Oh, the kids these days. Aren't they great?
Think about it. If we watch the nightly news or read the court reports, we likely won't have high hopes for the next generation. But don't let a few rotten apples spoil the bushel. There are some good kids among us that are eager to do great things. I met some of them this week.
Most likely, you've never heard of Seitzland Rifle Club's junior small bore team. But tucked deep in the southern end of York County, the members of this team represent what's great about today's youth.
They're dedicated. Committed. Passionate. And they know what they want and how they will get there. There are team members with their eye on West Point, the Air Force Academy and some of the nation's top schools. And if their aim stays true, they'll get there.
"The commitment and dedication of these kids is amazing," said the team's coach Jeff Lloyd of Seven Valleys. "I'm so proud of them."
At least twice each week, anywhere from six to ten students ranging from 10 to 19 years old enter the club's stark indoor shooting range. They carry bags of equipment and maybe even a rifle or two. As they take to the range, they have two targets.
The first is literal. They point their rifles – either a .22 caliber or an air rifle – at a half-dollar sized bull's eye that stands at least 10 meters downrange.
The second target is figurative. These youngsters are aiming at a strong future. "My goal is for my shooting to get me into West Point," said 15-year old Tony Jackson. Other members of the team have done it.
"We do this for a lot of reasons," Lloyd said, "But our primary reason is to help get the kids a scholarship to a good school. We have had several members join collegiate shooting programs and get as much of half of their tuition paid for."
Of course, there's the competitive angle as well. Each week, the team has the opportunity to test their skills in matches across the region, across the country, and even throughout the world.
"The highlight for me was shooting at the World Cup in England last year," said 16-year old Caleb Lloyd. "That was a great experience."
There is a full spectrum of competitive opportunities for these young shooters, from simply boosting their personal average score to ultimately earning a spot on the national Olympic team. In fact, in just a few weeks a handful of the team's best shots will head to Colorado to compete against 300 of the nation's top shooters in the Junior Olympics program.
"We hear so much about all the negative things kids are up to," said Lloyd. "But these kids are incredible. They're so committed."
If you know a youngster that is interested in joining the team, contact Jeff Lloyd at (717) 487-3506(717) 487-3506. You don't need to own a fancy gun or any equipment. The club will provide everything that's needed to get to the firing line and get started shooting.
We're all very aware of the obstacles our youth face today. But these youngsters from southern York County prove that with simple determination and a steady aim, there's nothing to worry about.