The Florida Times-Union Outdoors: JU, UNF teams taking their best shot
By Jim Sutton
The shooting sports are among the fastest-growing in the country, especially in college ranks.
Last year, 43 teams competed in the collegiate national championships. This year, David Dobson said, two more teams will be making the trip to San Antonio, Jacksonville University and the University of North Florida.
Dobson was the impetus of the fledgling shooting sports program at JU. He pitched the idea of a college shooting curriculum and a shooting club last year to Priscilla Berry, professor at JU's Davis College of Business. She and other university officials were game, and Dobson began attracting participants and writing a college course.
At the same time, UNF was beginning a clays shooting team of its own. There it was a student, Thomas Coates, who was the founder of the club and now serves as its president.
Dobson is a professional clays instructor, holding Level III certifications from both the National Skeet Shooting Association and the National Clays Shooting Association. He's one of the few instructors nationally to hold both certifications. He's also a serious competitor with a long list of wins and titles.
Coates was a shooter and knew Dobson, his teaching skills — and his plans for JU. It was a natural fit for the two teams to end up combining their practices under Dobson's tutelage. They meet a couple times a week at the Jacksonville Skeet & Trap Club, which waives memberships for the teams and is their home base. Amelia Shotgun Sports and WW Sporting Clays also host the teams for sporting clays and five-stand practices.
"They all bend over backwards for the kids," Dobson said.
The program differs at the two schools. JU offers a credited course, "Introduction to the Theory of Wingshooting."
Course material includes most of the rudiments of shot-gunning. Lessons include the history of clays sports, gun safety and shooting safety, equipment, shotgun types, definitions of bore/gauge, shot shells and ballistics, barrel choking, eye dominance, concepts of shotgun fit and instruction on the disciplines of sporting clays, skeet and trap.
At UNF, there is no curriculum or class credit. The shooting team is a school club. And that's true of JU's team.
Shooting is not a funded official sport like tennis or basketball at either school. But Dobson said that is ultimately where he wants to take the JU team. UNF could evolve in that direction as well but currently has no plans.
Dobson has stalked grant money and garnered $5,000 grants for both teams this year from the National Shooting Sports Foundation. The money helps defray costs, including clays, power and shot, and will help the teams make the trip this year to the nationals.
Learning to shoot
Last week, the teams were shooting. JU was on the skeet field. UNF was down the line shooting trap. They'll learn to shoot both of these disciplines as well as international trap and skeet, basically souped-up versions of the American sport. Five stand/sporting clays are the fifth shooting game they'll play.
Dobson said that most of the club members had never held a shotgun before, "but they're so eager."
At the beginning of the semester, the shooting class at JU maxed out in two days.
It was refreshing watching the young people shoot. While they're being primed for competition later, right now it's about getting used to a shotgun, learning that you shoot where the clay bird is heading, not where it's been, and having fun sorting it all out.
At this stage, shooting is more important than hitting. There's plenty of time down the road for that particular grind.
Dobson's having fun with it, too.
At the level he shoots, his game is less about hitting targets than never missing. So the time he spends coaching young minds and muscle memory is a break from crushing competitive clays.
But he sees a serious side to the entry-level course.
"With the anti-gun culture in the country today and the ignorance that fuels it, it's good to see kids who'd never shoot seeing firsthand the reality vs. the myth," Dobson said.
Dobson said that, in addition to developing shooters, the classes are building citizens.
"The shooting sports started as a gentleman's game. This is not Bubba sports," Dobson said.
It's discipline, confidence, self-esteem and sportsmanship.
In the spring semester, an intermediate class will be taught at JU. Next fall, the advanced class will form — while new students fill the ranks of the more fundamental coursework.
And new classes of shooting sports enthusiasts and ambassadors will multiply.
Congratulations to David Dobson for initiating, Introduction To Wingshooting Theory (PE 199-03) class at Jacksonville University. David is now an Adjunct Professor at the University and our new Faculty Advisor.
A very special thanks to Dr. Priscilla Berry for being our inaugural Faculty Advisor. Through her dedication and selfless, tireless efforts, the JU Shooting Team is where it is today. We cannot begin to thank her enough.