Blount County Board of Education OKs pistol teams
By Matthew Stewart | (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Blount County Board of Education has approved a scholastic pistol program.
During Thursday’s meeting, school board members created the program for students. The program, which is sponsored by the Scholastic Shooting Sports Foundation, is available to students between the ages of 12 years old and 18 years old.
It’s the second shooting program that the Blount County Board of Education has approved in the past four years.
In 2009, the board first approved scholastic shooting teams. More than 100 Blount County students are currently competing in the Tennessee Scholastic Clay Target Program (TNSCTP), which is a Tennessee Wildlife Federation program that receives cooperation from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
The program provides children in grades 5 through 12 with the opportunity to compete in shotgun shooting sports with peers from across the state. TNSCTP represents several disciplines including skeet, trap and sporting clays.
Teams are organized according to geographic locations, and officials have established Heritage and William Blount teams. Students who are participating in the off-campus activity practice at Smoky Mountain Sports Club and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office training facility off Honeysuckle Road.
The teams have produced a number of state winners, including a second-place winner two years ago and state champion last year, said William Blount coach Matt Hall. Heritage received second place overall at last year’s state championship. They lost to Jefferson County, which later claimed the national championship.
During Thursday’s meeting, Hall informed board members that eight parents will assist coaches with the pistol program. They have completed the same background checks and same firearms safety and firearms instruction classes as both coaches.
TNSCTP requires each participant to be certified through a hunter education course that teaches and instills proper firearm safety, use and handling, Hall said. Any students who come out for the pistol teams will complete one or two additional classes on operating pistols, in addition to competition rules. They will practice at Smoky Mountain Sports Club and the Blount County Sheriff’s Office training facility.
Gun, ammunition discounts offered
Students will be asked to provide their own pistols, he said. The coach advised that program partners, such as Glock, Smith & Wesson and Tactical Solutions, are offering “deep discounts” for participants. If students are unable to purchase their own firearm, coaches should be able to provide one.
Teams also receive “deep discounts” on ammunition, Hall said. They recently received 280 cases of shotgun ammunition from Rio Ammunition in McEwen.
Director of Schools Rob Britt later recommended approving the scholastic pistol program. Trevis Gardner made the motion, and Rob Webb seconded it.
“I’ve never heard any complaints about these teams,” Gardner said. “I wish we had that same track record with other sports.”
“I’ve liked these programs from the beginning,” said Dr. Don McNelly. “I like to see our students excel and get recognized for their efforts.”
Board members unanimously approved Gardner’s motion.
Coaches plan to have the scholastic pistol program up and running by September, Hall said, after the meeting. The schools will be the 48th and 49th pistol teams, nationwide. Fifteen colleges, including the University of Tennessee at Martin and Bethel University, have created teams, as well.