The sport of silhouette is going to be exactly what we make it. Let’s work together to make it great!
“Who’s gonna carry the boats?” — David Goggins
Former Navy SEAL and general bad-to-the-bone tough guy David Goggins developed this mantra during Navy BUD/S training (SEALS basic training). As part of that training, candidates are assigned to crews and carry inflatable boats that weigh more than 200 pounds through deep sand; and they do this for hours on end until candidates collapse from sheer exhaustion. As teammates would drop off, the boat became heavier, and the remaining candidates would feel frustrated, depressed, and mentally fatigued. They all wanted to quit. Goggins would yell out, “Who’s gonna carry the boats?” to spur the remaining team forward and encourage those who dropped out to get back into the fight.
Right now I’m asking you the same question. Who’s going to carry the boats to grow our sport and take it to the next level? Who’s going to do the work to start new programs and keep programs going and run all the matches and recruit new shooters and do the grinding that makes the silhouette world go round?
You? If not you, who?
The best value I can give with this newsletter is answering your questions. I need to know what YOU want to talk about (so send me questions!!!) I don’t have all the answers, but I will think through the issues and ask others and at least give opinions that we can think through together. This post was supposed to be answers to a list of questions, but one question I received was so important that it deserved its own post (even though I’m not going to be able to answer the question in one post). Here is the question:
I run the monthly smallbore match at our local club. COVID really affected attendance by our regular shooters and many of them have not yet returned now that travel and event restrictions are over. On the flip side, we’ve had an increased number of new shooters come to try it out. In a future article it would helpful if you could share your insights about how to increase the success rate of converting new shooters to regular shooters.
This is a great question for all of us to be thinking about; and while we’re at it lets look at the bigger question: How do we move this sport forward, increase participation, and have not only the greatest shooting sport in the world, but the most popular shooting sport in the world?
Obviously this is a huge question and obviously I don’t have all the answers; but I do have a few answers and even more opinions and ideas – more than I have room for in this one post. So, this will be Part 1 in a topic we will come back to again and again. This post will focus on the first step in sustaining and growing the sport: Having someone to carry the boats!
Match directors and match staff are the lifeblood of our sport. Without match directors running championship matches and club matches, and people supporting those match directors, we have no matches. Without matches, we have no sport.
So where do these awesome match directors and support staff come from? Where do we find this vital lifeblood of the sport? Simple, we find it at your house! That’s right, YOU are the key. YOU are vital to the game. YOU have the responsibility to help carry the boats!
Here are a few guidelines that I believe are helpful to being a valuable member of a crew carrying one of these silhouette boats:
- TAKE CARE OF YOUR BOAT
There are shooters around North America and the world doing amazing things for the sport. They are taking on huge projects that are changing the landscape of the game and doing things that have never been done before. They are building the sport that we will see in the years and decades to come. This is important work, but there is equally important work being done by regular shooters in their own states, towns and clubs.
The most important thing that you can do to help grow the sport is do your part to make your state/city/club the best it can be for shooting silhouette. Great places to shoot silhouette all have one thing in common: they have great matches!
So ask yourself, how can I personally make my club/city/state an awesome place to shoot silhouette? Is it by starting a silhouette program at your club? Is it by helping the local club match director set up/take down/score/call the local club match? Is it by starting a state or regional championship in your state? Figure out what needs to be done in your area and DO IT! If you need help, FIND HELP and DO IT!
We only need one or two club matches per month in an area to have a excellent silhouette program. If you don’t have a good club match in your area, start one! If you do have a club match in your area, figure out how you can help to make it better!
Think about this: if ONE person in each state would take the initiative and find a little help and run a state or regional championship in her state, we would have FIFTY championship matches across the country each year. Louisiana is a small state and we have five championship silhouette matches every year. If every state did that we’d have 250 annual silhouette championships to add to the the nationals. Now I understand that having 250 championship matches would be too many but you get the point; to make a huge difference we only need shooters to take a look at what’s going on, or what’s not going on, in their local area and do SOMETHING to make it better.
How can YOU make silhouette better in your club, city or state?
- USE YOUR UNIQUE STRENGTHS TO HELP CARRY YOUR BOAT
What are you good at? What are your skills? Some people are very organized and excel at herding cats around and make great match directors. Some people are great at building things and can make target stands and rifle racks and all the things that a club needs to run a match. Some folks are great cooks and can provide delicious food at a match. There are scorers and line officers and people to call the match and on and on. Each of us has SOMETHING we are good at that we can contribute to help run a great club match or a great championship match. If you cant think of anything you’re great at, just start doing something and get great at it. Ask a bunch of questions to match directors then become a match director and stay with it until you are great at it.
The point is that there is a spot under the boat where you fit in best. If you don’t know where that spot is, pick an empty spot and work at it until you are great at carrying the boat in that spot. Stick with it while you and your crew gets better and better at carrying that boat!
