Earlier this year, in conjunction with a Florida Sporting Clays Association (FSCA) Board of Directors discussion about state daily fees and their best usage, a discussion about the need to grow our sport by attracting new clays shooters in Florida focused specifically on targeting youth and women. The questions always on the table in discussions like these are how best to get something started, who would be willing to do some work to get something going, and how exactly to go about it.
Being the only woman on the FSCA board, I agreed to take on the women’s initiative, to define an approach to be brought back to the board for their approval. From my many years of experience shooting and hanging around a lot of gun clubs, I have observed that any woman who was not brought up in this environment, or who doesn’t have a husband or boyfriend now, or a dad, grandpa or uncle who took her out shooting as a kid, has no idea of what to expect, and therefore is a victim of fear of the unknown. The end result is that they will almost never venture out to visit a gun club “cold turkey.” They don’t know where to begin or if they will like it. They don’t have equipment, nor know where to start, and they certainly don’t want to be seen as unable to do whatever is expected of them by the experienced (mostly older men) shooters at the gun club. It can be a very intimidating place to a female neophyte, even though she may really want to try to learn to shoot.
So, my approach was pretty straight-forward: find several other women who were certified, at least as Level 1 instructors, who were willing to volunteer some of their time, introducing other women who had an interest but no prior experience to the shotgun sports we love! Several other important imperatives: have guns short enough and light enough to fit women, use light loads that will not kick them into next week on their first outing, start with the very basics, have it be affordable and make it FUN! Also very important to this formula was selecting the venues – gun clubs in our Southeast Florida area who would agree to dive in and become partners with us in this pilot effort. Channing Boyd at OK Corral Gun Club and Maria and Fred Fanizzi at Quail Creek Plantation were more than willing, and FSCA agreed to underwrite some of the cost to allow us to keep this introductory experience affordable. Our plan was to hold two clinics this spring as proof of concept and, if successful, expand to other member clubs and other areas across Florida next winter and into next year.
After seeking out four other certified ladies who were willing and excited to get involved, we had some start-up work to do before we could begin to advertise our clinics. Lyn Cacella, Robin Mixon, Dee Orr and Connie McIntosh joined yours truly in this initiative.
We defined a two-hour class format to keep it affordable, interesting and lady-shooter-friendly, as an introduction for beginning shotgun shooters. Our theme was to have only qualified lady instructors teaching new lady shooters in a safe, non-threatening and fun environment. We created a logo and chose a name that was catchy, fun and related to Florida: we are the FSCA Honeybelles, and we are trademarking our logo. With the help of a fellow board member who is an attorney, we also created a disclaimer form to provide liability protection for ourselves and FSCA.
For our classroom instruction, we created a class curriculum and developed a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation of basics, providing a hard copy handout for each student.
We approached several area clubs to gain support for our effort, which we documented with a written agreement, clearly stating cost assumptions and responsibilities. The clubs helped us with an attractive target fee, a meeting room, use of several carts and loaner guns for the hands-on hour of the clinic. We handled all pre-registration, collecting entry fees, getting disclaimer forms signed, conducting the classroom session and the hands-on shooting hour. The $25 clinic entry fee included one round of 25 clays and ammo, plus gun rental and cart usage, a goodie bag, and a personalized Certificate of Completion.
Sponsors also signed on to help keep costs down. John Martinelli of Natalie’s Orchid Island Juice was very generous and donated a goodie bag for each lady which was filled with lots of Natalie’s goodies. NSCA provided eye and ear protection, as well as Complimentary Limited Memberships (CLMs) for each graduate for the remainder of 2017. This membership gives these new shooters digital access to Clay Target Nation articles and advertisements for guns and gear they will be interested in checking out for future purchases. And, of course, they will be NSCA members if they decide to try their hand at shooting a few registered targets.
We set up a dedicated email address for the Honeybelles so all interested ladies could easily register for the clinics and we could confirm their attendance online. This also gave us a great contact list so we can maintain contact with our new friends in the future.
To promote the two clinics, we created a flyer and made copies available to the clubs to post and to email to their members to pass the word. We also posted it on the FSCA Facebook page.
Each of the instructors agreed to volunteer her time for these two-hour clinics, with an assist from FSCA to pay each a $15 travel allowance to and from the clubs on clinic days.
And the response? Overwhelming!
The response was so amazing that two clinics had to be scheduled on the second date at Quail Creek so as not to turn anyone away. The final count for the three clinics combined was 52 new lady shooters introduced to safe clays shooting!
Feedback was solicited after each session to identify ways to improve clinic plans as we proceed, and in general, the response was fantastic. They loved the format and the experience and are interested in shooting again. Here are a few comments from our attendees:
“I am definitely more comfortable with my gun after Sunday.”
“Definitely had fun!”
“Thank you so much for the wonderful lesson! I had a great time and will definitely do it again.”
“It was such a memorable day!”
So, where does this all go from here? We feel the most important thing is keeping these new converts shooting in an encouraging environment until they gain enough confidence to come out to the gun clubs on their own. To that end, we are emailing informal shoot dates during the summer when several of us will be at the gun club and available to take a few clinic grads out on the course with us to help them as they develop their skills and confidence.
We have agreed to prepare a kit in the fall to share with other FSCA member clubs in other areas of the state who want to try to implement their own chapters of the Honeybelles.
We will probably schedule one or two more beginner clinics in this area to recruit more new lady shooters, as the word spreads about how much fun these clinics are.
We have had requests to present a slightly more advanced curriculum for ladies who have shot some but not a lot and want to improve their game.
Finally, we hope to schedule a six-week traveling league between three clubs, awarding prizes using a Lewis method so all participants have a crack at winning something. We intend to schedule a banquet or barbeque on the final week to celebrate completion and present awards.
Our thanks to Don Currie, NSCA Chief Instructor, for his encouragement and assistance in getting our plans off the ground, and to OK Corral and Quail Creek clubs for their support and enthusiasm. And, of course, special thanks to Lyn, Robin, Dee and Connie – my fellow Honeybelles – and to the 52 ladies who came out and participated with us in our three clinics. We’re anxious to keep this effort going in the fall!
— Contributed by Louise Terry
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