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By Robert Mitchell ED-CEO

Junior Olympics: A Realization of Sport’s Greatness

April is that time of year

when you get a fresh new look at the future; the real- ization that we’re as much about the forthcoming as we are about the present. The arrival of the Na-

tional Junior Olympic Shoot- ing Championships at our headquarters is properly positioned during the on- set of spring for it is fresh, invigorating and welcom- ing. Moreso, during a busy Olympic/Paralympic run-up it provides renewed perspec- tive. Amid a fl urry of activity and stress that comes for the sport’s elite attempting to earn Olympic/Paralympic quotas and individually do- ing all they can to fulfi ll their Olympic and Paralympic dreams, the Junior Olympics bring a realization of this sport’s greatest character- istics: fun, camaraderie, growth and the essence that the score you shoot is but one small element of the overall experience. “I sure spent way too

much time as a junior feel- ing like the fate of the world and my personal worth de- pended on my score,” said National Team athlete Reya Kempley when asked about advice she’d give to a Junior Olympian. “I wish I’d just tried to enjoy it a bit more, or that someone had told me it was ok to do so.” There’s an instant kin- ship that comes for all those

lucky enough to participate. The volunteers, staff, coach- es, families and athletes combine to make NJOSC an experience unlike any other in the sport. Simply put, the heart and soul of USA Shoot- ing exists in our National Junior Olympic program and the depth of its success is predicated on our member clubs, Certifi ed Training Cen- ters (CTCs) and the affi liated programs that allow USA Shooting to fl ourish. More than 2,500 rifl e and

pistol athletes participated in a Junior Olympic qualify- ing event to help determine this year’s national invites, up from 2,300 the year be- fore. We’d be remissed not to thank all those at the local and state levels that make NJOSC what it is, includ- ing the 84 host sites in 48 states. Special recognition must go to Alaska, Colorado, Washington and Pennsylva- nia for hosting the greatest number of participants. Just as important is rec-

ognizing our affi liated orga- nizations that help develop and grow youth shooting in America. The National Rifl e Association (NRA), the

8 USA Shooting News | May 2015

National Shooting Sports Foundation, the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP), Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation (SSSF), 4H, American Legion, and the Boy Scouts all special- ize in getting youth involved in the sport. They comprise the grassroots system that feeds America’s next great shooting heroes. Rising ju- niors like Elizabeth Marsh, Rhiann Travis, Sarah Os- born, Carson Saabye, Lydia Patterson and many others are the result of what hap- pens when desire meets op- portunity. Similarly, the NCAA Rifl e

program and intercolle- giate club programs ensure there’s a continuance and reward for those willing and able to pursue it. With alum- ni like Matt Emmons, Jamie Corkish, Sarah Scherer and almost all rifl e Olympians, it’s easy to understand that there’s not a better farm system in existence and we monitor carefully the changes taking place in big- time college athletics and the effects it may cause those non-revenue generat- ing Olympic sports like ours.

Most all of them were rep- resented in some capacity during our NJOSC and their efforts in helping raise the next great Olympic champi- on is not overlooked. Finally, where would this

sport be if not for the coach- es and parents that make the experience possible for young athletes. Hopefully, having the opportunity to see their child or student fi nd success at the National level makes all the sacrifi ce worthwhile and they take great pride and satisfaction in witnessing the maturation from plinker to competitor. NJOSC are but one terrifi c

opportunity for the youth of this country to come to- gether and compete with like-minded individuals. For some a greater destiny awaits, but for most just the opportunity to take part and participate is the culmina- tion of a dream and a great- er destination than they ever thought possible when they began.

NJOSC are a pleasant re-

minder that the sum is only as good as its parts. Those parts have built a shooting sports legacy from the very beginning, and the continu- ance of that legacy is real- ized each year in the face of every Junior Olympic partici- pant that walks through the halls of USA Shooting.

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