Rachel Gutting | Editor
A proposal to start a school-sanctioned trap team was heard at the West Lyon School Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 12. West Lyon industrial arts teacher, Austin Kay, proposed the idea to the board after numerous students showed support for a team.
The sport would take place in the spring from March until June. Both males and females in grades 9 through 12 would be able to participate. Kay aims to make it a sport that is flexible enough so students won’t have to choose between other school sports and trap team. Practice would be twice weekly with meets generally occurring on Saturdays.
Trap shooting teams consist of five competitors. Competitors take turns shooting to break clay targets thrown into the air by a machine. They are scored both individually and as a team by the number of targets they break.
The trap team would be part of the Iowa High School Clay Target Program. The program, organized by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, attempts to get younger generations involved in hunting and competitive shooting. According to Kay, the DNR has recently seen a decrease in the number of hunting licenses it issues and, in an effort to reverse this and encourage future generations’ involvement in hunting and shooting sports, it funds and organizes the program.
Kay cited several benefits of the program. For one, he said there are many students who have shown interest that aren’t actively involved in other school activities. Having the team would be an opportunity to get more students involved, to help them develop a sense of school spirit, and give them an incentive to keep their grades up.
“It’d be just like any other sport. If you have alcohol problems or grade problems, you are not going to be able to participate,” Kay said. “That gives them some incentive to keep out of trouble and their grades up.”
Additionally, he explained, the program, like other sports, would help encourage teamwork and enhance mental focus. It would also teach self-discipline and gun safety.
Board member, Kyle Knobloch, said, “I also understand the importance of being able to disassemble and clean everything out. I spent four years in the military and if you know your firearm, the safety aspect is second hand, it’s just like taking a breath.”
Despite the benefits, there were questions and concerns voiced by various members of the board regarding the logistics and storage of the guns and ammunition, as well as funding and financial support from the school.
Superintendent Jim Hargens cited potential legalities. “It may be permissible according to our insurance company, but they’ve got to write the insurance for it, and obviously adjust things from there monetarily,” he said. “Our insurance carrier and our attorney will have to both be worked with before we would be able to commit to anything.”
Others mentioned possible safety issues. Principal Doug Jiskoot said, “I do think it would be a good program for many of the points that he outlined; we do have some students that are on the fringe that I could see this really pulling in and giving them a renewed interest and connection to the school. However, I do have an overriding concern about having guns on school property, it just really makes me uncomfortable.”
Board member Scott Lee also inquired about special trigger locks and various safety precautions that may be taken.
“Naturally, when people hear about a sport that involves firearms, they automatically think of the worst … as long as you’re following those safety guidelines there’s really no way to injure yourself, it’s a fairly safe sport.” Kay emphasized, “The first weeks of practice are spent completely on safety.”
In addition to the school board’s approval, there are other requirements that must be met to be an officially recognized trap team. They must also have a certified, unpaid coach, which Kay said he would be able to serve as.
“I already took the class to become certified; it was offered through the DNR. It taught me a lot about working with the students, working with the firearms and also on shooting technique. But the most important thing I felt like it trained me on was the safety part of it. It was a very educational class.”
Also, there will need to be at least five competitors that, in addition to the coach, must be members of the Scholastic Clay Target Program. The SCTP is a nationwide program that serves as the governing body and assists the DNR with the trap team project. There is a membership fee of $15 that covers insurance for the competitors, coach and school.
“To me that is the most beneficial part of having that governing body, to help with the insurance part of it,” Kay said.
Lastly, they will need a practice space. According to Kay, the Alvord Gun Club has given him preliminary approval to use the facility as their home range.
Yet, in addition to the practice space, Kay indicated the trap team will need donations and sponsorship in various forms to help get it up and running. He encourages anyone interested in contributing to do so.
The board decided that before any verdict is made, the school must get the approval from its attorney and insurance company. The board is also waiting to have questions answered about possible grants, funding, as well as the logistics, storage and practice space.