A new sports club opening up for Ontario high-schoolers is a clay target league, which will be governed by the USA High School Clay Target League, and competition is expected to start soon.
Superintendent Nicole Alibisu during her report in the Feb. 22 meeting of the Ontario School Board of Directors stated that the activity has become “more and more popular” even in urban and suburban areas, with a high school in Portland having one of the better teams.
The interest was spurred by a parent group, she said, “which is super exciting and fun.”
Any of the students participating in the club will have to take a gun safety course, she said.
Board member Renae Corn, who said she is a gun owner, brought up the concern about having guns in schools and asked how the clay target league would fit into a public school setting allowing students to participate in an after-school co-curricular activity.
Guns would be disallowed on school grounds, as was explained by Athletic Director Josh Mink in the February board meeting. He repeated an example that was given to him by a member of the Clay Target League about how a participating student had went to school and forgotten he had a box of shells in the front seat of his car. A school resource officer spotted that during a parking lot sweep. Subsequently the student was not allowed to participate for two to three competitions because of the severity of what he did and the expectations for the organization.
Furthermore, he said in speaking with a state representative from the USA Clay Target League, there is a very strict grade and attendance policy and, as such, schools will have to provide coaches reports on grades.
All of the coaches will be volunteers, Mink said, and they will partner with other schools to help vet those volunteers, which will include such things as background checks and fingerprints.
Corn also questioned equity in the league, asking what would happen if a family had a child who would want to participate but may not have resources.
Mink said that was a great question and that while he hadn’t personally called the Ontario Gun Club yet (where practice and local competitions would be taking place), his understanding from parents interested in starting the club is that the Trap Club there has shotguns and firearms that they would be willing to loan — not rent — to those students who couldn’t afford them.
Corn asked whether in that case the firearm would stay with the owner and only be used at the time of competition or practice session, to which Mink responded they could outline that with the families and add it into the rules or expectations.
Mink expanded on this statement during a phone call March 11, stating that the Ontario Snake River Gun Club, which has a long-rifle range in Vale and a skeet and trap range in Ontario, will be sponsoring a lot of things. Among benefits of the sponsorship” “they do have shotguns available for kids,” he says and those won’t ever have to be removed from the gun ranges. Rather, they will stay with the owner when not being used for practice or competition by student participants.
The gun club will provide ammunition and targets and probably eye and ear protection, too, he said. Additionally, some of the club’s team members that have run teams in the past will fill in as coaches until the school district has trained coaches.
“We want to make sure we start out on the right foot, and have experienced coaches in there,” he said.
This club will be “very parent-led,” he said.
According to information on USA Clay Target League’s website, 2021 will be a modified season due to COVID-19. It also notes that the sport is a low-risk activity for COVID-19, because it takes place outdoors, is a non-contact sport with minimal, if any, shared equipment.
Registration for the season closes on March 29 and registration for the tournament — which may be in-person or virtual to be determined by the pandemic — is slated to open on April 12.
Competitions will all take place on students’ home ranges, and scores will be uploaded into a database weekly which will decide the ranking based on those scores.
Scores are tallied by how many targets they hit per week, which Mink said he believe do be about 50.
Depending on how many students sign up for the club, it could expand. Currently the club will be a spring sport, but officials already are thinking about adding it as a fall sport and having it be a two-season sport if there is enough interest.
Similar programs are underway in Baker, La Grande, Burns and other eastern Oregon schools.
What’s interesting, Mink said is although its a parent-led group, interest is so high. Typically with those types of group, Mink says “you might have one kid and it dies out for a while.” In contrast, s12 to 15 players already have signed up for the Ontario School Districts gun club.
“That’s a really good start,” he said, adding his hope is that the program “will keep growing from there, and eventually be a pretty good competitive team.”
Mink remarked at the standards set forth by the USA Clay Target League.
“The way the president of the Oregon chapter explained it was there a certain level of maturity that needs to be there because of safety,” he said. “That is why they have very, very high standards.”