Carrollton High School will now offer every competitive activity sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association with the addition of Precision Air Rifle this school year.
Mike Lewis, CHS graphics arts teacher and yearbook adviser, is the head coach of the new program. Lewis will be assisted by Joel Grubbs, an instructional facilitator with Carroll County's 12 for Life program who is also head coach of Carroll County's champion 4-H rifle team. These coaches held an informational meeting earlier this week that drew nearly 50 students interested in competing in the co-ed sport.
"I have been hoping for the addition of this sport for years, hoping CHS would add it," said Lewis, who was a member of the North Cobb High School team that placed second in the nation in .22-caliber (small bore) Rifle competition in the mid 1980s. He also ranked 17th nationally as an individual competitor in the sport as a senior.
GHSA discontinued small bore competitions in 1995, a sport that was sanctioned by GHSA since 1944. For the past 25 years, GHSA has sanctioned 3-Position Air Rifle contests for competitors to demonstrate their marksmanship and acumen.
"One of the things I love about this sport is the extreme focus required to be successful at it," said Lewis. "You can't shoot well when you're distracted. The mental toughness that comes with this level of focus is a skill that will serve students well the rest of their lives."
Lewis also noted the natural diversity that comes with the sport - not all students are football players, for example, he said, but are terrific competitors. Since it is co-ed, boys and girls actually compete against each other. Another group that doesn't have many opportunities to be part of a school team can also be successful in this sport - students who may suffer a physical disability and others who are sidelined by an injury.
"I am thrilled we have an opportunity for some students who cannot compete in more traditional programs to have the chance to be a state champion," said Lewis.
There are 128 high schools in Georgia that have rifle teams. They are divided into Areas for competition instead of the traditional GHSA Regions. Carrollton is part of Area 7 and will compete at that level against Hiram, South Paulding, Chapel Hill, Douglas County, North Paulding, Lithia Springs, South Cobb, Paulding County and Haralson County high schools.
Like several other sports, there are opportunities to win as a team and as individuals. Last year's state championship team, East Coweta High School, also produced the individual state champion. Precision Air Rifle also doesn't fall into traditional classification ranks - all schools compete in one.
Lewis noted the opportunities to compete at the next level are growing. Though Georgia colleges and universities have been slow to field rifle teams, the sport is gaining attention of the NCAA. Georgia Southern and the University of North Georgia now have 3-Position Air Rifle teams. Other states' colleges and universities, however, have been fielding teams for years and a highly-skilled high school marksman graduate has many opportunities to continue the sport and to earn scholarships.
"We have been considering adding a rifle team for quite a while," said CHS Principal David Brooks, who served as the school's athletic director prior to his promotion to principal this school year. "We feel like this sport complements our other offerings and provides even more proof that Carrollton High School seeks out programs and opportunities that allow our students to achieve and excel across the gamut."
Though practice can begin as early as Aug. 1, the competition season runs from November through March with sectional playoffs and the state championship competition held in April. For more information, contact Lewis at email@example.com.