Keith Cannon feels that the future of outdoors lies with young people.
That is why seven years ago, he formed the Lawrence County Young Guns, a state-registered nonprofit youth sporting clays team for ages 11 years old through college. The Young Guns operate under the nationally-based Scholastic Clay Target Program, which provides young people with a positive experience in the shooting sports.
The Young Guns are based at the Lawrence County Sportsmen’s Association, located in Wampum, just outside of New Castle.
“I had been involved in sporting clay competition for a number of years and when I looked around years back, nowhere did I see activity like that for young athletes,” Cannon said. “I just felt there was a need for it.”
Cannon started with five shooters and now gets 30-40 participants per year, both boys and girls, to participate in sporting clays.
Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting, often described as “golf with a shotgun,” because a typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain.
Young Guns participants are located throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio.
“If they want to participate, they’re welcome,” Cannon said.
And if participants never have shot before, that is no problem.
“Most start from scratch,” he said. “Some have a bit of shotgun experience, but I would say 90 percent have never shot sporting clays before.
“Of the three disciplines (trap, skeet and sporting clays), sporting clays is the most difficult in my opinion,” Cannon added. “But it’s a big draw for the kids. We don’t have a big turnover. Once most come on board with us, they are here until they graduate from high school and some even stay through college if they’re still in the area.”
Cannon says he revels in watching the kids begin to experience success and eventually quality for state and national competition, the latter of which is held at the Cardinal Center in Columbus, Ohio. Coaches, all volunteers, are highly trained and experienced in sporting clays.
“You have to put in a lot of time to break a lot of targets and every year, the kids improve more and more,” Cannon said. “We’ve had someone medal at the state level just about every year.
“Most of the coaches I have, have been with me for a number of years. The interesting thing is that none of my coaches has anyone involved in the program. In most sports, parents want to coach their kids and when the kids move on, the parents move on. That isn’t the case here. The coaches just love sharing their expertise with these kids.”