This spring Mandan students will have the opportunity to be a part of the growing sport of youth trapshooting. The Missouri River Clay Target League, a local youth trapshooting group that started in early 2017, added a Mandan team after school board approval last month.
"Not all of our kids are going to play football, basketball or hockey or volleyball," said Mike Bitz, the superintendent of Mandan Public Schools. "This sport is going to appeal to a different segment of our students."
The MRCTL teams, including those from Bismarck, Century and Legacy high schools, hold their practices and matches at the Capital City Gun Club, 4 miles north of Bismarck.
"Tangible confidence, when you can see it and feel it," said coach Nick Simonson as he described watching the self-esteem build in students before and after participating in the sport.
"I've watched people find their niche in this program that basically carries them through their high school career," said Simonson, who is one of 16 volunteer coaches for the league.
Students from grades six through 12 are welcome, but must have a valid firearms safety certificate.
"There's no restrictions on how big you are, how small you are, how athletic you are, you're able to compete and that's one thing that's unique about trap shooting," said coach Eric Thompson.
A portion of participants' league costs will be covered but students will need to provide firearms, protective eye wear and ear protection.
Before the formation of the Mandan team, MHS students Jenna Thompson and Jase Helgeson shot for Legacy High School.
"I'm very excited," Thompson said about getting a chance to represent MHS this spring. "Kids that don't participate in a physical activity can have something to be a part of."
The Clay Target League State Championship will be held in June in Horace, the only travel requirement that takes league participants outside of the Bismarck-Mandan area.
"When you look at research, it talks about the importance of students being involved and feeling like they belong in schools so I'm hoping that it's just a connection that our students can make," Bitz said.