4H Instructor weekend

As I mentioned before, the Chief Instructor at Airfield Shooting Club asked me to attend the class and get certified as a 4H shotgun instructor so I can help out with the 4H club that shoots at the Airfield range.

I may have mentioned before that the Airfield Shooting Club facilities are actually located on and shared with the Airfield 4H Education and Conference Center.

I was actually a member of 4H for a few years when I was a kid, but after moving away from the rural community I grew up in, I never really gave it much thought until joining the Airfield shooting club and being exposed to 4H again.

4H shooting education is actually a relatively recent addition to 4H activities and is a great addition at that.

Unlike other shooting clubs, organizations or education programs, the 4H program is as much about using shooting as a vehicle for developing youngsters into productive, contributing citizens as it is about the shooting itself, and it is geared specifically toward teaching 9 to 18 year olds from varying backgrounds and upbringings.  For that reason, the instructor training is a bit more intense and encompassing than the NRA instructor courses.  It’s as much about how to relate to and deal with, and develop the kids as it is about teaching shooting skills.

After having gone through the instructor training, I’m very impressed with the 4H’s approach to dealing with and instructing kids.  I wish I’d gotten my kids into it when they were young and I’m going to try to get my grandkids involved when they get old enough in a few years.

As usual, click pix to make bigger.

I don’t have much to compare it to, but the Airfield 4H center seems like a great facility.

They have conference rooms including the one in this building on Yancey point where we had our classes.

The main “Gray” building is a very nice building with several dining areas and conference rooms.

There are stables and an equestrian area, a gym that I never got the opportunity to see the inside of, lodging, a swimming pool, tennis courts, etc etc etc.

Oh…and, of course, the pistol, rifle, archery, skeet and trap ranges.

In summary, an excellent facility with a lot to offer.

We started out with an introduction to the 4H Instructor program and a long “Risk Management” briefing by Jinx (yes, that’s her real name…I asked) Baney, the Virgina 4H Shooting Education Coordinator, then we got right into the individual classes for our disciplines.

We had excellent instructors in RL Harris, who is the coach for the Virginia 4H Shotgun “Development” team from which the competitors that will make up the Virginia team at the National competition will be chosen.

And Jay Phaup, an accomplished shotgunner and instructor in his own right.

They were both extremely knowledgeable and were excellent instructors.  I couldn’t begin to tell you how much help they were in improving my meager skills with a shotgun and in building my confidence.

Friday and Saturday morning were dedicated to classroom work, but on Saturday afternoon, we hit the range.

The focus was, of course, on learning the techniques and principles of teaching kids to shoot, while also helping them develop into productive citizens.

But, in the process, we also got the chance to bust some clays.

They even got me hitting clays pretty regularly by the end of the day and that’s quite an accomplishment, let me tell you.

This one’s my personal favorite.  The first thing I noticed was the hull still in the air after being ejected from the gun.  The second was the clay target.  The shot cloud was just beginning to break the target as the picture was taken.

A bit closer view of the target.

The wadding is still in the frame and you can actually see hints of the shot as it breaks the clay.

I think this is the best picture I’ve ever gotten of a clay being hit.

I like it anyway.

After some more classroom work Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Late Sunday morning was the “Practicum” where we actually taught a basic shotgun class to some students from another discipline.

As a class, we had some rough spots in our practicum and RL and Jay didn’t pull punches with their critique.  I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable teaching a class on my own quite yet, but with some practice and under the capable tutelage of Dale, the Airfield Shooting Club chief instructor, I’m certain I’ll be on the ball pretty quickly.

After passing a written test, commencement was at 1400 Sunday afternoon.

And here stands the latest and possibly greatest group of 4H certified shotgun instructors.

We crammed some 25+ hours of instruction into a 48 hour period from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.

Add in mealtimes and the hour plus commute each way each day (most people stayed in the lodging at the center, but I couldn’t afford it this time) and it made for a very long, but rewarding, weekend.

My thanks to RL and Jay for their expert instruction and for the rest of the guys for a pleasant, enjoyable weekend of learning and shooting…and for being very patient and understanding with me as I wandered around shooting pictures everywhere I went.


3 thoughts on “4H Instructor weekend

  1. I thought about doing the 4-H Shooting Sports training this year or next. The Ohio facility is only about 60 miles from me.

    I am already NRA Certified in Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol and Reloading. Is this much different?

  2. The basic principles are very similar. 4H phrases the safety rules a little differently than the NRA, but they're the same rules, just stated in a different way.

    There was a long, arduous session on the issues specifically with the whole adult/child relationship, liability issues in case of injuries, dealing with short attention spans and keeping undisciplined kids under control, using the "hands on" approach to teaching them shooting techniques without seeming threatening or "too familiar", etc etc etc.

    The NRA doesn't really cover much of that because they are geared more towards adult instruction.

    Another major difference between the teaching styles is the difference in environments.

    With an NRA class, the students show up, you teach them the material, they graduate and you probably never see them again unless they sign up for a different course.

    You have a set amount of time and you have to cram everything they need to know into that set time.

    4H is actually more like the Boy Scouts in that there are groups of kids formed into clubs that you will probably be working with on a continuing basis.

    With that in mind, you don't have to teach them everything they need to know all in one sitting.

    The basic concept is that a 4H instructor should be able to go from a kid that knows nothing about shotgunning to safely breaking their first clay within about 30 minutes.

    With each subsequent meeting, you can cover more and more advanced material, broken up into bite-sized chunks, so that you don't lose their attention; but all they need to know in that first encounter is Safety, the basic operation of the gun they're using that day, and the basic steps of setting up, pointing at, following and shooting the target.

    There's not a lot of explaining "why" or "how" in that first session, just "what".

    Doing it that way keeps them engaged, interested and doesn't overwhelm them with stuff they don't really even care about yet. After they get the basics down and have some understanding of what they're doing, you can start teaching them the more technical concepts that wouldn't mean anything to them if you got into them too quickly.

    In other words, the information that you're teaching is pretty much exactly the same as what they would get from an NRA course, but the style and manner of teaching is completely different.

    The final difference is that, as I said in the post, 4H isn't strictly a shooting education organization. Shooting education is just a vehicle. 4H's focus is in developing young people into responsible, contributing members of society. Shooting is just one tool among many by which that goal can be achieved.

    That isn't to say that the shooting isn't taken seriously…it is. The point is that 4H isn't just teaching kids to shoot, it's teaching kids to be responsible citizens.

    The way one of the instructors last weekend put it was this:

    "The goal isn't necessarily to make these kids into Olympic Class athletes, the goal is to make them into Olympic Class people."

    If they become Olympic Class athletes in the process, that's just icing on the cake.

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