I think it is time for North Dakota schools to seriously explore adding a few outdoor-related sports to the list of competitive activities for students.
Minnesota will be hosting a state tournament for trapshooting in Alexandria June 6-10. Our neighboring state has 6,100 student athletes representing 185 high school trapshooting teams. That's a dramatic increase from 2008 when only three high schools and 30 shooters were involved in the program, making trapshooting the fastest-growing high school sport in Minnesota.
When the upcoming state match is held, the Minnesota State High School League will become the first and only state high school interscholastic athletic association in America to provide support and recognition for trapshooting as a high school sport.
High school trapshooting in Minnesota is a co-ed sport and open to those who have passed their Firearms Safety Certification. Emphasis of volunteer coaches is on safety, fun and marksmanship. League shooting begins in April at existing facilities located near schools. Scores are compared without any need to travel until the state finale.
Youth trapshooting has been popular for several years at the Minot Gun Club, but is not a school-sanctioned sport. There may be a possibility for some relatively easy transition to include trapshooting as a competitive sport at the high school level. It's working in Minnesota.
I almost forgot about Nebraska. The 45th annual Cornhusker National School Trap Shoot set a record with 2,253 participants in 2013, all juniors and seniors.
If trapshooting won't do, how about fishing? The High School Fishing World Finals are set for Lake Dardanelle near Russellville, Ark., July 15-19. Fishermen qualify by participating in school-sponsored fishing programs.
The High School Fishing World Finals, says Bass Federation President Robert Cartlidge, "has done more to grow high school fishing nationwide than any other event."
The format has the top two teams from each state advancing to a semifinal round. Those not making the semifinals can fish their way back into the top 20 during a consolation day on the water. Winners receive scholarships and entry into the Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship. There's national television coverage, too -not bad for a high school endeavor.
While bass is the targeted fish for high school competitors at the national level, perhaps walleye or northern pike could be substituted in North Dakota for those wishing to learn more about fishing and complete against other high school fishermen. Of course, there's good bass fishing in this state too, so the options are many.
High school fishing and trapshooting teams require the assistance of volunteers. No doubt there's areas of the state where volunteers would love to help high schoolers in the boat or at the shooting line. True, some schools may struggle a bit to find volunteers, but I think both programs deserve consideration.
North Dakota does have the National Archery in the Schools program under the guidance of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. It has proven very popular at a growing number of schools. It's working great. School teams and individual shooters gather annually for a championship shoot in Bismarck.
Other states have already learned what is needed to run successful trapshooting and fishing programs at the high school level, meaning much can be learned from the trial and error of others.
We are an outdoors state. Generating interest in new outdoors programs won't be a problem. Why not introduce some students to outdoor activities that they may otherwise have no opportunity in which to participate?