Aiming High

Back when Doug Pfaff was an undergraduate at Washington College, a small liberal arts school on the eastern shore of Maryland, the university’s trap and skeet club was little more than a social group for a handful of students who liked to shoot.

Fast forward 10 years and it’s grown into much more than that, with 15 members who compete nationally and 20–30 general members learning and enjoying the sport.

“I feel our program has become very successful, if nothing else, just in it’s growth,” said Pfaff, who today coaches the club with Aaron Amick, associate professor of Chemistry and chairman of the department.

Pfaff was a computer science and mathematics student who graduated from Washington College in 2010 and now teaches math at an area school. In his first year out of college, the trap and skeet club, which operates under the Student Government Association (SGA), asked him to return as an advisor. Advising turned into helping club members shoot, which turned into coaching and running a full-fledged program, Pfaff said. He and Amick, who started shooting rifles when he was 12 and won state and national contests, have ambitions to eventually grow the club into a varsity sport, and maybe even a more robust shooting program.

As it sits now, any student can start shooting with the club competitively. The competition group has included everyone from first timers to recreational shooters to experienced competitors. Because the group operates under the SGA and education is a focus, the opportunity is wide open.

“As far as what the ability level is, we really don’t restrict,” Pfaff said. “We try and develop everybody from where they are currently at to as far as we can push them and as high as we can push them.”

The lack of restrictions doesn’t mean the team isn’t competitive, though. It has produced several individual top-10 performances and regularly finishes in the middle of the pack against stout competition in the region.

And the general membership aspect of the team is important as a way to cultivate and grow interest in the sport, Pfaff said. At general membership shoots, all equipment is provided and the competition team helps run the events. The team has seven Fabarm Axis Sporting shotguns that were provided by Caesar Guerini/Fabarm for use by all club and competition members. The club can choose from a dozen ranges within an hour from the school.

Amick, who came onboard when the club began to grow more competitive, said his strength with the group is on teaching the mental aspects of target shooting.

“That mental aspect is 90 percent of the battle across any of the shooting sports so you need to learn how to deal with the pressure and channel that,” he said.

He and Pfaff agree that if they can continue to grow the program and get it recognized as a varsity sport, moving under the blanket of the athletics department would allow for more purchasing power, easier setup and organization, and better recruiting. The club’s grassroots efforts have brought in students from Alaska, California, New York and elsewhere beyond Maryland. Amick says the school’s history (it was established back in 1782 and received funding from the George Washington) and small class sizes are a draw, but he wants students who are there for the right reasons educationally.

“I want every shooter that I can get,” he said. “But not at the expense of what they want. We want to give them the best environment   to shoot.”