Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Dec. 3, 2001

Lester man forming local junior shooting teams

By Gail Lipe

Tom Fischer of rural Lester Prairie is working to develop several junior shooting teams at local trap clubs, with the help of National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) grants.

Part of the philosophy of coaching shooting sports is to develop a sense of community and self worth in kids, Fischer said. "Shooting is something I enjoy. I have been doing it all my life."

Fischer competed in Olympicstyle trap for five years in the late 1970s while he lived in Montana. He said he competed all over the nation in Canada, and qualified for several Olympic tryouts.

He was trained by a coach who produced two USA shooting team members and one world champion.

As a certified coach, Fischer has worked with both youths and adults. He recently attended a week-long training and certification program, sponsored by USA Shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the Civilian Marksmanship Program, to upgrade his certification to an international coach. He said it was the first conference held cooperatively between the different organizations.

When he receives his certification, he will be the first international level certified shotgun coach in Minnesota.

Fischer wants to share his love for shooting and give youth the opportunity to grow in the sport. He is working on three NSSF grants that will help begin the training process.

Initially, the students will be trained in safety and fundamentals. Fischer said the intent is to have parental and local participation in the program.

"Part of my job is to train parents and other adults to work with the kids at a lower level coach position," said Fischer.

He said new laws have been passed that require guns to be locked up to keep minor children from getting hurt. That means the students need parent involvement at home for their safety.

If all three grants are approved, Fischer said the youth will essentially shoot for free. Approximately 7,000 targets and 4,000 rounds of ammunition will be provided by the NSSF for each team.

"Shooting is a team sport," said Fischer. Part of the philosophy is that each member is taught to assess shooting to help each other do better.

Another part of the philosophy Fischer uses to coach is that the youths learn from their failures. "Everything you do is a life experience," he said. If the students learn from each experience, their self-esteem is not put at risk.

Part of the grant includes giving the students a shooters' diary. Fischer said it has text in it, plus writing space for the students to keep track of what is going on when they are shooting. That way they can learn from what they are doing, Fischer said.

When students compete, Fischer said the fundamentals are more important than how many clays they get. He said instead of going out there saying "I'm going to shoot 25," the students go out thinking about the technique and what they need to work on.

Fischer has one local trap club interested in hosting youth teams, but he still needs two more. He said he is beginning the program at the "grass roots" level, and hopes to add clubs each year. Eventually he wants the teams to be able to compete in a local league.

He also wants the students to have a place to go. He is working on national corporate funding for youth to be able to participate in week-long junior camps and Junior Olympics training in Colorado Springs.

"I already have some corporate donors," said Fischer.

One of the company perks for donating to the youth is that Fischer will set up clinics for shooters in the different companies. He said he works on fundamentals and uses some of the same philosophies he uses with the youth.

He has been coaching a team at Kraus-Anderson, the company he works for, for three years.

Fischer said he is helping Friends of NRA to raise funds in support of youth education, firearms safety, training programs, range development, hunter safety classes and more.

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