April 25, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
JACKSONVILLE – Student athletes from across Arkansas will gather at the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation Shooting Sports Complex in Jacksonville each weekend, beginning April 27, to take their shots at the regional and state championship tournaments of the Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program.
“This is the 12th year of AYSSP, and we anticipate hosting 5,700 to 5,800 shooters during the next month at regional shoots,” said Jimmy Self, AYSSP coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
This may be the first year Self has overseen the program for the AGFC, but he’s far from a rookie in the shotgunning arena. Before becoming AYSSP coordinator, he spent four years as a wetlands program technician working to improve waterfowl habitat throughout the state.
“I also worked part-time for the AYSSP for five years while attending college,” Self said. “I have a lot of time working on the front line of the tournaments and now have had the opportunity to see all the work that goes on behind the scenes to make this program work.”
AYSSP is a program of the AGFC to familiarize young Arkansans with the shooting sports, firearms safety and the joys of the outdoors. Student athletes compete using 20- or 12-gauge shotguns, hitting clays thrown from trap machines that throw targets at unknown angles. All participants must take and pass Hunter Education as part of their training and participate in at least five practice sessions with a certified coach before attending regional qualifiers.
In its 12 years, the program has grown from slightly more than 900 students and 125 coaches meeting in one weekend to a full-fledged competitive tournament that takes five weekends to complete.
“We will shoot the four regional competitions, then take a week break for Memorial Day weekend,” Self said. “Then the top 16 teams from each regional qualifier will meet for the state championship June 1-2.”
Each regional qualifier consists of two days of shooting. Junior division shooters (grades 6 through 8) compete on Fridays. Senior division shooters (grades 9-12) will shoot Saturdays. The state championship follows a bracket-style, single-elimination format with squads competing head to head until the final champions are crowned.
In addition to the top 16 teams from regional qualifiers, any shooter who tallies a perfect score during regional competition will be invited to a special shoot during the state championship to determine the best single shooter in the state, dubbed the Champion of Champions.
In addition to trophies and bragging rights for the next year, all members of the top three teams in the Senior Division State Championship will receive scholarships, funded through the AGFC’s Conservation License Plate Program. First-place team members will receive $1,500 each; second-place team members receive $1,000 scholarships, and $500 scholarships are given to each member of the third-place team.
Dates for regional qualifiers and state championship are as follows:
West Regional Qualifier:
- April 27 – Junior Division
- April 28 – Senior Division
South Regional Qualifier:
- May 4 – Junior Division
- May 5 – Senior Division
East Regional Qualifier:
- May 11 – Junior Division
- May 12 – Senior Division
North Regional Qualifier:
- May 18 – Junior Division
- May 19 – Senior Division
- June 1 – Junior Division Championship
- June 2 – Senior Division Championship
Visit http://www.agfc.com/education/Pages/EducationProgramsAYSSP.aspx for more information on how to get your child or school involved in shooting sports.