a goal lies at the core of the 4-H S.A.F.E. Program. Dating back to the 1930s, records of rifle competitions are logged in the archives of the club, and more disciplines have been added as the program has been refined. Today each spring sees the youth of Georgia competing not only in .22 rimfire rifle competitions but also in the disciplines of trap and skeet, modified trap, sporting clays, air rifle, air pistol, BB and archery.
To promote these shooting sports and to assure their use as a developmental tool for 4-H members while preserving the integrity and safety of the sport, the S.A.F.E. program was created in the late 1980s. In a society with firearms, all members regardless of age should be provided adequate training to ensure safe, ethical and responsible use of shooting equipment. Although hunter education provides basic classroom instruction for those interested in hunting, it allows for little hands-on instruction.
The 4-H S.A.F.E. programs fill a valuable gap by providing hands-on instruction for any youth interested in shooting as either a hobby or sport. These programs can also provide a launching pad for youth to pursue college scholarships, Olympic dreams or life-long involvement in the outdoors.
From a sportsmen’s perspective, while S.A.F.E. programs may not make new hunters out of all of the young shooters and archers involved, it certainly teaches them not to fear weapons irrationally, and it puts them in contact with those who do hunt. So, as well as creating or honing the skills of hunters, the program also instills a respect for hunting in those who choose only to target shoot.
Like other 4-H projects, S.A.F.E. focuses on both skills and on the development of knowledge that can be used throughout life. S.A.F.E. programs are often thought of as programs that pick up the learning process for youth where other formal programs leave off.
A gap the S.A.F.E. programs overcome is the ever-widening gap between youth and adults. S.A.F.E. affords parents the opportunity to become directly involved with their children. All across our state, we have parents working side by side with and supporting their children for one to three hours a week through these programs. This provides an excellent opportunity for families to strengthen relationships. S.A.F.E. programs also pair young people with adults to develop self confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, teamwork, self esteem and sportsmanship. By design, S.A.F.E. programs are simply a sneaky way to teach youth development as well as involve adult leadership.
S.A.F.E. programs also attract positive male adult role models that are interested in working with and mentoring young people that may not otherwise feel there is a place for them to volunteer with 4-H. Many adults may not see themselves conducting or attending club meetings but can see the need for teaching youth about firearm safety and sporting activities. Many avid hunters and marksmen take time to teach youth better methods of target accuracy and enjoy competing along with their pupils.
How To Become Involved In A S.A.F.E. Program?
The S.A.F.E. Program offers training seminars for coaches which upon completion award coach certificates recognized on local, state and national levels. The trainings are designed to help coaches establish and conduct 4-H youth development programs related to target sports. Training consists of eight hours of discipline training (archery, pistol, rifle or shotgun) and six hours of youth-development training that includes information on working with youth, chartering your 4-H club and risk management. Trainings are held in the fall and winter each year.
4-H is always seeking certified coaches, but if your desire is to enroll your young person in a S.A.F.E. program then start by contacting your local 4-H office to see which program is offered in your area or simply call 1-800-ASK-UGA1.
2011 State Competitions
The box scores on these pages show the winners of the different shooting-sports state meets that had been completed by presstime. The trap-and-skeet competition had not yet been held.
For a detailed look at each shooting sport available to 4-Hers, go online to <www.http://georgia4h.org/safe/>.
The value of S.A.F.E. programs can never be measured by the numbers that attend any one event or the number of young people and volunteers involved in any given county program. Nor can the success of the program be measured by the number of winners or the individual score at any event. Although these can be amazing accomplishments, the true value of Project S.A.F.E. can only be measured in the relationships that develop between youth, staff, parents and volunteers. It is the opportunity to become a part of a young person’s life, serve as a mentor and be accepted as an extended part of their family.
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