teenagers among 19 of ‘nation’s finest’ that
participated in recent Olympic Camp
Four young shotgunners from Tennessee took a step forward in fulfilling their Olympic dreams this past week at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Considered among the top talents in the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s (NSSF) Scholastic Clay Target Program (SCTP), Courtney Wells, 15, of Dyersburg; Kayla Swatzell, 14, of Murfreesboro; and Lacey Lane, 15, and Carson Rider, 17, both of McKenzie, spent last week fine-tuning their shooting skills with U.S. Olympic shotgun coach Lloyd Woodhouse and his staff at this year’s U.S. Junior Olympic Development Camp. The camp concluded Sept. 24.
They were four of only 19 young shotgunners accepted from SCTP, which includes more than 8,300 young trap, skeet and sporting clays shooters nationwide. Each was selected through an application and interview process by NSSF, which co-sponsored a portion of the costs. USA Shooting was a major partner.
At the camp, the four were trained in bunker, the international style of trapshooting that is shot in the Olympics and at international shotgun matches.
“It’s been amazing being able to work with Olympic coaches,” said Swatzell. “Just being around coaches of that caliber is incredible. I’ve learned so much.”
Daily activities at the Olympic camp start at sunup, with the 19 young shooters assembling for physical training exercises in one of the Olympic facility’s gymnasiums. They then move on to the athletes’ cafeteria for a hearty meal, seated shoulder-to-shoulder with scores of other Olympic hopefuls and a handful of seasoned Olympic veterans from many different sports. The group then heads for the equipment locker room where they pick up their shotguns and begin the 15-minute drive to the U.S. Olympic Shooting Park at Fort Carson.
The young shotgunners spend their entire day at the range firing many hundreds of shells to help perfect their technique under the eye of the U.S. national team’s coaching staff. As the sun goes down, the athletes return to the Olympic training center for a hot shower and a warm meal, followed by classroom work on nutrition, setting goals, maintaining physical training programs and the nuances of mentally preparing for high-level competition. Then it’s off to the visiting athlete dorms for a good night’s sleep.
With more than three decades of top-flight coaching experience, coach Woodhouse knows how to spot emerging talent and bring out the very best in his athletes at the big matches. Six of the last nine U.S. medals in Olympic shooting have come from his shotgun teams.
Woodhouse said he isn’t looking for simply great shooters for the U.S. Olympic team, but is seeking the ones who also have a dream.
“We don’t want people just to make the Olympic team. We want them to have a dream, a dream to medal at the Olympic Games and know along the way what they have to do and how they have to get there in order to achieve those goals,” Woodhouse said.
“This Scholastic Clay Target Program is unbelievable to me,” Woodhouse said. “Some years ago, I started a junior Olympic shotgun team because we didn’t have a resource for young people who wanted to pursue the Olympic dream. And now, my heavens, there are 8,000 people this year in this program. As the national coach, I just can’t think of anything that pleases me more.”
Since its inception six years ago, the popularity of SCTP has skyrocketed. The program has grown to include more than 8,300 youths in 41 states. SCTP has also experienced remarkable growth in female participation. This year, more than 1,000 female youths participated, a 50 percent increase from 2005 and a 178 percent leap from 2004.
NSSF, formed in 1961, is the non-profit trade association for the firearms industry. NSSF directs a variety of outreach programs to promote greater participation and a better understanding of shooting sports, emphasizing safe and responsible ownership of firearms. For more information, visit www.nssf.org.