When Coach Mark Passamaneck started the trap shooting team at Faith Christian High School in 2018, he had no way of knowing that his athletes — some of whom had no shooting experience, some of whom …
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Trap shooting is a specific type of clay pigeon shooting, where competitors use shotguns to fire at clay pigeon targets, which are launched away from the shooter.
When Coach Mark Passamaneck started the trap shooting team at Faith Christian High School in 2018, he had no way of knowing that his athletes — some of whom had no shooting experience, some of whom had no sports experience and one of whom had expected the team to be a pottery club because of a flyer typo — would go to the championships just a year later.
But after one season as a school club and another as a letter sport, the team “swept the podium at State for team, varsity and junior varsity” back in June, Passamaneck said.
By July, the team found itself taking 22nd place at the 2019 National Championships after securing one of 80 spots in the final round. The competition was the first national event the team has attended.
The Faith Christian trap team saw 30 students participate in the spring 2019 season, he said.
The team is one of nine Colorado schools in the USA High School Clay Target League, which requires students to earn safety certification before they can participate, according to the league’s website.
As coach, Passamaneck said he oversees this process to ensure the safety of his athletes.
“The safety aspect is stressed significantly more than the competition aspect for new students,” he said. “To date, there’s not a single incident in the whole league. If you look at the shotgun more as a tool, like a golf club, you can get past that initial fear of firearms.”
Faith Christian senior Aviana Large agreed. Large joined the team as a junior and plans to participate again in the spring 2020 season.
“It’s more about learning about gun safety and keeping people safe, which is something everyone should know,” she said. “My favorite part was watching everyone — no matter where they started, they improved.”
Passamaneck agreed, saying that each of last season’s 30 athletes came into their own with the sport, regardless of where they came from.
“We have the widest mix of backgrounds and personalities of any club in the school,” he said. “The valedictorian was on the team, we have varsity athletes. It’s pretty amazing.”
For Passamaneck’s son, senior Blake Passamaneck, that diversity allowed him to compete with students he otherwise wouldn’t have, he said — as well as some he’s competed with before on other sports teams.
Having played baseball for the high school throughout the past three years, Blake said trap adds a new twist into competition.
“Baseball is very competitive, but when I went to State for trap, I felt relaxed,” Blake said. “Just shooting is probably the most fun part about it.”
The sport has gained momentum both within the school and nationwide, Mark said. He suggested the reason could be the “visual feedback and instant gratification” of the sport, and that more students and parents have developed an understanding of the sport’s purpose.
“There comes a time when we can no longer play soccer or football or baseball,” he said, “but with a shooting sport, as long as you can see and move your hands, you can shoot.”
As the sport grows in popularity, a number of parents from nearby schools have asked him if their children can shoot on the Faith Christian team, he said, with the next closest team to Arvada located about 60 miles away at Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colo.
“The sport has been growing. There’s something that happens to teens when you treat them like adults and put a firearm in their hands; it’s a significant step,” he said. “As a coach, I’m investing in making better citizens.”
Likewise praising the numerous benefits of the sport, Large encouraged nearby schools to establish trap teams of their own.
“I hope more schools consider offering this as a sport, and I hope this could become a CHSAA-sanctioned sport,” she said. “This is a sport anyone could get involved in.”
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