Young Tennessee athletes who excel in shotgun shooting sports like trap and skeet have an exciting new resource to help them pursue their Olympic ambitions.
USA Shooting, the national governing body for the Olympic shooting sports, has designated the Tennessee Wildlife Federation as a USA Shooting certified training center (CTC), one of only 16 in the country.
The CTC program provides Olympic-caliber athletes with trained and certified coaches who are qualified to prepare the shooters for high-level competition in skeet, sporting clays and trap shooting, said Michael Theimer, USA Shooting manager of youth programs and athlete development.
"Our CTCs are a major contributor to the Olympic athlete pipeline," Theimer said. "They mentor not only athletes but coaches who are interested in advancing their own knowledge and skill to help their local club's emerging talent."
Tennessee has long-been considered a hotbed of shooting talent and boasts more than 10 athletes who have medaled at the National Junior Olympics. TWF's Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program is one of the country's largest such organizations and ranks near the top in producing Junior Olympic and Junior National Team members. At TNSCTP's state championships in June, more than 1,400 individual shooters competed, ranging from fifth grade through collegiate athletes. About 100 school-based teams participated.
TWF staff member Chad Whittenburg, who will serve as the program's CTC coach and director, said the certification "ramps up" TNSCTP's ability to serve the state's growing community of potential Olympic shooters.
"I am very excited about the opportunity to serve USA Shooting as the CTC coach in the recruitment of athletes to their Olympic pipeline," said Whittenburg, a former Marine and nine-year TNSCTP director who was named CTC coach based on his extensive résumé and experience in program management and competitive shooting. "TWF becoming a certified training center is huge for our young shooters. Being able to provide athletes proper training and, most importantly, providing the opportunity close to home is crucial in their development as they pursue their Olympic dreams."
Whittenburg explained that certification allows TWF to utilize sites like the Nashville Gun Club and the Holly Fork Shooting Complex in Paris, Tenn., as training centers, whereas previously shooters would have been forced to travel out of state for Olympic-caliber instruction. Whittenburg and his CTC assistant coach, Robert King, have scheduled their first event since TWF's certification—a preliminary tryout match at the Nashville Gun Club—for Sept. 13-15.
"This event is the next stop in a natural evolution on the Olympic path," Whittenburg said. "Athletes currently pursuing that type of goal—maybe some who have shot wobble trap at our Junior Olympics event—should be interested in attending the PTO match."
Registration materials are available online at Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program's website. A limited number of slots are available and are expected to fill quickly, Whittenburg said.
He added that TWF hopes to conduct an Olympic-style training taught by USA Shooting staff sometime this fall or early next year.
"We expect the CTC designation to take Tennessee youth clay target shooting sports to a new level," he said. "Our state has been fortunate over past years to place numerous athletes on podiums and named to the various levels of teams within USA Shooting. We hope to keep this rich shooting heritage alive, and we look forward to continued successes."
Sign up for our email list to get your morning news delivered directly to your inbox. All we need is your email address.