YSSA Experiencing Growth, Success with Members

The Quad City-based Youth Shooting Sports Association (YSSA), which was started in 2012 and incorporated in 2013 as a not-for-profit, is experiencing exponential growth. There had been no organization in the Quad Cities like it in the past.

Bill Peterson of Taylor Ridge, Ill. wanted something meaningful to do after retirement, so he conceived the YSSA idea. At the time he had just been elected vice-president of Bi-State Sportsman’s Association, Colona—a rock-solid shotgun shooting organization.

I don’t know if Peterson had a plan other than introducing youngsters to shotgun shooting. Nevertheless, he and a very small group of colleagues became certified instructors and made contact with the University of Illinois’ Extension 4-H, an organization that does quite a bit of outdoors education.

I recall observing a very “early” YSSA “learn-to-shoot” 4-H class where maybe a dozen youngsters (boys and girls alike) were using wooden mock-ups of long guns to learn gun-handling procedures and safety. After a few sessions, the kids each got to fire one 20-gauge round at a stationary target.

The YSSA has come a long ways in just three years. The humble Peterson described YSSA growth as “better than expected.”

The YSSA now offers beginners learn-to-shoot classes in shotgun, handgun, rimfire rifle, archery, air rifle and air pistol, and will soon offer “outdoor and hunting skills” classes. Classes are offered at Bi-State, Milan Rifle Club and at a new indoor air gun and archery facility in the center of Moline. A Quad Cities businessman donated the facility, while local benefactors made the necessary interior improvements. The first two 4-H classes held there attracted 22 and 26 youngsters respectively.

Peterson’s leadership, hard work and foresight were recently recognized and honored by the local University of Illinois 4-H office.

“Bill has done a remarkable job,” says Cheryl Geitner, an extension educator and 4-H Youth Development official. “He is certified in many areas and works tirelessly for hundreds if not thousands of hours to continually improve what he and we are doing in the shooting sports. He successfully wrote several grant applications that have provided many thousands of dollars of equipment for use by the kids. He’s a phenomenal guy, and for that we honored him as our 2015 Volunteer of the Year. He’s very deserving of that honor.”

I totally agree.

The YSSA has gone way beyond learn-to-shoot classes—competitive shooting has entered the picture as well.

“Three years ago, I was a freshman on the Geneseo High School trap shooting team,” Travis Jodts explained. “I shot a 24 out of 25 at a match, and Mr. Peterson who was there asked if I wanted to shoot AIM, which stands for Academics Integrity and Marksmanship. That got me started with YSSA and led to more shooting opportunities. I was shooting archery, trap, rimfire rifle and pistol—and all that got to be just too much. So I made a decision to stick to pistol only where I shoot SPP, (Scholastic Pistol Program). When I realized I could beat some people, I got serious with pistol competition about two years ago.”

Jodts went on to say he was on the Steel Smashers pistol team, part of YSSA with a dozen boys and three girls on the team, all from Quad Cities with his dad as head coach. Scoring in the SPP is based on both accuracy and speed. Targets are steel plates of various sizes, shapes and distances away. With the pistol held at the ready position (pointed downward), a beeper sounds starting a stopwatch and the competitor must shoot at targets in a certain order. A miss is a substantial time penalty.

Jodts can shoot at and hit five targets from 24 to 30 feet away in an incredible 1.24 seconds.

Another of the many YSSA success stories is Naythen Jones of rural Port Byron.

“I was invited to try trap shooting at Bi-State by a friend who knew I liked to hunt,” the 15-year-old said. “I really liked trap shooting and took to it pretty well. Soon after, I started YSSA shooting in some local competitions. Later that year I won the Sub-Junior (age 12-15) Trap Shoot Contest and have been shooting competitively ever since.”

In early 2014, Jones was invited to go to the Junior Olympic Shooting Training Camp in Colorado Springs. He added those at the camp changed most everything he was doing—gun mount, stance and swing.

“I learned lots and improved as a shooter. Now I shoot two or three times a week—much of that at Bi-State where several very experienced adult competitive shooters help me with pointers.”

In September Jones won the Illinois 4-H Trap Shooting Contest with a 98 out of 100. Jones also learned how to shoot skeet and sporting clays in addition to trap because tournaments have all three disciplines in it.

“I’m happy to be part of the Orange Crushers YSSA shooting team,” Jones says. “We’re a tight group who stick together and travel together to matches. I’ve broken 100 clay targets out of 100 just once so far, but I hope to get better. I know I’m getting more consistent. Some colleges offer shooting scholarships, my goal is to get one.”