Team Smith & Wesson’s Molly Smith describes what it’s like to be a young competition shooter, and gives tips on how she manages her lifestyle.
“You must have traveling down to a science!”
Lost shoes, lost phones, lost luggage, lost Mom … it’s all part of the adventure of going to someplace new or old. Any competitor learns the art of traveling, but I dare say high school competitors often have it to a more difficult extent. There’s the task of keeping track of carry-ons and the concern of equipment arriving on time, but also there’s the additional struggle of managing school books — that means an additional carry-on, likely a backpack bigger than any overhead compartment. But that’s just at the airport.
After that, the rental car (which, thank-goodness you’re too young to have to deal with) and the drive comparable to Mister Toad’s Wild Ride, with maps and smartphones and GPS devices flying everywhere. You will arrive at the hotel, eventually. This adds another level of trickiness — unpacking. Depending on the duration of the stay, that doesn’t always happen. However, at this point, you have to take account of all your items and make sure nothing was left behind, you know — that task your parent gave you 3 or 4 times in an attempt to ensure you’re organized? Yes, do that now. It’s plenty less embarrassing to be flinging your undergarments and embarrassing “jammies” in the comfort of your hotel room, rather than in an airport terminal.
NOTE: When traveling with a firearm, ALWAYS check for the firearm while you are still at the airport after landing and before leaving the premises. As soon as you get your luggage, go to TSA and ask, confirm that your firearm is still in the luggage.
“How do you balance?”
This is likely the most common question I receive: How do I balance, well, everything? There’s certainly a lot — school, practice, matches, friends, family, and any sort of outside hobby. I’ve found that scheduling is the biggest point for me — if I’m able to look a month ahead, I can keep myself from becoming overwhelmed, because I can decide to prioritize early about what I want to do, and what will best aid my plans in the future. It’s a balancing act, where the point is to continue in the pursuit of excellence, to be successful. I use Google Calendar. It syncs to all my devices (computers, cell phone and tablet) and I’m able to share the calendar with other people. It works great for me. I can even set it to send an alarm when an appointment is close.
“Do you even go here?”
This applies to anyone in high school, but this lesson seemed to be more apparent to me with the added variable of a professional shooting career. There are certain friends and sponsors who are worth keeping — the ones who will support you and encourage you. It seems obvious. Yet, after missing much school (assignments turned in!) and spending the majority of time at school working endeavors that don’t necessarily include socializing with classmates, there might be some strangeness other students, your classmates, would notice. The most obvious one was when I overheard, “Does she even go here?”
Now, it’s not bullying — perhaps it’s not the most tactful thing to blurt (it is high school, after all) — yet it still made a resounding point. One doesn’t have to “go here” if it means becoming a piece of a social blob that deters and undermines the passions and ambitions of youth. I won’t sugarcoat it — it might be a struggle at times (prom?) but there’s always a bright side: friends. The true ones, few and far between, will encourage and help you along the way.
“Why are you still shooting?”
Because there’s more to shooting than the match.
Since my early days of competition, my mom has reminded me that there is more to my sport than “the match.” There’s inspiration and exploration and self-growth. I believe that’s why I don’t (won’t) stop — because I enjoy everything that shooting has to offer, and that’s something that’s relatable for many high school competitors. At first, as a pre-teen and early teenager, I saw what I was doing as fun. Today, I still do, but I find even more significance in these experiences and that’s what propels me to continue. There are relationships to be had, skills to learn and places to see. Everything is a lesson. Fine-tuning the fundamental skills (stance, grip, trigger, sights) is certainly a major part, but beyond that, there’s dedication, self-reliance, fearlessness, and more. And, that’s just at the range.
Off the range, at every new location, there’s something fun to do and something more to learn. I still shoot because it’s my passion — all of it, not just the match. It’s the wanderlust and the balancing act, as well as the lessons learned.