LEE — Lee Sportsmen's Association youth air pistol team, Air2Spare, which was created just five months ago, won four medals in the Junior Progressive Division at the Baystate Games on July 10 in Woburn.
Five teams of three competed in this year's tournament. Air2Spare was represented on three different teams. The group of Riley Laurent, Cooper Maloney and Lena Dupont, all members of Air2Spare, won the silver medal in the tournament. Since the team brought five athletes, Caroline Maloney joined another team that won the bronze medal. Conn LePrevost, the fifth member of the team, missed placing in the top-three by just four points.
The group of five, all ages 9-14, were taught by Air2Spare founders and coaches Cliff and Vicki White.
They are both competitive shooters themselves and also coach a competitive shotgun team that is in their fourth year. Both Vicki and Cliff are both certified shotgun and pistol coaches and members of the Progressive-Position Pistol (PPP) program. PPP's goal is to introduce young pistol shooters to competitive pistol target shooting with a natural progression.
According to the coaches, athletes are taught leadership, goal setting and team building. Unlike most other sports, every athlete competes, no one is left on the sidelines when it comes to the sport.
"We take them [to tournaments] right away," Vicki said. "We only see them once a week and the first thing we teach them is safety. Once we see that they are safe and they want to learn some skills, we take them to a competition."
Vicki and Cliff didn't expect much from the team at the Baystate Games. They had brought two of the team members to competitions before, but for three members this was their first time competitively shooting.
"Complete noobies," Cliff said.
As soon as the coaches see that a shooter is able to follow the safety protocol and listen to instructions, Vicki and Cliff take the athletes to competitions, no matter their skill level. The coaches take their athletes to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Woburn to compete in Preliminary Olympic tryouts. Since RPI is usually out of session during the summer, the team focuses on practicing between September and May.
"What's cool is that Williamstown is getting their own team," Vicki said. "[In Lee] we take kids [from] all over the county. We wrote a grant to help Williamstown create their team as more athletes get into the sport."
There is no minimum age limit when it comes to PPP. How early someone can start shooting comes down to their ability to hold and shoot an air pistol safely, as determined by an experienced coach. The goal of the program is to train junior athletes to progress through the steps of supported shooting positions to the Olympic one-handed unsupported shot.
The first-ever air pistol championship in Massachusetts will start on November 5, as the Western Mass teams will play in Lee under Vicki and Cliff while the eastern teams start in Woburn. If you or your athlete is interested in learning more about air pistol shooting, check out www.leesportsmen.com for more information.
Contact Jacob Mendel at 413-496-6250.