Trapshooting is increasingly popular across the United States, especially in the Midwest.
So, it only makes sense that Waldorf University in Forest City is finalizing its latest niche approach to recruiting students by adding a new varsity club level trapshooting team beginning in fall 2021.
Waldorf Vice President of Enrollment Mike Heitkamp cites a need for innovation and diversity due to increasing recruiting competition for both high school and transfer students amidst declining student populations at many higher learning institutions.
“Many students want to continue with their interests in lifestyle or hobby sports,” said Heitkamp. “E-sports, which was rolled out last year is another example. Many schools are looking to provide a great experience these types of student athletes and provide resources for their interests in addition to traditional learning.”
Heitkamp noted that he is blessed to have had prior experience organizing E-sports and trapshooting programs at another school. Waldorf is striving to expand its traditional non-athlete student base under the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).
“We’re incorporating this non-athlete base demand that is being seen from families and students and are also looking for additional opportunities,” said Heitkamp. “That’s why varsity level club sports have come into play.”
Trapshooting is a specific form of clay target shooting. It is a game of movement, action and split-second timing. It requires the accuracy and skill to repeatedly aim, fire and break a clay disc (clay bird) that measures 4 1/4 inches and is hurled through the air at more than 40 miles per hour, simulating the flight path of a bird fleeing a hunter.
Teams of five shooters spread apart in a straight line to shoot two rounds of 25 shots at a target that is about 16 yards away, shifting to the right and taking turns in one round. The trap field is the area of a shooting range where trapshooting occurs. The trap house is the structure from which clay targets are launched.
Waldorf has been working with the Ventura Gun Club (VCG) to secure their shooting range as its home site. Heitkamp said the university is in the final stages of cementing the agreement with members of the VGC Board for Waldorf’s home shooting site located on the south side of U.S. Highway 18.
Heitkamp said VGC has also been a valuable resource for many decisions regarding Waldorf’s new trapshooting program.
“I was in Minnesota about seven years ago and taking some back roads when I ran across a farm field full of trucks and people having a shooting competition,” said Heitkamp. “That was my first real experience with this. Trapshooting is the fastest growing lifestyle sport in Minnesota and Iowa. It also draws tremendous interest across Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, and Missouri. It is part of the Midwest hunting and fishing culture.”
There are currently 10 collegiate trapshooting teams in Iowa and 12 colleges participating in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference Clay Target League.
Advance studies and proposals for this new non-NAIA jurisdiction sport were first presented to the university’s internal operations, including the president, and authorized by the Waldorf University Board of Directors in late fall 2020.
The findings are that trapshooting is one of the safest college sports. Heitkamp said it is likely due to the seriousness of trapshooting and the long-term dedication of those that engage in it.
“It is not for people that are just picking up a gun for the first time,” said Heitkamp. “Many of these students will have started handing rifles or shotguns at a very young age. Safety is always first in their minds. Safety is way more important than hitting the clay target. It is very safe and has a very low injury rate that is near zero.”
There is a USA College Clay Target League, including about 31 trapshooting teams from colleges and universities, across the country that has had more than 70,000 participants and 40 million shots fired with no reported injuries.
It is a coed lifestyle sport with many females participating very successfully. Heitkamp describes it as very gender equal, noting that physical attributes, age, and gender not equating to success tends to make trapshooting more popular and all-inclusive.
Currently, Waldorf is searching for the right individual to coach its trapshooting team. The new coaching vacancy was just recently posted and the university is now accepting resumes with plans to compete in the sport in the fall of 2021.
The successful head coach applicant will help Waldorf determine its league association. He or she will also be responsible for growing outreach efforts with local high school and collegiate trapshooting teams to recruit “new students to Waldorf University” and manage a full roster of shooters, according to Heitkamp.
To further raise student interest in the new program, Waldorf has established a $15,000 trapshooting scholarship program for qualified students who wish to compete. Waldorf’s trapshooting club will operate under the Waldorf University athletic department.
Members of the Waldorf University Trapshooting Team may also become members of the Amateur Trapshooting Association’s Academics, Integrity and Marksmanship (AIM) program. This program is designed to instill in young people personal values and character traits that teach fair play, compassionate understanding, individual responsibility, sportsmanship, self-discipline, personal commitment and academic excellence.
The team’s 2021 season should run from September through October. Two seasons are planned for future school years with the spring season expected to run from April through May.
Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.