With Junior Olympics coming up quickly in April, I started seeing many of my friends and pupils get their invitations. Thinking back on my Junior Olympic experience, I realized how important my personal development as an individual and as an athlete. I made the trip to Colorado Springs five times, starting my Sophomore year of high-school. This annual competition allowed me to learn so much about the shooting world, from talking to athletes who would go on to become good friends, to listening to the National Team Coaches give lectures on where the United States stood in this world. The mind-swelling experience allowed me to put my career in perspective every year I went.
The first year I went to the Junior Olympics was almost like walking into a dark room with my arms pushed out. My mom and I made the trip out there getting in close to midnight. We went to equipment control the next morning and immersed ourselves into the chaos. New rules, new faces, new venue, new world. I shot my match and did solidly mediocre, but it was a great learning experience. So, for the athlete who has received his or her first invitation to Junior Olympics, go there to enjoy the experience and explore the town! It is a unique competition and there will be some downtime, go out and enjoy the town. The Junior Olympic experience includes more than just the shooting activity.
After going to Junior Olympics and participating in my very first national selection match, my goal was to earn a Junior National Team jacket. Each year I got closer to my goal, though I never actually achieved it. The closest I got to earning the Junior National Team jacket was my freshman year of college, where I was out of the top three by a few points. Though I didn’t get the jacket, that competition opened a door to a larger world of opportunity. That match was the stepping stone to earning a spot on the Junior World Championship Team in 2014. The most important aspect of going to Junior Olympics is understanding the potential that can come from that competition. For the average junior, it is an opportunity to perform in front of many of the collegiate coaches attending the competition. For the higher-level shooter, there is a chance to make the podium and join the Junior National Team.
Enjoy the experience of the city, the people, and the competition! Respect and recognize the opportunity that comes from these experiences, and absorb the essence of the Olympic Movement. These events will propel you to the next stage of your lives.