Grand Theft Auto, the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment. One of the foremost issues of our national consciousness is that of guns. But while most public debates on the topic involve guns in everyday life or in the media, Marshall’s archers, hunters, skeet shooters and paintball players believe that their shooting sports can help them to grow as people, contrary to the common perception of the sports as violent.
These types of sports face resistance from parents in metropolitan areas, which prevents the sports from gaining a larger following, five-time state archery champion Robert Teague, senior, said.
“Parents are very hesitant to let their kids practice archery because they think a bow is a weapon,” Teague said.
According to Teague, these feelings have caused archery’s popularity to decline in recent years.
Athletes see the benefits that such sports can give to their players.
“Mentally, you get that thing where you can focus on something and ignore all other distractions, which works great when you need to buckle down and do something,” Teague said. “You have to focus on one thing and drown out the rest of the world.”
Junior Alex Martin defended hunting as his family’s pastime, adding that the sport is a rite of passage for him.
Other students partake in skeet shooting.
Sophomore Kevin Steiner says that he tries to go shooting as often as possible.
“It lets you have fun with weapons without harming any animals,” he said.
For Steiner, skeet shooting gives him valuable lessons that aid him in other skills as well.
“Skeet shooting helps me with one of my sports, lacrosse, because it teaches you to have patience, as well as improving your hand-eye coordination.”
Senior Emma Aulestia added that skeet shooting is a family activity that she can share with her brother.
She added that skeet shooting is “definitely a stress release, especially when you do well.”
Where most shooting sports involve shooting at targets, paintball involves shooting at people.
Senior Tony Manning plays for an international paintball team with a chapter in Northern Virginia.
Manning, who first played at a friend’s sixth grade birthday party, likes “the excitement and intensity while in the game.”
“There’s always new challenges, better players and better teams and always a chance that you could beat them,” he said.
While paintball conjures images of fatigue-clad soldiers and trench warfare for some, for Manning, paintball and Call of Duty are two separate things.
“There are people who dress up in [Battle Dress Uniform] and have realistic looking guns, but they do that because that’s how they enjoy playing,” Manning said.
He agrees that what looks like a violent sport can be a positive outlet.
“It’s like chess except really fast and people are shooting at you,” Manning said. “It’s definitely helped me build a lot of character.”