- WORK WITH YOUR CREW, NOT AGAINST IT, TO CARRY THE BOAT
Silhouette competitors, just like members of a SEAL boat crew, often have strong personalities, are opinionated, and have unique ideas. It can sometimes be a challenge to work together. This has got to be overcome. Just as members of a boat crew pulling against each other aren’t moving the boat toward the finish line; shooters refusing to work together are not moving toward the goal of making a great place to shoot silhouette. Listen to each other; be open to new ideas; and understand that your ideas aren’t the only good ones!
We MUST be open to new ideas and COPY ideas that work. For instance, the best thing I saw in 2022 is an idea that I’d like to see at every match in 2023. At Club de Tiro Saltillo Safari in Mexico, the “Safari Kids” are a group of young kids that all shot the championship course from the bench and have their scores put on the scoreboard with everyone else. Every one of them gets an award and gets to go to the podium during the award ceremony. It is awesome and a great way to get kids out, with their parents, to shoot before they’re big enough to hold a rifle standing.
Wayne Byers, a very experienced silhouette competitor from New Mexico (he gave me permission to mention his name) emailed me about a club match he attends that gets great participation partly because they put out half-scale targets and let shooters shoot any non-magnum rimfire at them. Shooters can shoot the regular 1/5 scale match; they can shoot a traditional lever action match at the 1/2 scale targets; or they can shoot any rifle at the 1/2 scale targets to make them easier to hit. This is a great idea that we should be copying at club matches all over. Anything to get new shooters hitting targets and having fun!
Also, we cant be afraid to let shooters try new ideas they come up with at club matches. We have a benchrest silhouette match shot at very small targets that are shot right next to standing shooters at club matches. Even at championship matches, if at least three shooters want to start a class using different equipment (shooting sticks, for example) or different positions (prone, etc) we are willing to pull them out of the general scoring and let them shoot what they want. It’s an easy way to allow shooters to have more fun, keep coming back, and bring new shooters that get into the regular game and become great club members.
Ideas are important! Be open to them!
- KEEP CARRYING THE BOAT
If one person quits carrying the boat, it becomes much harder for the members of the crew that are left. Starting and running a match can be discouraging when participation is low or shooters act like they don’t care about the match. Don’t give up! Sticking with it and continuing your enthusiasm for the sport will usually lead to better participation and helpful regular competitors. (We will talk more about getting new competitors in a later post).
Also, when you have developed a skill (like being a match director, for instance) keep doing it! The more you do it, the easier it gets, and you can always delegate parts that you don’t like (match directors NEED to delegate anyway, might as well get rid of the things you hate). These skills take time and effort to develop and are very valuable. Keep doing what you’re good at! Keep being a valuable member of the crew! Don’t quit!!!
- DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN
There is nothing fun about carrying a boat for SEAL candidates (I don’t think there is – what am I talking about, I’ve never carried one of these boats!) so I cant compare this to carrying a boat. But, shooting silhouette and running silhouette programs/matches are fun. Don’t let it become a job you don’t look forward to. There is no need to put undue stress on yourself. Silhouette shooters are a forgiving group; we just want to shoot. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Relax and have fun and those at your match will have fun.
Carrying a boat includes lots of stumbling, struggling, starting and stopping; it’s not about being perfect, being fast, or being better than anyone else. The important thing is that the boat gets carried, however it has to be done. The important thing for silhouette is that the sport gets carried, however it has to be done. Jump up and carry the boats!
To the shooter that sent me the excellent question that this started with, I know I didn’t fully answer you. I promise I’ll be coming back to this topic. In the meantime, I’d love to hear opinions from readers in the comments below. How do we make visitors and new shooters permanent shooters? How do we attract visitors and new shooters? What else do we need to be doing to make our sport better? This newsletter is for you, join in!
In other silhouette news, the Arizona Smallbore Silhouette State Championship was this past weekend at Ben Avery in Phoenix. John Mullins was the Standard Rifle champion and Jake Stine was the Hunter Rifle champion. Congratulations to both of those phenomenal shooters.
Jerry and I attempted to go to Phoenix for this match last year but our flights were delayed and canceled due to weather and we couldn’t make it. I can’t wait to get to go out to the desert and try this match. There is a $1,500 award for shooting a perfect 40/40! Definitely one to put on the calendar.
The 47th annual Louisiana Highpower Silhouette State Championship is coming up on October 15–16 in Zwolle, Louisiana. This is a GREAT match shot at the Fenway Park of silhouette ranges. The range is completely unchanged from what it was at the first match 47 years ago. (So I hear; I wasn’t there. If you were at that first match, please send me an email. I’d love to hear about it.) It is OLD SCHOOL! Without a doubt one of the most enjoyable matches of the year. If you are interested in shooting in Zwolle and need more information on the match, send me an email.
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