SOUTH DAKOTA HAS LONG BEEN SYNONYMOUS WITH HUNTING. As the unofficial sport of the state, it seemed only fitting to offer students at Mitchell Technical College in Mitchell, South Dakota, an opportunity to expand upon that popular pastime while participating in a collegiate activity.
Enter the Mitchell Tech Trap Shooting Club. What began eight years ago as a
simple student activity under the school’s Student Representative Board has
transformed into a bona fide organized club sport, taking part as a member of the USA Clay Target League for the first time last fall. “We have a lot of avid hunters here in our state, a lot of students who are looking for an activity to participate in,” explained Scott Fossum, Mitchell Tech coach, Dean of Student Success and Title IX Assistant at the 52-year-old tech school
located one hour west of Sioux Falls. “When we started it here eight years ago, we essentially just set up one night per week for trap and hunting kids to come out and shoot. It worked well, and the students loved to participate.
“When we had the opportunity to have it as an official intercollegiate sport
(under the USA Clay Target League) we jumped at the opportunity. Our students and the campus really seem to have taken a hold of it.”
In its original days, the team of 10–15 would meet once per week at the
Mitchell Gun Club, located roughly 10 minutes off campus. With a heavy presence of trap shooting in surrounding high schools, word of the club began to spread. Friends brought friends, and students found a way to get involved in a different type of school activity—even if not everyone participating was a full-time participant or had done much trap shooting. Recognizing the interest growing, Fossum stepped in as coach three years ago. Growing up a hunter himself, he, like many of the student athletes on his team, wasn’t as familiar with trap shooting. “We have such a mix of students with varying degrees of interest, really,” said Fossum, a former football coach who notes he is learning to temper expectations on the shooting range differently than what he was familiar with on the gridiron.
“We’ve got some students who show up and they’ve got their vest and everything else like they used to when they did trap shooting in high school. Then you have students who come out as a way to get ready for hunting season, or a few kids who maybe hunted a little bit and just wanted to check it out. It’s a wide range.” Fossum said the club prides itself on the flexibility it affords students. The team, which last season consisted of up to 40 different student athletes, meets one night per week throughout the course of the six-week fall season. Students at the accredited tech school are often working hard toward an associate’s degree in one of 38 different specialized areas including nursing, agriculture, related sciences, or construction trades.
“There’s no pressure at all,” Fossum says. “Our focus is really on giving our kids and student athletes an opportunity to have some fun. It’s a way our students can come and hang out and make some new friends. If they have work or something else going on, the commitment is flexible to their schedule. We just are really happy to have the kids we do want to take part.” And as the team prepares for its second year competing in the USA Clay Target League, Fossum said he hopes to grow—namely becoming more “organized” in filing appropriate paperwork for competitions—and continue to provide a space for fostering friendships new and old. “I think my favorite part about being with this team is just watching them have fun with their friends in a new way,” says Fossum. “We have a pizza party and awards night at the end of the season, and it’s just great to see how much fun they all have together. That’s what school and school activities are about for our students.”