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 ready to hit the stands. 

The non-profit USA Clay Target League, which includes both high school and college programs, announced they have a whopping 10,700 athletes set to participate this fall. When compared to 2019's numbers, this is a 25 percent increase. 

“With over 2,500 additional athletes, the fantastic fall participation shows that schools and parents recognize that clay target shooting sports are a safe, low-risk activity,” said John Nelson, President of the USA Clay Target League in a statement to “It also shows the dedication and determination of the thousands of coaches and volunteers that donate their time and experience into setting up and managing their local schools’ teams.”

The numbers are all the more impressive as more than 80 percent of schools chose not to compete in the 2020 Spring season due to COVID-19. 

A well-liked model


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: USA CTL)

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. 

More benefits than gun safety


Drew Tri, a spokesman for the League, told that over 80,000 students have participated in their programs and they expect to have upwards of 40,000 on board for the Spring 2021 season alone 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 drop out rate, and higher college admission test scores. Away from school, the same students are more likely to volunteer to help their community and develop longer more and longer-lasting friendships. 

Graphic: USA Clay Target League


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