Here’s my column in today’s Greenville News!  My kids and the Daisy BB gun competition team.

Have a great day!


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The very one I had as a boy!

The very one I had as a boy!

When I was a boy, my constant companion, from about age 8 on, was a lever-action, Daisy BB-gun.  It still resides with my parents.  When I received it as a birthday gift, a love-affair was born.  I’ve owned and shot many types of firearms down the years, but like a first girlfriend, there will always be a special place in my heart for that Daisy.

So I was thrilled when I learned about the Oconee County 4H BB-gun team.  I met our coach, Mr. Hubert Cox, and he met my kids.  And the rest is history.  Each of the past two years, two of my children have competed on the team.  Competition consists of firing single-shot BB guns indoors, at tiny targets 5 meters away (which defy adult eyes).  They kids shoot in four positions:  prone, sitting, kneeling and standing.  Along the way, they learn the fundamentals of gun safety; competition even involves a written test!  Ultimately, they become excellent shots.

In 2008, Sam and Seth competed; our team finished second in the SC State competition, behind the Pendleton team.  We had the option to go to the national meet, but didn’t.  This year, Sam and Elysa competed.  Our Oconee Sharpshooters team racked up many individual medals, and finished second, once more behind the always excellent Anderson Aces, of Pendleton. So last month, our team (and those infernal Anderson Aces) went off to the International BB Gun Championship Match, at Western Kentucky University, sponsored by my beloved Daisy Corporation.

Let me say, if you were ever under the delusion that shooting isn’t a ‘real sport,’ I can remove that notion.  The kids we saw there (ages 8-14) were from all over the nation.  And they were real competitors.  The match was born in 1965, so many of the teams represented were very experienced.  There were over 40 firing positions up and down a vast gymnasium.  In this sport, the parents help act as coaches, so the adults were probably as excited as the kids were calm.

See, that’s the thing about this sport.  It’s kind of the opposite of others. Mr. Cox once told us, ‘I want your kids as close to asleep as possible when they shoot.’  The trick is to bring the kids to the firing line relaxed, so that the muzzle of their gun is as still as can be.  Adrenaline is the enemy; and so is caffeine.

Sitting there, loading and cocking the gun, helping my children sight-in on the practice targets, I was thrilled at what I saw.  Up and down the hall, coaches, parents and families were sitting calmly, helping their kids, talking to them in quiet voices, patting them, encouraging them.  No angry parents screamed at the judges.  (Many of the judges and range-officers were former soldiers and Marines, so who was going to do that anyway?)

And as I sat on the ground, by the shooting mat, I was reminded of a great bit of wisdom I learned through this wonderful sport.  See, when we started, I always looked at the target while my child pulled the trigger.  My binoculars up, I watched for the tiny hole to appear in the center of the black ring.

But one day I realized, ‘I should be watching my son, watching my daughter.  The BB will hit the mark if I guide my child.’  So I began to watch their breathing, their position, the way they positioned their feet or pressed their cheek against the stock.  The way they stayed on the sight until the shot was finished.  I learned to ‘ignore’ the target.  Wonder of wonders, bulls-eyes appeared!  Attention to the child, sitting down on the hard ground with him, touching her on the head, talking calmly and with gentle, careful words; that got the job done.

I owe a debt of thanks to the Daisy Corporation.  The competition they sponsored was world-class, family-friendly and just loads of fun.  Daisy has always done right by me and now by my kids.

But I owe a greater a debt to Mr. Cox for his time and effort. He helped me to see my role as a parent in a new way.  We’re all coaches for our kids.  And the best way we can coach them is right there, on the mat.  If we do it, in life or in shooting, they’ll hit the bulls-eye.  We just need to remember to worry about the kid more than the target; in every aspect of their lives.

Daisy IBBGCM winners...look for Leaps on the podium next year!

Daisy IBBGCM winners...look for Leaps on the podium next year!

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