Updates and Releases

Group Evaluating Clay Targets Program

In light of the national conversation in the United States about guns, a new working group has begun to evaluate ACUI’s clay targets program. The Board of Trustees has asked the group to examine how to best facilitate the continued success of the student program. Specifically, the Working Group has been charged with:

  • Assessing how the program advances campus community and recommending changes that may be applicable.

  • Reviewing processes and criteria to consider in accepting scholarships and support from corporations and in developing program partnerships.

  • Considering efforts needed to provide intentional student development initiatives and leadership experiences for participating students.

  • Identifying and making available information that would be most useful for ACUI members to have about the program.

  • Recommending changes, if needed, that should be put in place to ensure the continued success of the program.

Following an open call for volunteer applications and subsequent selection process, nine professionals knowledgeable about the program were named to the working group. By the end of July, they had met four times, identified stakeholder groups, and created a framework for accomplishing tasks associated with each of the five primary tasks. Some of the stakeholders whose input will be sought as part of the group’s process include clay target student athletes and their parents, team coaches, college union and student activities professionals who may or may not be familiar with the program, range operators and their safety managers, event sponsors and industry partners, and organizations representing constituencies affected by gun violence.

“We know that by participating in the ACUI clay targets program students gain leadership and life skills; develop team-building, conflict resolution, and problem-solving tools; and then eventually go on to become responsible, contributing members of the broader community,” said Jeff Pelletier, the working group’s chairperson and ACUI’s immediate past president. “Our hope is that through this rigorous evaluation of policies, practices, and opportunities, we can be sure that athletes in this program continue to thrive, participate in, and contribute to the broader successes associated with a positive student life.”

Every week tens of thousands of college, secondary, and primary school students participate in organized clay target programs, and statistics available for high school clay targets show it remains one of the safest high school activities. The National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance Study for 2008-2014 found an injury rate of zero per 1,000 exposures for clay targets, with boys’ football the highest at 3.69 injuries per 1,000 exposures, followed by boys wrestling at 2.24 injuries. The same study estimated over 3 million injuries per year in boys’ football, followed by girls’ soccer with over 1.1 million injuries. Clay targets had zero injuries per year.

ACUI has historically offered sports not previously administered by the NCAA. In 50 years of competitive shotgun sports history, the program has grown from 200 to more than 800 student athletes competing in the national championships. In the past decade, participation at the championships has tripled. Growth has been attributed to increases in sponsorship, youth growth in the sport, and the creation of a series of conference championships. In 2017-18, 1,332 students participated in 11 events held around the United States. The program, funded by registrations (about 80%) and sponsors (about 20%), will also distribute more than $35,000 in scholarships to athletes this year, up 40% from the $25,000 distributed in 2016.

The working group does not represent the first time ACUI’s Board of Trustees has appraised and scrutinized a gun-related topic. In 2016, ACUI’s Board of Trustees created the Campus Shooting Dialogue Planning Team to examine action-based efforts union and activities professionals could take in the wake of an increase in violence on college campuses. Two members of the planning team, Sarah Comstock and Lincoln Walburn, are now on the Clay Targets Working Group, and earlier this year the planning team transitioned into the Emergency Preparedness Community of Practice.

“Both the planning team that was created in 2016 and this new working group aimed at ensuring the continued success of ACUI’s clay targets program should be seen as action-based efforts to facilitate and encourage constructive approaches to a topic at the forefront of a national conversation about guns,” said John Taylor, ACUI CEO. “It’s an extremely complex topic about which a discussion must be had, and I commend the Board of Trustees for having the foresight and the new working group for making the commitment to see that the clay targets program receives the analysis, support, and consideration it deserves.”

The working group will provide an update to the ACUI Board of Trustees in September and a full report is expected to be completed in December. For more information about the working group, please contact acuiclays@acui.org.

Clay Targets Working Group Members
  • Missy Burgess, Associate Director for Student Development, University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh

  • Sarah Comstock, Associate Dean of Students, University of Puget Sound

  • Brent Delong, Director, Boise State Student Union, Boise State University

  • Shawn C. Dulohery, Director and Head Coach, Lindenwood Shotgun Sports, Lindenwood University

  • Dylan Imperatrice, Coach, Shooting Team, California State University–Fresno

  • Jeff Pelletier, Director of Ohio Union Operations and Events, The Ohio State University

  • Michelle Smith, Director of Corporate Partnerships, ACUI

  • Robb Thibault, Director of Student Life and Leadership, Hunt College Union, SUNY–Oneonta

  • Lincoln Walburn, Associate Director, Armstrong Student Center, Miami University
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