Friday, February 14, 2014

A Few Thought Before the Weekend...

One commenter on yesterday's post on the shooting sports noted:
Shooting is like golf, if you do not play you do not care. The answer is to get more people playing the sport. The "private club" attitude is the real killer for entry level folks. You want to get into it and the current participants turn you off. Nobody wants to teach newcomers, but most are willing to abuse them.
That's a bold statement but one I'm moderately in agreement with. The problem isn't that sport shooters are assholes; rather, the problem is the sports are mostly "mature," that is, the ins and outs of the sport have been settled for some time and it is incumbent on the newcomer to basically adapt. 

I can tell you it wasn't that way when we started USPSA, or IDPA...there was a sense of discovery and invention, as if the next New Amazing Thing we did to this gun or that holster would be the magic trick that changed the whole sport...and sometimes ti did. I remember when Bill Rogers showed up at the first club match with proto "plastic" holsters..."What do you guys think," he asked us? I remember the first stage in competition that required us to use a flashlight (a Mini-Maglite, thank you). 

I shot the very first big IDPA match, the Columbia Invitational, with a Wayne Novak .40 S&W Browning Hi-Power out of an Ernie Hill concealment holster (I shot in ESP). There was that same sense of excitement with the first Ruger Rimfire matches, and ICORE.

As a sport matures, it changes for the newcomers. Instead of the element of experimentation and discovery, the newcomer is essentially presented with a list of what it takes to do well in the sport/category chosen...just like these these boots...wax 'em up and let's go! 

That doesn't mean that skiing is contraire...but it is a different mindset. New shooters come into the sport(s) with an excitement..."Hey, I got this great holster!"...and are met with, yeah yeah, we tried that in 2008 and it didn't work. Here are a list of 3 holsters that will get you to "A" class...same as skiing.

Skiing is a great sport! But it needs to be marketed differently that a new sport (say snowboarding 10 years ago).


Anonymous said...

Not much of a spectator sport....

A family member is very active in CSA, and other shooting sports. I was curious about CSA and asked her about attending one of the contests. Her reply was, except for seeing the period costumes, it wasn't much of a spectator sport. Noisy, relatively a closed group, no way of knowing rules, etc, and winners weren't known for two or three days.

Not much appeal there for the casually interested.

Until those issues are addressed, I'd think it difficult sell to a TV audience. Just my HO.

Tim Flannery said...

If you ask an experienced shooter what they think about all this Zombie stuff you'll get a very predictable answer. I've been teaching some younger shooters and they love the stuff. It really gets them involved.

Karl Wood said...

One thing established shooters need to do is when a new shooter come to an event help that new shooter to develop skills to understand why different equipment works better. Price is a huge barrier to entry and a new shooter something won't do after they spent $1500 to start IDPA - my experience - will turn off any shooter.
On the spectator front, I offer a challenge. Go to an event and watch. Take some notes on what you see. I think you will find that it is very much like golf - in person you see little and it is difficult to know just who is winning.

bgary said...

One other note from "back in the day"... it used to be that matches were "participatory" - meaning everyone understood that everyone had a role in making the match happen. Some helped set up, some helped run stages, some calculated scores, some tore down, but everyone helped.

Now we seem to have "matured" to the point where people think matches "just happen", and all they have to do is show up, plunk down the entry fee and be entertained by "somebody else". In many areas, those "somebody else" people are getting burned out, and whole club programs are at risk when nobody else steps up.

More often than not, what I hear is "I'd help, but it would affect my chances in the match, so maybe some other time".

Very sad.

If we want the sport to grow, we need to find a way to solve *that* problem, too. 'Cuz, it seems pretty obvious that we won't have any spectators at all, if there are no matches to watch.


kmitch200 said...

Some shooters can amaze with their skills, but there just isn't anything there to attract me as a spectator.
I love to shoot.
Watching someone shoot though is as boring as watching paint dry...and I watch golf on TV.

KevinC said...

There's also the problem of provincialism: My home club is probably THE hotbed of USPSA west of the Mississippi: We have1/10th of the USA IPSC World Cup Team, but there's only three or four of us that compete in IDPA. 3 Gun is popular, as is Bianchi and Steel Challenge, but people just aren't willing to see practical pistol in general succeed.

This is silly, because other mixed sports venues like ski mountains don't CARE if you're a boarder or a two-planker, as long as you spend your $$$ with them.

The golf analogy is very valid: The golf elites were HORRIFIED when the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open started to get a well-deserved reputation for rowdiness and did their best to make that hole a less-exciting place to watch golf, but the Open pushed back and now it's more non-golfers at that one hole than other entire PGA matches.

