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The Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports program relies heavily on adult volunteers taking the lead in the shooting disciplines and management of the local county programs. County Extension 4-H staff members provide assistance with a number of items, but it is the volunteer who ultimately makes the county program successful. The activities of the program and support of caring adult leaders provide young people with opportunities to develop life skills, self-worth and conservation ethics. The Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports program is part of the National 4-H Shooting Sports program that started in the mid 1970's. The Illinois program gained approval to join the national effort in 2009. The focus of all 4-H programs is the development of youth as individuals and as responsible, productive citizens.

Volunteers Needed

A 4-H Shooting Sports club leader may be a parent or other adult in the community who is interested in working with young people on basic shooting skills and safety. Often the trained Coordinator takes the lead. Interested adults don't have to be expert marksmen to become involved in the program. An average shooter who cares about kids is usually a better instructor than an expert shooter who isn't interested in seeing youngsters develop. Adults wishing to become 4-H Leaders must be approved by local Extension offices. Contact your local office today.

Certification Training

Shooting sports has the strictest regulations of any Illinois 4-H project. Governed by the national 4-H Shooting Sports program and the University of Illinois, volunteers working with the program must complete a weekend certification before being accepted as an instructor.

Certainly, safety is a priority, said Dan Dawson, University of Illinois Extension state shooting sports educator. “We need adults who will follow the regulations of the program exactly to ensure that youth learn the responsible handling of firearms while under constant supervision of a trained instructor.”

But, shooting is only part of the program. “Shooting is simply the subject matter that we use to do what 4-H does so well, and that is prepare and empower young people with the skills they need to be successful in life,” said Dawson.

So far, the formula has worked. This spring, Dawson certified the 1000th shooting sports volunteer since the program began in 2009. It’s a milestone for the Illinois 4-H program which has seen its share of big moments as a life-changing organization.

Just eight years ago, the program didn’t exist.

In 2009, Illinois 4-H sent five staff members to the National 4-H Shooting Sports training program. It was the realization of a 20-year dream by people who were convinced that shooting sports was another avenue to positively inspire youth who might not be reached through other 4-H opportunities. There are now 19 nationally trained volunteers in Illinois who are responsible for conducting all of the state 4-H volunteer trainings in each of the disciplines.

Trainings are only held two times a year. The next training is Oct. 13-15 at 4-H Memorial Camp near Monticello. Cost is $125, though some counties assist with that cost. Illinois needs volunteers in archery, shotgun, rifle, pistol, and hunting and wildlife project areas. In addition to each discipline, any county offering the shooting sports program must have an overall coordinator to oversee the entire program.

“After the training, our 4-H volunteers understand their role in mentoring youth to become self-directed, confident members of their community,” Dawson said. “Yes, they’ll also teach the fundamentals of safe shooting, but their bigger role will be helping youth feel welcomed, empowered, and successful; generous in spirit; and thoughtful of their fellow club members and communities they live.”

Responsibilities

  1. Administration: follow state plan, policies, and risk management requirements. Complete reports and maintain 4-H membership records and maintain equipment inventories.
  2. Communications: develop good working relationships with members, parents, instructors, volunteers and Extension professional staff.
  3. Planning: work with other instructors, Extension staff, parents, members and community partners to develop a county shooting sports short-term and long-term plan to create the best possible program for your county. This includes setting up a 4-H Shooting Sports Committee that seeks to grow the program.
  4. Volunteer Development: Recruit, orientate, and recognize instructors and other adult and teen volunteers (on-going).
  5. Resource Development: Develop resources such as cash, equipment and use of facilities and keep financial and asset records in accordance with Illinois 4-H policy.
  6. Promotion: Promote the 4-H Shooting Sports program to youth, families and the community through various ways.
  7. Organize: Plan/schedule supplemental learning experiences-tours, special events, service projects, etc.
  8. Relationship Building: Liaison with the Extension Service and county 4-H committee.
  9. Risk Management: Ensure quality control of county program by monitoring club Shooting Sports activities. 

Qualifications

  1. Age 21 or older and successful completion of 4-H Leadership application and screening processes.
  2. Ability to work with adults and delegate responsibility.
  3. Have an interest in the development of youth and shooting sports.
  4. State certification and recertified as required.
  5. Previous leadership experience.
  6. Organizational, management, communication, public relations and marketing skills.
  7. Knowledge of networking and collaborating.
  8. Knowledge of overall 4-H program and activities and/or willing to learn about them.
  9. Moral standards consistent with the 4-H philosophy. 

Support Provided

  1. Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports coordinator training workshop.
  2. Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports curriculum handbook upon completion of the workshop.
  3. Local volunteer training programs.

Volunteer Roles

One volunteer serves as Coordinator for the 4-H Club. They are responsible for the overall coordination and management of the 4-H shooting sports program. Each discipline - Archery, Shotgun, Rifle, Pistol, and Hunting and Outdoor Skills - also needs a certified instructor before that discipline can be offered in the county. When all of those pieces are in place, counties can begin enrolling youth in the 4-H Shooting Sports project.

Volunteer Screening Process

4-H Shooting Sports Clubs are led by adult volunteer leaders who go through rigorous screenings and certification before they join the program. Each volunteer is checked through the Illinois State Police database, as well as the Department of Children and Family Services CANTS database. Then, volunteers must attend an 18-hour weekend training specific to the area of the program they will be working. Trainings are held in May and October each year at 4-H Memorial Camp near Monticello. The training begins at 7 p.m. Friday and runs through 2 p.m. on Sunday.