Colorado 4-H Shooting Sports Program Article

"A mentor is, by definition, a teacher. The connotation, however; implies much more. A mentor seems to loom larger in our lives ..."

Mentoring, Charter Clubs, and 4-H Shooting Sports ... Here's your chance

Posted on: 3/5/2007 From: Perry Brewer

President's Message - by Winston Roland (President of the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association). Published in the February 2007 "Muzzle Blasts" Magazine.

… Several months ago, I mentioned that the NMLRA needs to start a mentoring program. The idea was to involve our charter clubs with youth groups, such as Boy Scouts, 4-H, Royal Rangers, etc. I was approached by an NMLRA board member, Kenyon Simpson, with his ideas on the program. So we discussed the idea of an article about mentoring. Kenyon understands the need for mentoring kids, because he works with the New York State 4-H Shooting Program, primarily in muzzleloading. The future of shooting sports depends on all of us working/mentoring our youth. Well, Kenyon wrote an article about mentoring youth, so I thought I would put it in the President's column. Here it is:

Mentoring, Charter Clubs, and 4-H Shooting Sports ... Here's your chance

"Mother! He's got that 'Future Farmer Smell,' make him clean up before supper!" Barbara, my older sister, and a much better sister than I ever deserved, come to think of it, both of my sisters are better than I ever deserved, well... Barbara could always be counted on for some gratifying outrage and indignation every time I came home from John's.

I'd sit on top of John's old gray Ford tractor and I was king of the world. I could drive a tractor, John had taught me how to drive it responsibly and safely. No confounded child protection agencies and for sure, no OCEA, "back then." I could drive well enough to be entrusted with honest - to - goodness real farming responsibilities.

Yep, I had graduated from driving the hay wagon to operating the manure spreader. A real farmer, and how I loved it. I was in the fourth grade and living a dream. On top of that, smelling of the barn, I could annoy my sister. Life was good.

Our neighbor had a small dairy farm. I used to haunt his every step. What that man taught me served me well all through my teaching career, helped me land and keep jobs, John taught me so much about what makes a decent human being. So many lessons, taught so many ways - John was a true mentor.

A mentor is, by definition, a teacher. The connotation, however; implies much more. A mentor seems to loom larger in our lives. A mentor teaches lessons about life, often serving as an example. A mentor makes us better for knowing them. I've been blessed with some outstanding mentors in my life. John Sisco, neighbor, farmer, and wonderful friend is an example of the best kind.

Too many youngsters today have been deprived of mentors within their communities. Communities and family life are changing. What we once could do is no longer feasible. Think back to your own childhood. I bet many of you had older folks who kept an eye out for you and taught you a good bit along the way.

Robert Ruark's story "The Old Man and the Boy" illustrates the powerful impact mentors can have on the life of a youngster.

Today's question is: Are YOU cut out to be a mentor? Or even better, is your club cut out to act as a mentoring institution?

Look around at our shoots. I'm well fed, have what used to be a red beard. I don't have quite as much hair as I used to carry. Sound familiar? That description fits a great many NMLRA members. We are getting older. Where are the young shooters?

Our kids and grandkids have moved all over the place. When our kids are not available, I look for "rent-a-kids" someone else' kids. I still get to see the world through young eyes, and enjoy sharing our wonderful heritage with more youngsters.

Here is a golden opportunity for you and your club. Youngsters - lots of 'em. 4-H Shooting Sports is the largest youth shooting sports program in the country. Over three-hundred thousand youngsters are involved in a wide variety of shooting programs spanning forty-six states. Quite likely, there is a program near you.

You and your club have opportunities and options. Some of you might want to become 4-H club leaders, or you might want to be a 4-H Shooting Sports instructor. Perhaps your club has a facility where a 4-H Shooting Sports club could meet or shoot. You might be able to provide both opportunity and a place. As you might expect, muzzleloading is one of the shooting sports disciplines that is offered.

Programs vary from state to state and county to county. There are a number of disciplines that are offered. Archery, hunting, living history, pistol, rifle, and shotgun provide all kinds of options.

One club that quickly comes to my mind is the Old Saratoga Muzzleloading Club in New York's history-rich Saratoga County. Old Saratoga has been wonderfully supportive of the local Saratoga County 4-H Shooting Sports program. The club has hosted a number of classes and range activities over the years. The 4-H youngsters have enjoyed participating in the local shoots, with more than a few of them traveling and even medalling at Friendship. The relationship has been a positive one for all parties.

Think of it: youngsters at your club. Families that just might be interested in your activities; some of them might even want to join. All of this and - a chance to do good in your community.

4-H is a Youth Development Program. The shooting sports program is merely a vehicle for program delivery. In a nutshell, the idea is to encourage responsible behavior and develop good citizens. The program works.

Hear that noise? That noise is opportunity knocking. This is an opportunity for you and involved clubs to put something back into the community. This is an opportunity for some of you to repay the time your mentor invested in you.

You can become the positive role model in a young life. You and your club can make a difference.

Charter Clubs, accept and promote this challenge. NMLRA Family memberships are one of the best bargains in our organization. Think of it, If every Charter Club could come up with five new family memberships. WOW!

Interested? Look up 4-H Shooting Sports at the National website at: www.4-hshootingsports.org. That'll get you started. Contact your state 4-H Shooting Sports Coordinator or your local County Extension office.

There is a lot more to 4-H than cows and cooking, or pigs and pickling. The 4-H Shooting Sports program is one of the fastest growing 4-H projects in the country. The NMLRA can be a viable partner. You can help. You make a difference. We can make a difference.

If you want to discuss this opportunity, I'm not hard to track down. Look for me at Friendship, I'll be wearing some sort of 4-H shirt, hat, or pin. We'll talk and make things happen.

Your old mentor will be proud of you …

Our membership is aging; we need to pass on our heritage to our youth. As always, promote your sport. Invite a friend, relative, co-worker, or a kid to the range.

(Web Master's note: Kenyon Simpson, as indicated in the article, is a long time 4-H Shooting Sports Leader in New York State. He is also a Extension Educator and a member of the National 4-H Shooting Sports Training Team. It was my extreme pleasure to have met Kenyon twice in 2006. Once when I took the National 4-H Muzzleloader Discipline Training in Kansas in May and once again in September when Kenyon was in Salida to help evaluate proposed training changes to the National 4-H Shooting Sports Curriculum. He is indeed a kind and gentle person with a quick and catching smile and a wealth of knowledge to share … I would be proud to have him as a mentor!)