By Rick Ramano

Wauwatosa east and west four years ago joined high schools from across the state in competitive shooting. Much like the formation of any high school athletic endeavor, the team now wants to grow so that it can be more successful in competition.

A relative newcomer compared to other school teams in the Southeast Wisconsin Youth Trap shooting Conference of the Scholastic Clay Target Program, Tosa’s team also is smaller in number thereby limiting the choice of the most accomplished shooters selected to compete. However, the more immediate goal according to the head coach and parent assistants and the players themselves is to learn personal responsibility within a team.

Coaching the Sport

“It’s like any other sport, but it has its own characteristics,” said Coach Matt Stockinger. “Of course we stress safety first. But we also teach teamwork along with the details of being accurate.”

clay pigeons loaded for range

The coaches teach those qualities almost every Sunday afternoon, from February to June at the Waukesha Gun Club.
The group meets in virtually any kind of weather so it was a welcome relief for participants who gathered in late April at the tail end of a spring snow.

Three groups of five shooters each took turns aiming and firing their shotguns at small cylindrical sporting clays as they are mechanically shot from a low bunker about 16 yards in front of them. By the time the clays are at shooting range, they are about 150 feet away. The object is to hit as many of 25 clays thrown for each shooter.

“The thing about this sport is that anyone can participate because you don’t have to be a certain size or be fast,” Stockinger said. “And we have females as well as males on the team.”

Student & Parent Views

Bill Guinen is one of the parent coaches and stayed involved after two sons competed so that he can help the team while daughter Sarah competes.

“This teaches a life-long skill,” Bill said.

Sarah said she only got some questions from friends about her being involved in the team when she first stated.
“They just said it sounded weird,” Sarah said. “They didn’t understand it.”

Laura Lynn said her son Mike participated after first being unsure and then becoming interested in the sport shortly before he started high school.

shotguns on tosa range“He is very into it now and even has a job here at the gun club,” Laura said. “It gets him away from the Xbox and outside in the fresh air.”

Jeffrey Chin is a team captain who is following in the footsteps of family including his dad, Stephen, a Milwaukee police sergeant and Navy Reserve petty officer who also helps out at practices and meets.

“I like being here,” Jeffrey said, noting that his family has some private land on which they duck hunt as well. “It’s all good.”

Paul Baumler, a life-long sport shooter and hunter, the parent of twin sons and team members Jonathon and Michael, explained his view of what makes shooting an attractive sport and activity. “It doesn’t make any difference whether you are athletic in the sense of playing other sports like football or baseball” Baumler said. “You can be in a wheelchair and be on the team. The most important thing you bring is between your ears.”

An avid hunter all his life, Baumler said the only issue for students starting the sport is overcoming the fear of being among their peers and coaches while still learning.

“We work with them on safety and to make sure they know the best way to get the maximum number of hits,” he said. “They may start out and maybe break three of 25 clays and you can see the smile on their face when they know they can do this. They come back and get more comfortable.”

Recruitment is Key

Coach Matt Stockinger said he hopes to attract more students to the team. He participates in the annual recruitment process each fall alongside other sports.

“We hope the word is spreading through those who are on the team now and who have friends and younger family members who may be interested,” Stockinger said. “We will be recruiting 8th graders next year.”

Tosa East and West have a way to go to reach the level for participation of other Wisconsin schools Tom Wondrash president of the nation’s Scholastic Clay Target Program is based in Burlington. He said schools in outlying areas from Southeastern Wisconsin regularly have dozens more team members than Tosa’s average of 15.

Nationally, he said, there are 4,000 SCTP athletes and Wisconsin and Iowa are the two most active states. “We are a youth development program,” Wondrash said Some of these athletes go on to college and some also go to the Olympics. This is a life-long sport and one that continues to grow.”

Safety First

Certification among coaches and students is the hallmark of maintaining a safe trap shooting program.

“All my coaches have Level I certification,” said Head Coach Matt Stockinger. “That’s the appropriate training for youth-level involvement.”

The STCP descries Level 1 training to include a wide variety of topics including safety and risk management, competition events, rule book use and shooting etiquette as well as ethics.

While STPC does not require student competitors to complete a training course Stockinger said he has followed what other head coaches do by requiring them to complete the DNR’s hunter safety course.

“Even though it’s a hunting course it helps gives them understand firearm safety and exposes them to various types of firearms,” Stockinger said. We strictly use 12 gauge shotguns in our program and in competition.”