And yes, zombies (and especially videogames) are a big key to growth. How many fake .22 cal MP5's have been sold because they look like the gun you use in Call Of Battlefield Honor Six, and how many 14 year olds can rattle off the specs of a Lee-Enfield because they've (virtually) used one for HOURS in a video game?

Anonymous said...

The problem is that humans are, well humans. We all tend to act like "assholes" when we think that we're at the top of the heap. It doesn't matter what the sport, or activity. We act like snobs when we're the ones that have the "knowledge", or experience. We tend to want to put the beginner in their place. It just seems to be part of human nature.

We see this in boating, hot rodding, fishing, woodworking, hiking, even 'Scouting. The shooting sports are no different.

To successfully represent "our" sport, whatever it is, we need to be good ambassadors. We need to unselfishly welcome "newbies" and share all the knowledge that we have with them. We might find out that we've not only made some new friends, but that we also may have learned something ourselves.

Life Member

KevinC said...

Speaking of practical shooting and media exposure, USPSA GM and Limited Natls Nils Johansson nails it here.

The USPSA didn't set this up, it was him. Right now, with biathlon being in the news, if you've won a championship and are a sponsored shooter, you should be RUNNING to your local NBC affiliate. Those stations are always hungry for a local spin on a national story, and for once, it's not "Spree shooter kills 47 gajillion people, local gun owner reacts."

Anonymous said...

Here's a great idea for Colorado at least. Have a "guns and weed" day ! Crossover marketing! Maybe even dress up in those zoot suits, shoot a little, then smoke a little.

Waddy said...

Good Lord, no wonder you post as "Anonymous"! I sure hope that was firmly tongue in cheek.

Trevor Shepherd said...

I'm one of those people who does not care if someone else wants to participate in shooting competitions, but I think they're all completely boring and I just don't give a flying F about competitive shooting. I listen to Micheal's pod-casts and he often talks about competition stuff. I just listen to get whatever bits of wisdom drip off his gushing reports about his competitive exploits and I move on with my day. I don't care if he or anyone else likes competition, it is not up to me to regulate what makes other people's clocks tick. I do care for all the great nuggets of interesting stuff that he mixes in, lets slip out, tells to us straight, etc. But would I watch him shoot competitively on TV? Hell No! Nor would I watch anyone else. Unless I am specifically trying to learn how somebody in particular does some specific thing, I just don't like watching anyone else doing anything. I'm a spectator of my dogs' antics and that's about it in life. But that does not mean I'd want others to look at things my way. Heck no. Compete to your hearts' delights. Just leave me out of it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Bane, you used the A word I did not.

In the 45 years I can remember shooting, I have always enjoyed watching other people shoot. I prefer to do it myself, just like golf, but watching is fun for me. Being a spotter or a coach is even more fun. RSO is not as much fun, especially in August. Shooting stuff is fun. Even when doing pre-deployment qualification when it is snowing and -10.

Part of the problem here is that most matches are "professional". Like the PGA. Amateurs do not stand a chance. How many amateurs have played in the final round of the Masters?

There are too many barriers to those of use that want to just shoot, not compete professionally.

Michael Bane said...

I wish I had some competitive successes to gush about...LOL!


Jerry The Geek said...

I've been teaching an "INTRODUCTION TO USPSA" class at the Albany Rifle and Pistol Club (Oregon) for the past five years. So far I've had several hundred people pass through the course. It's personally rewarding to me to see these eager new people who want to determine how well their shooting skills match against others, but the point is that most of them have actually observed at least one match.

Two things stand out: (1) EVERYBODY is right .... it's NOT a Spectator Sport; and (2) it's about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

The people who show up are mature, experienced shooters. Or their kids, or their significant other. Or someone who is new to shooting, with a new pistol they may not have used before. Or .. well, if you can imagine a level of experience and expertise, I've seen them in this class.

The whole thing is, they all expect that shooting in an IPSC/USPSA class will be FUN!

And they know they will be in the company of other people with the same values. Military, LEO's, newbies ... they all have the same expectations: fun, community, training, gaining experience. They get out of the sport of competitive shooting exactly as much as they put into it.

Not everyone is into competition. If you just want to be a lone shooter, that's okay; I've seen a ton of them. They take the training, and I never see them again.
Or, they go to their first match and they feel that they have finally arrived at a place which offers both new friends and new fun.

Most are not looking for "competitive success". They just want an excuse to SHOOT ... anything will serve. And, they relish the company of more people who may not be very good, but they often enjoy "competition" so much that they don't worry about embarrassing themselves.

"A Place To Shoot". That's what it's all about.

PS: The people who just can't handle a gun, who are intrinsically unsafe? They never show up for a match. Just the training exercises convince them that this is not for them. It's self-regulating.

How cool is that?