Despite having to shut down its California teams due to a controversial new law, the nation’s largest youth clay target shooting sports program said this week that its upcoming fall season has a record number of student-athletes.

The non-profit USA Clay Target League announced they have a whopping 13,214 athletes set to participate this fall in 761 high school, college, and homeschool teams nationwide. Its previous record, set in 2020, was 10,700 athletes. 

"The League continues to break records each year,” said John Nelson, USACTL's president. "The high demand for outdoor activities that are an alternative to traditional sports proves that young people want to get outside and enjoy safe and fun activities with their peers. Thanks to the efforts of volunteer coaches and parents, these teams are possible" visited with Nelson and the League last year at the Minnesota Trap Shooting Championship – which for the record is the world’s largest clay target shooting sport event – with over 6,500 student-athletes in 300 high school teams taking the field over the course of nine full days of competition.

Related:  We Visited the World's Largest, Safest Shooting Sports Event

The six-week season began on Sunday with a practice week to get them warmed up while weekly competition begins on Sept. 25. The top-scoring teams and athletes will be recognized at the end of the season in October.

With just under 45,000 participating athletes in 2022, the USACTL is America's largest clay target shooting organization.

Its California State High School Clay Target League affiliate had to disband in July because of a new law that fundamentally removed how youth can interact in firearms activities. Sadly, due to the move forced by lawmakers in Sacramento, student-athletes in California will no longer be eligible to receive college and university recruiting information through the League or be eligible for League scholarships. 


Clays shooting event
Teams average 27 members while creating a "virtual" competition among teams. Travel is at a minimum because practice and competition are conducted at a shooting range near the school’s location. Conferences are determined by team size rather than geographic location for fair competition. (Photo: Chris Eger/


USA Clay Target League is both co-ed and adaptive-- fully Title IX compliant-- with male and female athletes as students with physical disabilities on the same team. “We take pride in that athletes of all types are able to participate,” Nelson said. “Clay target shooting sports are a safe and fun activity that anyone can enjoy.”

Further, it is among the safest sports that secondary and collegiate students can participate in and all team members have to complete a firearms safety course before being cleared to participate. Of note, the League has not documented a single injury since it was established in 2001. 



Drew Tri, a spokesman for the League, told that over 80,000 students have participated in their programs and a drive for 100,000 participants by 2025. 

"Every team in the League is school-approved," said Tri. "This has been one of the keys to the League's success and has allowed thousands of students an opportunity to participate in school activities where they might not have. In fact, 37 percent of League athletes don't participate in any other school activity, so the League is reaching an under-served group of students. 

"Because those students are now a part of something, their grades are going up and they are less likely to get into trouble. We hear stories all the time from parents - participating in the League changed their kids' lives," he said. 

The National Federation of State High School Associations says students who participate in school-sponsored activities have many benefits over those who don't. This includes higher test scores, a lower dropout rate, and higher college admission test scores. Away from school, the same students are more likely to volunteer to help their community and develop more and longer-lasting friendships. 


Graphic: USA Clay Target League

Banner image: Student athletes at the 2021 Minnesota Trap Shooting Championship. (Photo: Chris Eger/

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