With technology literally hovering over our shoulders, it’s no surprise that the shooting sports might not interest Millennials as much as that cool drone or video game that just came out. We’re young adults trying to find our place in this world, and we’re all about instant gratification. We want things fast, and we want to have fun while doing them. And standing for an hour in the same position, concentrating on your breath in order to get that perfect shot might not sound exciting or fun for that matter. I get it. However, I don’t necessarily agree.
I am a Millennial and the shooting sports have been a big part of my life. From learning how to shoot at the age of 12, to joining a competitive shooting team in college, the shooting sports have helped shape my life academically and professionally. Through my experience, they taught me life lessons that most Millennials don’t have the privilege or desire to experience. And yet, Millennials would benefit from such involvement. I know, because from the first day I walked onto the rifle team in college, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I thought it was going to be more of a hobby or activity just for fun after classes. Little did I know that it would become my passion over the course of those four years.
Competitive shooting is a way of life for a lot of people. It’s more than just aiming at the target and pulling the trigger. Rather, it’s a right—one that encompasses every emotion, goal and desire that we as humans possess. And I slowly learned this as I progressed from a tiny scared freshman to an experienced, and let’s face it, still scared senior. (Because who isn’t scared about graduating college and going into the real world?) But my time on the NCAA Rifle team were some of the best experiences I’ve had, because of the many things I learned.
The shooting sports taught me drive, focus, perseverance, dedication, responsibility, time management, failure, disappointment, pride, overcoming obstacles, being humble, managing stress, staying healthy and being patient. (Yes, I did say patience…for all those Baby Boomers and Generation X’ers who say Millennials don’t have any.) By having the responsibility of taking care of a firearm, showing up to practice on time, keeping track of my progress and having some healthy competition, I was able to learn how to succeed in various ways. I discovered what I had to sacrifice in order to succeed. Which is exactly what life is about. But knowing that ahead of time helped me perform well academically as well as prepare for what lay ahead in the professional world. There will be good days and there will be bad days, but it’s how you handle them that define you.
Now some of you might be thinking, well you can learn all those things by doing other sports or activities. And that may be true, but the shooting sports are different because you have to have a specific mentality knowing that the equipment you use for the sport is not something to be taken lightly. It’s different than holding a basketball in your hands. It’s a firearm that has to be handled safely and should be respected, not only for yourself, but also for those around you. Learning this in itself is a lesson in responsibility and safety that other sports might not teach as well, and which can be carried on through the rest of your life. You respect yourself and others by respecting the firearm that you shoot and take care of.
These lessons learned through the shooting sports don’t come easily or quickly, but rather are gained through the journey. You have to push through blood, sweat and tears. You’ll have to sacrifice (Oh, there’s that word again!) not going out on that Friday night when the rest of your friends are partying and then sleeping in till noon, while you get a little extra trigger time in for that match you have the next day. And for some, that’s not an easy task…especially when you’re 20 years old. But what they don’t realize is that by sacrificing a little now, it puts you much farther ahead of the rest of the crowd on that road to success.
You have to embrace the process in order to see results. It’s all a mental game you have to overcome, and if you try looking for results too early, you’ll most likely not see what you want to see. Just like when you take a shot, you have to follow through. If you don’t follow through and instead immediately look at the screen to see if you got that 10.9*, you’ll be extremely disappointed because you didn’t finish the process.
In the end, we all want to see that 10.9* appear on the screen at a match. And that 10.9* means so much more than a number. Rather, it signifies all the lessons you’ve learned while participating in the shooting sports that later come in handy when you’re shooting for success in another arena. I know it has for me.