We can only imagine how many women are missing out on the sport of shotgun shooting because their husband, boyfriend, uncle etc. introduced them to the sport.
Don’t get me wrong—there are plenty of men out there who are perfectly capable of explaining shotgun fundamentals to the women in their lives. But there are an equal (or maybe larger) number who are simply unable to explain the process. There are even a few who will give a woman a shotgun with a gorilla length-of-pull and a heavy cartridge, pay no attention to proper stance, and laugh when she gets kicked off balance and frightened. That’ll keep the little lady from wanting to participate in a “man’s” sport, right?
Unfortunately, they are correct.
Female students and young people are much more responsive, accepting, and willing to try new things when a woman is the instructor. Females are seen as safe, gentle and nurturing. A male instructor, no matter how talented, can appear intimidating to women and children.
I started shooting because I was afraid of guns. That’s the first thing I tell someone who is a little nervous at first. I always get the “you’ve got to be kidding” look. No, you don’t have to start young. No, you don’t have to grow up with guns. Yes, it’s okay to be a little nervous/excited your first time holding a shotgun. It’s the fear of the unknown.
Without going into the how-to of teaching women to shoot—as coaches, I’m sure we all have our own special techniques—let me just say that a woman teaching a woman or young person is much more empathetic to the needs, emotions, and fears of her student. We instinctively know when to be calm and slow, when to show enthusiasm (blowing away that clay target), and when to push to get to the next level. At the risk of sounding sexist, we have that nurturing spirit that works wonders with men, women and children alike.
And that is why we need to bring more women into coaching, particularly in shotgun sports. In doing events with mixed disciplines (rifle, pistol, shotgun, and perhaps even archery) such as NRA’s Women on Target, I find that female students invariably look forward to archery the most, and shotgun the least, most likely because of the kick. And at the end of the training, their fears are gone and many find they liked shotgun best! It’s the “instant gratification” of breaking that clay, instantly knowing when they’ve done it right. The feeling of empowerment. I love the look on their faces when they connect with the target!
However, when it comes to coaching, many women resist the idea of becoming coaches when first approached. They may feel they know nothing about it. One way to be more encouraging is to not use the word coach at all—use the word teach. “Would you be interested in teaching women/kids to shoot shotgun?” It sounds a little easier, doesn’t it? After all, teaching is something moms have been doing all along. And it will get them involved with ladies and/or children of like interests. It may even create new friendships.
One thing to remember: When you have been instructing a woman to shoot, she already knows more than the beginning shooters she will be teaching because of your instruction! All she has to do is share the knowledge she already has and she will learn as she goes along. But, an experienced coach should be readily available to her at the start, as she will certainly be asked questions that she is unable to answer right away. Eventually, she will soon become an honest-to-goodness coach!
So—why do we need more women coaches? Because there are women and kids out there who would be thrilled to ride out to the range and break clays! All they need is a little encouragement. Carol Gephart Smeltzer is a retired competitive shooter with proven success in both American and Olympic trap. She set a ladies’ national handicap record in her second year of shooting and placed on ATA All American Teams in her third, fourth, and fifth years of American Trap. She placed first in the ladies at U.S. Team tryouts and served for two years on the U.S. Shooting Team. Carol currently coaches at Oceana Trap and Skeet Club in Virginia Beach, VA.