4-H Shooting Sports, a West Virginia University Extension youth development program, will aim for top honors at the National Shooting Sports Invitational in June. Eight 4-H’ers from Putnam and Wayne counties qualified to represent the West Virginia in air rifle and shotgun categories.
Organizers, like WVU Extension 4-H Specialist Jean Woloshuk, say that while competition and prizes are important to the teens, they are bigger winners with what they gain in terms of a solid foundation for success in all aspects of their lives.
For example, the program emphasizes “safety first” across a broad range of firearms, even archery equipment.
“In learning how to properly handle firearms, youth learn self-confidence,” said Woloshuk. “A firearm can be intimidating — but by giving youth the tools and know how to be safe, they can then take the next step in proving to themselves that it is an activity that they can do.”
According to Woloshuk, youth can overcome self-doubt by learning logistics of properly shooting a firearm: critically assessing a situation, properly planning how to handle it and then the importance of following through on the plan, which Woloshuk says is a formula for effectively tackling many of life’s problems.
“It’s a unique type of youth development program,” said Woloshuk. “Not only do shooting sports teach a diverse set of life skills, but they can expose youth to others with common interests, careers, and other positive organizations that revolve around shooting, which supports a lifelong passion.”
This passion and commitment are evident in 4-H’ers Lainey and Mandi Smith’s lives. The two sisters from Putnam County finished first and second respectively at the state competition in the air rifle event.
Mandi, who also participates in competitive cheerleading, said that people were surprised to hear that she competed in rifle competitions.
“People are surprised that a cheerleader can also be an excellent shot,” said Mandi. “I never thought that I would gain the self-confidence that I did from shooting, all the while having fun along the way.”
On her way to finishing first, Lainey set a new state record for overall score.
“Shooting sports is more than hobby, being successful is a big commitment,” said Lainey. “The sport has taught me the importance of dedication and how to be dependable. If someone trusts me to get something done, I know I have to do everything in my power to do so.”
Lainey and Mandi’s father and coach, Ken Smith, echoed the value of the program for his daughters and the lessons youth take from it.
“By participating in the program, not only do the kids learn about firearm safety, but they also learn responsibility and respect,” said Smith. “The girls have always wanted to shoot even from a young age, and for us, the program helped foster an activity we all enjoy as a family.”
For more than a century, 4-H has focused on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship and natural sciences. Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities also exist in subjects like rocketry, robotics, biofuels, renewable energy and computer science.
To learn more about the 4-H shooting sports program, contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service, or visit anr.ext.wvu.edu.
CONTACT: Cassie Waugh, WVU Extension Service
Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.