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The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s annual youth trap-shooting competitions may be five months away, but it’s time for coaches to get their teams together and register to be a part of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program today.
Jimmy Self, Youth Shooting Sports coordinator for the AGFC, says registration is open until March 1, but the sooner coaches sign up, the better equipped they’ll be to conduct practices and form a true team of shooters by regional tournament time, which begins in April.
“The competition can be challenging, and it takes more than a few times at the range to become proficient with a shotgun,” Self said. “Some teams will have shot for years, but we want as many newcomers to the sport as we can get.”
Nearly 5,400 Arkansas boys and girls signed up to participate in last year’s regional tournaments, making YSS one of the largest clay-target shooting programs in the nation. Program coordinator Jimmy Self says he’s ready to hit another gear and take the program even further in 2024.
“AGFC Director Austin Booth has really made recreational shooting a focus of the AGFC and its new strategic plan,” Self said. “He’s elevated our programs into their own division and is working hard and developing shooting ranges and recreational shooting facilities throughout the state. I’d love to see our existing coaches get out and really try to form some new connections to grow this sport even more in Arkansas.”
Returning coaches are encouraged to register their team at www.agfc.com/yss as soon as possible. New coaches should contact Self at [email protected] or call 501-604-0460 to learn more about the program and how to get started.
“We conduct training sessions each year to welcome our new coaches, and we have a bunch of resources like training manuals to get people started,” Self said. “It helps a little if you’ve shot trap before, but honestly we’ve had first-time coaches who came out and learned from us and took that knowledge to the kids on their team for some great success.”
Youth Shooting Sports has two divisions: junior and senior. The junior division is for grades 5-8 and the senior division is for grades 9-12. Home-schooled students compete in the division they would be in if they were in public school. Home-schooled students 15 or older must compete in the senior division. Coaches must be 21 to apply and must be certified by AGFC to participate in the program. An Arkansas State Police background check will be run on every applicant who is not an active Hunter Education Instructor on file with the AGFC.
Each team must have at least five members, and each participant must take part in at least five team practices of 25 clay targets each to qualify for regional and state competitions held May-June each year.
“Teams who register before Feb. 1 can also receive clay targets, ammunition, protective eyewear and hearing protection,” Self said. “We even have a limited number of loaner shotguns and trap-throwing machines teams can check out to practice and participate in the program with.”